The Who – Original Banned ‘Direct Hits’ Album Cover Artwork

The original and probably banned artwork created for The Who’s album Direct HitsDirect Hits was issued in the UK in October 1968, on Track Records.  It was The Who’s first compilation album, and featured singles, B-Sides and rare tracks.  Noted UK music journalist Jon Savage has suggested that it was a stopgap album, intended to earn the band some money and bridge the gap between The Who Sell Out  (December 1967) and Tommy  (May 1969.)

Track co-owner (and Who co-manager) Chris Stamp hired legendary British designer David King to come up with a cover for the album.  King designed the covers for a number of important Track releases including The Who Sell Out, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland. 

For Direct Hits, King created this collage and airbrush painting of an atomic explosion, with small boats on the horizon.  And he came up with the title “Direct Hits”–a pun on the band’s “hits” and a “direct hit” on the boats by an atomic bomb.

We acquired this beautiful painting directly from David King, who couldn’t recall exactly why it wasn’t used.  Jon Savage suggested that controversy around the release of a 1966 Tom Jones album, A-Tom-ic Jones (with Jones pictured on the cover in front of a nuclear explosion)  might have made Track wary.  The CND’s (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) Ban-The-Bomb demonstrations may have played a part as well.

King’s original painting measures 17″ x 18″, on a larger art board.  At our request he signed it on the back, writing in pencil ‘David King, The Who Direct Hits, Original Artwork.’  It has been archivally framed to 24″ x 25″, with a window on the back making King’s signature and dedication visible.

On this page we have also included an image of the album cover Track ended up using.  We never understood the cover or why the album was called Direct Hits.  But after seeing King’s beautiful painting, it all makes sense.

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