As Herb Alpert remembers it, he was in a recording studio one day in 1965 when the art director for A&M, the label Alpert co-owned, showed him the photograph that would soon grace one of the most memorable LP covers of all time. “My first reaction was, ‘Holy shit, man. Too racy,’” Alpert says. “Obviously now it would hardly register, but at the time I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a little much.’ And I didn’t know, quite frankly, whether it reflected the album — the music I was doing at the time. But we decided to go with it. That was obviously fortuitous.”
It was, because the LP in question, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, attributed to Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, was his breakout album, and the photo in question was the now iconic shot of a seemingly nude, doe-eyed young woman sunk up to her décolletage in what appears to be a giant pile of the titular dessert topping. Looking askance at the camera, she touches a long, cream-tipped finger to her lips. On her head is an added dollop of white, evoking, maybe, one of Billie Holiday’s signature gardenias. In her left hand she absently holds a long red rose, perhaps a sop to notions of traditional romance, or maybe an unneeded effort by the photographer to add color and more visual interest.
From a straight male point of view, and perhaps from others’, this was the sexiest album cover of the 1960s, as many then-adolescent boys can to this day vividly recall. Whether or not it accurately reflected Alpert’s gently swinging, mariachi-inflected instrumentals, the photo surely help propel Whipped Cream & Other Delights, released in 1965, into the number-one slot on Billboard’s list of top-selling LPs for 1966, beating out The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, The Mamas and the Papas, Lou Rawls, and Barbra Streisand. This triumph wasn’t a fluke solely attributable to art direction: Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s Going Places (also 1965) and What Now My Love (1966) held the third and fifth spots on the 1966 year-end chart despite pleasant yet far more anodyne covers. Two songs on Whipped Cream, “Lolllipops and Roses” and the album’s title song, became swingers’ anthems after they were used to play on contestants on ABC-TV’s The Dating Game… read more >