Musical coincidences # 62

December 19, 2010

Today’s coincidence isn’t so much a musical one as a purely visual one.

I was at one of my favourite music emporiums* the other day and was stunned when I saw the cover for Plastic Jewels, the 1995 debut album by British band Flamingoes. (No, I’ve never heard of them either.)

Their album cover looks a little like this:

I was stunned because I’d seen that very photo somewhere else – specifically here:

That’s the cover of Fountains Of Wayne‘s 1996 self-titled debut album.

As my brain went “Huh?”, I looked for some clarification, explanation, and elucidation.

Thankfully, the All Music Guide came to the rescue:

The Flamingoes’ debut, Plastic Jewels, is probably forever going to be known as “the other record that uses the cover photo from the first Fountains of Wayne album.” That picture, a Nick Waplington photo of a young boy wearing a towel cape and clutching a white rabbit while striking a superhero pose, coincidentally showed up on both albums, which were released within weeks of each other in the U.S. in the fall of 1996. (For the record, Waplington had licensed the photo to the Flamingoes first, and it graced the original 1995 U.K. release of this album.) It’s a shame that Plastic Jewels didn’t make the splash that Fountains of Wayne did, because it’s every bit as good an album. Solid guitar-based Brit-pop in the style of Supergrass, the immediately catchy songs on Plastic Jewels are memorably hooky, with plenty of cool guitar riffs and chirpy background vocals that help to make up for the fact that neither Jude nor James Cook, the identical twin brothers (with nearly identical voices) who lead the trio, is much of a lyricist. However, lyrics aren’t particularly important in this style of glam-influenced guitar pop — not many complained about how dopey the Sweet’s lyrics were — and the trio’s brash, rocking pop is instantly enjoyable regardless. Plastic Jewels is what Oasis always wanted to sound like but never quite managed.

Thanks for clearing up that mystery, AMG.

Oh, and here’s a 1996 article from the Los Angeles Times informing the reader that neither band were happy about the photographer Nick Waplington giving them both “exclusive rights” to use the photo:

It’s a very cute picture – a young boy in a makeshift Superman outfit, thrusting his left hand in the air as if flying, with a “rescued” bunny under his arm. It’s the kind of striking image – found in a book by photographer Nick Waplington chronicling two English families – that would make a great album cover.

That’s exactly what the New York band Fountains of Wayne thought. And the English band Flamingoes thought so too. And now there are two new albums with the same photo on the cover, and neither act is very happy about it.

“The deal made it exclusive to us, but the Flamingoes also had an exclusive deal,” says Bobbi Gale, spokeswoman for the Atlantic Records-distributed Tag label, which released the Fountains of Wayne album.

The English group had it first, releasing the album on an indie U.K. label two years ago. It was only coincidence that it got picked up for U.S. release by Pennsylvania-based Big Pop Records at the same time the Fountains of Wayne album was coming out. Peeved, both Atlantic and Big Pop executives contacted Waplington with threats of legal action, though they seem to have dissipated.

“I have nothing anyway,” says Waplington, who claims that he told Atlantic about the other album, though he had no idea it was to be released in the U.S. “They can come and take my 12-year-old Nissan if they want it. . . . There was no malicious intent on my part. . . . For me, if two bands come to this picture independently and want to use it, this just shows that from my point of view they have good taste.”

– Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times, 1996.

[That originally appeared on this retina-burningly unreadable page.]

By the way, I’ve now heard Plastic Jewels, and I agree with the Guide about it being “solid guitar-based Britpop in the style of Supergrass”.

Before I finish this post, I want to show you the cover of my copy of the Fountains Of Wayne album. My copy was made in Germany, and its cover looks like this:

I guess somebody somewhere noticed the “oops” factor of the FoW / Flamingoes covers and decided to change the FoW cover for other markets (such as Germany). I’ve also found out (stop me if this gets boring) that the cover used for the German pressing was also used for The Netherlands release of the album. So maybe that white cover was used just for the European market. Who knows? (Somebody, somewhere – that’s who.)

Anyway, to make this post a musical one (well, it is supposed to be a music blog) here’s a track from each of those coincidental albums:

Flamingoes – “Disappointed” (1995)


Fountains Of Wayne – “I’ve Got A Flair” (1996)

[I chose “I’ve Got A Flair” because it quotes Blue Öyster Cult‘s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper“. Yum.]

Flamingoes official website
Flamingoes on MySpace

Fountains Of Wayne official website
Fountains Of Wayne on MySpace
Fountains Of Wayne on Facebook

(*That’s a Greek word, isn’t it? Then shouldn’t the plural be “emporia”? I’m confused.)