A new book is coming about the record sleeves of Pink Floyd

Virgin Radio

4 Dec 2022, 10:27

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It will tell the amazing tale of the iconic design studio Hipgnosis.

Between the late '60s and early '80s, design house Hipgnosis created some of the most iconic and ubiquitous album sleeves of all time. You've seen their work on album covers by Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Genesis, Black Sabbath, ELO and Yes. And perhaps most notably, Pink Floyd.

Originally recruited to design Floyd's legendary The Dark Side of the Moon sleeve in 1973, Aubrey 'Po' Powell and Storm Thorgerson would go on to define the visual identity of rock and roll for the next fifteen years. Next year a new book, Us and Them: The Authorised Story of Hipgnosis, is coming to tell the eccentric design studio's amazing story.

"Storm and Po both grew up in Cambridge," the book's author Mark Blake told The James McMahon Music Podcast, "and Storm was at school with Roger Waters and Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. Po got kicked out of his boarding school at King's Ely and sort of found his way to living in Cambridge. This was during the early 60s, so it's the time of early rock 'n' roll, of beatniks, Dylan is coming through, and there's lots of beat literature, which they we both very enamoured of; Kerouac, Burroughs and so on..."

Blake continues, "Then they moved to London. Storm was attending Royal College of Art, studying film, and Po got a job designing sets for the BBC. Then he sort of sacked from that and fell into low levels of criminal activity, bank fraud, stealing cars and so on. Got into an awful lot of trouble. And they then decided to talk to Pink Floyd into letting them design their record sleeve for them. That led to doing more sleeves, which they started developing in the darkroom at the Royal College of Art. Po wasn't even enrolled and got kicked out! It was a confidence trick, really."

Blake, who wrote the definitive Pink Floyd biography, Pigs Might Fly: The Inside Story Of Pink Floyd, in 2007, says that much of Hipgnosis success can be traced to the success of The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967, whose ambitious sleeve had been designed by pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.

"They'd seen the way record sleeves were changing," says the author, "and I think Storm was very artistic. Really he wanted to be a filmmaker, but he had these big ideas. He wanted to create these narratives on record covers. The bands were very enamoured of them. When the Beatles split, the LP suddenly becomes really, really important, and Hipgnosis were there..."

To hear the full interview with Mark Blake, listen to The James McMahon Music Podcast here.

Us and Them: The Authorised Story of Hipgnosis is published by Nine Eight Books on February 2nd, 2023. You can pre-order the book here.