People on the internet love lists, right? Well, even if you don’t, here’s one anyway.
When someone says “prog rock” to you, what’s the first image that comes into your mind? I mean, after the bemusement was to why a random stranger is walking up to you and mentioning a musical genre for no discernible reason. Is it Rick Wakeman in a cape? Peter Gabriel in a flower costume? A mellotron? No, I’d be willing to be that for most of you the image that prog rock conjures in your mind is of one its iconic album covers—The Dark Side of the Moon, In the Court of the Crimson King, a Roger Dean thing from Yes, something like that. Prog is a genre defined as much by its visuals and its icons as much as its music.
Prog rock is also almost exclusively a boys’ club. Oh, I know, there was Kate Bush, there was Renaissance, there were all those Canterbury bands I haven’t bothered to listen to, but besides them the vast majority of progressive rock was created by men. And in all-male communities, well…things happen. So it should come as no surprise that I present to you the Top Nine Most Homoerotic Progressive Rock Album Covers.
Before we begin, let’s first deal with the honorable mentions. These albums don’t make it onto the list not because they aren’t gay enough, but because they aren’t prog enough. True, they’re from prog-related genres—jazz and power metal, if you care—but the just don’t have that necessary cocktail of sophomoric genius needed for true prog. Still, they are pretty damn gay, so here they are.
Now, without further ado…
9. Captain Beyond – Captain Beyond
Now, there’s nothing overtly gay about this cover, but you have to admit that this guy (who I must assume is the album’s titular “Captain Beyond”) is more than a little bit fabulous. I mean, look at that coat! Look at those boots! Look at that bulge!
8. Gentle Giant – Acquiring the Taste
Now, again, there’s nothing explicitly gay about this cover; neither the extremely creepy-looking mouth nor the, um, body part it appears to be licking are given a gender. But still, there’s no way I was going to leave something like this off this list.
It’s also worth noting that when you open up this record’s gatefold, you discover that the…object that the tongue is about to take a healthy lick from is in fact a piece of fruit. This is about the calibre of humor we can expect from Gentle Giant.
7. Marillion – Fugazi
UK neo-proggers Marillion raise so many more questions than answers with this album cover. The issue of why a DC punk band decided to name themselves after this album aside, you have to wonder about the guy on the cover’s hips. Are they broken in some way? If not, how exactly is it physically possible for him to lie like that? As for the stuff in the background, well, Marillion have a well-documented history of including lots of pointless shit on their album covers. I’m sure the sad clown painting, the walkman, and the lizard all have intense symbolic significance to the members of the band, but here, they’re mostly just clutter.
How, then, is this album cover homoerotic? I mean, sure, it’s got a good deal of male skin on it, but it’s not particularly sexualized male skin. No, to figure this one out, you need to look back at the cover to Marillion’s earlier opus Script for a Jester’s Tear.
Now see that little bit of motley on the Fugazi guy’s foot? Yep. Marillion have made Rule 34 of themselves.
6. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer – Love Beach
Love Beach is considered by many to be not only ELP’s shark-jumping moment, but also the end of the classic prog era. Here was a band that was previously known for concept albums about cyborg armadillos and half-hour keyboard solos, standing on a beach with their shirts open like the Bee Gees. And that’s the reason this album isn’t higher up on this list: it’s quite gay (in a coked-up 70s sort of way), but it’s not particularly prog. But still, Emerson (or is it Lake? maybe Palmer?) and his hairy chest mean that I can’t very well ignore this album.
5. Dreamscape – Trance
Now no one has heard of prog-metal-electronica act Dreamscape besides their, like, three MySpace friends—indeed, I hadn’t heard of them until I started researching for this list—but this can’t be ignored. Besides the fact that’s it’s got a man in a thong on it, this cover is just bad. There’re all the crappy blends, gradients, and Photoshop filters, there’s that god-awful font, there’s the sickening blue color—this is the sort of thing that keeps graphic designers from getting any sleep at night. In fact, I’m starting to have second thoughts about including this on the list; I’m a big fan of both progressive rock and gay people, and I don’t really think either deserve to be associated with this image.
4. Atomic Rooster – Nice & Greasy
Now, I know that this cover is from an extremely limited edition version of this album that only came out in Germany, but come on. They’re shooting laser beams out of their massive penises! Who thought this was a good idea? All I know is that is a band that was definitely compensating for something. Oh, and calling the album Nice & Greasy doesn’t exactly help things either.
Tie for 2. Rush – Hemispheres and Yes – Going for the One
Ah, yes, the naked man-ass duo of the late 70s. Many a young prog nerd at the time had to endure the painful sting of mockery from his peers as he purchased these records from the shop, and no amount of justification (“But Rick Wakeman’s back for this one!”) would make him seem any more masculine. At least in Rush’s case, there’s a pretentious symbolic meaning for everything on the cover: you see, the straight-laced businessman dude represents the Apollonian ideal, and the naked guy posing on the giant brain represents the Dionysian ideal, beckoning the Apollonian to go on a journey into the center…of the mind, man. With Yes, on the other hand, it’s just a naked dude’s toned, firm rump. Which, admittedly, is a bit more than you got with Roger Dean.
And the number 1 most homoerotic progressive rock album cover of all time is…
So what have we learned here today? Well, I think the main thing to take away from this is that homoeroticism in prog rock transcends time, place, and obscurity. On this list, you have 70s classics and 00s upstarts, stadium legends and MySpace losers, Canadians and Brits. Truly, the full spectrum of prog is represented. Except for, y’know, all the other prog bands that weren’t on this list. Okay, so maybe there isn’t a message to take away from this. Ah well, enjoy the branding.
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