Friday, July 18, 2008

Album Cover Art Series

This is the first in a series of Album Cover Art stories, a behind the scenes look at the art and the artist. I want to thank Michael Goldstein of for allowing the reprints of this fascinating material. There are many others to come and if you want to read more, please feel free to stop by Michael's site ( see more!

Cover Story - The Moody Blues' "In Search of the Lost Chord", with artwork by Philip Travers

Cover Story for March 28, 2008

Subject: In Search of the Lost Chord, a 1968 release (on Deram Records) by The Moody Blues, with cover artwork & design by Philip Travers

After the success of their Days of Future Passed record (featuring the memorable cover artwork by artist David Anstey) in which the band began the transformation from its original, Denny Laine-led pop songcrafting (“Go Now”) to writers of early symphonic rock masterworks such as “Forever (Tuesday) Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin” – delivered in Decca/Deram Records’ new “Deramic Stereo Sound” – the release of 1968’s In Search of the Lost Chord delivered to fans of the band a record showcasing their new, more experimental and psychedelic leanings.

Mike Pinder’s Mellotron replaced much of the full orchestra from the previous record, and the rest of the band added the popular “psychedelic” instrumentation of the day – sitar and other stringed instruments, flutes, harpsichord, etc. – to fill out the sound and make it more possible to recreate the music in live performances. Pinder also continued introducing listeners to Graeme Edge’s wonderful poems, his readings of which set the mood for the complex and beautiful music and lyrics that would follow (although we do get to hear Edge’s own voice and maniacal laughter during his recitation of the album opener “Departure”).

Songs on this record included fan favorites such as the rocking “Ride My See Saw”, “Legend of a Mind” (a Ray Thomas trippy tribute to Timothy Leary), “Voices in the Sky”, “The Actor” and ending with “the lost chord” itself - “Om” (which went along with the tantric graphics found inside the record’s gatefold cover).

A late 60’s psychedelic record from a band like the Moodies – one that truly exemplified the notion of a long-playing sonic experience - could only be packaged in an album sleeve with a truly fantastic cover image that would only add to the overall experience. This notion required a visual artist of exceptional talents, which prompted the band to turn to artist and illustrator Phil Travers, who’d impressed them with his previous work for the label. I think that we’ll all agree that the result of Phil’s commission was an image that would send the record owner immediately on his own search for the answer to life’s existential questions (“how can I be on the outside, looking in, if I’m dead”?, for example). To find Phil Travers, all I had to do was search on Google, after which he provided me with the recollections of his efforts on this project that are outlined in today’s Cover Story…

In the words of the artist – Phil Travers (interviewed in late February, 2008)

After five years at Art College in London, I got a job in the art department at Decca Records. I spent my time there designing record sleeves, and after about two years, I left Decca to take a job as a designer/illustrator in a design office in Wimbledon. While there, I was contacted by someone I knew at Decca because, apparently, the then-manager of the Moody Blues had been at Decca to look through their catalogue of sleeve designs and he’d really liked an illustration of mine which I had done shortly before I left. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to an introductory meeting with the Moodies at a pub in London - I forget which one – and after we’d worked out the details of the commission, I was invited to listen to the soundtrack of In Search of the Lost Chord at their recording studio.

While I was listening to the music, the concept for the cover was actually given to me in some sort of subliminal way. The recording and mixing area of the studio where I was sitting was separated from the area where the band would play by a large glass window and in this glass I could see several images of myself - one above the other - almost as if I was ascending up into space.

The band wanted me primarily to illustrate the concept of meditation. This was not something that I had much personal experience of and so my initial thoughts about such an ethereal subject were, unfortunately, insubstantial, and so I wasn`t producing any cohesive visual ideas, with this lack of ideas evident in my first rough designs. In fact, as time was getting short (by the way everything was always wanted in a hurry) I was starting to panic. It was then that the image in the glass window of a figure ascending came back to me and, after that, everything just fell into place. Its impossible for me to tell you now how long it took me to produce the illustration, other than to say that, in most cases, I had days rather than weeks to complete them and submit them for approval. As for the way I painted, I used Gouache and some watercolour, and very often I employed an airbrush.

The band was a good bunch of guys and generally I got on pretty well with them. They were always fully involved in the project (this, and the next 5 records I did for them) from start to finish. Apart from the album Every Good Boy Deserves Favor - where they had come to me with their own idea on how the cover should look - there was a similar working pattern for all of the other sleeves. At the first meeting we would listen to the soundtrack together and discuss the themes and ideas behind the album. It was then left to me to produce a pencil rough which was then discussed further. Eventually a consensus would be reached and the painting would begin in earnest. Time always was of the essence, and many times I was working all day and all night to meet the printer’s deadline. But I have to say it was greatly fulfilling and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About the artist, Philip Travers –

Born in 1945, Philip studied art and design at the Sutton School of Art and the London School of Printing. After college, he spent several years working as a designer and illustrator in studios in the London area. It was at this time that he became associated with the internationally-renowned rock group - The Moody Blues - for whom he produced record sleeves in the late 1960s and early `70s, including:

- In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
- On The Threshold of a Dream (1969)
- To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)
- Question of Balance (1970)
- Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
- Seventh Sojourn (1972)

In addition to the images for The Moody Blues, Philip created a couple of sleeves for the band `Trapeze` (the seminal hard rock band produced by John Lodge and featuring Glenn Hughes and Dave Holland) on the Threshold label and, according to Phil, “I did do a sleeve for The Four Tops single `A Simple Game`. This was produced by Tony Clarke. However, it was never used, which is a pity because I think it was really good!”

Coming initially from London, he grew up enjoying the landscape of Surrey and the surrounding counties, and his paintings at this time were exhibited at galleries in Wimbledon, Thames Ditton, Windsor and Petersfield.

Philip moved to Cornwall in 1976 after spending several holidays in the area and then deciding that he should live there. He felt that the close proximity of the sea, and the diverse and exciting landscape that it engendered created a stimulating environment in which to work. Phil is mainly concerned to convey the mood and atmosphere of the subjects he is painting, and with his bold use of light and shade, he continues to produce highly-dramatic images. He often likes to include animals and sometimes figures in his work, as they provide not only life and a focus but also a narrative element.

To see more of Phil Travers’ current work, please visit his website at

To see all of the Moody Blues-related items in the RockPoP Gallery collection please click on this link -

Moody Blues update – The Moody Blues continue to tour the world today (you’ll find their schedule on their web site – ). The soon-to-open Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC, will feature a ride named "Nights in White Satin - The Trip", which will include a version of the title song newly re-orchestrated by Justin Hayward. And even after the release of 25 Top 100 charting singles, the sales of countless millions of records, and sell-out tours world-wide (including a multi-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall, later this year), they have STILL not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Very sad.

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 1968, 1972 and 2008, Philip Travers - All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2008 - Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery ( - All rights reserved.

Labels Up Volume On Vinyl Releases To Meet Demand

NEW YORK (Billboard) - It may have seemed like a fad at first, but the resurgence of vinyl is now turning into a nice niche business for the major labels. With EMI's announcement that it would reissue eight classic albums in the format, all four majors are now onboard the vinyl bandwagon.

EMI will release two Coldplay albums, four Radiohead titles and Steve Miller's "Greatest Hits" on August 19. Universal Music Enterprises will release 20 albums on vinyl this month and an additional 20 at the end of August, while Warner Music Group will issue 24 to 30 albums from its catalog and 10 to 12 new releases from September through the end of the year, according to executives at those companies.

In the independent camp, RED labels will have several hundred vinyl titles by the end of the year, half of which are new releases, RED vice president of indie sales/marketing Doug Wiley said. One of RED's labels, Metal Blade, is reissuing its classic Slayer catalog in deluxe versions, all on colored vinyl with hand-designed blood splatterings on it, Wiley said.

Indie retail started the party, but now some of the chains are carrying vinyl too. In addition to Fred Meyer and Borders, Best Buy has said publicly that it will experiment with carrying LPs.

EMI Music Catalog vice president of A&R and creative Jane Ventom said that the company has always been into vinyl, "but we are getting more into it." She said the move is in response to consumer demand from the iPod generation, baby boomers and audiophiles.

"Music is becoming a social action again," Ventom said. "The kids are now listening to music with their mates instead of on headphones." She added that vinyl allows them to "hear music in its true form."

"People are going back to reliving the way they used to listen to music and they realize that they missed the (album cover) artwork and what a pleasurable listening experience it is," Ventom said.

One of the most important elements to issuing vinyl is sound quality, especially in the MP3 age. That's why Warner Bros. will relaunch its Web site, which touts and sells vinyl and may start offering high-resolution MP3s, according to Warner Bros./Reprise Records executive VP Tom Biery, who heads the label's radio promotion team and oversees its vinyl initiative.

Warner Bros. reissued the first two Metallica albums -- "Kill 'Em All" and "Ride the Lighting" -- on vinyl, and both have passed the 4,000-unit sales mark, according to Nielsen SoundScan. On July 15, the company released "Master of Puppets" on vinyl in two versions.

In September, the label plans to issue a 50th anniversary archive series of vinyl releases, including James Taylor's "Mud Slide Slim," a Rickie Lee Jones album, a Marty Paich album and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Blood Sugar Sex Magik." Most of the albums that are issued on vinyl also come with an enclosed CD, Biery said.

The increased interest in vinyl is putting a strain on the handful of pressing plants still left from the format's heyday. "Our vinyl is always late because it gets bumped," Redeye co-owner Tor Hansen said.

"I still have eight machines, and I am currently running at about 75 percent capacity," said plant manager Dave Jump of Nashville's United Records.

The limited pressing network often makes it hard to get vinyl out on the same release date as the CD, but when the stars align, sales can be significant. Warner Bros. offered vinyl and CD on the same day when issuing the Raconteurs' "Consolers of the Lonely" in March; the album sold 42,000 units in its first week, and 3 percent of sales came from the vinyl version.

Looking forward, executives said they want to be aggressive and practical with their vinyl campaigns.

"Everything shouldn't be released on vinyl," WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic) vice president of catalog sales Steve Corbin said. "We want to be selective and smart about what we put out. (But) it's interesting that the consumer sees the value and is willing to pay for vinyl."

SOURCE: Reuters/Billboard

This Date In Music History- July 18


Dion DiMucci, who created a streetwise doo-wop persona on hits like "The Wanderer,” turns 69.

Martha Reeves "Dancing in the Street," is 67.

Lonnie Mack ("Memphis") is also 67.

Danny McCullock - guitarist for The Animals ("House Of The Rising Sun") was born in 1945.


Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("I Put A Spell On You"), one of rock's original showmen - was allegedly born on this date in Cleveland in 1929.

In 1966, Bobby Fuller ("I Fought The Law") was found dead in his car in Hollywood (the death is ruled a suicide but the evidence points to foul play).

In 1953, Elvis Presley recorded a song ("My Happiness") supposedly for his mother's birthday (which actually was in April) at Sun Records in Memphis. The so-called vanity disc, which cost Presley $3.98, was his first recording. It would surface 37 years later as part of an RCA compilation called "Elvis - the Great Performances".

In 1960, Roy Orbison saw his first record, "Only The Lonely" climb into the Top 5 in the United States after The Everly Brothers and Elvis both turned the song down. Over the next six years, he would have 22 Top 40 hits.

Also in 1960, 15 year old Brenda Lee had the number one song in the US with "I'm Sorry", a tune that was recorded in the last ten minutes of a session and originally meant to be the "B" side of "That's All You Gotta Do". The record reached #12 in the UK.

The US Justice Department ordered John Lennon out of the country by September 10, 1974. The Immigration and Naturalization Service denied him an extension of his non-immigrant visa because of his guilty plea in England to a 1968 marijuana possession charge. The US Court of Appeal would overturn the deportation order in 1975 and Lennon was granted permanent resident status the following year.

The oldest known musical instrument in the world was found in the Indrijca River Valley in Slovenia in 1995. The 45,000 year-old relic was a bear bone with four artificial holes along its length. Or maybe it was just a bone with holes in it?

The Four Seasons scored their fourth US #1 hit in 1964 with "Rag Doll". Co-writer Bob Gaudio said that he got the inspiration for the song from a young girl in tattered clothes that cleaned his car windows at a stop light. The song reached #2 in the UK.

The Rolling Stones charted in the US for the first time in 1964 when a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away" peaked at #48.

Hank Ballard & the Midnighters released "The Twist" in 1960, the original version of the song Chubby Checker later built a career on.

At London's Lyceum Theater in 1975, Bob Marley & the Wailers recorded the concert that is featured on their album Live!

The Beatles album "A Hard Days Night" was released in 1964.

2002 The Rolling Stones crew chief, 54 year old Royden Magee, who had worked with the band for 30 years, died on July 18, 2002, during a rehearsal in Toronto. The Stones had just finished dinner and resumed rehearsing when they got word that Magee had collapsed and stopped breathing. He was taken by ambulance to nearby Sunnybrook Hospital with no vital signs after suffering an apparent heart attack. He was pronounced dead on arrival. The members of the band said they were devastated by his death.