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Classic Album covers : How Dare You! - 10cc

How Dare You! is the fourth album by 10cc. Released in January 1976, it included UK hit singles ‘I’m Mandy Fly Me’ and ‘Art for Arts Sake’. It is also the last 10cc album to feature the original line-up of Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme, with the latter two departing to work on their own musical projects, and eventually becoming music video pioneers. The album was the band’s second to feature cover artwork by the Hipgnosis creative team

This album is a portrait of lost souls all with “daydreams resting on the back of (their) eyes” all trapped in a self-imposed isolation that becomes especially suffocating when they attempt to break out of their comfort zones.  From a wanna-be dictator, to a prank phone-caller, to a rock star who has been corrupted by cash, to a drowning man rescued by a mystical stewardess from the sky, How Dare You! is a bit like the Magnolia of seventies rock albums.  It’s a haunting, intoxicating and ultimately heartbreaking collection guided by the wicked sense of humour that was a running motif through all of 10cc’s original catalogue

It is that sinister sense of humour that can be felt in the incredible album design that Storm Thorgerson and the legendary team of Hipgnosis came up with.  Has their ever been an album design that is so simultaneously baffling and fascinating? Surely that front cover is the businessman phoning his wife to warn her about the impending arrival of guests (seen in the background, getting out of the car)? Not so, according to Storm Thorgerson

“It took a whole month before I was able to reduce 10cc´s “How dare you” to some workable bottom line. In this case it was that there were a lot of connections in the lyrics involving puns and unlikely word associations. As soon as I said that to Peter he suggested telephones (because they connect, of course) and we both immediately thought of that old film thing of split-screen phone conversations. The band rejected the filmic side of the idea, but liked the telephones because, unbeknown to us, they already had a phone song on the record (Don´t Hang Up). What a connection indeed! They wanted something modern and sophisticated so we did a style piece, a parody of Sanderson ads, full of tastefully furnished rooms occupied by very tasteful people, “Very Sanderson, very 10cc”. We chose characters and situations from the songs and then added a sub-plot involving the couple that appear in every shot, in the desk photo or behind the blonde lady where we see them getting out of the car. This sad lady in the foreground is a gin soaked housewife, wasting away in rich suburbia, whilst her smooth businessman husband works too hard and consequently neglects her. Hipgnosis goes socially conscious. He is furious at being interrupted at work, again. How dare she! The inner spread for the album it´s a paranoid nightmare about going to a crowded party and being totally unable to talk to anyone - better to be on the blower than face somebody directly. 10 cc themselves are in there somewhere as are the characters from the front cover”

What’s really strange is that the couple getting out of the car are the same as the couple in the photograph on the businessman’s desk. Indeed the couple are a recurring, and baffling, leitmotif throughout the cover

The inner spread is a big party, with about 40 people crammed in a room, many talking on telephones. Again, a little closer inspection reveals both the businessman and the by-now-totally-trashed hosewife, as indeed are all four members of 10cc, and the by now ubiquitous couple from the red sports car/photograph. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the back cover is split much like the front, and both characters feature in the gatefold party, too. This time, the dude is an old English classic, much in the style of, say, Jethro Tull’s ‘Aqualung’, the dirty old man (looking suspiciously like Leonard Rossiter!), heavy breathing into his phone, (one album track, Iceberg, references dirty phone calls), this time causing consternation on the face of a young female flight attendant (Mandy?) in her hotel room in the adjacent picture. Needless to say, our ubiquitous duo pop up again, firstly clinging tightly to each other through our filthmonger’s phone box window, then showing up on the TV screen in the hotel room where Mr. Ubiquitous is killing his travel partner!

Of the four characters on the How Dare You! front cover, three, alas, cannot now be traced. According to Aubrey Powell, co-founder of Hipgnosis, the girl getting out of the sports car was Mandy Mills, an ex-wardrobe lady in Marc Bolan´s employment who also appeared on the cover of UFO´s Phenomenon. The guy in the same car was Bruno Geffin, who Powell says shifted from property development to running a lightning company, which supplied the lights for a Bruce Springsteen UK tour, although his management weren´t able to identify him. The office bound male was one Douglas Kent, who gave up acting and moved to Devon. “He was always playing Zappy businessmen in commercials in the late ´70s”, says Powell. However, the housewife in the housecoat gripping the phone in gin-soaked misery and talking to the suit was Helen Keating, actress and self-confessed player of “Cocky, busty blondes, the tart with a heart.” Keating was working for a photographic agency when her first sleeve job arrived. The 10cc guys were lovely. A smashing job. It was a lovely day, I remember. I just had to pose with lots of fake tears, like someone had just had a go at me over the phone. An unrequited love job, that was the mood. She no longer seeks album cover work - “Only if the price is right. It´s not the kind of work you go looking for”

What does it all mean? Who knows?

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January 15, 2014

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