Music (by Mason Williams)
Warner Bros., 1968.
Ruscha designed the cover of Mason Williams’ 1968 album Music (a fact for which he duly apologizes on the back panel, which reads, “Sorry, cover by Ed Ruscha”).
Ruscha and Williams were close friends from childhood in Oklahoma and Ruscha made his first cross-country car trip (Oklahoma City to Los Angeles) with Williams in 1956 just before enrolling at the Chouinard Art Institute (later CalArts). This road trip was the seed from which Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations would later grow. Williams became a comedian, writer and musician and would figure prominently in several of Ruscha’s later book projects, all of which were marked by the same sense of absurdism and deadpan humor. He tossed the typewriter out the window when Ruscha made Royal Road Test and his short story “How to Derive Maximum Enjoyment from Crackers” was the basis of Ruscha’s book Crackers.
Apparently Warner Bros. management had been unaware of Ruscha’s design prior to the release of Williams' "Music" in 1968 and when they finally did see how the product was packaged when it hit the stores they were not amused. The company performed damage control by having a sticker reading “by Mason Williams” strategically placed on the cover of those copies that had not yet shipped and same text was added to the cover for all later pressings. Copies such as this--in excellent condition, unmarred by corporate intervention, and magnificently generic in appearance, just as Ruscha designed it--are increasingly scarce. Additionally this copy is signed on the back by Ruscha and comes with a custom fitted wall-mounting plexiglass display case.