Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe

This is the first one of articles on LPs pastiching famous paintings.

In this case it’s Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe from 1863. The arresting image has inspired three albums. Why is English a world language? We’d just call it ‘The picnic.’

Édouard Manet,  Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe., 1863

It was highly influential, not that any other painter placed a nude there.

James Tissot, La Partie Carrée, 1870
 Claude Monet, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe., 1865
Paul Cézanne, Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1876–1877
Max Ernst: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe 1944

Music …

Undoubtedly the best-known is the Bow Wow Wow LP from 1981. It was not the first.

The New Jazz Orchestra: Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe, 1968

The New Jazz Orchestra: Le Déjeuner Sur L’herbe, 1969, Verve LP

This is a legendary British modern jazz record from 1969. it was reissued in 2021 as part of Decca’s ‘British Jazz Explosion’ series.

If you find a1969 Verve copy, you’re looking at £250 for a mint copy (Rare Record Guide 2022). The copy above is the 2021 replica on 180 gram vinyl, an exact copy except for a tiny DECCA BRITISH JAZZ EXPLOSION logo on the rear. The sound quality of the pressing is exceptional.

Wonder why it’s so collectible? It’s directed by Neil Ardley (Kaleidescope of Rainbows). The band is underpinned by Jack Bruce on bass and Jon Hiseman on drums, then we have the cream of British horn and wind players. They’re covering Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Segovia and playing a Neil Ardley original title track. I read the reviews, got it and spent days playing it once or twice a day.

Trombonist John Mumford used to call it Dinner with herb. It was recorded in just two days in September 1968. The sleeve notes say the title track is inspired “to some extent” by a Picasso lithograph based on the Manet painting.

“(the track) portrays an amiable discourse by the four lunchers – the orchestra and three soloists – in a pastoral setting.”

The cover photo has ‘Neil Ardley, Jon Hiseman and Friends.’ The photo was taken by Tony Reeves, who had played bass with the New Jazz Orchestra, though not on this record. A famed British bass guitarist, he was in Colosseum with Jon Hiseman.

Thanks I’ll Eat It Here: Lowell George 1979

Next up was Lowell George on his post- Little Feat solo album, Thanks I’ll Eat It Here. It’s also a must-have album. It was released in March 1979. The cover art is by Neon Park (as with Little Feat albums).

Thanks I’ll Eat It Here: Lowell George: Warner Bros LP, 1979

The picnic scene here is Neon Park illustration, and is in the background rather than the centre of attention. It has Fidel Castro, Bob Dylan with Marlene Dietrich in her pose from The Blue Angel. The fairy in the background could be Tinkerbell. The open book is Allen Ginsberg’s Howl!

Bow Wow Wow
See Jungle! See Jungle Go! Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy 1981

See Jungle! See Jungle Go! Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy: Bow Wow Wow, RCA LP 1981

This one was the controversial one, though not at first, People did notice that Bow Wow Wow in 1981 saw the cassette as the major recording medium … even marking the sides of the LP with cassette symbols. Their first release was an EP Your Cassette Pet.

Then their single was C.30 C.60 C.90 Go! the first ever cassette single. EMI did not promote the “cassingle” due to its lyrics Off the radio I get constant flow/Hit it, pause it, record and play/Turn it, rewind and rub it away at a time when HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC was the industry slogan. They broke with EMI and switched to RCA. Their singer was a young singer, Myant Myant Aye, who was born in Burma. Her name was changed to Annabella Lwin.

Annabella Lwin: I was still at school, going in and out of the studio for what seemed like the longest time. They tried to get rid of me three or four times before we even released anything. No one talked to me, so I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Bow Wow Wow was like always jumping on a trampoline, never knowing if I’d land on my arse or my face.
Classic Pop, 16 January 2020

At first See Jungle! See Jungle Go! Join Your Gang Yeah, City All Over! Go Ape Crazy seemed an attractive cover, and the hand of Malcolm McLaren, fresh from The Sex Pistols was evident.The trouble was that when the band started, singer Annabella Lwin was thirteen, and still only fourteen when the photograph, by Andy Earle, was taken. She doesn’t look fourteen (an excuse that never worked for Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry), but then the press made the connection.

Annabella Lwin: I felt uncomfortable on the day because it was extremely cold and I had to sit amongst grown men in the nude for some time. I didn’t feel uncomfortable with Malcolm, just the guys in the band, because they were not friends of mine, ever. If you get the picture, you can see what I’m talking about. The actual shoot day, with Andy Earl, he didn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But I went through with it because we already discussed it. A decision had to be made before the day of the shoot. The decision was made between the band and Malcolm Mclaren – the band being three grown, adult musicians in their 20s.
Interviewed by John Gentile, Punk News Org, 2014

The cover caused outrage and Lwin was almost made to quit the band because of it. Lwin’s mother alleged exploitation of a minor for immoral purposes and called in the police.

Annabella Lwin: I definitely experienced bullying, both personally and professionally,” says Annabella. “It was in undercurrents, really, a lack of respect from how people treated me, as a teenager and as a female. Put it this way, it was obvious there was a difference between how men and women were treated in the music business. I never want to go through bullying again – and I never want anyone else to, either.
Classic Pop, 16 January 2020

McLaren promised that they would not promote Lwin as a Lolita / Sex kitten / Nymphet. So what did they do? Of course they repeated the picture on their next single Last of The Mohicans, then used it yet again on Go Wild In The Country.

The Last of The Mohicans: Bow Wow Wow, RCA single 1981
Go Wild In The Country: Bow Wow Wow, RCA single 1982

Annabella Lwin: I think we’ve gone past that artwork, especially in this day and age. Look at Miley Cyrus – she’s punk rock now like I was at the time. That art wasn’t trying to copy or emulate anyone, and it’s why we’re called artists, darling! I remember that album fondly, that’s all I can say.
Classic Pop, 16 January 2020

Not to be outdone, they moved into 1982 with I Want Candy:

I Want Candy: Bow Wow Wow, RCA single 1982

They weren’t going to stop. Controversy sold records. To be fair, because she appeared older, the cover was not as offensive as the Blind Faith LP, or the bad joke of Rod Stewart’s An Old Raincoat Won’t Let You Down.

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