Exile In Guyville album cover

Liz Phair’s Album Cover Lacks The Flair Of Her Original Idea

Exile In Guyville By Liz Phair

Liz Phair’s Exile In Guyville Album Cover Lacks The Flair Of Her Original Idea

This is Behind The Cover, brought to you by Pure Music Manufacturing. This is a feature where we explore the background of the music and cover art of an iconic album released in the past few decades.

American indie rock singer-songwriter Liz Phair released her debut album on June 1993. It was titled, “Exile In Guyville” and was met with critical and commercial success. By summer 2010 it had sold 491,000 copies. It sat as the Number One Album of the year in the album polls in Spin magazine and the Pazz & Jop critic’s poll in the Village Voice.

The term “Guyville” was plucked from the song of the same name by Urge Overkill. Phair explained that her album concept was the combination of small town mentality and Chicago’s Wicker Park indie music scene along with the isolation she had experienced in every place she had lived. In a way, Guyville was a place that did not welcome her or she just did not feel as if she fit into the surroundings that were heavy on guys and not so much on gals.

She described Guyville guys as having short, cropped hair, wearing John Lennon glasses, flannel shirts and work boots. “This kind of guy mentality, you know, where men are men and women are learning.”

The album cover artwork was largely the work of Phair. The original idea was collage-based and revolved around the visual of “a fat lady in a pool.” The artwork was to feature “an orgy of Barbie dolls floating in a pool,” which was an idea that her record company had little difficulty in turning down. Their argument was that the artwork would seriously impact sales and not in a positive way. For a debut album, it sort of makes sense that the record company would want to keep a handle on the image being projected by the artist. However, there are many examples of top-selling albums in the history of music that had less than spectacular artwork on the cover.

The final album cover design is far from the original concept. It features a photo of the artist topless that was taken in a cheap photo booth. The photo was cropped by Nash Kato of the band Urge Overkill. The inside artwork is a borrow of sorts as it was based largely on the artwork contained in the 1952 Lopez Tejera album titled, “The Joys And Sorrows of Andalusia.” The album included a booklet which contained a collage of several different Polaroid photos of Phair and various other people. It includes a paraphrase from lines that were in the Clint Eastwood motion picture “Dirty Harry.” Oddly enough, the photo booth photo and the expression on Phair’s face have turned this into one of the most iconic album covers of all-time.

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