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Posted: August 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

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Atlantic Records 7255            March 28th 1973             CD 7567-82639-2             Playing time 40m 56s

Arthur C Clarke’s novel Childhoods End was the inspiration for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s, ”Houses of the Holy” album.  At the end of the novel all the children gather waiting to be taken into space.

The photography for the sleeve was done by Aubrey Powell who was a member of the Hipgnosis design team. The original photo-shoot, taken at the Devils Causeway in Northern Ireland was a frustrating affair which took ten days. Shooting was done first thing in the morning and at sunset in order to capture the light, but the desired effect was lost due to cloud and constant heavy rain.   Another factor preventing the Hipgnosis team from working smoothly was the presence of the Irish Border Guards who due to the high incidence of unrest in Northern Ireland at the time, were in abundance.  Several run-ins occurred with the camera crew and border guards occurred as they didn’t like the crew moving around.

As a means to an end Powell decided to take black and white photos of the two children, these photographs were then multi-printed to create the effect of there being eleven children in the photograph .Originally there were three adults and two children working as models, one of the adults wasnt used.  The two remaining adult models can be seen in the gatefold  of the album. The conditions of the shoot were far from satisfactory, but some accidental tinting effects in the post-production phase created an unexpectedly striking album cover.

The children, brother and sister Samantha and Stefan Gates, had to be ready to work at 4am. They were painted gold and silver to give the photographs a sci-fi feel.

The inner sleeve photograph was taken at Dunluce Castle which is close to The Giants Causeway.

Like Led Zeppelin’s previous album, neither the bands name or album title was on the cover.  Atlantic records were allowed by manager Peter Grant to add a wrap-around paper band bearing the bands name and album title to US and UK copies which would have to be broken or slid off to get inside album.  This served also as a device to cover the buttocks of the children, otherwise the artwork would have been banned, and still was in some of the bible belt areas of the USA.

In 1974, the album was nominated for a Grammy award  in the best album cover category . The cover was rated #6 on VH1‘s 50 Greatest Album Covers in 2003.

When he was four, food writer Stefan Gates appeared on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s classic album Houses of the Holy.  It is a famously unsettling image.  Stefan and his sister Samantha appear naked on the cover climbing up the eerie landscape against a bright apocalyptic orange sky.

It’s a photo that’s dogged Stefan all his life. Ever since he was a child, the picture has disturbed him, even frightened him.  He is ambivalent about it
should he be proud of it or is there something to be ashamed of ?   He’s purposely never found out the story behind it. He has never ever listened to the record.

                                                  Stefan Gates at the Giants Causeway holding the artwork which has troubled him for many years.

Samantha and Stefan Gates have made other appearances on album covers. Samantha was to appear on another Led Zeppelin album ”Presence while her brother appeared on Pink Floyd’s” Division Bell” both covers were designed by Hipgnosis.
 Stefan Gates recently recorded a BBC Radio 4 programme where he discussed his and his sisters role in the creation of the album sleeve .  Questions were put to his mother regarding her reasons for allowing himself and his sister to be photographed naked as children for the album.  He also meets Aubrey Powell, the photographer, from the famous graphic design team Hipgnosis. Finally, he makes an emotional journey back to the Giants Causeway to listen to the album for the first time.
A very controversial album sleeve indeed , Maybe not one of Led Zeppelin’s finest musical achievements, but a superb, if somewhat otherworldly piece of artwork by the Hipgnosis team.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      John 27-08-2011


Posted: August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

Island Records ILPS 9103                    August 1969                CD  Chrysalis 7243 5 35458 2 6

The iconic image on this album is a wood engraving by american artist  James Grashow.  Just out of school when he got the commision from Jethro Tull’s manager Terry Ellis.  A friend of his had introduced him to Ellis.   Upon seeing his work he was offered the job of designing the album sleeve.

Grashow was taken to see the band in concert to give him a feel of what they were about, the gig obviously have him plenty of ideas.  Soon after the gig work began on the sleeve and Terry Ellis suggested that a pop up element sould be incorporated into the inner gatefold.  James Grashow worked on three individual pieces for the sleeve and took one month to complete the work The majority of the time was spent on the front cover engraving which portrayed the band sitting down rather than standing up.

A mistake was made while working on the front cover but went un-noticed until it was too late Ian Anderson had been given a fifth finger.

*Grashow told Classic Rock – PROG Magazine. ”Because it was of all of the band, I had to make the representations as realistic as possible. That took  time, but the band loved what i had did and made no changes were made.”  Classic Rock presents Prog No 13 January 2011

Both the front and back of the cover were wood engravings and the pop up element in the gatefold was a wood carving with photographs of the band members faces. The album went to No1 in the charts and the cover was given (quite deservingly) the accolade of being voted Album sleeve design of the year in the New Musical Express 1969 readers poll.   The original gatefold pop up vinyl Island album is a much sought after collectors item, its not hard to see why !

One of my top 5 sleeve designs of all time and one of the first dare I say it,  novelty sleeves,  but amazing nevertheless.              John August 2011

Released October 1971          Charism Records CAS 1051

Artist  –  Paul Whitehead.

Paul Whitehead was born in Dartford, Kent, near the end of world war 2.  As a child his interests were painting and drawing, and his schooling suffered as a result.  He designed his first record cover in 1967 for Fats Domino.  He then became  in a way the in-house designer for Liberty Records after which he moved on to became the art director for Time Out Magazine in London.

Many bands both new and established passed through the Time Out office seeking reviews for their latest release, and his skills as a designer were often called upon. He met Genesis, through their producer, a relationship was struck and he went on to produced the now classic artwork for ”Trespass,” ” Nursery Cryme” and ”Foxtrot”.  He also worked with Van der Graaf Generator another band signed to Tony Stratton Smith’s Charsima Records label.

Pawn Hearts, being the second time he had worked with the band.  Vocalist Peter Hammill had given him a brief for the artwork ”no matter who you are, or how successful you are,  you are merely a pawn in a game”.

In his painting for the album he places figures from history in transparent pawn chesspiece containers. These figures float strangeley above the earth which is surrounded by a curtain of clouds.

The inner gatefold infra red photograph was taken at Luxford House, Crowborough, Surrey.

*”The picture inside was completely spontaneous (in form!) 
originally we’d intended a picture of us playing Crowborough tennis, a VdGG
invention involving the table we’re standing on and the football under Dave’s
arm… I won’t try to explain the rules, as it’s quite complicated, but a very
energetic game of skill!! So we took lots of shots of that (all of which are
equally weird, and some of which may yet be used) and then had a few frames
left, so got into the psychedelic Nazi’s trip! When we saw the effect, the pose,
infra red film and all, we instantly overcame any inhibitions about freaking
people, and knew it HAD to be that! The black shirts and yellow ties,
incidentally, are not as directly connected to it as might be thought… they
arose from conversations in the making of Pawn Hearts, in which we decided that we were
going so far out inside (you can take that any way you want, musically,
emotionally, psychically), that all we could do was have a “blackshirts” society
to denote our outsanity. It’s a bit of a self-defeating concept, but only 1/4
serious!! So for this cover, this idea came back! I hope all that makes some
sense, but it’s difficult, because people know us through the music, yet
this is only peripherally in the music, and has more to do with the unrealities
in which we live….(guarded) explanations in song on the next album, I hope!!”

 Peter Hammill in a letter to Jem Shotts, 21st February 1972

The album was originally intended to be a double album and like Pink Floyd’s ”Ummagumma” the idea was to split it into two parts Disc 1 –  would have contained the three tracks that make up Pawn Hearts,  while Disc  2 – would have been made up of three solo tracks,  one each by Guy Evans, Hugh Banton and David Jackson.

Charisma records did not wish to release it as a double album so the plans were halted.  The instrumental tracks were later found in Virgin Records archives and the tracks were released as bonus material on the 2005 expanded remaster. Guy Evans – Angle of Incidents, Hugh Banton – Diminutions and David Jackson – Ponkers Theme.

The album got its title when David Jackson the bands saxophonist  told the band he’d ”return to the studio the following day to record some pawn hearts when he actually meant to say he’d record some horn parts horn parts.    And a legendary album was christened.

  Mercury Records UK                April 1971                  Catalogue No 6338 014           

Photographed by Keith Macmillan in the living room at Haddon Hall (Bowies residence in Beckenham which sounds rather grand until you realise it was a flat).  This sleeve design was the first of a few Bowie sleeves to court controversy.

The photograph shows Bowie in a blue and cream (mans) dress as designed by Mr Fish.  Bowie is sprawled effeminately across a chaise lounge one hand holding the last card of a pack he has scattered across the floor. the other hand is playing camply with his hair.  The textured cover gives the photograph the effect of a pre raphaelite painting by Dante Gabrielle Rosetti.   Bowie also used the dress in February 1971 on his first promotional tour to the United States, where he wore it during interviews despite the fact that the Americans had no knowledge of the as yet unreleased UK cover.

At the time of release this image was considered highly provocative, it was one of the first examples of Bowies of gender blurring androgny, which would be explored fully in the following years .

The original 1970 US release of The Man Who Sold the World employed a cartoon-like cover drawing by Bowies friend Michael J Weller, featuring a cowboy in front of the Cane Hill Mental Asylum.   Bowies half brother, Terry Jones was an patient in Cane Hill.

 * The album was Bowie’s first with the nucleus of what would become the “Spiders from Mars“.    New Musical Express critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray have said of The Man Who Sold the World, “this is where the story really starts”.  The music on this album is harder and closer to heavy metal than bowies previous recordings.  It has been claimed that this album’s release marks the birth of glam rock. 

Released  10/10/1969                Island Records  ILPS 9111               Total Playing Time 43m 56s

This album is considered by musicians and fans alike as the  benchmark progressive rock album.  Whether this accolade is true or not, there is no denying that the album boasts one of the most the most memorable sleeve designs ever put on a record.

The cover art was created by a friend of King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield called Barry Godber. Godber worked as a computer programmer.  Work on the recording of the album was progressing well but there was nothing prepared for the cover,  Sinfield played a couple of completed tracks to Godber and asked him to create something which would get the album noticed in the record stores.

When Godber returned with the two completed pieces which make up the album the band where overwhelmed by what they saw.

* ”We all stood around it around it,” says Greg Lake, ”and it was like something out of Treasure Island where your all standing round a box of jewels and treasure…this fucking face screamed up at us from the floor, and what it said to us was ‘Schizoid Man’- the very track we’d all been working on. It was as if there was something magic going on.”         * Classic Rock Magazine December 2009.

Sadly Barry Godber died of a heart attack on February 1970   The original artwork is now owned by Robert Fripp.    Pete Townshend of The Who,  called the album ”an uncanny masterpiece”

The cover did its job well and attracted many people to the album even if they hadn’t heard a single note of it. Strangely enough, given his tragic early death, the painting was based on a distorted reflection of the artists own face.

Outer cover (Schizoid Man)

Inner cover (The Crimson King)

Barry Godber pictured holding a copy of  ”In the court of the Crimson King,”

* Steve Wilson of Porcupine Tree says of the album ”For me this the birth of progressive rock. Yes, there were other albums before that; you could say Seargeant Pepper or The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed have a claim to laying down a blueprint of progressive rock, but In the Court…..really is the first time you have such technical prowess allied to musical experiments, great songwriting and a conceptual feeling all tied together in one record.             *2009 King Crimson Remasters, Promotional Material.

No progressive rock collection is complete without a copy of this groundbreaking and influential recording.  Try and see the cover in its 24 x 12 gatefold version.

Harvest Records SHVL 781         Released 02/10/1970

Total Playing Time  52m 06s

This simple but striking album sleeve cost approximately £35 to produce.  This cost included processing, food for the Hipgnosis team and transportation costs to Potters Bar where the shot of Lulubelle3 was taken.  Storm Thorgersen photographer with Hipgnosis and the band decided on an anti sleeve which would show no band name and no group photograph. The photograph was not retouched in any way and the cover was taken straight from the transparency.

When the album sleeve was shown to EMI they baulked at the idea of no band name / band image being present on the cover.  They  claimed that it was commercial suicide.  Their fears were unfounded as Atom Heart Mother went straight to Number 1 in the album chart.

Band members have been quoted as saying they dislike the album.  Even though the album is flawed I personally prefer Atom heart Mother with its orchestration and choir sections to Echoes.  Both pieces are excellent and show the band at a very creative peak in their carreer.


”Atom Heart Mother still has that mysterious intangible feel that has always been the essence of Pink Floyd music, but it is one of those rare albums that gives more than it demands and has a rich gentle atmosphere”.      Sounds 10/10 1970

Listening today, Atom Heart Mother does still have its moments, despite its ramshackle reputation :Geesin’s spiky brass arrangements, the dramatic entry of the choir, some soaring slide guitar from Gilmour.  The bands orchestral ambitions may have been overblown, but over 30 years on , this album is far more palatable than the grim classical pastiches of Deep Purple or The Moody Blues.  And in Fat Old Sun, the album still contains one of Gilmour’s most enduring tunes.  A failed experiment maybe, but still one worth trying.      John Bungey -Q Magazine Special Edition – Pink Floyd. 2004