I’ve been following a Facebook group dedicated to collecting and making obvious comments about what they consider to be the “worst album covers ever.” There are some gems, for sure, but most fall into one of these categories: singers trying desperately and unsuccessfully to capture the style of the moment (usually in the 1970s), religious groups with big hair and song titles ripe with double entendre, album names or images that are unintentionally suggestive, and foreign acts with names that don’t translate well (you’d be surprised how many albums Cock van der Palm has recorded) .
The queen of bad album covers is Svetlana Gruebbersolvik, a Russian master of the all-too-often ignored instrument, the recorder. Her album, My Lips are for Blowing, is legendary, both for its impossibly naïve title and its iconic design. An innocent Svetlana plays the recorder beside an old portable record player while reading music from a stand. It is believable, presumably, because a real recording company logo appears on the top left (Tamia records), and because a young Russian woman wouldn’t understand the innuendo of her album title. Spoiler: it’s fake.
The cover appears on lists of cringe worthy albums such as Buzzfeed’s and The FW’s as if it is real. Who’d a thunk that not all click bait is true? Even Ellen thought it was real and used it on her show. Has she been duped into spreading fake Russian news?
In reality, it was created by Twisted Vintage in 2010 as a joke. The album doesn’t exist. Svetlana doesn’t exist. Gruebbersolvik isn’t a Russian name, and might not be any sort of name. It seems to be a combination of Gruebber (Gruber), a common Bavarian and Austrian name, meaning someone who lives in the depression or pit, and Solvik, a city in Denmark. Russian women’s names generally start with something Russian and end in an a or ova.
So, not only was this a fake Russian album cover, it was fake Russian. We are so gullible. We want to believe. We want to return to a simpler time when you could hold music in your hand and find weird albums when you were thumbing through the “S” bin at the record store. We want Svetlana to be real, playing her recorder and coming up with her next pornographic album title. After all, the recorder provides so many possibilities. New fakes of the fake have sprung up, showing Svetlana playing a sausage and a missile–soon probably a plastic straw. She has her own Facebook fan group. There is even a YouTube video of her music. Sometimes, something fake is so good it becomes real.
I will leave you with this inspiring music from the woman who never was, playing an instrument that should never be recorded.