This is the cover of the 1980 Roxy Music album “Flesh and Blood”. It’s not the first Roxy Music album and it’s not the best. In fact, it was critically panned on its release. But I bought it, enjoyed it and was always enthralled by the artwork.
It would be easy to dismiss the appeal as related to the models. But this was pretty mild stuff compared some of Roxy Music’s earlier covers. “Country Life” with its picture of two near-naked women by a hedge, was banned in the USA. The album was released there minus the women, just the hedge.
I always felt that the “Flesh and Blood” picture had somehow moved on from the raunchy, earlier albums by depicting the women as strong and dignified, rather than as sex objects, prey to the male gaze.
All of the Roxy Music covers were totally constructed images. All the people in the pictures are models and the backgrounds are either anonymous studios or generic outdoor scenes. The series began with the self-titled first album in 1972. The cover picture was a reconstruction of Rita Hayworth 1940’s style glamour, a recognition of the band’s glam-rock, theatrically inspired ethos.
Later covers were more explicit, the aforementioned “Country Life” being inspired by the Profumo affair.
By 1980, the original band had partially broken up and Roxy Music, along with many other elements of the music industry, was getting increasing criticism from nascent feminist critics of the way they depicted women. Up and coming graphic designer Peter Saville was brought in to respond to the criticism and “clean up” the band’s image.
The cover of “Flesh and Blood” becomes an interesting turning point. Attractive women are still there, but they are no longer supine and submissive. These women are beautiful in their strength, fierce and athletic. Their javelins and simple costumes recall a classical age, unsullied by the smut of the 1970s. The parallel javelins placed diagonally across the picture remind you that this is the vision of a graphic designer, not a pornographer. This is serious work.
Flesh and Blood is a very simple image: three models, three javelins, a background. But when that picture is placed in the context of the band’s visual image, it’s internal changes and pressure from a newly vocal social movement, it begins to speak very loudly.
If women are to be the subject of your artwork, show them some respect.