Great album art and strange stories

Way back in the hippy days of the sixties a monster of an album burst forth on an unsuspecting world in 1968. Robert Fripp, a guitarist of no small talent and a penchant for originality, had put together a new and unusual group fronted by a singer called Greg Lake who was destined to go on to dizzy heights later with ELP. The lyrics for the first album were oddly enough by someone who wasn’t in the band and whose own singing abilities (to be kind) were less than wonderful. But as a poet he was way ahead – reading the words to 21st Century Schizoid Man and then reading the newspapers today it is hard not to think of him as some kind of prophet. But we’re here to talk about art so here are both the outside cover and inside cover of ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’ painted by Barry Godber –

Front cover for Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson

Inside cover for Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson

The front is the schizoid man and the inside is the Crimson King with his jolly smile and very sad eyes. The artist Barry Godber was in fact a computer technician who the lyricist Pete Sinfield knew. In fact, he was the only artist he knew so the choice of who to ask was easy! Sadly, Barry Godber barely survived to see his artwork printed on the cover as he died in 1970 from a heart-attack at the tragically young age of 24. The cover and the album went on to become hugely venerated icons of art and music name-checked as influences countless times over the years. The raw emotion portrayed in the front cover and the way that the face is almost bursting out of the frame of the cover attracted many people to the album even if they hadn’t heard a single note of it. Strangely enough, given his tragic early death, the painting was based on a distorted reflection of the artist’s own face. The album itself was remastered for the final time in 2003 when they finally found the original master tapes, which is a bit like finally remembering you left the Rembrandt down in the cellar :-)

Black Sabbath cover - first Black Sabbath album

From painting to photography. The first Black Sabbath album has this classic photo on it. The place is Mapledurham Watermill but the odd thing is that nobody knows who the woman was who modelled for the cover. Bit spooky eh? Not so spooky was the record company cashing in on the satanist hype in the media by putting a reversed cross on the inside cover much to the annoyance of the band who actually weren’t satanists. Made on a shoestring budget in a a couple of days it turned out to be one of the most influencial albums ever made. The title track is probably almost single-handedly responsible for the births of the genres of heavy metal and goth music. So now you know who to blame … or praise :-)


  • I found your blog via Google while searching for Black Sabbath and your post regarding Great album art and strange stories looks very interesting for me. thanks

  • Tracy

    On the cover of the first Black Sabbath album, the lady that know one seems to know, just so happens to be my mother. She says that she took the photo, not knowing that it was going to be used on the cover of the album. I told her she should have persued atleast getting some of the fame for the pose. lol. She doesn’t talk much about it, so I’m not sure if it was a good part of her life. She was only about 21 then and still figuring out what life was all about. She was into some pretty crazy stuff during that time, which explains the picture. I just wish she would have been recognized for it in some way.

  • Artists UK

    Well, Tracy, unless she objects, why don’t you tell us more? Here’s a chance to get the full story onto the Internet. It would help if you can give details of how it all came about.

  • Laura

    Hi Tracy,
    your motherĀ“s name.. can be told by any chance?

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