Over the course of this series on King Crimson album art, I have often analyzed the work in marketing terms. A fan might like to believe that every sleeve for every beloved album sprang straight from the the interests and obsessions of the musicians themselves. But the reality of the music business dictates that such idealistic notions aren’t always the case, and even when they are, there are always concurrent commercial considerations.
True, in the early years, lyricist Peter Sinfield’s curation of the first four albums produced some remarkably idiosyncratic designs, reflecting his interests in classical western history, philosophy, and the occult. It’s not likely that the Island Records marketing department, left to their own devices, would have produced sleeves depicting paranoia personified (In the Court of the Crimson King), 12 Jungian archetypes (In the Wake of Poseidon), the 1241 Battle of Legnica (Lizard), or an celestial metaphor for isolation (Islands). Even after Sinfield’s departure, Robert Fripp enjoyed freedom enough to clad Larks’ Tongues in Aspic sleeve in Tantric imagery, and draw upon his own circle of friends to have artist Tom Phillips illustrate Starless and Bible Black.