The image used on this month’s cover will be strangely familiar to many music fans. It introduces our interview with Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, the legendary photo-design studio that created some of the most memorable album sleeves from the late 1960s to the early 80s…
Following the untimely death of Hipgnosis co-founder Storm Thorgerson in April, we talked to Powell about the work the studio created from 1968 to 1983, and were given a brief tour of the company archive which he is in the process of organising.
The sketch on the issue’s cover is the “mechanical line drawn artwork” for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album. The sleeve itself is a Hipgnosis classic (illustrated by George Hardie) but is notably different from the majority of the studio’s output which featured all manner of surrealist constructions that were famously shot ‘for real’. This method continued in Thorgerson’s working life in the studios he set up post-Hipgnosis, most notably StormStudios, where artwork for Muse, Audioslave and Biffy Clyro among others was created.
The Dark Side of the Moon cover is of course more familiar in its finished guise – a beam of light hits a white-edged prism, which then refracts a six-colour rainbow that bleeds off the right-hand edge, on black. (There’s no indigo.)
Cover of Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon. Design and photography: Hipgnosis. Illustrator: George Hardie. © Pink Floyd Music Ltd/Pink Floyd (1987) Ltd.
But the image shown on our cover is of what was sent to the printers of the gatefold design, complete with a series of hand-written notes that appear next to the artwork for the imagery of the back (shown, below). “No keylines to appear,” the note reads. “All black on board and small overlay”; “to look as near possible like rough”.
For Powell, the Dark Side sleeve changed everything for Hipgnosis. In fact, 1973, he says, became something of a classic year for the studio who went on to create the cover for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy a few months later (not bad work if you can get it – though that particular trip saw Powell lugging his camera over to Giant’s Causeway on a decidedly grey day. We have some exclusive images of the shoot in the issue).
The idea for the Dark Side sleeve – or at least the direction Hipgnosis would go in – was actually suggested by Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright. According to John Harris’ book on the album, the keyboardist issued a challenge to Thorgerson that for this album he create something “smarter, neater – more classy”.
Thorgerson was struck by the image of a prism on the cover of a book he had seen; and so Hardie was duly asked to illustrate the process of light refraction, more commonly found in student textbooks. When the range of different cover ideas were put to the band, the prism was the unanimous choice. And for both Hipgnosis and Pink Floyd, it came at the right time, too.
“It wasn’t just that the design was unique,” Powell recalls in our interview. “It’s a very simple design, it’s not very Hipgnosis, it’s not photographic, but it was the combination of Pink Floyd at that time, plus the design [with] all the interior bits and pieces, a poster of the pyramids, the stickers. It was the combination of everything.”
For Thorgerson, the prism not only hinted at the visual experience of seeing one of Pink Floyd’s light shows, but was itself a universal image; a magical trick of the light based firmly in reality, not fantasy.
“This prism refracted into a spectrum belongs to everybody,” he writes in the forthcoming book, The Gathering Storm, completed at StormStudios shortly before his death.
“[It’s] a quality of nature, but by rendering it as a graphic, against black, it turns into a design which seemed to fit the album to a tee. It is the black that does it.”
CR’s June issue is in the shops tomorrow and can be bought online here. The Gathering Storm: The Album Art of Storm Thorgerson will be published in September by StormStudios and de Milo (£30).
More details at thegatheringstorm.firebrandstore.com. For a chance to win a signed copy of the book, check out the Gallery page in the new issue.
Out now, the May 2013 issue of Creative Review is our biggest ever. Features over 100 pages of the year’s best work in the Creative Review Annual 2013 (in association with iStockphoto), plus profiles on Morag Myerscough, Part of a Bigger Plan and Human After All as well as analysis, comment, reviews and opinion
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