Response to Best Album Cover of All Time

4 Jun

The home lawn of Citi field spawns another Mets win and I leave the stadium thoroughly entertained! Now on to the post.

A few weeks ago I ran a poll on the best album cover of all time. I believe it is about time that I conclude that post with a response post of my own. After the vote, Nevermind and its heavily symbolic…and naked album cover won in a close race. I’m not surprised by this. Each album chosen can easily be considered the greatest album cover of all time. But, I’m afraid I have to disagree with the winner. Another album cover has always struck my eye, both for its interesting story and frighteningly intriguing imagery. This is the iconic album cover of In The Court of the Crimson King.

Let me tell you a little story about the album that Pete Townshend considers an “uncanny masterpiece” and I consider to be one of my favorite pieces of connected music ever. In 1969, a few talented and already accomplished musicians joined forces to play a euphonious mixture of modern classical, folk, jazz and pop music. The odd combination emitted a true ethereal sound that gave fans a real sensory music listening experience, especially when paired with the richly obscure and rather dense poetry of lyricist Peter Sinfield. When this all came together on King Crimson’s debut 1969 album In The Court of the Crimson King, music fans heard one of the finest examples of the newly established progressive rock genre (formed out of the art rock experimentation of The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck and even early Pink Floyd in the mid 1960s).

Here enters Barry Godber, the young computer programmer (yeah, they existed) and artist who painted the album cover. The tortured face on front (see above photo) is the frightened schizoid man (there is a song on the album called “21’st Century Schizoid Man”) while the seemingly stoned face on the inside cover is the Crimson King. Yet, intelligent guile on the part of Godber reveals a completely different Crimson King if you cover his grinning face. Go ahead, try it. After the album was released with Godber’s painting on October 10, 1969, Godber died of a heart attack at the age of 24 in February of 1970. The curse of the Crimson King. Or, just bad, bad luck. But, his legacy still lives on through the only copy of the original painting owned by King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, and the many copies of the 12-inch LPs and CD’s that continue to be sold today with Godber’s perennial image permanently pasted on front. The paranoid face melting into the surrounding space, lost and alone…

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3 Responses to “Response to Best Album Cover of All Time”

  1. Steve April 10, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    Wow, you’ve got a vinyl of this album, that’s very cool, funny picture, nice to see that there are people out there who still listen to good music

  2. Marcel November 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

    Sorry for the total ignorance, but i do not get what the trick is in cover the Crimson King’s grinning face. What do you mean about revealing a completely different Crimson King?

  3. Matthew Coleman November 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Hey Marcel. Great question. The Crimson King (the round grinning circular head and face with the sharp teeth on the inside of the cover) can portray two different images. If you take it as it is, the image is of the “Crimson King” with this distinct, almost innocent grin on his face. But look at its sad eyes when you cover the smiling mouth.

    Guitarist Robert Fripp mentioned this contradiction in the image and thought it well represented the album (and especially the song “In the Court of the Crimson King”) where the music falls from a dark, orchestral, hell-like lead with distorted chords and eerie voices, to a pained, almost sad flute solo (so masterfully played by Ian McDonald.

    Both sad and sinister at the same time. That’s what I think the image meant.

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