Switched on Bach

We have seen so many copies of Switched-On Bach over the years that we couldn’t begin to count them. The 1968 album of Moog synthesizer renditions of Bach’s music had sold more than a million copies by the mid-70s, topping Billboard’s classical chart for years and peaking at #10 on the pop chart.

Wendy Carlos had worked with Robert Moog on the development of his synthesizer, and even used one to make experimental recordings and music for television commercials.

For many record collectors the album remains an introduction to the instrument. For us it also remains one of the goofiest album covers of all time.

For starters, this is not Wendy Carlos dressed as Bach on the cover. Carlos, who became one of the first figures to publicly speak about being transgender in a Playboy interview in 1979, is never photographed on her albums and has rarely made public appearance during her long career. She has only given one live performance.

We can’t help but wonder where the man on the jacket is today. He’s one of those famous record album people, like the man seen on the cover of Abbey Road who didn’t like the Beatles music. or the couple seen on the Woodstock soundtrack who are still together. Oh, Moog Bach guy, where are you now?

You may be surprised to learn that the cover seen here is not the album’s original jacket. The first pressing of this unexpected hit features Moog Bach guy seated, apparently displeased with what he was hearing. Carlos and collaborator Benjamin Folkman objected to the image, which they felt insinuated that the music was not to be taken seriously.

Seated or standing, this scene featuring Moog Bach guy remains silly. What’s he reading? We can’t tell the title of the big book on his bench. Why does he keep flowers in front of his Moog console? Seems like they would get in the way. It’s nice that he took time to put a lace doily on the table before setting up his synthesizer, because otherwise it could have damaged the finish. He really should be more careful where he puts his candles, though, because it seems precariously close to the dried plant on top of his bookcase.

And the cat! Have you ever noticed there’s cat in the room! We only noticed it yesterday. This is absolutely our favorite thing about this album now. Moog Bach guy has a cat that sort of looks like a little version of himself. Did they have trouble getting it to sit still? It doesn’t seem to have moved in either version of the cover. Maybe the cat really liked the music.




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