Album cover of the week: The Who Sell Out

I’d wager that if you ask most casual Who fans what their favorite albums by the group are, and they’d probably say Tommy, Who’s Next and maybe Live at Leeds.  All fine choices, of course, but before any of those were even released there was my favorite – 1967’s The Who Sell Out.  It was Pete Townshend’s first crack at a concept album, although this is more of a theme album actually.  The premise is that the entire album (complete with radio jingles) is actually a broadcast from the pirate station Radio London.

It’s the commercials, not the songs, from which the design for The Who Sell Out is inspired.  And it is inspired.

The Who Sell Out

That’s Townshend and Roger Daltrey on the front, pitching Odorono and Heinz Baked Beans respectively.  Honestly the image of Daltrey sitting in a tub of beans creeps me out a little bit.  And on the back cover that’s the late Keith Moon (pitching Medac) and John Entwistle (for Charles Atlas).  I looked for the name of the woman with Entwistle but couldn’t find it.

The Who Sell Out

Graphic design for the album was handled by David King and Roger Law, and photography was by David Montgomery.  King and Law handled the design for another classic album released the same month as this one:  The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold As Love.   Of note is that this was one of the first pop albums (Moby Grape’s debut LP earlier in ’67 being the first) to not list the song titles anywhere on the cover.

As legend has it, John Entwistle was originally supposed to sit in the tub of beans but heard about it in advance and was conveniently late to the photo shoot.  Daltrey was drafted to take his place, and for being a good sport got a mild case of pneumonia (the beans were refrigerated).

There are multiple versions of this album cover depending on the country of origin.  Notably, the Australian release substitutes Medac for Clearasil on Keith Moon’s photo.  This was probably confusing to Aussie listeners since one of the jingles on the album is for Medac, and as far as I know they didn’t record a Clearasil spot.

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