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Cover Story – The Moody Blues’ “In Search of the Lost Chord”, with artwork by Philip Travers

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Copyright ©1968, 1972 and 2008 by Philip Travers – All rights reserved.

Subject: In Search of the Lost Chord, a 1968 release (on Deram Records) by The Moody Blues, with cover artwork & design by Philip Travers

After the success of their Days of Future Passed record (featuring the 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” – delivered in Decca/Deram Records’ new “Deramic Stereo Sound” – the release of 1968’s 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 record, 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 favorites 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. I think that we’ll all agree that 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). To find Phil Travers, all I had to do was search on Google, after which he provided me with the recollections of his efforts on this project that are outlined in today’s Cover Story…

In the words of the artist – Phil Travers (interviewed in late February, 2008)

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 (by the way everything was always wanted in a hurry) 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.

The band was a good bunch of guys and generally I got on pretty well with them. They were always fully involved in the project (this, and the next 5 records I did for them) from start to finish. Apart from the album Every Good Boy Deserves Favor – where they had come to me with their own idea on how the cover should look – there was a similar working pattern for all of the other sleeves. At the first meeting we would listen to the soundtrack together and discuss the themes and ideas behind the album. It was then left to me to produce a pencil rough which was then discussed further. Eventually a consensus would be reached and the painting would begin in earnest. Time always was of the essence, and many times I was working all day and all night to meet the printer’s deadline. But I have to say it was greatly fulfilling and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

About the artist, Philip Travers –

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. It was at this time that he became associated with the internationally-renowned rock group – The Moody Blues – for whom he produced record sleeves in the late 1960s and early `70s, including:

In Search of the Lost Chord (1968)
On The Threshold of a Dream (1969)
To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)
Question of Balance (1970)
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
Seventh Sojourn (1972)

Special Cover Story bonus image!

This is a painting from Phil’s website which he painted prior to producing the cover for Seventh Sojourn. It was this painting that gave him the initial idea for it.

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Copyright ©1968, 1972 and 2008 by Philip Travers – All rights reserved.

In addition to the images for The Moody Blues, 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!”

Coming initially from London, he grew up enjoying the landscape of Surrey and the surrounding counties, and his paintings at this time were exhibited at galleries in Wimbledon, Thames Ditton, Windsor and Petersfield.

Philip moved to Cornwall in 1976 after spending several holidays in the area and then deciding that he should live there. He felt that the close proximity of the sea, and the diverse and exciting landscape that it engendered created a stimulating environment in which to work. Phil is mainly concerned to convey the mood and atmosphere of the subjects he is painting, and with his bold use of light and shade, he continues to produce highly-dramatic images. He often likes to include animals and sometimes figures in his work, as they provide not only life and a focus but also a narrative element.

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

To see all of the Moody Blues-related items in the RockPoP Gallery collection please click on this link – http://rockpopgallery.com/items/moody-blues/list.htm?1=1

Moody Blues update – The Moody Blues continue to tour the world today (you’ll find their schedule on their web site – www.moodyblues.co.uk ). The soon-to-open Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, SC, will feature a ride named “Nights in White Satin – The Trip”, which will include a version of the title song newly re-orchestrated by Justin Hayward. And even after the release of 25 Top 100 charting singles, the sales of countless millions of records, and sell-out tours world-wide (including a multi-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall, later this year), they have STILL not been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Very sad.

About Cover Stories – Our series of interviews will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

In each Cover Story, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images featured in this Cover Story are Copyright 1968, 1972 and 2008, Philip Travers – All rights reserved. Except as noted, all other text Copyright 2008 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery (www.rockpopgallery.com) – All rights reserved.