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Classic Album covers : Brain Salad Surgery - ELP

Brain Salad Surgery is the fourth studio album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and was released on 19 November 1973

The original title for the album, Whip Some Skull On Ya, was a slang term for oral sex. But the prog rockers ditched it for an even more provocative euphemism, lifted from the Dr. John song ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’

ELP found a sympathetic soul in Swiss designer H.R. Giger. When the band contacted him, Giger was in the midst of painting a triptych, Landscape XIX – Work Z16, whose themes, coincidentally, were penises, skulls, and a woman’s mouth. The main part of this painting became the cover of Brain Salad Surgery – a woman’s lips squeezed between a metal vice with a protruding phallus

Giger also designed Emerson Lake and Palmer’s logo, amongst the most famous in rock music. Giger found a clever way to make the anagram work by balancing the circles in the letters ‘E’ and ‘P’ to encircle the whole thing. He also balanced the rest with a long vertical center spinal formed by ‘L’ and ‘P’. This is a wonderful lesson of balance and economy in logo design. The ELP logo has been used practically ever since. T-Shirts, prints, posters, backdrops, tons of reissues and one of the most frequent images was painted on the side of vans and motorcycles

The album cover is considered one of the most memorable (and often disturbing) of its time. It features distinctive Giger monochromatic biomechanical artwork, integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull and the new logo. 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. The two images of the woman are very similar, but the outer image (in the circle) contains what appears to be the top of a phallus below her chin, arising from the ‘ELP’ column below (the second painting originally had the complete phallus, but this was removed at the insistence of the record company). Atlantic Records objected, and a reluctant Giger airbrushed the offending member into a shaft of glowing light. If you look hard, you can make it out

The back cover was solid black with the album title in plain white lettering

Trivia: Giger went on to design the intergalactic monster in Ridley Scott’s Alien and won an Oscar for his work

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