Face the Music
When photographer Kirk Weddle suggested that 4-month-old Spencer Eldon pose for an album cover, it barely caused a ripple with the infant's parents, Rick and Renata. "Nirv-who? We couldn't even remember the name of the band," says Renata, a hairstylist who works out of their Eagle Rock, Calif., home, alongside Rick and his movie special-effects business. At the photo session for what became Nirvana's seminal chart-topping album, Spencer performed swimmingly WH after a warmup dip in a hot tub. "He was perfect," recalls Weddle, a family friend. Though paid only $200, Spencer did get a platinum record, which currently hangs over the bed of brother William, 2. "Yes, I like Nirvana," says Spencer, now 5. "I like mustard! I want to be a spaceman or a jet pilot when I grow up." Spencer doesn't yet know about guitarist Kurt Cobain's 1994 suicide. One day Renata will tell him that "the album became legendary. For him to have a small part in it was good." Besides, says Rick, "He did what David Bowie and the Rolling Stones could never do—full frontal nudity."
When U2's Bono was just a Dublin lad named Paul Hewson, he palled around with the Rowen clan, who lived across the street. For the cover image of his band's first EP, U2-3, Bono chose 5-year-old Peter Rowen. "To me it was just a day off from school," says Rowen, who posed the next year for one version of U2's Boy, and again for the band's 1983 quadruple-platinum album War. Rowen's payment for each cover, he says, was "a box of chocolates, which was fair. At the time the band was very small." The ninth of 10 children of a bicycle-store owner and a homemaker, Rowen, now 22, recalls an ordinary childhood. "What fame?" he asks. "My schoolmates were very young—they wouldn't have been into the music scene." Though a 1983 appearance in U2's "Two Hearts Beat as One" video led to small roles in two Irish films, Rowen chose a different career path. Now a photographer's assistant in Dublin, he says modeling "made no difference in my life. I didn't even start listening to U2 until a couple of years ago." Turning to his wife Carol, a 20-year-old nanny, he says that he doesn't own a copy of either Boy or War. "I do," she says.
Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home
Maybe it was the shock of folkie Bob Dylan going electric on 1965's Bringing It All Back Home LP that had fans thinking the coolly glamorous woman with him on the cover was actually the troubadour in drag. "That rumor was huge, and truly bizarre," marvels Sally Grossman, then the 25-year-old wife of Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman. "I was around, and Bob just asked me to do it." The other rumor about the album was that the objects surrounding the twosome had great symbolic meaning. "Forget it," says Daniel Kramer, who took the photo in the Woodstock, N.Y., home where Grossman, 56, still lives. "We found different things and put them around." The chaise, though, was a wedding gift to the Grossmans from Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary. As for the red jumpsuit, Grossman says, "I don't think I've worn it again." Now running Woodstock-based Bearsville Records, Grossman, widowed in 1986, says, "It's amazing to be on an album cover that people remember 30 years later." For his part, Dylan "thought we looked dynamic, like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton."
Allman Brothers, Brothers and Sisters
"I have an almost dreamlike memory of the way things were—parties, people giving the horses beer, various people in and out." That's how Brittany Oakley, 27, daughter of Allman Brothers' bassist Berry Oakley, recalls the communal life she shared as a toddler with the band members and their families at the group's Juliette, Ga., farm. "There was always something crazy going on," agrees Vaylor Trucks, 25, son of drummer Butch Trucks. The idyllic portion of their childhood was captured on 1973's 7 million-selling Brothers and Sisters album: Vaylor got the front cover; Oakley, the back. Despite her smile, Oakley, now a Chicago massage therapist, had just lost her father in a motorcycle crash and was soon to leave the farm. "Suddenly my dad wasn't here," she says. "It was painful." Trucks, a newly married Atlanta computer specialist, left when his parents separated in 1973, but he basks in his past. While at Florida State University, the amateur guitarist started his own band. "We made up posters of the album cover that said, 'Have you seen me lately?' " he reports. "The place sold out."
Blind Melon, Blind Melon
Georgia Graham, 25, expected her flight as the bumblebee to end in her family's Columbus, Miss., playroom, where, she says, a photo from her 1975 tap-dance recital at the English School of Dance was one among "like 400 pictures on the wall." Make that 399, after brother Glen, 28, brought Blind Melon home for a visit. "We thought it was just a classic American thing," says Glen, Melon's drummer, of the photo used on the cover of their 1993 debut LP. "Every girl we knew had to do some recital thing and wear little costumes. It was an easy image to relate to." When more than 2 million fans began agreeing, Sis was asked to do the video. "They said, 'Yeah, yeah!' " Georgia recalls. "I said, 'No, no!' I wouldn't be dressing up in that costume." Instead, then-10-year-old Heather DeLoach wore the stripes and made a buzz as the Bee Girl, but Graham, a New Orleans interior designer, doesn't miss having "classic American icon" on her resume. "Glen is always joking, 'You don't understand what a big deal it was, you were one of the most famous album covers of all time.' I'm, like, 'Fine. Whatever.' "
The Doors, Strange Days
Claiming to be "the only seminormal one" among the circus acts cavorting across the Doors' Strange Days cover, Zazel Lovèn says that she finds it "bizarre" when she is recognized as the tall figure gazing from the sidelines of the 1967 album that rose to No. 3 on the charts. "People tend to associate me with the mystery that the Doors and Jim Morrison created," says Lovèn, 50, a writer at Country Living Gardener magazine. "I was involved in the rock and roll scene, but not its darker side." The self-described "nice girl from the Connecticut suburbs," now a Manhattanite and mother of two, was working as a stylist for the photographer's wife when she was asked to pose in an alleyway "and look pensive, or however you look when you're 21," she says. Lovèn recalls meeting Morrison at a party. "He stood in the corner and threw food at everyone," she says. "He had his own reality. That reality wasn't 'Hi, Zazel, thanks for appearing on our cover.' It was more like, 'There's a meatball in your hair.' "
Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here
Sometimes you chance upon the perfect amateur, other times you call in the pros. For Pink Floyd's 1975 triple platinum Wish You Were Here album, Capitol Records execs headed to the L.A. offices of Stunts Unlimited and Ronnie Rondell, a veteran of TV shows such as Baretta and Charlie's Angels. "I jumped on the big payday," recalls Rondell, 59, who was cast as the man on fire. "I got $500 and only worked an hour." Fellow stuntman Danny Rogers, 53, the glad-hander, was paid only $250 but caught a lot less heat during the carefully controlled shoot on a nearby movie lot, where a crew armed with fire extinguishers stood by. Rondell's suit was painted with rubber cement and ignited three times before it ripped and his flame-retardant long Johns peeked through the holes. His eyebrows and eyelashes were singed in the process. "It'll happen in a heartbeat," says Rondell. "The fire wraps around your face real quick, like a barbecue thing. The wig was fried, it melted up into a ball." Even though Rondell and Rogers recently worked on the action films Waterworld and Twister, Rogers figures, "We get more miles out of that album cover than any big jump we do, especially among our peers." Agrees Rondell with a straight face: "It was a really hot album."
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