vixen traps: set them if it ain’t selling

by Art Chantry (

when i first spotted this LP in the goodwill “next stop is the dumpster” section, i did one of those ‘designer double-takes’. i saw the color and the wacky bad type. that’s usually where my eye immediately locks in. i looked closer and saw some incredibly stupid looking man/hunk wearing a really bad fake beard and a leopard skin tunic. oh dear! that’s wonderful! but, then i saw IT – a bare BOOBIE!!!! omg!

---AC:another category of titty-chintzy i used to collect were 'censored' record covers. these were nudie covers with 'undergarments' badly drawn over (and then printed on top of) the 'offending bits' to boost record sales in more puritan markets. i used to have dozens of 'before and after' examples of these things. really amazing stuff. i even used the technique on a record cover i did for the mono men - we also issued the nude cover with underwear drawn over the bare 'bottom' of the model. we thought that was really funny.

there is a whole collector underground world of those perverse creeps (like me) who collect records with naked women on the front cover. since the dawn of the record cover (alex steinweiss invented it i believe, in the 40′s), there has always been a subcategory of sales territory that relies upon a bare breast to indicate the important message to the proper demographic. in some advertising circles this demographic is called “titty-chintzy”. it’s a term i first found in the world of retail beer advertising. it means you can always increase sales by simply putting a naked chick in the ad. and, yes it works beautifully. remember that in the advertising world, all you have to do is put the words “new, improved” on the package and it will automatically increase sales by 5%. and that’s usually enough to hold on to the account. so, when you see a box for an old familiar product that suddenly has ‘new improved’ on the cover, it means that either the company was worried by lackluster sales and the agency really was desperate to NOT lose that account (or a brand new agency just won the account and wanted to prove they could increase sales for their new client). so, it goes with naked chix advertising, too. if it ain’t selling – but a naked gal on the cover.

there are a couple of those many ‘record cover collection’ books out there (they can be found in remaindered sections of 1/2 price books for a buck or two). one is titled “vixens of vinyl: the alluring ladies of vintage album covers” by benjamin darling (chronicle books, 2001.) it’s an homage to all those weird nameless unlistened-to vinyl record covers from the 50′s and 60′s that have beautiful women posed on the cover for no reason except to sell the record to an idiot male (think ‘martin denny record covers’). it’s basically classic ‘titty-chintzy advertising thought at it’s most pure and entertaining.

the other book i want to mention is a little more risque. it’s title is “naked vinyl: classic nude album cover art”, by tim o’brien and mike savage (chrysalis impact, 2002). this is a pretty good set of many of those classic bad record covers that have at least one bare breast on them. like i said, it’s almost a separate category that is feverishly collected by those same guys who collect old playboy magazines. most of these naked covers are originally ‘stag’ records with ‘adult comedy’ on the disk (for use at ‘adult’ cocktail parties). the comedy routines are all very suggestive with an occasional dirty word or two. they’re ridiculously unfunny to listen to and the records are treasured not for the recorded content, but for the nudie covers (just like playboy magazines aren’t really collected for the articles – no matter what guys tell you.)

but, there also those covers that aren’t aimed at the ‘adult male market demographic’. this odd little cover i show is so weird that i have no idea it ever existed until i found it. it’s sort of amazing. i think this is supposed to be ‘classy’ and ‘artistic’. a lot of nude covers fit into this general category, too. this is a classical recording of igor stravinsky’s “rites of spring’” and i think it may be a european release. i’m not sure. but, it’s really tacky and camp and bad bad bad. and NUDE! spot the titty-chintzy!

a lot of really bad campy crappy stuff is done in the name of ‘art’. i think most of the entire world of opera fits into this category rather nicely. almost all opera is so campy an exaggerated that it reminds me of drag queens (or, perhaps, that nude ‘art photography’ you spot in all those 1950′s photo ‘hobby’ mags.) so little of this stuff is done with any taste that you start to easily see the ulterior “prurient’ interests popping up almost immediately. the line between good taste and and sexual fetish is so thin that many unsophisticated folks can’t even spot it. many exploit it to sell product (the advertising world) but, i think most folks just ignore it entirely to follow their sexual fantasies into their private realms. the ‘rites of spring’ (like much of the music released on nudie records) is sold as ‘seduction music’ for a bachelor pad. there are entire gallery scenes and popular art magazines and richly funded museums dedicated to this stuff – it’s often lumped into ‘outsider’ art circles. it’s all about cheap easy postmodern fetish and fantasy.

of course, since the rock and roll era lurched onto the scene, all these old conventions were embraced as rebellion and daring ‘in-your-face’ defiance and raucous celebratory bacchanalia. but, since the whole ‘appropriation language’ of the post-modern era grabbed this subversive ‘titty-chintzy’ imagery and ran away with it (giggling) into contemporary pop culture, we’ve been bombarded with nudie imagery to the point of indifference. we don’t even notice it any more. little children sport ‘titty-chintzy’ in the crib and nobody even realizes it’s fetish wear from decades past. we just think it’s cute or funny (and the blue-nose get offended in god’s name). titty-chintzy design language is ‘just another style’ to appropriate, exploit and re-’brand’ as a hip insider language (that is so un-secret that everybody knows what it used to mean, but forgot.)

but, in them olden daze of yore, nudie covers were a very specific underground niche in the record market. like woody allen said, “sex is dirty – but, only if you do it right.”

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