Saturday, May 4, 2013

TIMR 10: hipgnosis and roger dean

I had planned on doing this anyway, but reading about the death of Storm Thorgerson gave it some impetus.

If you listened to much music in the late 60s and the 70s - actually what I mean is if you looked at the covers of the albums you were playing - you would be hard pressed to avoid the impact of the design team at Hipgnosis or the artistry of Roger Dean.

Hipgnosis was initially linked to Pink Floyd (many of their icon covers are from the team) but many other groups like 10cc, Genesis and peter Gabriel, Led Zepplin, The Nice, Wings, XTC and many many more their covers - and inserts: the graphic design of George Hardie was always a striking feature of many lyric sheets - his graphics were very much ruler drawn, with often a detached architectural feel. He would often 'illustrate' the lyrics (I am thinking of Fischer Z). Admittedly some covers were crass (and horridly sexist even then and more so now, chewing gum and crotch shots come to mind) some overly cooked - but most are iconic images that take the sound and give it some vision. The two books here have given me much pleasure beyond those albums with Hipgnosis covers I have.

For many Roger Dean is Yes and vice versa. His covers for their albums (and stage designs) are probably his most well known, but he did other covers and other work. His idea for a listening pod always struck me as a great idea, and his organic architecture (developed in the covers) was also intriguing. 

All three of these books have great text to go with them  Hipgnosis explaining their thought processes, techniques and discussion with clients (it is interesting to see how ideas rejected by one group are taken by another such as the XTC typed cover). Roger Dean talks about his philosophy, techniques and history to the essayist, so it is a little more distanced. The Dean book is also album cover sized - so you get the full impact of the pictures.

the album cover book - very Dean lettering - came out in 82, and includes a section on punk and new wave as well as recent years, themes and styles (which show notable trends), japanese, singles and portfolios. So a nice range of material.

None of it is the same as holding those large cardboard sleeves and taking out lyric sheets and other inserts. But a nice reminder of a past time: there don't seem to be many books of cassette or CD covers! 

Some covers I recall:

  • Ringo - with a Klaus Vorrmann illustration for each song
  • Elton John - Captain Fantastic with poster, lyric book and biographical comic
  • Starless and bible black - Tom Phillips (Another green world too)
  • John Cooper Clarke with the book of poems in a shirt pocket
  • Simple Minds Sister feelings call & Sons and fascination as a double album
  • XTC englishsettlement in the green cover and the full double album
  • UB44 with a hologram on
  • Curved Air's second album which unfolded
  • Even the excess of ELP WBMFTTSTNELAGELP
  • Bill Nelson Close encounters double album with a 7" single, speaking of which
  • Elvis Costello Armed forces with a live single
  • All sorts of inserts
  • and on and on

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