Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald

It was absolutely rock’n’roll. But it was also fashion, art, theatre, lifestyle. It was gay, straight, multisexual. It was totally titillating and absolutely naughty. Everybody held hands with everybody, kissed everybody, went home with everybody. It was an age of accelerated discovery, when all the kinks of sexual yearning were flushed out. It was absolutely self-indulgent.
– Photographer Mick Rock (from his book Blood And Glitter) on the early 1970s

Thankyou for what follows. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Gasp! The decadent, narcissistic, subversive, obsessive, licentious, immoral first half of the 70s, when sex was like a handshake between friends. What did I know? I was just a gullible kid who satisfied my urge for glitter and danger with furtive visits to the local library. The library? Yes, to have a peep look at Eveline and Constanze. Of course I wasn’t aware of their names at the time, and of course I was just a blooming boy who had found his aphrodisiac in two German sexpots oozing wunderbar abandon and A Really Good Time. They were the scandal beauties of my youth, the “light of my life, fire of my loins” (to quote the opening line of a very famous novel). Something curious was indeed taking place with these females, so delicately caught in a moment of imaginable naughtiness. Their just-barely clad bodies against a wall of fronds were framed within a twelve and three-eights inches square. Oh yes, it was a record sleeve that made a man out of me.

English roses they weren’t. In 1974 Bryan Ferry went to the Algarve Coast with Roxy Music’s fashion designer Anthony Price and photographer Eric Boman to combine work with pleasure. He was pushed rather mercilessly by the group’s management to very soon present the fourth Roxy Music album. Ferry felt the reins tighten, but all he had so far was the album title, Country Life, and a suggested scenario of a pair of foxy calendar girls on a cover that would be a little more than just a sarcastic nod to the “cosy” pastoral English magazine of the same name, and its pictures of “characters shooting ducks or jumping over fences in top hats”. What would better illustrate that visual concept than two continental and spectacular females travestying call girl-playthings in diaphanously thin underwear amongst a tapestry of chlorophyll?

Of all gin joints in all the towns in all the world they walked into that Portuguese bar where Ferry and his friends were having a couple of drinks at the beginning of their vacation: “These two Valkyries,” Anthony Price recalls. “That’s the only way to describe them. Constanze and Eveline … I remember we went on boat rides, sailing through these sea caves, and Constanze, the one on the right, with her massive shoulders, was sitting in the front of the boat, she looked like the figurehead on this boat. I was stoned off my tits! She was an incredible creature.” Everyone realised, tout de suite, that they were perfect for the assignment. The Valkyries were on vacation as well. They were staying in a summerhouse owned by Eveline Grünwald’s parents. The love in Eveline’s life was Can man Michael Karoli, and Constanze Karoli was cousin to the now deceased guitarist. They had already met Roxy Music’s press officer Simon Puxley who also worked for Can. When Eveline and Constanze showed up at the place – unbeknownst of Ferry’s presence there – to say hello to their friend who owned the bar, they were actually bringing along Roxy Music records.

“Above all, Roxy Music is a state of mind,” Ferry explained in 1975. “Hollywood movies meet English art school, with a little Schopenhauer thrown in, both in the lyrics I write and the way we look. Of course, that allows for all kinds of possibilities. I am, you must say, a collagiste.” One of Ferry’s tutors when in art school was Richard Hamilton, who had used words such as “Witty”, “Sexy”, “Gimmicky”, “Glamorous”, “Mass Produced” to define Pop. Art and commerce making good bedfellows … that must have made a lasting impression on Ferry.

Although the Country Life cover owed much to the spurs of destiny, its visual style originates from the Sapphic pin-ups of the 1920s, and this theme with a nude woman interacting with another nude woman was happening again in early 1970s’ soft-porn magazines. It made the fashion press too. American Vogue saw rapid changes after grande dame Diana Vreeland’s retirement. Photo editor Alexander Liberman was looking for a new pictorial language of “bad” photography of a casual and, if you will, unprofessional quality. At the time when Country Life was released on 15 November 1974, Helmut Newton was about to define this new style in his own iconic way, with highly staged images of females caught in the very act of something. One thing was clear: these were women who felt sure about themselves and loved the company of other women, not rarely caught in some outdoor activity.

According to Constanze they “just had to look weird and surprised”. They drove around to find some sexy underwear, which was easier said than done, but the girls never really dared to believe that what would come out of the photo session would actually be used as the cover for the next Roxy Music album. The picture was shot at their summerhouse, in the garden next to the swimming pool. Anthony Price used the bathroom in the villa when he did that great 70s make-up on the girls. He also provided the solution for the sharpness by holding up an Omo box to set focus for photographer Boman, since the only light source they had was the headlights of the car they had rented. He used a Leicaflex SL with a 28mm lens, and took three rolls of 35mm film.

Eric Boman: “When we looked at the film back in London, I got the feeling that Bryan wasn’t very happy. I think there was a lack of the slickness that he was used to, but gradually everyone realised that there was another quality, hard to put your finger on, of ambiguity and, as we now call it ‘rawness’ that worked. I think we were all surprised when the cover became such a classic.”

It became a classic pet hate in several countries. In the US (which had just spent 15 long years to annul the heart and soul of Vietnam and its people in order to save the world from Communism) Country Life was retailed wrapped up in dusky green polythene, and soon the girls were entirely swapped with a picture of the vegetation alone. The “indecency” of the original cover shot, and everything else that was off-the-protocol, like the assumption that Constanze was a transsexual and that her friend seemed to play with her ciccolina, meant a lot of controversy. Other countries, like Spain and even the Netherlands, panicked too and banned it. A close-up of Eveline’s face was used to sell the record in the girls’ Heimat, BRD.

Eveline points out that, “People thought we were lying down and masturbating, but that was never the intention. Neither did we choose the photo, but Bryan did ask us if we were d’accord with it. We didn’t think it was scandalous anyway.” It was nicht das Ende der Welt. (Eveline and Constanze are credited on the inner sleeve notes for their short translation of the German passage in “Bitter-Sweet”.) The emergence of the timeless cover shot was a picture in the 1972 April issue of Men Only – but it was Ferry’s art direction that made the idea a permanent joy for the tender pervert in all of us. He made it witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and mass produced. Eveline and Constanze, Life and Art standing next to each other.

You know what, Tintin, in the cold frozen sexless north of England in 74 we were there with you.


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