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February 10, 2014

And the music goes round and round

By Big Chuck D'Imperio
The Daily Star

---- — The day has finally arrived.

I read recently that vinyl records are making a comeback. Hallelujah! For the first time in years, several major artists are releasing music on vinyl as well as on the usual delivery platforms. I gave up trying to keep current with the music options at compact discs. Never owned an iPod. Never downloaded a song on the Internet. I’ve never put my favorite songs in a cloud. Whatever that is.

But the return of vinyl makes my heart skip a 33-and-a-third beat.

Unfortunately, now that the vinyl revolution is about to be waged again, I find my musical quiver to be woefully lacking. After moving my old record player around for years, I finally got rid of it. So I have to buy a new one if I am about to rejoin the music front lines.

I do have my record albums, however. I could never get rid of them. They followed me from high school to today. I just love them, and they are the touchstones to my past as much as any old photograph is.

What I miss most from when vinyl surrendered to 20th century innovations is their size. We do live in a smaller-is-better world today. But as far as a big, old vinyl album, there was nothing quite like it.

I enjoyed putting my brand-new Beach Boys album on that little silvery needle that stood in the middle of my record player and then switching it on. I would take my place on the floor and begin to read the album cover while listening to “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “I Get Around.” The entire back of an old record album was filled with a wealth of trivia and information. It was great.

And the album covers themselves. Works of art! The iconic Andy Warhol yellow banana painting on the 1967 Velvet Underground album. Cool. How about the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?” My friends and I tried to pick out as many celebrities featured in that famous cover as we could. I gave up after Lenny Bruce, Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields and cowboy actor Tom Mix.

And then there was my favorite album cover of them all. I was not really into the group. In fact, I remember it more as an album my father listened to. But that cover!

Unforgettable.

The year was 1965 and I was 15. The album was “Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Present Whipped Cream and Other Delights.” I’ve no memory of the Tex-Mex flavored songs on the album, but I certainly remember the album cover. In the center was a doe-eyed, dark-haired woman. She was covered in whipped cream. Well, almost totally covered. Including her hair. She was licking some cream off her fingers. It was very risqué for the time. Needless to say, that album must have sold millions of copies. Every guy I knew had it (thanks, Dad!).

As I prepared myself to suit up for the second coming of vinyl, I dug out my old record albums. There they all were, down in a dark corner of the basement. The Beatles, Marvin Gaye, Petula Clark, Little Stevie Wonder, James Brown (Live at the Apollo!), Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, the Fifth Dimension, CSN&Y, Bob Dylan, Dusty Springfield and a bunch of folk albums (I must have really dug Glen Yarbrough and the Limelighters, because I have several of their albums).

And then, there she was.

Squeezed in between The Lovin’ Spoonful and the soundtrack of “The Sound of Music” (sorry, my five sisters made me do it), I found her. The lady in the whipped cream! Still staring back at me from the green cover of Herb Alpert’s best-selling album. Still licking her fingers after nearly 50 years. It was good to see her again.

Things are different now, of course, so I did the only natural thing. I looked her up online. Her name is Delores Erickson, now 78 years old and living in Kelso, Wash. She was just a struggling fashion model when she was picked to be slathered in whipped cream for what some have called “the most famous record album cover of all time.” In a recent interview, she revealed that she was wearing a bikini and her body was really covered in shaving cream. All except that little piece on the end of her finger. That really was whipped cream.

Like I said, it was good to see her again.

Let the vinyl revolution begin!

I’ll catch you in two ...

“Big Chuck” D’IMPERIO can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his “Oldies Jukebox Show.” You can find him on Facebook by searching “Big Chuck.” He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.