Not long ago, we explored the background stories regarding the models in the foreground of some of music’s best known imagery. That article, Who’s That Lady: True Stories of 15 Iconic Women From Classic Rock Album Covers answered a lot of questions, but it also raised a bunch of others. One that immediately came to mind was, “Hey! What about the waitress lady on the cover of Supertramp’s Breakfast in America?”
So, as always when it comes to rock, we decided that once was not enough. Here now, are ten more behind-the-scenes revelations of females who forever enriched rock culture by emblazoning the covers of albums that, for decades, have served as fans’ common visual language.
Kate Murtagh – Breakfast in America by Supertramp (1979)A&M Records
Portraying a diner waitress not coincidentally named Libby, matronly Hollywood actress Kate Murtagh adorns the cover of Breakfast in America by joyously hoisting a class of orange juice above her head, torch-like, while cleverly arranged cups, bowls, spoons, cereal boxes, and other morning meal items are arranged behind her to visually convey New York City. On the back cover, Kate-as-Libby serves the members of Supertramp, literally, breakfast in America.
BIA’s cover art is as indelible to late-’70s rock as is the music is on Supertramp’s enduring multi-platinum milestone. Kate was 59 at the time of the photo-shoot, and a seasoned show biz pro who appeared in numerous movies, including Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Blue Hawaii (1962), The Long Goodbye (1973), Switchblade Sisters (1975), and The Car (1977).
Native Los Angeleno Kate was even more prolific on TV, guesting on shows such as The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, I Dream of Jeannie, and The Munsters (where she portrayed a character named “Fat Lady”).
After Breakfast in America, Kate kept up her busy acting work, ultimately creating one of the best-loved villains in the history of cult comedies with her portrayal of crime queenpin “Mom” opposite Dan Aykroyd in 1983’s Doctor Detroit.
In more recent years, Kate retiered to the Motion Picture and Television Country House. At last report, she remained there, happy and healthy. But we’re still waiting for what gets promised at the end of Kate’s signature movie—Doctor Detroit II: The Wrath of Mom!
Paula Turnbull – Permanent Waves by Rush (1980)
Shot by photographer Fin Costello and graphically rendered by designer Hugh Syme, the cover of Rush’s Permanent Waves LP makes an unmistakably powerful statement. Its visual centerpiece (albeit off to the right side) is fashion model Paula Turnbull, who poses as a sexy, clueless, panty-flashing 1950s glamour queen on a suburban street where, behind her, Armageddon rages unacknowledged.
Before a single needle hit Permanent Waves’ first groove, Paula’s expertly evocative still photo performance announced that, on the album within, humanity’s premiere prog-metal power trio would be exploring new sounds and different aesthetics—specifically, those of the then hyper-happening new wave movement.
Paula worked steadily as a model before and after Permanent Waves, but her best-known other work occurred two years later, when she reprised her role as the same intriguingly oblivious sexbomb on the cover of Rush’s tremendous live album, Exit… Stage Left.
Mariah O’Brien – Dirt by Alice in Chains (1992)
Upon the release of Alice in Chain’s mainstream breakthrough Dirt, fans assumed the female figure caked in the titular substance was Demri Parrott, the girlfriend of AIC frontman Layne Staley. It’s a natural mistake as petite ingénue Demri looked almost identical to actress Mariah O’Brien. It was the latter, in fact, who who laid herself out, prone and Dirt-y for the haunting, definitively “grunge”-evocative photo.
The same year, Mariah proved to be a champion two-time record sleeve model when she wore a chain around her neck and got down on her hands and knees for the cover of the Spinal Tap single, “Bitch School.”
Mariah rolled her Dirt appearance into a solid run of movie roles that included parts in Being John Malkovich, The Mod Squad, and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Meyers. From 1997 to 2001, she was married to actor Giovanni Ribisi, with whom she has one daughter.
Demri Parrott actually served as the inspiration for the cover art on Layne Staley’s side project Mad Season’s 1995 release, Above. Tragically, she passed away the following year.
Dawn Alane – Mother’s Milk by Red Hot Chili Peppers (1989)
The maternally-giving figure who cradles the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their 1989 bruiser Mother’s Milk is Dawn Alane, a model who, in the time since, has reinvented herself as a world-class sculptress and highly sought-after visual artist.
Working primarily with clay and wax, Dawn’s gorgeously rendered works have appeared on the TV series Desperate Housewives and been commissioned by clients such as DeLeon Tequila, Miami Dolphins player Greg Camarillo, and the Dallas Cowboys’ Devin Harris.
In explaining the title of the Peppers’ follow-up to Mother’s Milk—1991’s B\Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Anthony Kiedis once alluded that it’s a reference to four mighty elements manufactured by the female body. Dawn proves that art, too, has been in that mix all along.
Nicole Eggert – Lemonade and Brownies by Sugar Ray (1995)
Emerging at the peak of the Lollapalooza decade, Sugar Ray’s brash, slick, hip-hop-inflected pop punk seemed destined to produce a giant hit record. It did, in time, but the group’s 1995 debut LP Lemonade and Brownies was not it.
The public rejection of Sugar Ray’s first effort remains baffling, as not only did it contain the same musical ingredients that fueled the band’s 1997 monster breakthrough, Smashed, but its cover serves up a sextastic showcase for a luminously semi-nude blonde.
Upon (inevitable) closer inspection, the enchanting flaxen vixen turns out to be well-known and universally panted-over Charles-in-Charge-kid-star-turned-Baywatch-bombshell Nicole Eggert. Maybe all that beauty juxtaposed with the pee-and-poop joke title sent everybody running… to go eyeball Nicole on Baywatch.
Marilyn Cole – Stranded by Roxy Music (1972)
A sopping-wet, curve-hugging red dress enticingly accentuates a sexily made-up brunette on the cover of Roxy Music’s third long-player, Stranded. She’s stretched out on a patch of ground outdoors, presumably tossed there by shipwreck, and charmingly chilly, it seems, if you look tward the areas where such things are normally indicated (and good luck trying not to).
The name of the curvaceous castaway is Marilyn Cole. She was Playboy’s January 1972 centerfold and later Playmate of the Year, the only Englishwoman to score such honors. Shortly thereafter, Marilyn also figured as the arm-charm of Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry, who thereupon tapped her to beautify the front of their new album.
In the years since, Marilyn married Playboy executive Victor Lownes, and she’s become an renowned sports journalist, with a particular focus on professional boxing. Talk about a knockout!
Tamarah Park – Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon (1980)
REO Speedwagon instantly defined early-’80s rock with Hi Infidelity, a lusher-than-life mega-smash that showcased the group’s newly perfected art of the power ballad (e.g.—“Keep on Loving You,” “Take It on the Run”). On top of the songs, Hi Infidelity’s cover image made a fast and deep impact with its depiction of frontman Kevin Cronin (from behind) setting a musical mood for a sumptuous siren in bra-and-panties who’s applying lipstick in the foreground.
Hi Infidelity’s torrid temptress is actress, model, and dancer Tamarah Park. Immediately following her album appearance, Tamarah added “aerobicizer” to her credits (once again: only in the early ’80s, folks…). She appears as an on-screen fitness instructor in 1982’s legendarily sultry workout tape, Aerobicise, directed by Ron Harris, who also created the syndicated heavy-breathing-inducer :20 Minute Workout before eventually just cutting to the chase in 2000 by making a video titled Totally Nude Aerobics.
Tamarah further embarked on a quick-but-interesting movie career in 1983. She provided curvaceous live-action work for Ralph Bakshi’s rotoscoped cartoon fantasy Fire and Ice, and then portrayed “Body Flash Dancer” in The Sex and Violence Family Hour, a Canadian hodgepodge of raunchy sketches that also happens to co-star a very young Jim Carrey.
Cosey Fanni Tutti – Force It by UFO (1975)
For British heavy metal purveyors UFO’s Force It, the brilliant UK design firm Hipgnosis (best known for Pink Floyd’s ‘70s artwork) created an an eye-popping cover scenario that functions as a multilayered take on the album’s title.
Specifically, Force It’s cover displays two figures—one female, one male… maybe?—passionately sucking face while standing inside a bathtub under a shower-nozzle. So there’s wordplay (“force it” equals faucet, get it?) and a big implied question as to whether (or not) one of the participants is coercing the other the other against her (or his?) will. Upping the shock factor, one maker-outer bares butt-cheeks (except for the American version of the LP, where the couple is rendered transparent).
That level of aesthetic gamesmanship might seem a tad heady for the normally balls-out and no-prisoner-taking UFO, but it was par for the Hipgnosis course at the time, and a bellwether of the genuinely freaky extremes to which the cover models themselves would venture in the years ahead.
Specifically, the people in the shower are Cosey Fanni Tutti (born female) and Genesis P-Orridge (born male). They were real-life creative partners who worked as performance artists and avant-garde musicians, exploring hot-button notions that included (as is evident with Force It) ideas about gender. In 1976, Cosey and Genesis went on to co-found the groundbreaking industrial rock collective Throbbing Gristle.
Cosey also worked as a stripper and porn performer, incorporating such tawdry material into her incendiary and confrontational artwork. Now in her 60s, Cosey continues to perform and provoke in a vast variety of media.
Marianne Gravatte – Invasion of Your Privacy by Ratt (1985)
Our second Playboy Playmate of the Year on this list, Hollywood, California-born Marianne Gravatte took that crown after lighting up the magazine’s centerfold in October 1982.
Making the Sunset Strip scene just as hair metal began to hit its mousse-imbued heights, Marianne scored appearances in music videos by Zebra (“No Tellin’ Lies”), Ric Ocasek (“Something to Grab For”), and, most fortuitously, Ratt (the hit anthem, “Lay It Down”). From there, Ratt vocalist Steven Pearcy took an especially intense shine to Marianne, and cast her as the cover model for the group’s 1985 smash LP, Invasion of Your Privacy.
After appearing on the poster for the 1987 teen sex comedy Jocks, but not in the movie itself, Marianne shifted her focus to bar and restaurant management, a field she’s worked in ever since. At present, Marianne is a mom of three who co-owns an L.A.-area sports bar with her husband.
Ester Cordet – Honey by Ohio Players (1974)
Dipping into the Playboy well once more, Ester Cordet soaped up the magazine’s October 1974 center-spread with a sudsy bath shoot. She’d get truly sticky the following year, however, by opening wide for a dripping spoonful of the title sweetness on the cover of the Ohio Players’ Honey. Even though Ester shares Bunny-centric nude modeling roots with other iconic rock models, she alone boasts urban legends associated with her album posing.
For years after Honey’s release, rumors endured that the signature scream on the LP’s biggest hit single, “Love Rollercoaster,” belonged to the woman on the cover. The most prominent legend claimed that Ester was taped while being stabbed to death in the recording studio. Another version held that Ester wailed in agony after being horrifically scalded by honey that had been super-heated to make for better photographs. The juiciest take on the myth, though, had it that Ester got burned by the honey, and then burst into the recording studio threatening to sue, whereupon the Ohio Players’ manager knifed her to a screaming fatality—while the engineer hit “record.”
All such claims are nonsense, of course. The shriek spontaneously came out of Ohio Players keyboardist Billy Back as he got swept away by the song’s legendary groove.
Ester Cordet had been a married mom working as a flight attendant when a Playboy scout discovered her. At press time, Ester remains alive and, scream or no scream, devoid of third-degree honey burns and/or mortal stab wounds to this day.