No single event can top the lasting trauma induced by my childhood viewing of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, that film scared me so bad that it rearranged my chromosomes. However other events, smaller in individual scope but horribly disturbing in cumulative effect, deserve to be mentioned. Specifically, I confess my lasting, great fear of 1970’s album covers.
In the ‘70s, album cover art was kind of a big deal. The cover for an LP was huge by today’s standards and it presented a big canvas upon which the music and graphic artists could express themselves. In the race to make album covers memorable, the art quickly turned very weird. Parents would buy those albums and put them into their groovy record cabinets where they were inevitably discovered by curious tykes like me who would spend the next years trying to erase their psychedelic, grotesque and demonic images from our minds:
I have mentioned the first offender before: Queen‘s “News of the World.” This one belonged to my aunt. Absolutely great album. Murderous cover. The interior fold-out was ten-times worse though, with its depiction of bug-eyed people fleeing the giant killer robot.
The Eagles – “Hotel California”. Part of my parent’s collection. This one is kinda controversial, because pretty much everyone denies that there is a screaming, illuminated face in the lower left-hand window of the “hotel” on the cover of this album. Whatever – I saw that screaming face right away the first time that inspected the album.The fact that no one else could apparently see it made everything that much worse.
Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath.” My uncle had this one. Ozzy and co. managed to scare the world into believing that Black Sabbath was in league with the Devil. This album cover convinced me that Ozzy WAS the Devil.
The Rolling Stones – “Goat’s Head Soup.” This was a fairly popular album and I’m surprised that more people don’t recall being scared by the bizarre image of Mick Jagger’s smiling head in a bag on the cover. This album made me consider the awful possibility that something called “goat’s head soup” actually existed and that kids somewhere were being forced to eat it.
Funkadelic – “Maggot Brain.” My uncle’s collection. Hmmm. Screaming woman buried up to her neck a la MOTEL HELL. That’s nice. The back cover dispelled any hope that the poor woman got out of there alive. I would remain wary of funk for years.
Elton John – “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” Not outright terrifying, but filled with lots of disturbing, freakish details. I was also intimidated when Elton John appeared on THE MUPPET SHOW. And on talk shows. Ok, Elton John just generally freaked me out.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but definitely hits many of the worst cases. I’ll leave it to my fellow Traumaniacs to fill us in on any horrors from the record cabinet that I left out.