One look at the grim and violent imagery on 1981’s Fair Warning, and you know that this isn’t your typical Van Halen album. In truth, Eddie Van Halen almost quit the band prior to its recording and had to be talked out of it by brother Alex. The tensions amongst the band revealed themselves in a set of songs that was far darker than anything on the three previous albums, and is probably the reason why it was the lowest-selling VH album of the David Lee Roth era.
The artwork is, I feel, quite reflective of the inner turmoil the band was undergoing. Whether or not it actually came to blows I don’t know, however.
Credit for this rather sinister and memorable artwork goes to the late William Kurelek (1927-1977), a Canadian artist and author. Kurelek painted “The Maze” – the work from which this album cover is taken – in 1953 while being treated for schizophrenia in an English psychiatric hospital. How it came to be discovered and chosen for the album I don’t know, but it was an inspired choice indeed.
The back cover of the album is just as disturbing as the front:
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