Category Archives: Jack Riley ventriloquist

Some Record Covers Influenced by the Sgt. Pepper cover.

The 50th anniversary of the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” has caused considerable interest in various aspects of what came to be called “the summer of love”; 1967’s glorious pop year. It was also the time of “Swinging London” and Carnaby Street’s first heyday.

That the cover of the “Sgt. Pepper” album would become a classic had been foreseen by Beatles manager Brian Epstein who wanted a “proper” artist to design the cover rather than the original psychedelic ideas suggested by fashion designers The Fool. From an idea by Paul McCartney via his friend and gallery owner Robert Fraser, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth were recruited and with some input from Jann’s father, Ted, the couple set to work.

It didnt take long for the first of many pastiches of the cover art to appear. The Mothers of Invention’s album “We’re Only in It for the Money” released in March 1968. Frank Zappa wanted the cover (designed by Cal Schenkel) to be a copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover and asked Paul McCartney for approval. Apparently McCartney wished that Zappa’s and The Beatles’ mangers discussed the suggestion. Zappa went ahead abut Verve Records, who would release the album would not allow Schenkel’s copy of the “Sgt. Pepper” montage to appear on the front so the band’s portrait, photographed against a yellow background became the outside of the gatefold.

The lyrics, printed against a similar red background to those on the “Sgt. Pepper” cover appeard on the inside of the gatefold opposite Schenkel’s montage.

Release of “We’re Only in It for the Money” was delayed five months because of the record company’s anxiety over a possible infringement of copyright. In the event there was no reaction as the front cover only revealed four band members.

There have been innumerable pastiches of the “Sgt. Pepper” cover since the Mothers of Invention’s album; ranging from albums by the Muppets and Simpsons to more “serious” artist like The Ruttles. An Internet search turns up literally hundreds. Probably only the cover photo from The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” has been copied/parodied more often.

My collection includes only three pastiches of the (probably) hundreds out there, collected because of their originality (and possibly rarity). The oldest, from 1969, is Jack O’Reilly’s “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” (subtitled “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“, just so that no one would miss the reference to “Sgt. Pepper“). An instructional album that was probably privately pressed and thus in relatively limited numbers. O’Reilly went to inordinate expense to put together a background of forty ventriloquists’ dummies for the cover photograph.
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The second example is a German album by Jun Fukamachi called (not so strangely) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“. Fukamachi plays several of the “Sgt. Pepper” songs rendered as jazz tunes. I like the cover for the idea of reversing the whole scene. It must have taken weeks to paint!

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The cover of Jun Fukamachi’s “Sgt. Pepper” album painted by Fumio Tamabuchi.

And the final parody that I have collected is Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP from 2015. This is an unoffical release on the Moonshake record label. Masuda, who is programmer and director at Pokèmon also makes the music to video games. The “Pokèmon” album was released in several versions. The “standard” album came in four variations of coloured vinyl housed in a cover that is a parody of the “Sgt. Pepper” design.

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The Cover of Junichi Masuda’s “Pokèmon” LP. A just recognisable “Sgt. Pepper “pastiche.

I hope I won’t be tempted to buy any more.

 

 

Jack O’Reilly – A Rare LP cover and its relevance to Peter Blake’s Record Cover Art

Well, well, well! This is a surprise! A record on ventriloquism! What on earth is it doing in my record collection?

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As anyone can see the cover picture is a pastiche of Peter Blake‘s and Jann Haworth‘s “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” cover, but that’s not why I bought it. I really love the “drum” with the title “Constable O’Rourke’s Wooden Hearts Club Band“! That adds something extra that is not often found on other pastiches. And there, just right of centre is Jack himself; in front of just over forty ventriloquists’ dummies.

The story begins with Chris Jagger‘s 1974 album “The Adventures if Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist“.

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Chris Jagger’s “The Adventures of Valentine Vox the Ventriloquist”. Asylum 7E-1009, 1974.

I started doing some research on Peter Blake‘s record covers and mailed Chris Jagger for details about how this LP cover came about. He told me that he had come across the book “The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox”,  by Henry Cockton (1807-1853). The book was originally published in 1840 in installments and in 1842 in a single volume with sixty illustrations by Onwhyn) and Jagger liked the title and decided to use it for his second album. Peter Blake apparently supplied the ventriloquist’s dummy. So, I got hold of a late 19th Century copy of the book, unfortunately though not the illustrated version.

ValentineVox_cover

Then curiosity took hold. I found out that there is (or was) a ventriloquist by the name of Valentine Vox and started to search for information about him, but turned up little. But my searches did find a museum of ventriloquism at Vent Haven, Kentucky, and I contacted the curator Lisa Sweasy for information. She told be that at least six ventriloquists have used the stage name Valentine Vox, or variations on it, such as Valentine Fox or Valentine Faux and wondered which I was interested in. Of course I had no idea! So I suggested the most recent. She informed me of a Jack Riley that used the used the Valentine Vox alias and told me that he had written a book on ventriloquism called “I Can See Your Lips Moving–the History and Art of Ventriloquism“, published in 1993 under that name. However, Riley had also appeared using the stage name Jack O’Reilly and had recorded  the LP entitled “You Can Be a Ventriloquist“, in 1969. It has since been re-issued as a CD.

Now to find out more about the mysterious Jack Riley. Apparently, he was born in England in 1939. He moved to America and–at some point–to Toronto, Canada, where the “You Can Be a Ventriloquist” was released. In 2003 he married fellow ventriloquist Eyvonne Carter. That’s what I have been able to find out so far.

And, before anyone starts to ask–No, I’m not going to learn to be a ventriloquist. But researching a record cover can turn up some weird and wonderful stuff.