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Classic Album covers : Country Life - Roxy Music

Roxy Music’s fourth album, Country Life, was released in November 1974. The cover, credited to Bryan Ferry and Nick DeVille, was shot in Portugal where Ferry was working on lyrics for the album during a recording break. He had an LP title in mind, Country Life, the name of a long established weekly magazine for the landed gentry. Each issue features a demure image of one of the daughters of the aristocracy as a frontispiece, and Ferry liked the idea of trying to subvert this by using a more overtly soft-core girly-calendar image, inspired apparently by a photo he had seen in an issue of Men Only magazine

Ferry arranged for stylist Anthony Price and photographer Eric Boman to fly out, and they were all sat in a small bar one evening when two striking looking young German women, Eveline Grunwald and Constanze Karoli walked in.  Of all gin joints in all the towns in all the world they walked into that Portuguese bar where Ferry and his friends were having a couple of drinks at the beginning of their vacation: “These two Valkyries,” Anthony Price recalls. “That’s the only way to describe them. Constanze and Eveline … I remember we went on boat rides, sailing through these sea caves, and Constanze, the one on the right, with her massive shoulders, was sitting in the front of the boat, she looked like the figurehead on this boat. I was stoned off my tits! She was an incredible creature.” Everyone realised  that they were perfect for the assignment. The Valkyries were on vacation as well. They were staying in a summerhouse owned by Eveline Grünwald’s parents. The love in Eveline’s life was Can man Michael Karoli, and Constanze Karoli was cousin to the now deceased guitarist. They had already met Roxy Music’s press officer Simon Puxley who also worked for Can. When Eveline and Constanze showed up at the place – unbeknownst of Ferry’s presence there – to say hello to their friend who owned the bar, they were actually bringing along Roxy Music records

Boman was a Swede (who later photographed for glossy fashion and interior magazines such as Vogue and House & Garden). A lot of histories claim the cover shoot was done down on the beach, but Constanze  recalls that the photo was shot in the garden at Eveline’s parent’s summer-house where they were staying.  According to her they “just had to look weird and surprised”. They drove around to find some sexy underwear, which was easier said than done, but the girls never really dared to believe that what would come out of the photo session would actually be used as the cover for the next Roxy Music album.  Price used the bathroom in the villa when he did that great 70s make-up on the girls. He also provided the solution for the sharpness by holding up an Omo box to set focus for photographer Boman, since the only light source they had was the headlights of the car they had rented. He used a Leicaflex SL with a 28mm lens, and took three rolls of 35mm film.

Eric Boman: “When we looked at the film back in London, I got the feeling that Bryan wasn’t very happy. I think there was a lack of the slickness that he was used to, but gradually everyone realised that there was another quality, hard to put your finger on, of ambiguity and, as we now call it ‘rawness’ that worked. I think we were all surprised when the cover became such a classic”

It became a classic pet hate in several countries. In the US (which had just spent 15 long years to annul the heart and soul of Vietnam and its people in order to save the world from Communism) Country Life was retailed wrapped up in dusky green polythene, and soon the girls were entirely swapped with a picture of the vegetation alone. The “indecency” of the original cover shot, and everything else that was off limits, like the assumption that Constanze was a transsexual and that her friend seemed to play with her lady parts, led to immense controversy. Other countries, like Spain and even the Netherlands, panicked too and banned it. A close-up of Eveline’s face was used to sell the record in the girls’ home country. This reaction was strange, because the band’s three previous album covers, particularly the third, Stranded, had been fairly risque, the model in that instance (one-time Playboy girl Marylin Cole) sporting a torn wet-look dress. It’s tempting to think it was the stark nature of the Country Life shot which caused the trouble

Eveline points out that, “People thought we were lying down and masturbating, but that was never the intention. Neither did we choose the photo, but Bryan did ask us if we were d’accord with it. We didn’t think it was scandalous anyway”

As an album Country Life sold well, and spawned a UK top 12 single, although it’s impossible to say how many purchases were directly or indirectly down to the sleeve alone, with teenage boys to the fore! What is not in dispute is that Ferry’s art direction made it witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and mass produced. Eveline and Constanze, Life and Art standing next to each other.

 

 

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  1. billytrout

    December 16, 2011

    Bizarre coincidence - while reading this I was listening to Michael Karoli playing guitar with Can on Up the Bakerloo Line with Annie from the BBC recordings.

  2. Eyeswired

    December 16, 2011

    Fascinating story. What’s your source, if you don’t my asking? I love the way the image suggests a glamour or soft porn shot but subverts it with the awkward pose - it looks like the kind of shot that would never usually be printed up from the contact sheet. It’s both erotic ( the girls’ incredible bodies and faces) and un- erotic (their uncomfortable expressions and efforts at hiding their naughty bits). Today it would probably be greeted with censorship and controversy on entirely different grounds, alleged sexism, but its ambiguity gives it a typically Roxy- type layer of irony.

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