The art of surreal writing

Genesis Live album cover

Back in the early days of the super-group Genesis there was the advent of their first live album (ingeniously titled ‘Genesis Live’).  On the back cover of the large vinyl sleeve of ‘Genesis Live’ was a story written by Peter Gabriel, the band’s original singer, which was not reproduced on the subsequent CD releases (no doubt due to the tiny format of a CD cover).  Anyway, for all those impoverished owners of the Genesis Live CD here is that story in all its glory –

4:30 p.m. The tube train draws to a halt. There is no station in sight. Anxious glances dart around amongst the passengers as they acknowledge each other’s presence for the first time.

At the end of the train, a young lady in a green trouser suit stands up in the centre of the carriage and proceeds to unbutton her jacket, which she removes and drops to the dirty wooden floor. She also takes off her shoes, her trousers, her blouse, her brassiere, her tights and her floral panties, dropping them all in a neat pile. This leaves her totally naked.

She then moves her hands across her thighs and begins to fiddle around in between her legs. Eventually, she catches hold of something cold and metallic and very slowly, she starts to unzip her body; working in a straight line up the stomach, between the breasts, up the neck, taking it right on through the centre of her face to her forehead. Her fingers probe up and down the resulting slit finally coming to rest on either side of her navel. She pauses for a moment, before meticulously working her flesh apart. Slipping her right hand into the open gash, she pushes up through her throat, latching on to some buried solid at the top of her spine. With tremendous effort, she loosens and pulls out a thin, shimmering, golden rod. Her fingers release their grip and her crumbled body, neatly sliced, slithers down the liquid surface of the rod to the floor.


The rod remains hovering just off the ground, a flagpole without flag.
The other passengers have been totally silent, but at the sound of the body dropping on the floor a large middle-aged lady wearing a pink dress and matching poodle stands up and shouts, “STOP THIS, ITS DISGUSTING!”

The golden rod disappeared; the green trouser-suit was left on a hanger with a dry-cleaning ticket pinned to the left arm.  On the ticket was written-


Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer cover art

Tales from Topographic Oceans by Roger Dean

This whole double album LP was based completely on a footnote on page 83 of Paramahamsa Yogananda’s autobiography (usually known as ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’). It is divided into four parts to correspond with the four shastric group of texts referred to in the footnote that are essential elements of the Vedic tradition in India which is in its turn the foundation of Hinduism and other religions (who all claim the Vedic tradition as part of their traditions but which pre-dates all of them by thousands of years and was entirely different in its character to the later religeons!). The album came out in 1973 to critical acclaim both for its music and it’s incredible cover painting by Roger Dean, which blends fantasy and surrealism. The speed lines on the fish appear on the original album cover but not on later posters etc. As usual for Roger Dean, a combination of techniques and mediums have been used starting with an airbrushed background. The “stars” have been hand-painted on, not sprinkled in blobs. Roger Dean designed the lettering of the title and the YES logo became a firm identifier of the band throughout the seventies.

This Roger Dean landscape or under-sea-scape includes some famous English rocks taken from the Dominy Hamilton postcard collection – Brimham Rocks, the last rocks at Lands End, the Logan rock at Treen and single stones from Avebury and Stonehenge. Jon Anderson, YES’s singer, wanted the Mayan temple at Chichen Itza included and Alan White the drummer wanted the markings from the plains of Nazca so these are in the painting as well.

Not every YES album has carried a Roger Dean cover but he is firmly connected with the band in the mind of every long-term fan. His paintings are large and he works on a massive easle when he paints. I once jokingly suggested to him that he doesn’t know how to paint a small picture! Tales From Topographic Oceans with its waterfall under water is just a surrealistic masterpiece!

Relayer by Roger Dean

This album followed on from Tales from Topogrtaphioc Oceans and came out in 1974. The sound is quite different in places which is mainly due to the departure of Rick Wakeman and the arrival of Patrick Moraz on keyboard duties. They were both extremely accomplished musicians but with quite different styles. The first track (that is just under 22 minutes long!) ‘Gates of Delirium’ is based on part of Tolstoy’s ‘War & Peace’. The album, in true progressive rock tradition, only has a total of three tracks!

The full cover has a great rattlesnake on the back cover whose tail can be seen down the bottom left of the front cover. The “impossible” rock walls on this cover are another trademark of Roger Dean. He likes to push back the frontiers and improvise and experiment (one of his paintings for Uriah Heep combined almost every artistic medium you can think of from collage to oils to watercolour etc).