You know you've wondered. We sure have. You see, Newsday, that bastion of New York journalisming, posted a list of the 50 worst album covers of all time. With squinty eyes so as to cushion the blow, we went to see if it was there ... and it was. Position 12.
Ken, By Request Only. Destined to be one of the central memes underlying the intermets, popping up in image macros, in ironic graphic jokes ... IIRC, it went out into space on the disc that was sealed up in Voyager 6. In 300 years, it's gonna come back looking for him ...
Seriously, this thing is the proverbial Cat That Came Back. Years go by and then someone comes up with a Worst Album Art of All Time list and ... just like malaria, there it is, come back to haunt us.
Ken. So widespread is the image that people were starting to think it was an urban legend. You see, I'm sure just as with me, the art on this was just so jejune and compelling all at once (it's like album graphic design of the 1970s, all on one cover) that people just had to go looking to at least see what it was all about. And in this world where everything is Googleable, where some schmo in Davenport can figure out what you had for lunch on the 23rd of June 1971 just by doing a search ... we all came up empty handed.
Nothing. Even the participants on the Snopes.com message board were about 50/50 split on real/legend.
Well, it's a relief to say that, short of the actual meaning of that Carly Simon song, the most important musical mystery of le vingtième siècle has been solved, with some canny detective work by the Snopes crew and recounted in its best narrative at the friskily-named CommunistDanceParty.com. Read the entire article here, but here's the abstract:
... First off, this album is real. The first big clue came when the album, vinyl and all, went up on eBay and sold for $150. This gave the world their first look at the back cover of the album, along with the actual record itself...
...After some more digging, a Ken Snyder who matched the description and location of the album recording was linked to a church in Sheldon, Iowa, along with an updated photograph and contact information!
..."Hey, I'm Ken's daughter. Just thought you would like to know my dad has loved reading these sites about him. That record is from 1976. He used to travel and sing all over the U.S., and that was one of his records he sold. He only has about 4 left now, decided 'why not try selling them if people are actually interested in buying them?' He called me up immediately after he got a call saying that one of you had told him his record sold on eBay. He knew the album cover was under "Worst Album Cover" but didn't realize he was the talk of people online. Crazyness!"...
So, as they said on CDP, the album is real, the fellah is real, and he's alive and well in a small town in Iowa and apparently a pretty good sport about all this talk. And, at the time of that article, which was probably last year, Ken was putting up his last four copies for sale on eBay, we think it was.
So you might not be able to score Ken's magnum opus, but at least you know. Ken's real and ... he lives!