Sleeve Artists: Cal Schenkel
updated over 6 years ago
WELCOME TO "SLEEVE ARTISTS"
(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)