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October 8, 2020

The Story Behind Album Cover of ‘The Who Sell Out’ (1967)

The Who Sell Out is the third studio album by the British rock band the Who. It was released on December 15, 1967 by Track Records in the UK and Decca Records in the US.

A concept album, The Who Sell Out is structured as a collection of unrelated songs interspersed with fake commercials and public service announcements. The reference to “selling out” was an intended irony, as the Who had been making real commercials during that period of their career, some of which are included as bonus tracks on the remastered CD. Along with fake commercials the album cover features fake advertisements with all four band members selling out and pushing some products.

The front cover for the album The Who Sell Out.

The back cover for the album The Who Sell Out.

The cover is divided into panels featuring a photograph by David Montgomery of each of the band members, two on the front and two on the back.

On the front is Pete Townshend applying Odorono brand deodorant from an oversized stick. Odorono was an actual liquid underarm deodorant used by women during the second world war and The Who got in a bit of hot water when their manager asked Odorono for money for product placement.

Roger Daltrey is also on the front cover and he is sitting in a bathtub full of Heinz baked beans and holding an oversized tin can. Daltrey claims to have caught pneumonia after sitting for a long time in the bathtub, as the beans had been frozen. Heinz was very annoyed at the cover until someone pointed out how much free advertising they were getting.

On the back cover Keith Moon is applying Medac acne cream from an oversized tube.

John Entwistle joins Moon on the back cover in a leopard-skin Tarzan suit with a blonde woman in a leopard-skin bikini in one arm and a teddy bear with the other. An ad for the “Charles Atlas Workout” is mentioned in one of the album’s fake commercials.

There are multiple versions of this album cover depending on the country of origin. Notably, the Australian release substitutes Medac for Clearasil on Keith Moon’s photo. And on the Canadian issue the Isometrics Workout is mentioned rather than Charles Atlas Workout on John Entwistle’s photo.

The Who Sell Out has received widespread acclaim from critics, some of whom viewed it as the Who’s best record. It has also frequently been featured on all-time lists of the best albums, including Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

(via Feel Numb)


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