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The Story Behind 'Surfing With The Alien' Album Art Is NUTS

Released in 1987, Surfing With The Alien cemented Joe Satriani as one of the most respected rock guitarists in the world.

The cover art of the album, depicting Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer, also makes it one the most recognisable.  

Paul zeroed-in on this fact when Paul & Lise spoke to Satriani on Tuesday, grilling him on whether he was as obsessed with Marvel as he is.

That’s when things got weird.

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“The story behind it is so strange,” Satriani said.

“Number one, I didn’t know who the Silver Surfer was upon completing the album.”

Satriani said it was when he did his first interview as a solo artist, just before the album had been distributed and released.

He said the UK journalist loved the record but Satriani said it was the guy’s passing comment that struck him.

“He said he didn’t like the title of the album, which at the time, was Lords of Karma.”

After the interview, Satriani said he called up the record company and told them about the negative reaction to the title and asked if he could rename the album.

“They said ‘oh sure, we haven’t pushed that button yet’,” he said.

“So, I looked at all the song titles and I said well, Surfing With The Alien, how could anyone not like that?”

Satriani said he mentioned it to Jim Kozlowski, Relativity Records’ production manager.

“And he said, ‘you should put the Silver Surfer on the cover because that used to be my nickname when I was a DJ at’ whatever the Boston rock station was at the time,” he said.

Kozlowski was described as 6-foot-4 with long platinum blond hair which was why he was called the Silver Surfer when he was on radio.

Satriani told Kozlowski that he didn’t know what a ‘Silver Surfer’ was, so Kozlowski sent Satriani a bunch of comic books. Kozlowski wasn’t only a “comic book freak” but Satriani said he also knew the people at Marvel.

“They were a struggling business at that time, in the late ‘80s,” Satriani said of Marvel.

“And they happened to be down the block from his apartment in Manhattan, so he walks down there with a copy of the album and he said, ‘now you don’t have to worry about offensive lyrics or anything, this guy just plays really great rock & roll, can we licence the artwork?’

“They said yes, it was like $5000 for, like, 10 years.”

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“That is amazing,” Paul said.

But Satriani said the story didn’t end there.

As the record gets released, people who have worked on the comic book over the years, see it and write Satriani into the Silver Surfer storyline as the comic series starts to get a new life going.

    Then things start to go pear-shaped.

    “Marvel started to complain about the deal we made,” Satriani said.

    “And every so often, every 10 or 15 years it is, they keep raising the price to a ridiculous level.”

    “Just last year, they finally said ‘well we want…’ well, I can’t really tell you what they wanted, but it was beyond servitude.”

    Satriani said that Marvel wanted him to enter into “some kind of slavery contract”.

    He described the situation as a missed opportunity to create goodwill, considering the fans had revived the character after responding so well to the album.

    “That’s Hollywood for ya.”

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