Sleeve Artists: Cal Schenkel

By swagski swagski
updated over 6 years ago

(Please scroll down to the Sleeve Image History if you wish to skip this intro & the artist profile).

Whilst this Discogs site is dedicated to the art of music, I believe the importance of the art of graphic imagery in music should not be overlooked. In many instances the sleeve art of a recording reflects the nature and attitude of society prevalent at the time of its release. It also needs to capture the essence of the artist upon the release, arranging its shapes and orchestrating its colours to reach the eyes in silent communication. Once upon a time, the possession and tactile joy of a vinyl album sleeve was like having a child's security blanket. It's content proof that other people out there understood the crazy stuff that you were listening to. Often, the art content would distill and become a recognisable icon for the future of the performer. A leitmotif that would go beyond the days when a band simply wrote their name on the drum kit.

My intention is to create a series of lists, prefixed "Sleeve Artists:". These lists will, initially, be confined to early/seminal graphic artists creating 'hand-worked' art, rather than later photographers or computer/CGI illustrators. I shall attempt to provide a broad Profile on each artist, adding to it as I uncover their album histories. Albums will be added to the Image List chronologically as I come across them, together with any relative info in the text area. I shall also maintain a set of links to other sleeve artist's work in Discogs (found as a footnote, below the Profile).

This is certainly not intended as a definitive guide to the artist or their works. It's simply an aid to their enjoyment & governed by the Database. Any info you have, or pointers to missing items, or complaints etc., is welcome.

The Sleeve Art of Calvin Schenkel
Born: 27th January 1947, Willow Grove, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The teenage Schenkel enrolled at Philadelphia College of Art, where he made friends with Sandy Hurvitz (who would later become known as the musician & songwriter Essra Mohawk). He soon dropped out of his studies and headed for California. His path first crossed that of Frank Zappa when he was picked up hitchhiking by a car full of LA hippie chicks, who dropped him off at the making of "Freak Out!". But it was a fleeting event and by early 1967 he was residing back in Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Hurvitz (who had already cut a record under the pseudonym "Jamie Carter") had become involved in the 'Mothers'' performances at New York's Garrick Theater, standing in on keyboards and duetting with Ray Collins. When Zappa commented on his idea for the creation of a grand sleeve design for "We're Only In It For The Money" it was Hurvitz who suggested he use Schenkel.

Schenkel and Zappa hit it off creatively. He helped in the band's light-shows at The Garrick and created ads for "Absolutely Free", along with cartoon ideas for a 'Moop' label project. He would commute to the studio in Zappa's New York apartment and some album sleeve assemblage artwork occurred there, as well as in a studio he had that was once a dentist's office. Zappa was one of the first musicians to realize the true significance of the art medium in the sale of music. (His "Freak Out!" was the first rock-oriented gatefold double-album release, in unison with the release of Dylan's "Blonde On Blonde").

When Zappa moved from New York, to "The Log Cabin" in Laurel Canyon in 1968, Schenkel accompanied him. He rented a downstairs area in the Cabin, turning it into a studio and sleeping quarters. This proximity to Zappa, and the entourage of people and musicians that surrounded the Zappa household, kept him inspired and in touch with the music he was helping to promote.

The Log Cabin at 2401 Laurel Canyon Boulevard, once owned by cowboy actor Tom Mix, was very much a centre of 'creative souls' in the late sixties. It was previously a 'squat' occupied by Vito Paulekas and his 'freak-scene' dance troupe who would throw wild parties and 'love-fests'. The basement had a one-lane bowling alley, along with walk-in safes the size of bank vaults and a large band-rehearsal area. Visitor John Mayall penned a song about it ("2401" on "Blues From Laurel Canyon"). Babysitters at The Cabin became models on album sleeves and an outrageous all-girl group was formed, one of whom was Sandra Leano. Schenkel's relationship with Leano resulted in him fathering a daughter named Raven. When Zappa's son Dweezil was born and the hospital demanded he choose an alternative name he chose four, one of them was "Calvin".

Schenkel spent over ten continuous years involved in glorious design work for Zappa. For Zappa fans Schenkel's scratchy, satirical, punk-like illustrative style is synonymous with the musical work, reinforcing the conceptual continuity of its content. In 1977 he ceased work on Zappa albums and returned to Philadelphia, where he has remained, running an art mail-order business and painting for pleasure. He produced a few Zappa sleeves in the 1980's and for RykoDisc's Zappa repackaging project in the '90s.

Other Sleeve Artists:
Sleeve Artists: Barney Bubbles (The work of Colin Fulcher).
Sleeve Artists: Gary Panter (Under construction)
Sleeve Artists: Martin Sharp ('Oz' & Whitaker) Including Robert Whitaker
& other sleeve artists relating to Sharp's 'Oz' magazine
Sleeve Artists: Cal Schenkel (Under construction, but operating)
Sleeve Artists: Ed Thrasher (Under construction, but operating)
Sleeve Artists: Of West Coast Bands 1967-1970 (Under construction)

  1. Cal Schenkel

    Extracts from "Eye" magazine, issue 53. Schenkel interview with Dan Nadel:

    (On influences)
    "...I just grew up on the comics stuff. There was probably some family influence as well.
    My grandfather was an artist, and he mostly did landscapes, and my great uncle was an
    artist and writer, who did really bizarre fantasy illustrations along with his manuscripts.
    He was kind of my nanny, and I remember being fascinated by the garish pulp and
    paperback book covers he had around".
    (On Zappa)
    "...the summer of 1968, when I’d moved to LA with him, was particularly interesting
    because everybody that came through town wanted to meet Frank. One day, when no
    one was home but me, I heard a knock and looked out the window and it was Grace Slick
    at the door. Pink Floyd came by, and I photographed a basement jam with Mick Jagger,
    Marianne Faithful, Captain Beefheart and Frank and the Mothers".
    (On sleeve art & image)
    (Nadel): "In the late 1960s the rock album cover was still an inchoate medium, and hadn’t
    yet emerged as a deliberate platform for design, as it would in the 1970s. So what were
    you looking at or thinking in terms of your medium?"

    "Well, I never looked at it that way. I was just doing art that I liked and it was cool that
    I could do it on an album cover".

    (Nadel): " could argue that you were the first artist to give a musician a comprehensive
    visual identity, except Zappa was so diverse in his musical and performance identities that
    you never really did give him a single, monolithic look. It’s not like Pink Floyd and Hipgnosis".

    "They were Frank’s identities, and he was in control of them and I was really just satisfying
    these various concepts. I didn’t create his identities for him in terms of explicit concepts.
    But in terms of visuals, we worked off of each other. So it was a true give and take, with the
    understanding that he had the final say. It was very informal and open. It was important to
    him to have a complete approach to the packaging of himself and his music because he
    saw himself as a complete artist, from music to visuals".

  2. The Mothers Of Invention* - We're Only In It For The Money

    25 For Sale from $14.63

    March 1968 'censored' cover.
    Artwork, sculptures & montages by Cal Schenkel.
    Dresses & fashion accessories by Tiger Morse.
    Photography by Jerrold Schatzberg.

    The sleeve was intended to be a parody of the 'Sgt Pepper' album sleeve, but was
    released in this version. Legal wrangles with The Beatles management and 'cold feet'
    resulted in the gatefold sleeve being printed 'inside-out'. (The inner spread is effectively
    the intended 'outside' cover that appeared on later vinyl issues & CDs. See image below)

    A Zappa 'speak bubble' on the back suggests "Is this phase one of Lumpy Gravy?"

    The Tiger Morse fashions used could also be viewed as a parody of the Andy Warhol scene
    that Zappa observed whilst engaged in performances in New York

  3. Frank Zappa / The Mothers Of Invention* - We're Only In It For The Money

    9 For Sale from $5.99

    The intentioned uncensored 1968 cover, as a parody of (See entry above)
    The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band..
    It appeared on later vinyl & CDs, as on this 1995 CD 'uncensored' sleeve.

  4. Sandy Hurvitz* - Sandy's Album Is Here At Last

    4 For Sale from $24.39

    Sleeve of Verve label DJ promo.
    Schenkel photography & 'speak-bubble' art.
    The initial producer, Zappa, appears on TV image.

    As a teenage musician Hurvitz 'fell in' with Frank Zappa's band, playing keyboards
    & duetting with Ray Collins*. Consequentially, she introduced ex-boyfriend Cal Schenkel
    to FZ after he described his vision for the sleeve of "We're Only In It For The Money".
    Schenkel & FZ hit it off and a long-time working relationship began.
    (Ian Underwood completed this LP's production)

    *Collins nicknamed Hurvitz "Uncle Meat". Despite her protestations she was introduced
    as such by FZ at performances. (He also released an album under this title in 1969).
    The Mothers Of Invention* - Uncle Meat
    Hurvitz [aka Jamie Carter] later married producer Frazier Mohawk, becoming a renowned
    singer/songwriter under the name Essra Mohawk.

  5. Francis Vincent Zappa* Conducts The Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Orchestra & Chorus* - Lumpy Gravy

    13th May 1968 (Recorded early in 1967).
    Photography & images assembled by Schenkel.

    This album was released over a year late, due to FZ's contract hassles.
    An alternative Schenkel sleeve exists on the Capitol label with FZ in a top hat.
    (Schenkel's voice can be heard on Part Two in "Very Distraughtening").
    Other than Schenkel's voice there's Larry Fanoga too, aka Motorhead Sherwood.

    Vocal performers were recorded inside a grand piano. A concept that emerged
    again on "Civilization Phaze III".

  6. The Mothers Of Invention* - Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

    42 For Sale from $3.00

    Late November/2nd December 1968
    Like the album content, this is a wittily-observed illustration by Schenkel of early
    Pachuco or Chicano bands. Zappa's bassist Roy Estrada is a Pachuco.
    This album does not credit the MOI or Mothers. It is a faux band created in tribute to
    the Chicano & doo wop styles. Zappa cast himself as Ruben Sano. Later, a real Ruben
    met Zappa and Ruben And The Jets became "For Real".

    Schenkel revived visual sleeve references to this on "Just Another Band From L.A."
    Las Mothers* - Just Another Band From L.A.

  7. Bizarre Records

    Schenkel created the logo for Zappa & Cohen's independent Bizarre label.

  8. Lenny Bruce - The Berkeley Concert

    17th February 1969
    Cover illustration by Basset Hand Graphics.
    Art Direction by Cal Schenkel.

  9. Wild Man Fischer - An Evening With Wild Man Fischer

    28th April 1969
    This gatefold certainly shows the style of Schenkel design on the inside spread,
    with photos by Caraeff and a cover shot of Fischer (with a sharp knife & his mother)
    by Henry Diltz.

    Rodney Bingenheimer (Ex Sonny & Cher 'gopher', Sunset Strip club owner & DJ)
    appears, along with comment on the 'artistic' "Plaster Casters of Chicago"

  10. The Mothers Of Invention* - Uncle Meat

    April 1969
    Schenkel's sleeve uses three-dimensional imagery. A photo-montage of bric-a-brac
    from around his studio, which was a once a dentist's office.
    Includes 12-page color booklet designed by Schenkel.
    ('Suzy Creamcheese' puts in a reappearance, played this time by Pamela Zarubica).

    The album's title could have been inspired by the nickname of Sandy Hurvitz (see
    her sleeve above), aka Essra Mohawk.

  11. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band* - Trout Mask Replica

    16th June 1969
    Schenkel cover photography & sleeve art.
    Inner/back photos by Caraeff in unmistakable 'electric' style.

    A seminal Don Van Vliet album that is still inspirational & difficult to categorize.

    Shenkel spent time painting with Van Vliet, who's work is now highly regarded.

  12. The Mothers - The **** Of The Mothers

    1 For Sale from $180.00

    July 1969
    This has all the hallmarks of a Schenkel collage.
    However, it's a Verve label release outside of Zappa's control- which he wasn't
    happy with, so it could be intended to look like a Schenkel.
    Awaiting more info

  13. Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

    15th October 1969
    Gatefold Schenkel design and Ed Caraeff's 'electric' photographic style.

    The lady is Christine Frka, Zappa's babysitter, catalyst to Alice Cooper/FZ production
    and a member of the GTO's. The inside spread features Captain Beefheart, holding
    a 'phallic' vacuum cleaner (like those he once sold, with the sales patter "Sir, this
    machine really sucks". Taken from the Caraeff session used on "Trout Mask Replica".

  14. Various - Zappéd

    34 For Sale from $5.99

    November 1969
    Schenkel/Caraeff work on this Bizarre promo/sampler.

    The label of this is "Bizarre'. Warner Bros released it later (see below) with a WB label,
    the same Cat#, but with some different tracks.

  15. GTO's - Permanent Damage

    3 For Sale from $27.77

    8th December 1969
    Caraeff photography and Schenkel layout.

    Sandra Leano was a member of the GTO's (aka Miss Sandra).
    Schenkel and Leano had a daughter named 'Raven'.

    The GTO's emerged from "The Cherry Sisters" and "The Laurel Canyon Ballet Company"
    and included Miss Pamela who married musician Michael Des Barres.
    The definitive 'LA Groupie' album, featuring Jeff Beck & other renowned musicians.

  16. Lord Buckley - A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat

    15 December 1969
    Cover art assembled by Schenkel, photography by Caraeff. Inside shot by Roy Avery.

    This vaudevillian dandified performer coined "The Nazz*" and "The Gasser" as memorable
    names in his highly amusing jazz monologues. Certainly a precursor to the rap scene.
    Material originally recorded in 1956 and edited/compiled as a tribute by Zappa & co.

    *Also a band name used by Alice Cooper & Todd Rundgren.

  17. Various - Zapped

    41 For Sale from $3.99

    February 1970 (See "Zapped" above, without accent).
    The tracks are slightly different to the above 1969 release. It was released with these
    different 1970 tracks in the above sleeve but with a WB label.
    It was then released with this sleeve design.
    Thus, there are 3 versions.

    Artwork is credited to Nancy Chester on this 3rd sampler, although the style is reminiscent
    of Schenkel and his images are used.

  18. Emitt Rhodes - Emitt Rhodes

    Cover design by Cal Schenkel.

    Rhodes was effectively an accomplished 'one-man band', recording this in his home studio.

  19. The Mothers Of Invention* - Burnt Weeny Sandwich

    February 1970
    Assemblage by Schenkel, created initially in 1967 for an Eric Dolphy release.
    Zappa had a creative hand in processing the inner pictures of Don Preston in this gatefold.
    Designed by John Williams, who's photography is also included.

  20. The Fugs - Golden Filth

    Illustration by Cal Schenkel.

  21. Frank Zappa - Chunga's Revenge

    17 For Sale from $12.90

    23rd October 1970 (Original UK 'Mustard yellow' sleeve).
    Gatefold design by Schenkel.

    Gypsy caravans and mutant vacuum cleaners, as described by Zappa on the cover, are
    cartooned on the inner spread along with FZ's console. The cover photo of FZ yawning
    is by Phil Franks, taken during a 'meeting of bands' Press & PR conference (organized
    by Kinney) at a UK country house.

  22. Frank Zappa - Chunga's Revenge

    59 For Sale from $5.00

    October 1970
    Red Sleeve version of the above album.

    Like the original, the text comments; "All the vocals in this album are a preview of the
    story of 200 Motels. Coming soon."

    Back cover photo by John Williams.

  23. Shango (3) - Trampin'

    21 For Sale from $3.33

    1970 Awaiting image
    Art by Schenkel.
    Photography by Ed Caraeff.
    (Band photo in a wooden frame)

  24. The Mothers - Fillmore East - June 1971

    August 1971
    Schenkel's handwritten punk-like text dominates this album's sleeve.

    Updated 2-fold layout by Schenkel on later CD releases.

  25. Frank Zappa - 200 Motels

    October 1971
    Schenkel was the production designer in the making of this movie.
    Cover/Poster illustration by David B. McMacken.
    Schenkel art & set layout on back of sleeve.
    Schenkel's production work can be seen in the movie & some art appears in the
    multimedia issues. (As below, 1997).