Eve Babitz’s Record Collection
The underground icon did more than document the seedy side of LA in the 60s and 70s. She also designed album covers.
Eve Babitz is dead. She was 78, not that age really matters when you’re infinite. But she is no longer on Planet Earth, and that is that. There’s not much I can say here that won’t be said better by other people smarter than me. Do yourself a favor and read what Eve wrote about herself as an art piece. It’s kind of her own eulogy, or something like that. Point is that she was a force and a God and cooler than anyone was and ever will be. She’d never say that, though — or maybe she would. I suppose that’s sort of the point. I hope she’s enjoying a martini somewhere.
“I want to tell you a little about myself,” she wrote in the introduction to Eve’s Hollywood. “I am really an artist, not a writer.”
That’d be a pretentious statement if it wasn’t true. Eve was one of those people set up for cosmic success from inception. Born in Los Angeles, she was the daughter of a classical violinist who was friendly with Igor Stravinsky, who ended up being her goddamn godfather. As Eve rose into adulthood, she was moving with all the pretty people, capturing the energy of the times through publishing essays and articles magazines and memoirs. I have no idea what it was like to be young and alive in the late 60s in the mythical land of California, but I have Eve’s prose to thank for bringing me there. Seems to me like everyone was hot and smoking cigarettes and wearing cool jackets and the world looked like 35mm film. Eve probably would have disliked me for stating these observations.
Someday someone will make a biopic about Eve and it will be bad. I can’t wait to try and not care, like Eve would want. Who am I, anyway? I’m sitting here, biting my fingernails, half-watching a football game. Eve would probably be riding somewhere with the top down with someone famous who only famous people know. She wouldn’t care about some influential person who died. Or maybe she would. But she wouldn’t really care to let you know much. Again, sort of the point here.
Anyway, here’s a fun fact about Eve Babitz that you might not know. On top of chronicling the fabled Western underground and being the muse for Jim Morrison and Harrison Ford and like every other iconic dirtbag from the early 70s, she designed album covers. Apparently she was pals with Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atlantic Records at the time, who presumedly gave her the gig. (She thanks him in the dedication pages of Eve’s Hollywood.) She’d go on to do a variety covers — made of her own designs and photographs — for The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Linda Ronstadt, Earth Opera, Eric Anderson, and a bunch of others. (Worth noting The Byrds record she did, Untitled/Unissued, is one of my all time faves.)
The covers, unsurprisingly, are pretty damn good, too. I pulled them from Discogs, which lists 18 albums she did the art for. I imagine this list is not definitive, but it also might be. Who cares!
There’s an argument to be made that album art is kind of a forgotten medium in the streaming era, but that’s for another day. Instead, I’d like you to take some time and absorb these images. There’s a clear aesthetic that runs through them — this fleeting idea of freedom, chasing the haze, the hippy dream frozen in time. It’s another way to absorb how Eve saw the world, something that we can all benefit from every day. I’ve also put together a playlist in her honor with song selections from these specific records.
So, get yourself a cocktail, and enjoy the ride.
I am curious about her album art, as well, specifically on "Buffalo Springfield Again." Did Ms. Babitz do all the artwork, including the landscape painting, which is the base for the more "trippy," affixed material? That resembles the style, at least, of older artists, like the French Fountainbleu painters (Corot, T. H. Rousseau, et al). The oceanside setting, however, puts me immediately in mind of "Voyage to Cythera," by the older master, Watteau. Can anyone contribute any information, about this?