the live adventures of norman and normal

Norman Rockwell’s paintings are impossible not to recognize.The first inclination is to dismiss his work as kitschy, sentimental drivel of an earlier more naive time, which does tend to pacify our own anxiety by touching the chords of a false sense of sophistication towards the older times. Yet, there is always an equal pull to be seduced by the concept of innocence, a created product, and be dragged into this search for a Paradise Lost, the mythical American utopia filled with sensitive, decent people, that elusive kinder, gentler America. Of course, its the innocence industry playing on the penchant for disavowal, and appealing to national characteristics which are more mythological than real. The fantasy of solidarity and togetherness, of small is beautiful is about as plausible as Shirley Temple and her charity of love metaphorically feeding the malnourished in the Depression.

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Given this, it is both odd and surprising that Norman Rockwell did only one album cover. Odd because Rockwell did work for the Industrial complex including the nuclear industry as well as Winchester guns. Face it, Rockwell was a P.R. look of the establishment that wanted to create a world of white picket fences and nice people. Why would Bloomfield and Kooper, two street smart types have been so attracted to Rockwell? Was it the idea of the normal? The only fragment that seems plausible is that their blues genre, based of African American music held, within the semantics of the music the idea of freedom and liberation, but its soul and tension was also derived from slavery and submission….

Bn: Whatever happened to the Norman Rockwell portrait of you and Mike Bloomfield that appears on the cover of Live Adventures?

AK: That’s an interesting question. Here’s what happened. It was hanging at CBS in the art director’s office, John Berg. And I tried to steal it three times. Because I felt it belonged to me. And I was unsuccessful all three times. Then a few years later I went to John Berg and I said, “You really should give that to me. It’s ridiculous for you to have it.” And he said, “You know, I would leave it to you in my will, but I’m afraid you’ll kill me.” And that was the end of that.

Finally, about two years ago I did an interview at WABC radio in New York and the disc jockey said, “My brother owns the painting.” And he bought it from somebody that wasn’t John Berg. So John Berg sold it. And then whoever he sold it to maybe is the one he bought it from. I talked to the guy that owned it and it really depressed me. That was as much as I wanted to know. Read More:


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…How on earth did this bizarre cultural collision ever come to pass? Kooper, in his 1998 memoir, Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock ‘N Roll Survivor (reissued in paperback last year by the Hal Leonard Corporation), says it was his idea. Watching the New York Jets play the Denver Broncos one Sunday afternoon in 1968, a funny notion popped into his head. Yes, he was a long-haired rock musician with naughty proclivities and druggy acquaintances, but here he was, passing his time watching a pro-football game like any other normal American guy. The scene, he thought, was “like a Norman Rockwell painting.” And so it transpired that Kooper and Bloomfield found themselves petitioning CBS Records, their label, to get the 74-year-old artist to paint their portrait for the cover of their live album. To their delight, Rockwell accepted the commission. As Kooper relates, Bloomfield (who died of an accidental drug overdose in 1981) was the more ardently moony fanboy, his reputation for nonchalant cool notwithstanding:

Michael and I were sitting in a photo studio at CBS waiting for Norman to photograph us so he could paint our portrait. In he strolled, right on time, and Bloomfield, a closet Rockwell groupie, just gushed all over him. As it turned out, Michael was wearing his brother’s coat, found a pill in the pocket, and popped it. It was STP (superacid) and he gooned out all over Norman: “Oh man, you’re the best. You should come to San Francisco, man, you would see such sights there to paint. You wouldn’t believe it. People in robes in the street, mothers suckling their young, I tell you it’s just like Jerusalem, Norman, so whaddya think?” Norman, who was listening intently, just puffed on his pipe and was… together. Read More:

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