Tarkus is the second album by British progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, released in 1971.
The band's March 1971 live recording, Pictures at an Exhibition, an interpretation of Modest Mussorgsky's work of the same name, was to be released as the band's second album. Due to management conflicts, the recording was not released until after Tarkus. The record company was reluctant to release a classical suite as an album, and insisted it be released on their classical music label instead. Fearing that this would lead to poor sales, ELP instead decided to shelve the work. After the success of Tarkus, however, the label agreed to release Pictures as a budget live album.
The cover artwork was commissioned from the painter and graphic designer William Neal.
"...[T]he armadillo was simply a doodle created from a fusion of ideas while working on the Rare Bird album As Your Mind Flies By. I had produced a gun belt made up of pianokeys , which somehow led to WW1 armoury, nobody liked the idea, but the little armadillo remained on the layout pad. Later on we were asked to submit ideas to E.L.P for their 2nd album. David Herbet and I put tank tracks on the little fellow...yet it was still basically a doodle. However, Keith Emerson spotted it and loved the idea, so we developed him further...After hearing the substance of "Tarkus" on the "acetate" I developed the ideas along with Keith and Greg, and painted all the other creatures too..."
Keith Emerson said, "To everyone, it represented what we were doing in that studio. The next day on my drive up from Sussex the imagery of the armadillo kept hitting me. It had to have a name. Something guttural. It had to begin with the letter 'T' and end with a flourish. "Tarka the Otter" may have come into it, but this armadillo needed a science fiction kind of name that represented Charles Darwin's theory of evolution in reverse. Some mutilation of the species caused by radiation..."Tarkus"!"