LOOKING AT THE COVER OF THE
Jan/Feb 1994 issue (below), you might think
that we did a little computer magic to create
that image of Michael Manring toasting marshmallows
over a burning bass. But no … we
really did set an instrument on fire—inside
our office, in the middle of the afternoon.
I had interviewed Michael about his new
album, Thonk, which I described as a “radical
departure from his previous work on
Windham Hill.” It was, I explained, a flat-out
rocker, with a “powerful, pounding, in-yourface
sound that’s sure to amaze those who
had previously dismissed Manring as a granola-
munching new-age nerd.” (I’m not sure
if he ever forgave me for that description.)
How to convey that in a cover image?
How to say that this music rocks? Well,
there is no more iconic rock image than Jimi
Hendrix kneeling over his burning guitar at
the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. So we
decided to reproduce it, tongue in cheek, with
a burning bass … and some marshmallows.
First, we scrounged up a decent-looking
pawnshop bass and visited a nearby market
for a can of lighter fluid and a bag of marshmallows.
Then somebody went outside and
found a suitable branch on a nearby tree.
We set up everything in our small in-house
photo studio, putting the bass on a tarp so
we wouldn’t set the carpet on fire. (We’d
just moved into this office building in San
Mateo and didn’t want to offend our fellow
tenants—who, I’m glad to say, had no idea
what we were up to that day.)
Michael Manring thought we were nuts,
but he was game. He showed up in his best
’60s psychedelic outfit, complete with headband.
After several dry runs to get the lighting
right, Paul Haggard was ready to shoot the
cover photo. I think Scott Malandrone was in
charge of dumping the lighter fluid on the bass
and igniting it. It flamed up beautifully, and
pretty soon Michael was kneeling behind
the instrument, toasting away. I’m not
sure how many shots Paul took before
the flames died down, but the one we
put on the cover was dead-solid-perfect,
with the bass burning, the marshmallows
roasting, and Michael looking suitably bemused.
My job, aside from shouting encouragement,
was to stand behind Paul, holding a
fire extinguisher. Just another day at the