Classic Album covers : In Search Of The Lost Chord - The Moody Blues

After the success of their Days of Future Passed record (featuring an equally 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’, the release on July 26 1968 of 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 album, 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 favourites 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. 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)

In the words of Phil Travers :

“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 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

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.In addition to the images for The Moody Blues (6 albums in total), 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!”

To see more of Phil Travers’ current work, please visit his website at www.philiptravers.co.uk

Written by Mike Goldstein. See more at www.albumcoverhalloffame.com

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