Classic Album covers : Strange Days - The Doors

Strange Days is the second studio album by The Doors. It was released on 25 September 1967

Since Jim Morrison refused to appear on the cover of the album, photographer Joel Brodsky drew inspiration from Federico Fellini’s 1954 circus film, La Strada, and decided to photograph a group of acrobats and jugglers on the streets of the Big Apple. The only problem? Finding performers…..

Most circuses were out of town on summer tours. So where did Brodsky find his models?

The acrobats - were the only actual circus performers Brodsky could find.   “They were terrible,” says Brodsky.  “The guy underneath could only hold up his partner for a few seconds - he kept on dropping him.  There were a lot of arguments.  It took us hours to get it right”

The trumpet player - Looking for someone to toot a horn, art director William S. Harvey collared a passing cab driver and offered him $5 to appear in the shot.  The battered hat was the cabbie’s own.  “He kept trying to get closer into the shot,” says Brodsky.  “He called us for months after the shoot to try and find out where he could go to further his modelling career”

The dwarf - Brodsky hired two professional dwarves from an acting agency - one appeared on the front cover, the other on the back.  “The dwarves didn’t want to do it,” recalls Brodsky.  “Their agent had to talk them into it.   Because they were twins, they were always in demand.  They were the Santa’s elves!”

The juggler - Unable to find a trained juggler, Brodsky’s assistant, Frank Kollegy, stood in.  “He couldn’t juggle worth a damn,” says Brodsky.  “Every time he threw a ball up, we’d spend the next five minutes chasing it down the street.  He ended up juggling with two balls.  We added the third in later”

The strongman - The moustachio’d muscleman was the doorman at old-school Big Apple showbiz institution The Friars Club, who Brodsky had met via a mutual friend.  “He looked perfect for the part,” says Brodsky.  “We dressed everybody in a photo studio, then everyone piled into a limo to the location.  The funniest thing was seeing the dwarves sitting on the strong man’s lap, smoking cigars”

The cover - The album title was discreetly tucked away on a poster near the edge of the sleeve.  “Originally, the band were going to appear as a reflection in a mirror carried by the two dwarves,” says Brodsky.  “But Morrison was adamant that he didn’t want to appear on the sleeve.  Hence the poster.”  It proved a little too subtle - most record shops put stickers across the cover to identify it more clearly

The location - of the photoshoot was Sniffen Court(named after architect John Sniffen), a narrow residential mews, just off East 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenue in Manhattan’s swish Murray Hill district.At the time, the occupants were blissfully unaware the part their residences were playing in rock history.  Today, Sniffen Court is an official New York City Landmark.  Ten two-story former carriage houses, built in the 1860s, now serve as private residences (one houses a theatre) that collectively look like a toy village

Sniffen Court today; this landmarked mews has barely changed in 30 years

The back cover photo shows the left side of Sniffen Court. It’s thought that the girl is called Zazel-Beth Wilde. The white horse and rider reliefs on each side of the back wall still exist

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