Needle Droppings: Herbie Mann, Push Push

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. That may be true for books, but not for LPs. You can most definitely judge an album by its cover, as is proven by the four-nipple exposure of Orleans’ Waking and Dreaming, the screeching wombat in suspenders leaping at you to tear off your face that is Leo Sayers on the cover of his 1976 LP Endless Flight, and the hairies in girdles who are Brainstorm on the cover of their 1972 LP Smile a While. Only a crazed person would put down real money for albums with covers so inexcusably hideous.

But they’re not the worst, not by a long shot. That award goes to jazz flautist Herbie Mann’s 1971 LP Push Push. Its cover features a shirtless Herbie, his hirsute man-pelt slathered in what appears to be high-viscosity motor oil, flute thrown insouciantly over shoulder. As for his belly button, it’s not an innie it’s an abyss, of the Nietzschian sort that if you stare into it long enough you may just find it staring back at you.

In short, you look at the cover of Push Push and you don’t know who’s been push pushing what where, but you have no choice but to suspect the worst. What in God’s name was Herbie doing with that flute, that he felt it necessary to grease himself up beforehand at Jiffy Lube? The cover speaks of the unspeakable, of sexual acts even I would find unseemly, and of a form of man-instrument intercourse so perverted and obscure its practitioners carefully keep their perversion a secret.

Except for Herbie, that is. Herbie is out and proud, and that’s not good. He should be in hiding, because I’m no puritan but even I would like to ban Push Push, on the grounds that it’s not just a public nuisance but a public menace, in so far as looking at it could blind you, it’s that awful.

And did I mention that Herbie has a mustache, and it’s the sort of mustache only worn by guys whose idea of a great come-on line with the ladies is, “Want a free mustache ride?” As for the title track, I have no idea what it sounds like. It could be great. It could be the greatest slice of early seventies jazz funk ever. But I’m afraid to pick up a used copy of Push Push, for fear that it’s every bit as greasy as its cover and will slip out of my fingers and fall cover up onto the floor, where it will haunt me forever, because I’ll lack the courage to pick it up again, the first time skeeved me out so much.

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  • Martijn

    Still… the typographer should get at least a B+.

  • The Late Herbie Mann

    Don’t be so coy — it is an awesome record

    • Michael Little

      I like the first cut. The rest borders on smooth jazz.