John Phillips – The Story Behind The Sleeve

The Story Behind The Sleeve #20: John Phillips - John Phillips

John Phillips (John, The Wolf King Of L.A.) was the eponymous 1970 solo debut album by The Mamas & The Papas’ bandleader following the turbulent break-up of the California band. Recorded with members of The Wrecking Crew, with Phillips’ vocals low in the mix the cosmic Americana veils some dark subject matter. Despite featuring his best-known single, Mississippi, it was a commercial failure. The album’s cover image was shot by prolific US artist Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal and captured the singer looking pensive in a fur coat, hat and scarf. “The hat he wore for the shoot was a gift to him from Leon Russell,” Gundelfinger told Long Live Vinyl. The image presumably made quite an impression on Bob Dylan and official Rolling Thunder Revue photographer Ken Regan, who took more than 10,000 images of Dylan, Joan Baez, Roger McGuinn and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott on the tour. Dylan’s Desire album, released five years later, features an almost identical photograph taken at Plymouth Memorial Park in Massachusetts at the start of the tour in October 1975. Pure coincidence? It seems unlikely.

Read more: The Story Behind The Sleeve #19: Spiritualized – Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space