We have a look back at the fascinating tales behind some of our favourite album covers. This time it’s Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch (1982), by Frank Zappa.

In early 1982, Frank Zappa was assembling the tracks for his 35th release, Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch. The eclectic musician had derived much inspiration (including the album’s title) from an artist called Roger Price, whose ‘droodles’ had been a wildly popular form of entertainment in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Taking its name from a combination of ‘doodle’, ‘drawing’ and ‘riddle’, a droodle is a very minimalist assemblage of geometric shapes enclosed in a square panel, with a caption giving an amusing explanation of the image’s subject.

“Right now we’re in the process of trying to locate this guy to get permission… I want to use the original picture,” Zappa said. Once the musician’s team found Price, it turned out the American artist lived less than a kilometre away from Zappa himself. Of course, permission was granted.

Some fans have suggested Zappa chose this particular droodle because it also looks like his surname, cut off at the bottom (or emerging from behind the horizon). Zappa’s droodle also has an alternate caption: Mother Pyramid Feeding Her Baby.

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