Sly and the Family Stone Have A Riot Making Music
Pure Music Manufacturing proudly presents a unique look at the story behind the music and cover art of an iconic album release. This feature is called Behind The Cover and reveals details not normally considered public knowledge.
The fifth studio album released by American funk and psychedelic soul band Sly and the Family Stone was titled, “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” and it hit record stores in November 1971. Upon its release, the album shot to the top of both the Billboard Pop Album and Soul Album charts. The single “Family Affair” hit the top of the Pop Singles chart. Although the album was first met with ambivalence when it came out, it has since been named as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all-time. It is #99 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and in 2001, it was certified platinum by the RIAA.
The cover art for the album nearly started a riot or two. The original plan was to feature a red, white and black American flag on the cover but with suns instead of stars. The cover was going to not have anything else on it identifying the name of the band or the title of the disc. However, the record label chose to add a sticker on the LP that announced “Featuring the Hit Single “Family Affair.” They thought that would assist with the identity crisis they suspected could start a riot of sorts.
The cover photo was shot by Family Stone A&R director Steve Paley. There were a total of three of the custom flags created. One was for Sly Stone, one for the record company and one went to Paley. A reissue of the album years later featured a rather conventional cover with a concert photo of Sly and the band plus titles and text.
Years later in an interview, Sly described the concept for the album cover. He said his goal was to feature a flag that represented people of all colours. He said he wanted black as it is the absence of all colour, white because it is all colours and red because it represented blood – something everyone has in common. He said the suns were added instead of stars “because stars imply searching…but the sun, that’s something that is always there.” He added, “Betsy Ross did the best she could with what she had…I thought I could do better.”
The outer album sleeve was a photo collage created by artist Lynn Ames which depicted 1970s American culture. They included such things as drummer Buddy Miles, the Lincoln Memorial, a bulldog, the American flag with a peace sign replacing the stars and Sly’s pit bull, Gun.
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