I had wondered why this sleeve turns up quite a lot, but it turns out to be the tie-in album for the original hit version of the instrumental Popcorn, a massive single across the world. To me it just looked like any other cheap American covers album, albeit it with a twist.
I say ‘original’, but the track was first recorded (and written) by Gershon Kingsley on his album Music To Moog By in 1969, one of dozens of LPs to exploit this revolutionary instrument.
Kingsley toured American colleges in a group called The First Moog Quartet in 1970, and encored with Popcorn. This went down well, so the group cut a new pacier version on their 1972 album Popcorn (issued by Audio Fidelity in 1972). Later the same year session pianist Stan Free, who had been a member of the First Moog Quartet, cut a new version under the name Hot Butter, and it is this which became the big hit and appears on this album.
Obviously with the name popcorn, sleeve designers jumped to the obvious image for the sleeve. The First Moog Quartet sleeve has a cheap and cheerful drawing, with the introduction of leads and dials added to the popcorn.
When Hot Butter came to issue their album, the designer also went with the image of a popcorn carton. But instead of photographing a box and contents, the label decided to buy thousands of flat cartons and glue them to the actual sleeve! Fixing separately printed material to covers is not unique, but this seems to have been one of the first.
Being a sort of one-hit wonder type of record, the label did slightly spoil the simplicity of the sleeve by adding the titles of all the tracks across the top (and their logo), but even so it’s a great cover (and you can’t help but think Andy Warhol would have approved!). The Hot Butter sleeve back is shown here.
The album is interesting listening. You can see why work like this is cited as one of the influences on Kraftwerk and other similar German synth bands, but on the other hand the album does run out of ideas pretty quickly and it is clear that Moogist Stan has no writing skills – all the tracks are covers. He manages to decimate Telstar, one of the greatest instrumentals of all time, and as the particularly grim version of Amazing Grace draws the album to a close you’re desperateg to head over to the moog section of your record collection (every home should have one) and find something livelier to cheer yourself up. Still as I only picked it up for the cover …
Gershon himself must have despaired, but then he was getting the royalties anyway. He is still busy recording, while one website is attempting to log every known version of the track…