Sound & Vision: Miles Davis "On the Corner" and 1970s Releases by Corky McCoy
Our weekly segment, Juxtapoz Sound and Vision, explores a piece of substantial album artwork every Sunday to look at one of the primary ways musicians and visual artists collaborate. Many popular album covers become iconic pieces of pop art, and they're a great excuse for us to share some favorites along with the visual components that make an album memorable.
September 15, 2019: Miles Davis, On the Corner (1972), In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall (1973), Big Fun (1974), and Water Babies (1976)
Cover art for each by Corky McCoy
"Corky McCoy's my best friend. I just called him up and told him what to do. In fact, he was afraid to do it, and I... you know, look at those covers, man. He just lives it. Black life! It's different from white life, Chinese life, whatever. My life's different from yours." So, said Miles Davis, and if you know anything about this 1970s Jazz legend, tumultuous and visionary come to mind. “On the Corner” remains one of his greatest, a fusion of jazz, funk and rock that would heavily influence hip-hop and electronica in years to come. Yes, Davis was at a creative height in the early 1970s, but his releases were being reviewed poorly even as he was pioneering sounds. Looking back that seems incredible, but we often don't artistic vision until years of reflection shine light on the genius. Miles Davis from 1972-76 was that far ahead.
Corky McCoy illustrated the covers for Davis in this era, cartoon-like works that didn't contain the typical photo portrait of the artist, as much of his 1950s-60s output featured, but look similar to the blaxploitation film images popular at the time. This is a great tidbit from Davis on the “On the Corner” release. He refused to list the musicians from the sessions in the liner sleeve, "leading to ongoing confusion about which musicians appeared on the album. Davis later admitted to doing this intentionally: 'I didn't put those names on On the Corner specially for that reason, so now the critics have to say, 'What's this instrument, and what's this? ... I'm not even gonna put my picture on albums anymore. Pictures are dead, man. You close your eyes and you're there'."
McCoy would go on to illustrate the covers of In Concert: Live at Philharmonic Hall (1973), Big Fun (1974), and Water Babies (1976); and in 2007, when Columbia released a box-set The Complete On the Corner Sessions, McCoy added new artwork. Davis had always claimed that On the Corner was an attempt to reach a younger audience, and perhaps the cartoon works was an obvious connection...