While many rock bands used images of women on their album sleeves, Deep Purple always fought shy of the idea, instead going for variations of a group photograph within a design of some sort (modelled as candles on Burn, on the side of a wineglass for Come Taste The Band, and as presidential style mountain carvings on In Rock). What they shared with most groups however was a lack of input when it came to compilations, with track selection and artistic control usually surrendered to the record label, ad their in-house art director. In such cases the default option of a sexy sleeve often won out, as these three covers show.
Deep Purple Mark 1 & 2 was put together to provide a pre-Christmas double album ‘best of’ for the German market (at the time the band’s biggest fan base), compiled from the recordings of the first two line-ups. Issued in late 1973 the sleeve (and track choice) appears to have been the responsibility of the band’s German label EMI Electrola. Rather than go for group images, they instead used an art agency (no photo or design credit are given) to prepare a studio photo shoot based on some in-house visuals. This called for a woman in jeans (top button and zip undone), with a union jack badge covering her navel. It had no connection with the band at all (unless some subliminal nod to groupies!) but as a by-the-number art project it filled the brief perfectly.
A gatefold cover, the woman is sat down with her legs across the inner sleeve (except in Holland where she was replaced by photographs of the band), along with text in German and English, and all the album covers to date. The track titles are printed across the back pocket of the jeans on the back cover.
After the group split, more compilations kept the market alive, and in late 1978 EMI were quick to go for a glamour angle on Singles A’s & B’s, a round up of rare tracks, many not issued on album before (top of page). The reissue market was still not fully developed, so the idea of a woman in a high-cut purple swim suit (except in Holland where it turned green for some reason!) emerged. The assignment was give to Peter Vernon, an EMI in-house photographer from May 1971 to August 1978, then freelance. Photographed at a swimming pool, with a gun in her hand, it kind of points to the high water mark of the record industry’s seemingly limitless spend on covers. Remember this is a collectors compilation, not a full blown new album. Shot in black and white, the colour has been tinted in later. It’s all very slick and I rather like the lettering, part hand-drawn. Art direction was by Brian Palmer who did quite a lot for EMI around this time (including a flashy Chris Spedding cover).
The sleeve was issued in several countries, except South Korea who had a government department devoted to protecting people’s morals. They rejected the sleeve as too explicit and substituted a painting of a Victorian woman in a bathing costume instead (shown above).
The last woman to find herself on a Deep Purple sleeve – The Mark 2 Purple Singles – was on a similarly glossy cover shoot (again tasked to Peter Vernon), albeit this time brandishing an acetylene torch and cutting her way through sheet metal to reveal a vintage photograph of the group (vaults being unlocked, get it?). H&S would have a fit; although she has got protective glasses on, swim-suits are not normally recommended for this sort of work. Issued in 1979, art direction is credited to David Dragon, and while technically very good, it does show a big disconnect between the label bosses and the people who would actually want to buy the material. David Dragon worked for Decca then EMI from the late sixties until 1981 before going freelance (the excellent cover for the UB40 album Baggarriddim is one of his I particularly like). The cover lettering followed that of the earlier set to which this compilation was something of a hasty afterthought, part official band logo, part hand-drawn (I assume; it might have been a limited edition font I’ve not seen elsewhere). It was also one very carefully marketed product, hyped in the run up to release via in-store displays and press adverts, then deleted on the day it came out to make an instant rarity. In case you missed the point, they even added the words Collectors Item across the cover. Sounds crazy today but record collecting was then at a peak, and to further emphasise this both albums came in various coloured vinyl editions to entice fans.