Welcome back to the Judged by the Cover Podcast, a JW Creates podcast. Today I have an album cover that I am really excited to talk about. As a hint, when I say the name Steve Miller Band….What imagery or album cover pops into your mind…? If it’s not a horse or a Pegasus….then you probably haven't listened to or looked at any of Steve Miller Band's album covers. That's ok because I was actually surprised at how few of their album covers had this imagery…but a couple of their important albums did…so that’s why it's stuck in my head.
So yes today we are talking Steve Miller Bands, Book of Dreams, and we are going to start by diving into the history of the band, and how this fantastic album cover came to be.
But first, if you haven’t done so already, make sure to like and subscribe on your favorite podcast platform… Also if you could do me a big favor and go to apple podcasts and leave a review for the show that would help me out a lot.
The Steve Miller Band formed in 1966, and they went on to write and record 10 albums in 7 years. They didn’t find any major success until The Joker came out in 1973. That album hit number 2 on the US Billboard 200 and the single The Joker hit number 1 on the Billboard hot 100. Normally when you hit this kind of success, most bands and artists would double down and take advantage of the momentum, but not Steve.
Steve and the band were burnt out, and on the verge of quitting, so he told his manager to not book any shows or appearances for a year. He said that he needed time to rest, think, and write new music. As we are going to find out here shortly, this move is actually going to pay off big time!!
Up until The Joker, most of Steve Miller Bands songs would have been categorized as psychedelic or even kind of folky. This album marked a significant change for the band going to a more melodic, rock and blues sound. This rockier sound would go on to influence the songs for the next two albums. During this break from performing, Steve wrote the songs that would become the next two albums Fly like an Eagle and Book of dreams.
They never imagined that they would get two albums out of the material they wrote, His plan was to pick the best songs and make one album out of it…but there was too much good material. Steve Miller released Fly like an Eagle in 1976, had three big hit singles and hit number 3 on the Billboard 200 and is rated 4x platinum at this point.
Book of Dreams
Book of Dreams comes out in 1977, just a year after Fly like an Eagle, and followed its hit success. This album hit top ten on the charts in four different countries, and topped out at number 2 on the billboard 200. 7 songs from the album Book of Dreams end up on the greatest hits compilation album that comes out the following year 1978. I believe that Steve Miller found the winning formula in the song The Joker, and he took the time away from performing to transition their sound and writing style around it.
The other thing that I believe lead to the major success of Book of Dreams is the album cover and imagery…so let’s get into that.
I found an interview where Steve Miller talks about his album covers, and he stated that he loved to live in anonymity. At one point he had the #1 hit single in the country, but could still go to the grocery store, mow his front yard, or go to a local comedy show and most people didn’t know who he was. This was mostly because he didn’t want his face on his album covers. Steve Miller wanted to promote the mood of the album, not himself.
When it came to the album cover for the Book of Dreams, Steve Miller went looking for inspiration. He found what he was looking for in a painting done by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley.
Kelley and Mouse made a name for themselves in the 60’s and 70’s with their psychedelic music posters and album covers. Most of their work was done for the Grateful Dead, but they also created imagery for other bands like Journey.
I'm thinking we will have to do a podcast dedicated to the work of these two guys, because there is some really cool stuff in their portfolio.
At the time Steve Miller was working on Book of Dreams, Kelley and Mouse were running a t-shirt business that wasn’t doing so well. They knew they had one last chance to create a piece to save the business, so they came up with the image that would become the album cover for Book of Dreams. Lucky for them, when Steve came looking for inspiration for his album cover, he loved this image!!
So let me do my best to explain it to you…
In the center we have the master piece that is this white pegasus with these very colorful wings. (If you don’t know what a pegasus is it’s a horse with wings). It’s overtop what looks like a coin. At the very center of the coin is this very dream like sky with wispy clouds. Around this wispy sky is a rainbow colored ring with hieroglyphic pattern that is overlayed on top of it, and all of that is surrounded by a gold outer band. If you haven’t actually seen this cover, go check out the liner note page on my website, it will be linked in the show notes, because I know just words can’t describe how cool this image is. The text on the cover for the band and album name is also really impressive. The font also carries on this hieroglyphic theme, especially for the letters S, M, and B. All of this is overlayed a brownish red gradient for the background.
I love how every element has this dream/fantasy like value to it. From the broad spectrum of color, to the wispy dream like clouds, to the crazy hieroglyphic style font. It’s like they created this pegasus image specifically for this album...but in reality they never knew what it would become until Steve Miller walked in the door.
This album cover and packaging did so well that it won a grammy for “best album cover”. Normally that would be very exciting for an artist, that their work got recognized with an award like that…but the sad truth is Kelley and Mouse weren’t recognized with the award, it went to Capital Records and the art director Roy Kahara.
In an interview Stanley Mouse said “…We were watching TV one night and we saw the Grammys and they said, “For Book of Dreams, Roy Kahara, art director.” It won a Grammy but we didn’t win it. They didn’t even tell us about it. We had to see it for ourselves on TV.” As a cover artist myself, I hate to see the artist themselves not getting the credit they deserve for their work.
The pegasus theme would go on to be featured on many of the Steve Miller Bands Compilation and greatest hits albums, and if you search for Steve Miller band merch it almost always has a pegasus on it.
If you are a band or musician that is exploring for inspiration for an album or single cover, I think that one big piece of advice you can take from this cover is think outside the Book. I know even for myself, when you have a name like Book of Dreams to work with, it would be very easy to try and do something book related for the cover. What they did, using the pegasus, that could only be found in a dream, as the main character for the cover, is what makes this a great album cover. Also this is literally a piece of art created by Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse, and I think the world needs to know that they are the ones responsible for this masterpiece on the cover of Book of Dreams.
Thats it for the cover of Book of Dreams…now let’s jump into everyones favorite segment….its time for our Near Miss.
Today’s near miss victim, is one of my favorite bands from my adolescent years…and that is Creed. Growing up in the 90’s and the early 00’s, I fell in love with Creed because it felt like the rock sound that I loved, but it wasn’t my dads rock n roll. I know Creed is one of those bands that everyone likes to pick on, and that's not why I chose them. This album cover is probably more strange than you remember it being.
The album cover we are looking at is for Creed’s Weathered album, and it is quite interesting. As a teen I guess I didn’t think anything of this album cover, and it probably wasn’t bad “quality” for the graphics in the late 90’s early 2000’s. But the more I look at it now the stranger it gets….let me try to explain it.
The main element of the cover is a big tree, (we will discuss the detail of the tree more in a second), and the background looks very apocalyptic. There is this large orange/red sun in a brownish yellow sky and the ground in the is very rocky, There is a smaller tree, towards the back of the image that is being chopped down by what appears to be a man. He’s kinda of a blurry so it’s hard to tell. Also there is this ray of light shining on this blurry figure from that large orange/red sun.
The big main tree at the front of the cover has the faces of the 3 band members super imposed on top of it in the bark. There are these two hands with a chisel and hammer that look like the band members faces are being chiseled into the tree. (As a side note, for some reason the arms that are doing the chiseling are very, VERY hairy!!!) Also all of the band members have these kind of weird blank stares. To make it even better, the faces on the tree are very poorly photoshopped onto the image, so it all looks very awkward.
I loved this thought from faceoffrockshow.com
“The name of the album means erosion by weather, i.e. bone, person, or anything else that is eroded by the weather. Reflecting the situation the band was in at the time of the album's release, the cracks began to widen and the end was near. But then we take a look at the album cover (which to tell the truth is one of the weirdest we've seen) and here we see the band members' faces engraved on a tree that looks like it's strong and formidable that is not eroded by the weather but rather, it seems to survive forever. Think about it…”
A strong formidable tree, in a very weathered environment, that seems to last forever...maybe that's the legacy of Creed.
The artwork for the album was designed by Mark Tremonti's brother, Daniel Tremonti, who designed all of the album covers for Creed. Normally I like to try and give some suggestions on how I would change it, to make it better…but honestly this one might be too weird to try and change. And maybe it just needs to be weird.
One last funny side note…one of the first things that pops up when you google this album cover design, is this tweet from someone in 2016. They aren’t wrong, but maybe we need to dig deeper into this one and get more info. Would you like me to dig deeper into this album cover and learn more about Weathered by Creed….? Let me know in the comments section below.
That's it for this months episode of the Judged by the Cover podcast! Thanks for listening, and we will do this again…very soon!