Rarely have album covers so wildly misrepresented the music within as on 1970s easy listening Hammond organ collections.
The Hammond organ may be many things, but it is not an inherently sexy instrument. Indeed, the organ per se is a musical instrument that, while absolutely having a place and contributing some classic moments to music across genres, does not generally create the same erotic frisson as the guitar or even the drums. Sure, there have been keyboard wizards who have gone all out to bring a bit of drama and excitement to their performances but in the end, it’s still a bloke stood behind a bank of keyboards.
When it comes to the world of easy listening music, the organ pumpers were a long way from the rock ‘n’ roll excesses of your Wakemans and Emersons, not only in looks – and the average Hammond specialist looked more like a bank manager than a rock star – but in sound. Most albums released by the likes of Stef Meeder and Klaus Wunderlich featured bouncy medleys of either recentish pop hits, show tunes or other old standards, played with all the verve and seductiveness of a cinema organist (ask your grandparents). Still, they had to be sold somehow and the packaging of these records frequently overcompensated to a ludicrous degree. To look at the sleeve artwork and the album titles, you might imagine that no Seventies swingers party, disco or night of seduction was complete without the heady sounds of the Hammond organ (or, in some particularly unlikely instances, wurlitzers). But I can guarantee you that no one has ever sealed the deal with a potential conquest by slipping on Stef Meeder’s medly of Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, Lucky Lips and Salty Dog.
The use of scantily-clad young women as a selling point was, of course, endemic throughout much of 1970s culture and across the easy listening music scene in particular. But while the best lounge music has an unquestioned sophistication and style made for the Playboy Lifestyle, organ music does not. Clearly, it had its fans because there is so damn much of it – but there’s nothing classy about it. It’s strictly for the Friday Night is Music Night audience (again, ask your grandparents). Still, the labels did their damndest to suggest otherwise. Even Reg Dixon, famed organist from Blackpool Tower and a regular of those old Radio 2 Friday night extravaganzas of the insipid, had one album released with a bikini girl on the cover.
The cover below represent a mere smattering of what is out there. Enjoy!
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