The Crimson King

This is the first in a series of occasional posts on album covers that are near and dear to my ancient, analog heart.

Over the span of nearly five decades, my voluminous music collection has gradually migrated from dusty, black vinyl to tin-plated CDs to intangible digital files. Although it’s been years since I’ve purchased an old-school LP, the format and its attendant packaging always summons warm memories.

I was – and remain – enough of a music nerd to get a special kick out of studying album covers while listening to music. I’d stare at the wonders conjured by such designers as Hipgnosis (Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and many, many more), Roger Dean (Yes and many, many more), Cal Schenkel (Frank Zappa), Pedro Bell (Parliament-Funkadelic) and Neon Park (Little Feat).

Even photographic portraits – such as the famous head-shots of the Fab Four on With The Beatles and Diana Ross’ little-girl-lost pose on her solo debut – seemed to convey great meaning.

Combined with interior photographs, liner notes and, yes, the music itself, the classic LP package was a piece of pop art. While I enjoy the convenience of downloading and streaming music via the Internet, modern services like iTunes and Pandora can’t quite replicate the unique sensation of cracking open a vinyl LP for the very first time.

In tribute to that bygone era, here’s my favorite album cover of all time: the screaming gent who graces King Crimson’s classic 1969 debut, In The Court Of The Crimson King.

The image was painted by Barry Godber, a computer programmer who sadly died of a heart attack after the album was released. The famous cover was Godber’s only painting.

According to our friends at Wikipedia, the painting is currently in the possession of Robert Fripp himself.

All I knew is that when I first stumbled upon the album nearly 10 years after its release, the cover alone convinced me to give the “Crimson King” a try. The first song, “21st Century Schizoid Man,” pretty much delivered everything that Godber’s painting promised.

After that, there was no looking back.