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Great Moustaches in Rock: Orleans

March 10th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

I offer little new insight when I register that the 1970s was the acme of nightmare-inducing moustaches. Even James Brown got in on the act, managing in the process to look even more than ever like my sister-in-law”s former mother-in-law. After a long hiatus of Great Moustaches in Rock, we turn to the misadventures in hirsute stylings perpetrated by soft-rockers Orleans.

orleans-dancewithme

To our relief (or frustration, if you are looking for comedy), Orleans” moustachoid period was mercifully brief. Soon the tough thrashing monsters of soft rock (well, in comparison to David Gates” soggy Bread anyway) asserted their uncompromising masculinity with thatch all over their faces, doubtless taking the lead from the diminutive stud-muffin on the far left. Then division set in as two members realised the follicular folly of their comrades” ways and”¦oh, say it isn”t so”¦shaved! Or were the apostates in fact new members? I know little about the group, but scanning their covers, Orleans seemed to gain and shed members as rapidly Zsa Zsa Gabor”s nuptial turn-over.

And so Orleans appeared on the cover which has established them as legends in every worst-covers-of-all-time catalogue, an incongruous presence amid fundamentalist Christians, doll-killing maniacs and other assorted representatives of the psychotic recording artiste community. In most such anthologies, Orleans are the only outfit that actually sold records. Still The One remains a staple of “70s soft rock nostalgia, and that appeared on 1976″s notoriously sleeved Waking And Dreaming album.

orleans-topless

I don”t think it”s a bad cover at all. It is a bit odd, that much is true. But what we have here are five guys who clearly like each others” company and are not self-conscious about exhibiting their closeness, the two chaps on the right especially. The reason why it is included in those amusing covers collections is not because some Orleans members have comedy fur on their heads, or because their torsos are nauseating, but because the photo looks “gay”. More cultured observers would invoke the terminology of “homoerotic”.

I think I”ve made the point before that the generalised use of that concept is homophobic. Of course, there is such a thing as homoerotism, but it cannot be applied indiscriminately. If one describes the Orleans cover as homoerotic, then one is ascribing all manner of meaning to a snapshot in time. Perhaps the chaps on the right are indeed gay. Perhaps they are heterosexual but not embarrassed to show affection towards other men. Perhaps they were horsing around. Perhaps comedy-beard dude in front is trying to move whispy-tache”s hand away. Certainly hairy dude in front seems to be puzzled at it all.

Whatever the context, the photo cannot be arbitrarily sexualised. And even if one does so, and even if some members of Orleans are gay, including it in funny-covers collections is an act of homophobia. Intentionally or not, it communicates that being gay, or giving rise to suspicions of homsexuality, is somehow hilarious, and that men who show affection for one another are likewise “hilariously” gay. That common prejudice and the resultant compulsion by most men to avoid demonstrations of affection towards other men lest they be thought of as being homosexual is such a great loss to humanity “” and reinforces anti-gay sentiments.

Of course, faced with such perceptions, the cover was ill-advised. Frontman John Hall once explained that the topless pic was entirely unplanned. The photo shoot had been going for a while when the photographer suggested our friends take their shirts off (you can”t see it, but they still have their trousers on). Obediently, they did; a few pics were taken, and two minutes later the five put their shirts back on. And of all the photos taken at the session, the record company chose that one for the cover. At least Orleans are not forgotten “” indeed, in some incarnation or other, they are still touring the nostalgia circuit.

Orleans – Dance With Me.mp3
Orleans – Still The One.mp3

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  1. Mikel J
    March 10th, 2009 at 11:18 | #1

    Loved the shirtless write up… Met these guys in Boston while I was at WAAF and it’s funny, but gay never crossed my mind when I saw this cover. I thought they were waiting for available showers at a gym or something. Talk about naive. Hmmm, perhaps you could elaborate on the following covers: Push Push by Herbie Mann, Peter Frampton’s I’m In You, David Bowie ‘Pinups’ & Let’s not leave out LL Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’… and so many more. Just kidding! Now, when you’re really feeling verbose I’ll bet some words on Zep’s ‘Houses of the Holy’ cover would be refreshing.
    Luv Ya & Thanks
    Mikel J

  2. March 10th, 2009 at 12:17 | #2

    Oh, I just might deal with Houses Of Holy. Not in the great album covers series though, because I think it’s a troubling cover by a troubling band. Not as terrible as the famous Scorpions cover though (I’d not reproduce it here).

  3. March 10th, 2009 at 15:08 | #3

    Orleans is indeed still on the road, although John Hall doesn’t play with them anymore–he’s representing an upstate New York district in Congress. I have no word on whether “Still the One” was his campaign theme during his reelection bid.

  4. March 11th, 2009 at 20:18 | #4

    As fascinating and spectacularly entertaining as this post is, I want to tell you that, in addition to clearing up some Orleans issues for me, your comment led me to some research that has, at long last, shown me how the Zep song title “D’yer Mak’er” is meant to be pronounced. That makes this post worth far more than its weight in gold.

    And so, as often happens, you have taught me much while entertaining me greatly. Thanks, Dude.

  5. March 11th, 2009 at 20:46 | #5

    I’m intrigued: how did that post inspire you to obtain the pronunciation for Dwyer Maker?

  6. Mikelj
    March 12th, 2009 at 09:03 | #6

    I always thought Zep’s title was in effect a question… “did’ja make her”?
    Now Halfhearted Dude, what particular Scorpions cover? The one with the guy, gal & dog or the one that looks like bubble gum coming off a breast into the dudes hand? Maybe neither? Just curious…

  7. March 12th, 2009 at 14:20 | #7
  8. Mutter’s Mum
    March 12th, 2009 at 16:45 | #8

    HHD –

    You may want to post this recent photo of John Hall of Orleans in his current career as a US congressman. He’s lost more than just the ‘stache:

    http://www.cornwalllocalonline.com/images/webHall_000.JPG

  9. Mikelj
    March 12th, 2009 at 21:01 | #9

    I looked… Jesus! And RCA released it? You are most hip Dude!
    MJ

  10. March 13th, 2009 at 15:51 | #10

    Chalk that photo shoot up to “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” And I will readily admit to having “Still the One” on my iPod.

  11. March 14th, 2009 at 22:01 | #11

    Mikelj, for some unfathomable reason, the record company in the US and some other places were, well, uncomfortable with the album and released the album with an alternative cover. But the scruples didn’t go as far as making the paedo cover a rarity.

    I note that some sites that routinely upload covers refuse to display the Scorpions cover, including wikipedia and RYM.

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