Justin Hayward on Album Art

My favourite Moody Blues cover is ‘A Question Of Balance’. I have the Phil Travers original painting, which is about the size of a door. Instead of working across in a ‘letterbox’ shape, Phil painted it down (keyhole?). That choice led to a hilarious realization when we finally held it in our hands after the first production run. What hadn’t dawned on us was that if you opened it up vertically to see the full picture, the 12″ vinyl dropped straight through the inside of the sleeve on to the floor. It was too late to change it at that stage, so there it is – anyone who has the original open gate-fold – try it !

The top half of the album art for "A Question of Balance"

The top half of the album art for “A Question of Balance”

There is so much detail in the picture, including Einstein, a power mad mogul and the six of us sitting in deck chairs on the beach at the bottom, along with all sorts of other characters and incidents, wonderfully depicted by Phil, after he had heard Question and most of the recording sessions of the songs that followed, and when, during the making of the album, he had listened to our ideas for the theme.

But a bizarre series of events was about to unfold. Within a couple of weeks of the release in the UK we, and Decca, were served with legal papers from lawyers acting for Colonel Blashford Snell (and from a daily newspaper), who maintained that his image had been used on the cover holding a gun at an elephants head! What ?? I remember speaking to Phil and asking him if this could be some kind of surreal coincidence, He told me that he sometimes used photographs from newspapers as working templates for figures and scenes, and, well, this must have been one of them.

The bottom half of the sleeve

The bottom half of the sleeve

The original photo was from the front page of a newspaper (the one that served us) and it was a very clear likeness – except that Blashford Snell was not shooting an elephant – but he was holding (or posing with), a gun in the same way. Well , we had to own up, and Phil and Decca did their very best, first of all to place a black bar across the figures eyes, and then , when that was still not acceptable, to alter the image as much as they could by removing the pith helmet and changing the colour of the shirt. If you can find the original and the altered images, check it out.

It’s a crazy record sleeve masterpiece in my opinion, and it was made at the peak of that superb grand sleeve design era. Those wildly creative days of covers on that kind of scale, have sadly passed. Never mind – it was huge fun – and why┬áit’s my favourite sleeve.