Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass

Here, from 1965, is one of the most recognisable LP covers of all time. It certainly helped push the sales of Herb Alpert's album to sales of over 6 million copies in the US alone.

Despite the name of the group, there was nothing Mexican about Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. Herbert Albert was born in Los Angeles of Russian and Romanian Jewish origins. He learned to play the trumpet at the age of eight and gradually developed a musical career involving both singing and songwriting. A visit to a bullfight in Tijuana in 1962 gave him the idea, having seen mariachi bands perform there, of trying to recreate something of the atmosphere of the occasion.

In his home studio, set up in his garage, he produced what was to become the first single of the fictional group Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; The Lonely Bull. Initially using Los Angeles session musicians by the time Whipped Cream... appeared as his fourth album the demand for live performances was such that he actually had to form a real band; none of whom were Mexican or even Latin, however. The year after Whipped Cream was released Albert had the never repeated feat of having five albums simultaneously on the Billboard pop albums chart.

Two of the many parodies of the cover

The much parodied cover, designed by maverick record cover designer Peter Whorf, features 28 year old model Dolores Erickson covered in what appears to be whipped cream but is actually shaving foam sprayed over a blanket (although it really is whipped cream on her head). She had to be cleverly photographed as she was three months pregnant at the time. Erickson was a friend of Alpert's and had been present in his garage studio when he recorded parts of the Lonely Bull album three years earlier.

Erickson appeared on a number of other record covers at the time; notably another sixties middle of the road classic and staple of the Agent Triple P lounge; Guantanamera by The Sandpipers. Erickson later went to art school and is now a painter living in Washington state.

Dolores today

The cover has been much imitated and when Albert did a remixed version of the album in 2006 it featured model Bree Condon dressed in far less "whipped cream" to far less effect.

Bree Condon in a "whipped cream" bikini

It's hard to credit now but the original cover was actually considered quite racy at the time.  Erickson remembers the cream slipping down her bust during the shoot and thinking that they would never be able to use the pictures.  People actually bought the album just for the cover and Alpert would tell audiences at concerts when playing tracks from the album "Sorry, we can't play the cover for you."

 An outatke from the photographic session

The fact is that Erickson looks magnificent in the pictures: pregnancy clearly agreeing with her and, as we can see from the black and white shot below, contributing to the most magnificent bust.

The album itself, loosely themed around tracks with titles relating to food, is not exactly a masterpiece but it does contain the classic A taste of honey.  It was perfect background music for Agent Triple P's pre-dinner drinks with his companion on the balcony of his hotel in Houston at the weekend.