We have a look back at the fascinating tales behind some of our favourite album covers. This month: King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969).
With their debut album In The Court Of The Crimson King, English progrock group King Crimson were quickly recognised as one of the most radical – and later influential – bands in the genre’s history; their irreverent adoption of jazz and symphonic flairs over the blues-based patterns that defined rock music before them was unprecedented.
Their debut’s cover features a painting by computer programmer Barry Godber, the original of which was recovered by King Crimson lead guitarist Robert Fripp in the mid-‘90s from the band’s label HQ. “They kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so I ended up removing it,” Fripp said in 1995. He describes the featured visage as “the Schizoid Man”, the protagonist of the album’s single 21st Century Schizoid Man (sung by lead vocalist Greg Lake, later of Emerson, Lake & Palmer).
In a December 1969 performance of the track, Fripp told the audience the song is about Spiro Agnew, the 39th Vice President of the United States (under President Richard Nixon). Agnew resigned from office in 1973 amid investigations of flagrant corruption and the burgeoning Watergate scandal, which prompted the first ever use of the 25th Amendment (which details succession to a Presidential office when its current holder is “incapacitated”). Agnew pleaded no contest to the criminal charges brought against him and was disbarred by the Maryland judiciary, who declared him “morally obtuse.”