Any piece of modern music is always associated with some graphical art, usually due to album covers, music videos or even large marketing campaigns. It wasn?t until the 50s that album covers really started to enter the scene. Back then it was a new form of expression, with artists being able to enter the domain of music, expanding the horizons of imagination and creativity. As the decades spanned, certain epochal album covers burned into the collective consciousness of our culture. You could even say, some album covers changed the world.
This is a piece on Storm Thorgerson, English graphic designer and creative virtuoso who is most famous for creating the instantly recognisable album covers of Pink Floyd, among others. His art is mostly known for its surreal and hypnagogic elements, which leads into the name of his design group, Hipgnosis.
The year is 1973. A young band from Cambridge has had moderate success over the five years they?ve played together. Happy after touring with their latest work, a concept album with a slightly heavier tone, they enlist the help of their friend Storm who has already designed the covers of A Saucerful of Secrets (1968), More (1969), Ummagumma (1969), Atom Heart Mother (1970), Meddle (1971) and Obscured by Clouds (1972) so far.
?Come up with something simple,? they said.
Album Art: Dark Side of the Moon
The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) was perhaps his most famous of Pink Floyd album covers. Revelling in simplicity, the straight lines and uncomplicated design juxtaposes the truly abstract nature of the concepts it endeavours to showcase. The album itself deals with ideas such as mortality, money, war and futility of life in general. The lack of the name of either album or artist has an impact simply beyond minimalism. It tells us nothing, but the graphic is striking enough to sell 65 million copies of Dark Side of the Moon, making it one of the best-selling albums of all time. Over a billion people would have seen the graphic of a prism conceptualised by Storm Thorgerson. To this day the cover remains a classic rock monolith.
Thorgerson attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys along with Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Syd Barret, who were a year above and below him respectively.
Storm with Pink Flyde bandmates having dinner
Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy from University of Leicester, he did his Masters at the Royal College of Art in Film and Television.
His style places objects out of their traditional contexts. An inflatable pig flying over Battersea Power station formed the cover art for Animals, while a simple picture of a cow illustrated Atom Heart Mother. He gives these objects space to work with ? enough of the limelight is away from the background to highlight the beauty and awkward artistry of the object in focus.
Clockwise: Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Division Bell, Dark Side of the Moon
The Dark Side of the Moon was actually a huge step away from Storm and Hipgnosis?s regular work, which focused more on pictures with surreal elements. In Wish You Were Here, two men in suits shake hands while they?re both on fire. The photo, including ones featured in the album sleeve, delve into the album?s theme of ?sticking it to the man?, alluding to the music industry that Pink Floyd found themselves in the depths of. Two soulless, callous salesmen, making a deal while on fire. To quote Storm, ?I like photography because it is a reality medium, unlike drawing which is unreal. I like to mess with reality? to bend reality. Some of my works beg the question, is it real or not?? In the case of Wish You Were Here, the fire definitely was real. One of the men lost his moustache.
With his tragic death in April 2013, Storm will be remembered as a timeless innovator; a rock and roll legend who worked with some of the biggest names in music history. And despite his death, his visual identity will still persist for decades in the form of the work he did and the millions of people he reached through his photographs, graphics and artwork.
The fifth artist of Pink Floyd, Shine on you Crazy Diamond.
By Upamanyu Acharya,
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