Porter Wagoner’s 1966 song “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” starts out thusly: “I got back in town a day before I'd planned to/I smiled and said I'll sure surprise my wife/I don't think I'll phone, I'll just head on home,” and you know there’s just no way this can end well. The situation basically inspired the opening sequence of Todd Phillips’ 2003 film Old School, with Porter himself in the Luke Wilson role.
It also inspired the coolest album cover ever, which you can see here. The cover photo alters the storyline somewhat, since there is a whole party going on in the song, but just a single interloper here. But the richness of detail -- of cold, hard detail -- in that photograph is just remarkable. It’s not just the dreariness of the cinderblock walls and almost total lack of furniture, or the ashtray full of butts on the otherwise spare coffee table. Notice that Wagoner has already had to unlock the door, open it up, and step inside, meaning it's been a minimum of five seconds since he's been heard, yet his wife is still snuggled underneath the arm of her paramour. Knowing full well that her husband is coming through the door to discover her betrayal, she has not seen fit to move one muscle. That’s just cold-blooded.
But what really cinches this as the greatest album cover of all time is what's not apparent on first sight. This is a picture of Porter Wagoner’s actual apartment. That’s right: One of country music’s biggest stars and the cohost of a successful syndicated TV series with Dolly Parton was living in a dump more suited to a nightshift worker at the Red Man processing plant.
How did he end up in such a depressing situation? Well, in very late 1965, Wagoner removed himself from his family's home – on Christmas Eve, no less! – and temporarily took up residence at the Americana Apartments in Nashville, hard by Vanderbilt University. The bright side for Porter was that he could no doubt invite comely coeds to drop by his place and check out his, uh... lampshade dust cover. So maybe that wouldn't work after all. (Many thanks to Atlantatimemachine.com for tipping OPC off to this story.)