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Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | Billion Dollar Babies

Track 101 | Cover girls (and boys).

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It’s the ultimate “where are they now?” Rock ’n’ roll album cover babies — who are they, and whatever became of them?

I was wondering about this as I gathered enough albums with babies or toddlers on the cover to feature in my rotating “record wall” display at home. I’ve been doing this for a few years. I have 11 little shelves on the wall inside my front entrance. Each holds a record sleeve, so my partner and I come up with themes: Albums with hats, blank covers, covers with the sun, albums with art relating to Jaws or The Wizard of Oz, a Mother’s Day theme, specific years, album covers featuring the devil, people sitting on chairs, helmets, etc.

So, I was hunting ones with babies one day and put together Smiling Face by Davey Johnstone, Nevermind by Nirvana, 1984 by Van Halen, Third World War by Third World War, Pop Goes The World by Men Without Hats, Remote Control by The Tubes, Bakesale by Sebadoh, Born Again by Black Sabbath, Billion Dollar Babies by Alice Cooper, Small Talk by Sly And The Family Stone, Mother’s Pride by Fanny, Dark Side Of The Moon by Flaming Lips, Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins, with an honourable mention to Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin.

I thought I’d go through some of these, and others, with an aim of figuring out who those babies are… and where they are now.

First, we’ll tackle an easy sub-category: Artists who put baby photos of themselves on the cover. The aforementioned Bakesale is one of those — that’s frontman Lou Barlow, age 1, naked as the day he was born and playing with the water in a toilet. The album cover is straight-up just a family photo, you can even see the date — Aug. ’67 — along the left side.

Where is he now? Lou and his partner run Barlow’s General Store website, selling music and handmade goods. He still does Sebadoh, plays with Dinosaur Jr., releases his own solo stuff and even did a new Folk Implosion release last year.

The 1971 studio album Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) has a photo of a two-year-old Elvis Presley on the cover. The king is dead, of course, but in 1971 he had just started wearing those jumpsuits and trademark sunglasses — but he was still in great shape and sporting championship sideburns.

The toddler with Photoshopped Lil Wayne face and hand tattoos on the cover of 2008’s Tha Carter III is actually Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. (aka Lil Wayne).

Drake‘s third album, Nothing Was The Same, has two covers — they both have paintings of him on the front. The first shows the rapper as a child, with an afro comb in his hair, while the second has him as a grown up — facing the other direction — wearing a gold chain. The image of Aubrey Graham as a child even predates the period where he was a child actor portraying Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Baby photos on hip-hop albums is a thing. The Notorious B.I.G.‘s debut album Ready To Die features a toddler with a strong resemblance to Christopher George Latore Wallace (Biggie) but it actually isn’t him. The same is not true of Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones (Nas), who used a photo of himself at age seven on the cover of his 1994 debut Illmatic.

It’s on the back cover instead of the front cover, but Paul McCartney‘s first solo album has a lovely Linda McCartney snapshot of the Beatle, with their newborn daughter Mary tucked into his warm jacket. Mary McCartney grew up to be a photographer like her mom (and was chosen to photograph Elizabeth II for her jubilee), but is also a filmmaker (she made the film Wingspan about her parents’ band) and a noted vegan cookbook author.

Elton John guitarist Davey Johnstone put out a thoroughly overlooked solo album in 1973 called Smiling Face. The cover, taken by his former wife Di, is of their son Tam Johnstone, who is a songwriter, musician and videographer. During the pandemic he worked with his dad to complete a followup to Smiling Face called Deeper Than My Roots, which came out in 2022.

Morrissey appears on the cover of his critically acclaimed 2009 album Years of Refusal holding a baby the way I carry a bag of groceries. The child isn’t his, but is Sebastien Pesel-Browne, the son of Morrissey‘s assistant tour manager. The kid’s parents met at a Morrissey concert.

I was actually surprised to find out the smoking cherub baby on the cover of Van Halen’s 1984 is a real kid. Artist Margo Nahas asked her friend to take photos of her son Carter Helm with some candy cigarettes. The photos served as the inspiration for her now-famous painting. The bandmembers were flipping through images in Nahas’ portfolio and unanimously zeroed in on it.

We all know the baby on the cover of Nevermind is a real kid — you’ve probably even seen the re-enactment photos which graced the cover of a 2001 Rolling Stone magazine issue. The baby is Spencer Elden, who is probably still introduced to people as “The Nevermind baby.” The photo earned his parents a whopping $200. Elden now works as an artist — and Nevermind wasn’t his only album cover. He’s also featured on the sleeve of 2003’s The Dragon Experience by Canadian musicians cEvin Key and Ken Marshall.

Finally, like Eldon, one of the two kids featured on Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy cover made TWO appearances in the band’s discography. Those kids are brother and sister Stefan and Samantha Gates. Samantha also appears on the back cover of Presence from 1976. Call it her Swan Song.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.

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