Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Rod or Renoir? The cover art of the art cover, part 2. Includes snogging.

I had my first, proper tongues-included kiss to Rod Stewart’s ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’.  It was with an identical twin and it was awful. Not that those two things are connected.  But they were both slobbery.

It  was Spring 1977, I was thirteen, liberally doused in Charlie perfume and wearing a cheesecloth blouse in pale blue to match my eyeshadow, unaware that my little white padded bra beneath it was illuminated like a neon sign in the ultraviolet lights of the local disco.  The twins – who seemed really old, I mean they must’ve been about fifteen -  flirted clumsily with my friend and me and then when Rod’s ballad came on one of them grabbed me and the next thing I knew we were doing that weird, awkward, rotating thing they call a slow dance. Halfway through he asked me if I’d ever kissed anyone before.  I told him I hadn’t.  What followed was a lot of mangling of lips, teeth and tongues and some unpleasant exchanges of dribble.  I’m just glad I'd taken both my dental braces out earlier that night or there could've been some serious injury involving wire and tonsils.  But I was off the starting blocks.

So whenever I hear that track I’m there again, uncomfortable and naïve, French kissing a boy I didn’t fancy one iota but feeling strangely proud for trying it, even if it left me slightly traumatised and in need of water, a bit like taking part in a chili eating contest.  I’d been practising it on the back of my hand for months, after all, so it was about time I tried it on something that moved and, mainly due to her 'beef chunks in jelly' halitosis, the cat was not really an option.

What I didn’t know about that song at the time was that before being released as a double A side with ’I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ and reaching No. 1 in the singles chart, it had appeared on Rod’s 1976 album ‘A Night On The Town’.

What I also didn’t realise at that time because my familiarity with impressionists did not extend beyond Mike Yarwood, was that the sleeve art for ‘A Night On The Town’ was a pastiche of a famous piece of art from 100 years earlier: ‘Bal du Moulin de la Galette’ by Pierre-Auguste Renoir.  Just like identical twins (oh the connections keep coming!), they were superficially alike but not exactly the same.

Now which one do you prefer?

Renoir’s beautiful depiction of Parisians dancing and feasting on a Sunday afternoon, an Impressionist masterpiece full of life and joy, with its richness of colour and the incredible sense of light, dappled through the trees, almost flickering off the canvas, and all those shapes and forms fitting together so well, so organically?

Or the same scene as painted by Mike Bryan, so self-consciously copied that the lines and brush strokes look rigid, that lovely fluid quality that Renoir achieved is sadly missing, the softness of the faces hardened, the figures flat, the illuminated hues of a balmy afternoon now duller and more like a morning in February?

And its pièce de résistance - grinning out at us from underneath an ill-advised straw boater (I know he just wants to fit in with 19th century Paris but the mullet is a giveaway, he’d make a crap time-traveller) is Rod himself - looking more like a schoolgirl from St Trinians than a raspy-voiced ladies' man.  

I'm not saying that I could have painted a copy any better, I couldn't - just that, like Morris Dancing and incest, some things in life are best left untried.

It's a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

Still, it gives me an excuse to include a far superior version and great live performance of ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’ (written by Cat Stevens), sung by PP Arnold in 1967.  I do like this rendition and the good thing about it is that it helps me to disassociate the song from the snog.  Let's just say, the first kiss was not the deepest…


  1. Hi C,
    Thanks for posting such a fantastic video of P.P. Arnold singing this terrific live version. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1. It's a great clip isn't it - I remembered it from a load of Beat Club recordings we have here at SDS Towers (many great performances) so I was glad to see someone had put it on youtube.

  2. I seem to recall you bemoaning the temporary loss of your mojo not that long ago C - if that was really the case, this post proves that not only has it returned, but it's totally refreshed and in better shape than ever. A terrifically enjoyable read from beginning to end - I laughed out loud, I winced in empathy and I learned a bit too! It's tough to pull out a favourite phrase from such inspired writing, but the mental image of you being '...slightly traumatised and in need of water, a bit like taking part in a chili eating contest' after your first snog is one that will live long in the memory!
    (Oh, and it's Renoir and P.P. for me every time, obvs.)

    1. Oh thank you TS! I've been on a bit of a roll lately (maybe too much of one, I should slow down!) Isn't it weird how these mojos can come and go, for no apparent reason. I'l probably not manage another post now for a month....
      The memory might have been a bit uncomfortable but I suspect we've all been there in one way or another and I had a laugh writing about it - really glad to know you had a laugh reading about it too.
      And I really do hate that Rod Stewart cover; the more I look at it the worse it gets, think I gave myself an Art History lesson at the same time!
      Renoir and PP victorious - of course.

  3. What an excellent post, I agree with The Swede. Although I did misread the opening line and worried for a second that your first tongues-included kiss was WITH Rod Stewart... which would probably have been enough to put you off kissing for life.

    Yes, the PP Arnold version is far superior, as is the Renoir. Sorry, Mike Bryan, but the LP cover is hideous.

    More of these, please! (Album cover art AND kissing stories.)

    1. Ah thanks Rol, really appreciate that. Ha, a first kiss with Rod Stewart, imagine that! No, don't....

      Good to know we're all of the same opinion re. the music and the art. There is another LP sleeve by Mike Bryan you may recognise - check out Here My Dear by Marvin Gaye. Horrible!

      I'm not sure I should be posting any more kiss and tell stories. But I probably will...

  4. Rod and Renoir in the same sentence - surely a first!

    1. It has a certain ring to it, don't you think?!

  5. What a great post C, very funny and reminded me so much of those days what with the fine detail of the cheesecloth shirts, the ultraviolet lights, clumsy kissing, slow shuffle dances and much, much more!

    Love this series comparing the original painting to the album cover and so far its been thumbs up for Jackson Browne, a no-score draw for the Bow Bow Bow cover and now a thumbs down for Rod's cover. Not that I don't like it, it's just a bit too cartoony (and that Rod looks like a St Trinian girl - so true). And, the PP Arnold version it is very good - I did like the double A side from Rod in 1977 but whenever you've heard something just once too often and grown tired of it a different version is so refreshing.

    Looking forward to the next compare and contrast already.

    1. Thanks so much Alyson - I imagined a lot of it might resonate with you. I can recall the cheesecloth top quite vividly, it had these two ties made in the same material attached at the bottom which you knotted to form a kind of waist-tie/belt (I've been struggling for the last ten minutes with how to describe it, is there a proper name? I bet you know what I mean, though. Probably just called tie-up or something?)

      Thanks to inspiration from Rol's JB post, and CC's series of compare and contrast too, I'm finding myself in full flow with this theme, so have several lined up. Having fun doing my research and digging into the ol' memory banks too...

    2. Yes I had one of those cheesecloth shirts too in a pink and cream stripe. They only came to your waist and there were tiers to make the shirt nice and snug as if you've tied the bottom half of a normal shirt in that way. My jeans of choice with that shirt were a pair of Brutus hipster flares thus with the hiked up shirt and the low-slung jeans there was a fair bit of midrift on show and the parents weren't happy so I always wore a buttoned up jacket going out which then came off as soon as possible!

      Glad you've found your mojo with this great series - Mine has gone wanderin' at the moment and I even had to take my site down last night after accidentally sharing it on my Facebook page! Want to keep this place separate from that world and panicked that DD would be cross if she spotted her post. Hopefully got away with it and service now resumed as normal (beware the casual click of the "Like" button on FB).

    3. I can imagine your shirt perfectly too in the pink and cream stripe. Whatever happened to cheesecloth? Does it still exist? And is it really made from cheese? ;-)

      The mojo is here but I'm having difficulty finding the time at the moment, need to keep going with some work this weekend, as I have deadlines looming, so a little bit distracted by that at the moment.
      I had a look at your last post and was going to come back to it later and couldn't but now I understand why! I don't do FB so I don't know how that sharing thing works but as everything seems to be connected to everything else I can see how easily it could happen, and also totally understand about keeping the blog separate from the real world...it's actually a big part of its appeal.
      Will look forward to your next post when the mojo returns, I do hope it will very soon.

  6. I prefer Renoir’s painting on its own. Rod’s album sleeve falls short, it doesn’t even resemble him that well in the hat, although I admire the effort put in.
    My path to First Cut Is The Deepest was via Sheryl Crow’s cover, which is a pretty good performance. Rod’s is my favorite version. At least it was a great song, even if the first kiss was awkward!

    1. Glad to read that you prefer the Renoir too - no contest as far as I'm concerned!
      I don't think I've heard Sheryl Crow's version of the song, I'll check it out, thanks... As for the first kiss, looking back it really wasn't what I'd term a kiss now I've had so much more experience ;-)
      Just two mouths making a mess of things!


Please come in, the door is open

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...