Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Cover artwork by Storm Thorgerson

 
 

The Catapult of Desert, René Magritte, 1926

 
 

Booklet

 
 

 Rind, M.C. Escher, 1955

 
 

LP featuring alternate artwork inspired by M.C. Escher

 
 

Tales of Mystery and Imagination Edgar Allan Poe, is the debut album by the progressive rock group The Alan Parsons Project, released in 1976. The lyrical and musical themes – retellings of horror stories and poetry by Edgar Allan Poe — attracted a cult audience. The title of the album is taken from a popular title for a collection of Poe’s macabre tales of the same name, Tales of Mystery & Imagination, first published in 1908 and reprinted many times since.

Musicians featured on the album include vocalists Arthur Brown of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown on The Tell Tale Heart and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies on To One In Paradise. The complete line-up of bands Ambrosia and Pilot play on the record, along with keyboardist Francis Monkman of Curved Air and Sky.

The Raven features actor Leonard Whiting on lead vocals, with Alan Parsons performing vocals through an EMI vocoder. According to the album’s liner notes, The Raven was the first rock song to feature a digital vocoder.

The Prelude section of The Fall of the House of Usher, although uncredited, is inspired by the opera fragment La chute de la maison Usher by Claude Debussy which was composed between 1908 and 1917. The Fall of the House of Usher is an instrumental suite which runs 16 minutes plus and takes up most of Side 2 of the recording.

Critical reaction to the album was mixed; for example, Rolling Stone’s Billy Altman concluded that it did not completely accurately reproduce Poe’s tension and macabre fear, ending by claiming that “devotees of Gothic literature will have to wait for someone with more of the macabre in their blood for a truer musical reading of Poe’s often terrifying works”.

Nevertheless in July 2010, the album was named as one of Classic Rock magazine’s “50 Albums That Built Prog Rock”.

In 1987, Parsons completely remixed the album, including additional guitar passages and narration (by Orson Welles) as well as updating the production style to include heavy reverb and the gated reverb snare drum sound, which was popular in the 1980s. The CD notes that Welles never met Parsons or Eric Woolfson, but sent a tape to them of the performance shortly after the album was manufactured in 1976.

The first passage narrated by Welles on the 1987 remix (which comes before the first track, A Dream Within a Dream) is sourced from an obscure nonfiction piece by Poe – No XVI of his Marginalia (from 1845 to 1849 Edgar Allan Poe titled some of his reflections and fragmentary material Marginalia.) The second passage Welles reads (which comes before The Fall of the House of Usher (Prelude), seems to be a partial paraphrase or composite from nonfiction by Poe, chiefly from a collection of poems titled Poems of Youth by Poe (contained in Introduction to Poems – 1831 in a section titled “Letter to Mr. B———–“; the “Shadows of shadows passing” part of the quote comes from the Marginalia.

Advertisements

A Life of Its Own

“I have no regrets. I feel beautiful when I’m pregnant. I look at stretch marks as something I’ve earned, not as something that wrecks my appearance,” Demi told the Los Angeles Times soon after the issue came out. “I was trying to tell people I feel it’s possible to do all those things — to have a career, be a mother, still be beautiful and sexy. … I mean even on a sexual level, I’ve never felt more beautiful or sexy or more appreciated by my husband [Bruce Willis] than when I’ve been pregnant.”

Demi Moore

 
 

Demi Moore, Culver City, California, 1991. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. The photo went on to become one of the most iconic photographs of the past two decades.

 
 

Vanity Fair, August 1991 issue

 
 

“It’s hard to imagine now, but the portrait of Demi Moore nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair was truly scandalous in 1991. Scandalous in the sense of shocking and morally offensive to some people. The first day the issue was available, it sold out on newsstands at Grand Central Station during the morning rush hour. Newsstands in other parts of the country displayed it in a white paper wrapper, as if it were a porn magazine. Several supermarket chains refused to sell it even with the wrapper. Television crews were parked outside the Vanity Fair office for days. Editorialists and pundits weighed in. A few years later, the picture was held responsible for the rise of body-hugging maternity fashions.

 
 

 
 

None of this was my intention, although it’s gratifying to think that the picture helped make pregnant women feel less awkward or embarrassed about their bodies. It began as a shoot with a specific problem. Demi had a new movie coming out, and Tina Brown, who was the editor of the magazine then, wanted to put her on the cover, but Demi was seven months pregnant with her second child. Tina and I talked about how to handle this, and we decided to go for a glamorous, sexy look. Lori Goldstein, the stylist, brought diamond earrings and a 30-carat-diamond ring to the studio in Los Angeles where we were shooting. We had long gowns, including a green satin robe by Isaac Mizrahi.

Demi and I had worked together several times before, and I’d taken her wedding pictures when she married Bruce Willis, in 1987. I had said to her then that I was interested in photographing a pregnant woman, which at that point I never had. Demi called me when she was going to have their first child. Bruce was working on location in Kentucky and she had gone there to have the baby. I stopped off in Kentucky on the way back to New York from Los Angeles and took a few rolls of black-and-white film. Just for them. Demi and Bruce were not shy about documenting the pregnancy. Several friends and a man with three video cameras were in the room when their daughter was born a few weeks later.

At the cover sitting in 1991, I shot a few close-ups and some full-length portraits. Demi was by no means camouflaged for any of them. In the standing portrait published inside the magazine the green satin robe is pulled off her shoulders and it falls open to expose her belly and leg. In another picture she’s wearing a black lace bra and panties. But the fully nude picture was not taken until toward the end of the shoot and was intended just for Demi. I was taking some companion photographs to the ones I had made during Demi’s first pregnancy. As I was shooting, I said, “You know, this would be a great cover.” It wasn’t until I got back to New York and looked at the proofs that I realized that there really was a great cover photograph there. Tina agreed, although she thought that Demi would be furious if we ran it. She was surprised when Demi said yes right away. We all knew what we were doing up to a point, but none of us completely understood the ramifications.

A few months after the Demi Moore picture was published, an exhibition of my work from 1970 to 1990 opened at the International Center of Photography, in New York. The director of the center, Cornell Capa, wanted to blow the picture up and hang it in the stairwell. I wouldn’t let him. It was a popular picture and it broke ground, but I don’t think it’s a good photograph per se. It’s a magazine cover. If it were a great portrait, she wouldn’t be covering her breasts. She wouldn’t necessarily be looking at the camera. There are different criteria for magazine covers. They’re simple. The addition of type doesn’t destroy them. Sometimes they even need type. My best photographs are inside the magazine.”

 

Excerpted from Annie Leibovitz at Work, by Annie Leibovitz, Random House, 2008

 
 

 
 

Speaking in an interview with Vanity Fair – the magazine that placed the image its front cover – Leibovitz says the photograph was not one of her best.

‘It was a popular picture and it broke ground, but I don’t think it’s a good photograph per se,’ Leibovitz said in an interview with Vanity Fair. ‘It’s a magazine cover. If it were a great portrait, she wouldn’t be covering her breasts. She wouldn’t necessarily be looking at the camera.’

Ms Leibovitz has talked in the past of the genesis of the photograph, which came about quite by accident. The photographer tells how she got together with the star to shoot the Vanity Fair cover, but given that Demi was seven months pregnant, Vanity Fair was nervous about the result. The consensus was that Leibovitz would somehow disguise the pregancy, or just shoot a head portrait. But on the day, after a series of shots in various outfits, Leibovitz suggested the nudes.

‘She dropped her clothing and I started to shoot. I said, “well this looks really, I mean… maybe we should make this the cover. Why not?” And she said yes, maybe.’ ‘So we tried to hide everything the best we could. Tina Brown in New York made a decision to go ahead with it. And this is one of those things, it had a life of its own.’

 
 

Leibovitz’s naked self-portrait taken when pregnant at age 51