March 12, 2020

The Dying Art of Album Covers — Part Five

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King Crimson

For those who were not around when IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING was released, it will be very hard for you to imagine what a huge impact this album had when it was released in 1969. It was nothing like anything that had ever been done before. Certainly nothing like anything done in the Rock world. The sound of the record was far more advanced than anything ever heard prior to its release.

The album cover was designed by a computer programmer named Barry Gober. It was inspired by the lead song of the album called “21st Century Schizoid Man”. Little wonder that the band loved it. Sadly, it was the only album cover designed by Barry who died far too young of heart failure in 1970 very shortly after the release of the album.

The entire design of the album cover front and back by Barry made you stop everything and listen to the record. Listening to it for the first time was nothing short of startling! The use of the mellotron by keyboard player Ian McDonald gave the music an eerie orchestral sound. The talents of Greg Lake, Robert Fripp and Michael Giles also contributed to what many called the first so called “Progressive Rock” records. Keep in mind that it was done long before all the technical advances had been made in recording. The artwork and the music still stand out today.

Pink Floyd5

It was album music and album artwork that led the way for groups like Pink Floyd and Yes to expand the range of what had been considered Rock music. Most of Pink Floyd’s album covers could be used as an example of great album covers, but it was the simple and yet perfect design of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON that really stands out.

The album cover was designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie. They had done several earlier LP covers for Pink Floyd, but it was keyboard player Richard Wright who insisted that the design for DARK SIDE OF THE MOON be more “Smarter, neater-more classy”.

The final cover was picked from four that were presented to the band. It represented the band’s use of light shows. It was simple but bold. The triangle was the perfect symbol for the lyrics created by Roger Waters for the record. It changes darkness into a spectrum of color.

Supertramp Crisis

The album design for the Supertramp album CHRISIS? WHAT CHRISIS? Is a little more to the point. The idea for the photo featuring a man in color sitting under a beach umbrella with sunglasses with the stark black and white background depicting a stark world was that of Rick Davies.  The band’s keyboard player came up with the title of the album and then did a sketch of what he thought the photo should look like.  He got the idea from the popular film of the time called DAY OF THE JACKAL where the very line was used.

David Bowie Alladin Sane

David Bowie was not only a musician but, (like many of his counterparts), an artist. As such, he had a part in designing the album cover for ALADDIN SANE. He and Brian Duffy worked on it together. Brian was best known as a photographer and film producer from the UK who did some very interesting fashion and portrait photography in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Bowie was split about his visit to America. David had a bit of a love and fearful attitude about coming here that he described as a kind of schizophrenia. It was Bowie who came up with the idea of a lightening bolt on the face showing that division. Duffy added the teardrop. Brian said that he came up with the idea afterwards and thought it was rather sweet. It added to the whole division idea. As critic Mick McCann of The Guardian called the look “The Mona Lisa of album covers”.

This is Part Five in a series. To view the rest in this Album Cover series, click here.

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