Glen Wexler: Van Halen

(Last Updated On: August 31, 2016)

This is an odd one. The cover of Van Halen’s Balance features naked conjoined twins sitting on a teeter-totter. There’s tons of irony in the image, which was actually conceived by Alex Van Halen but created by Glen Wexler. The irony is in the fact that, were the twin girls not conjoined, they would be perfectly balanced and could enjoy the teeter-totter, but because they are connected they must, by necessity, share a single side of the teeter-totter, rendering it useless. Hence their frustration with one another.

This album cover was originally censored in Japan. Not because of the nudity (Japan is generally quite liberal about nudity on book or album covers, as long as the genitalia isn’t visible) but because of the conjoined aspect of the image. Apparently the Japanese have a strong taboo about this; it just goes to show that taboos are not universal. Eventually an alternate version of the cover was created for the Japanese edition of the album, in which only one of the twins remained. This is unfortunate for the Japanese because they are missing out on all the interesting ironies and metaphorical aspects of the original design.

Edit: Glen Wexler, the designer and photographer, graciously wrote to Pigtails in Paint (which can be read in its entirety in the replies attached to this post) to correct several errors and misconceptions about this piece, including several by yours truly.  It is well worth reading. – Pip

van-halen-balance-cover-2

Glen Wexler – Van Halen – Balance (cover) (1)

van-halen-balance-japanese-cover

Glen Wexler – Van Halen – Balance (cover) (2)

Van-Halen.com (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Van Halen

Wikipedia: Glen Wexler

Comments:

From Hugh Ziegler on March 13, 2012
This is actually a boy – Wolfgang Van Halen – son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli. The “conjoined twins” image is meant to represent Eddie and Alex Van Halen.

From pipstarr72 on March 14, 2012
Ah, well, it looks enough like a girl to warrant the post. That is interesting though. And it presents a question: which one is pulling the hair, Eddie or Alex?

From Hugh Ziegler on March 14, 2012
Good question!
It’s probably Alex doing the pulling – notice the diifferent lengths of Wolfgang-Left’s and Wolfgang-Right’s hair. A lot of promo pics for Van Halen show Alex with hair just above his shoulders and Eddie with long hair.
Now – if Eddie had a daughter – she would look very much like the child on the teeter-totter anyway.

From pipstarr72 on March 14, 2012
I’ve always assumed these were girls; that they’re boys doesn’t surprise me, but in the context of the design the child’s sex is really irrelevant (as it is irrelevant with Buckcherry’s ‘Time Bomb’ cover, where the sex of the child is even more ambiguous.) So yeah, at that age a boy and girl look pretty much the same absent the artificial social cues we give them (like long hair for girls and short for boys.)

From Glen Wexler on March 14, 2012
As the creator of the images, I thought I would chime in to set the record straight.
First off, the analysis of the piece is spot on. It’s all about the layers of irony.
Warner Bros. was also aware of the Japanese cultural issues regarding deformities in advance of the release, and we created the second version for that market. MTV and other press made a big deal about the album cover being “censored in Japan.” That was simply a distortion to fabricate a “news” story.
The original title of the album was “The Seventh Seal.” I originally worked on concepts to illustrate that title. One of the ideas involved an image of a young child. During the casting session I found this very androgynous looking four-year-old boy. The boy is NOT Wolfie, who was a bit younger at the time. The band came to the conclusion that “The Seventh Seal” was not the best title and we switched directions for the cover art.
When I asked what the new title “Balance,” meant to the band, Alex discussed the turmoil and changes surrounding Van Halen. We settled on the notion of exploring the duality of the human psyche. I produced several rough sketches to illustrate the concept, including the conjoined twins on the seesaw, which would be created by combining photographs of the androgynous child.
Any speculation that one side represented Alex and the other Eddie is just that. It was never intended.

From pipstarr72 on March 15, 2012
Glen, thank you so much for your input! I have long been intrigued by this image, and I confess that I bought the album in when I was in high school specifically because of the cover (not that I didn’t like the band, but as an aspiring graphic designer myself I frequently bought albums and other things because of the cover designs.) In fact, I very much prefer your dualistic symbolism to the story circulating about Alex and Eddie anyway. And I likewise appreciate your setting the record straight regarding Japan’s squeamishness about the conjoined twins. And I have to say, given some of the art I’ve seen produced in Japan lately, the secondary design was probably unnecessary in the end. But, well, it was a different time, so what do I know? Thanks again!

From Hugh Ziegler on March 15, 2012
I respectfully stand corrected then – Thank you!

From Hugh Ziegler on March 16, 2012
One interesting thing I just realized about the way the boy is posing — it looks like he is making a ” V” and an “H” shape with his conjoined body.

From pipstarr72 on March 16, 2012
Hmm, I didn’t notice that before, but now that you point it out . . . Probably not intentional, but still very interesting.

From Glen Wexler on March 17, 2012
That was intentional.

From pipstarr72 on March 17, 2012
Excellent! You definitely put a lot of thought into this design.

4 thoughts on “Glen Wexler: Van Halen

  1. Regardless if actually a little boy or girl, I think most people have interpreted the image as being that of a nude little girl(s). Perhaps that is the entire purpose of such ambiguity with regards to visually androgynous, nude children–each person can project onto, imagine, or fantasize the child is whichever gender is desired/preferred.

    Furthermore, based on the different hair lengths, I’d daresay the image could be that of conjoined boy and girl twins, and that conjures up all sorts of speculation around the possibility of having the “best of both worlds”.

    If readers find the “fluid” concept appealing, they should endeavour to find and read an obscure sci-fi novel, “When We Were Good” by David Skal, in which human DNA has become so corrupted that we’re no longer able to reproduce and having naturally born children is now “extinct” as an option. The solution, driven by insatiable desire it would seem, was to bio-engineer true hermaphroditic children who are essentially adult in intellect if not moral maturity.

    The children are dressed usually and appear sexually as little girls (statistically speaking, girls are about 85% more universally “appealing” to adults than boys; just compare rates of adoption of girl babies to boys, sad but true) but they can extrude large penis-clitorises from the vulva at will. The sneaky little appendages are gleaming wet, exposed (much like a dog’s member) and become quite engorged, and the kids invariably use this “eye candy” to entice, tease, and drive quite mad adults (whom they both need for care and hate/resent for their obsession) who come to longingly beg for them at a sort of public “zoo”.

    Some of the more aggressive children choose to be “male” and act as dominant leads in sexual interactions with their more passive, “female” oriented mates. Regarding sex in general, the children are routinely “rented out” to lonely adults for large sums for varying reasons: to merely play “dress up” like living dolls, to care for them as substitute offspring, or (as expected) to satisfy desires of “registered” pedophiles and “normal” adults alike, and thus to satiate otherwise troublesome urges. Very exciting possibilities indeed; however, due to the extreme “rarity” of and desire for these children (think of the last prime steak walking along in a land of famine), they must traverse the streets and byways while armed with small automatics in order to fend off non-scheduled adults who might think of kidnapping them for a little non-sanctioned playtime!

    However, to digress back to topic, I’d also like to point out the Japanese culture has no qualms whatsoever about genitalia itself (especially where prepubescent girls are concerned); and it’s quite okay in manga (for example) to display so long as (for some strange reason) the urethra of adult penis and vaginal opening of adult vulva are “blocked out” (even with very tiny black boxes, which seems quite arbitrary at best since they block hardly anything). However, no such censorship seems to be required where nude children are involved (even in quite graphic or taboo situations). Also, for whatever reason, the Japanese do not like female pubic hair.

    • Scott, as with some of your earlier posts, I toyed with the idea of deleting this one outright. However, in the end I simply edited out passages that I felt were not appropriate for this site. Pigtails in Paint is NOT a child erotica site and never has been. Please keep these sorts of comments to yourself or your posts will all be banned outright. Thanks.

    • Perhaps it should be added here, just for the sake of accuracy, that in real life conjoined boy-girl twins would be impossible.
      ALL identical twins come from a single fertilized egg cell, are are therefore of the same gender. Conjoined twins are of course in that category.

  2. In my comment above, I should have written “moral maturity” not “emotional” regarding the clone children, as some of them are quite devious/scheming in their interactions with the hapless adults around them!

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