Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Album Covers


The most interesting Emerson, Lake and Palmer's album covers are those of the albums Tarkus (1971), Pictures at an Exhibition (1971) and Brain Salad Surgery (1973). The cover art of the first two albums was designed by the English artist, painter and graphic designer William Neal who achieved international recognition after working for the  progressive rock band. Tarkus' (1971) cover represents an armadillo with tank tracks. The art on the inner cover is connected with the titles of the Tarkus musical piece sections on the first side of the album; the armadillo-tank thingie with the guns is the Tarkus; there's a sequence of pictures depicting battles between Tarkus and other half-mechanical creatures, until its eventual defeat by a manticore, the only creature in the tale that is wholly organic. Tarkus is then shown as a defeated shell in the final track section "Aquatarkus". The band later named its own record company Manticore Records.

Tarkus outer front cover

Tarkus inner full cover

William Neal provided also the artwork for the live album Pictures at an Exhibition (1971). He used a gatefold sleeve depicting on the outside blank picture frames labelled with the titles of the pieces: "The Old Castle", "The Gnome", etc. On the inner sleeve, all of the paintings were revealed -William Neal painted every canvas-, but one remains blank: "Promenade". This musical piece, of course, is not about a picture, but represents a walk through the gallery. Some CD covers use only the "revealed" version. 

Pictures at an Exhibition outer full cover

Pictures at an Exhibition inner full cover

The Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor, and set designer Hans Rudolf Giger created the album cover art of ELP's Brain Salad Surgery (1973), which is considered one of the most memorable and often disturbing covers of its time. It features distinctive Giger's monochromatic biomechanical artwork, integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull and the new ELP logo, created by Giger. The lower part of the skull's face is covered by a circular "screen", which shows the mouth and lower face in its flesh-covered state. In the original LP release, the front cover was split in half down the center, except for the circular screen section (which was attached to the right half). Opening the halves revealed a painting of the complete face: a human female (modelled after Giger's wife), with "alien" hair and multiple scars, including the infinity symbol and a scar from a frontal lobotomy. Both paintings were created in pure shades of grey airbrush, to appear metallic and mechanical. Giger's ELP logo, using a circular enclosure of the "E" and upper portion of the "P", around a column formed by the "L" and the vertical of the "P", became a standard for the band and has been used extensively since.

Brain Salad Surgery outer cover