Storm Thorgerson - My art on their sleeves
Pink Floyd, Muse, Biffy Clyro... graphic artist Storm Thorgerson on his iconic cover designs
Friday 19 March 2010
I have made over 400 album covers and as Pink Floyd said, "We've been trying to get rid of him for years, but haven't been able to." It took Pink Floyd three minutes to decide on the album cover for The Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. My memory is a bit hazy, but I think we gave them seven ideas to choose from, including a surfer on a big wave, based on a Marvel Comics superhero called the Silver Surfer. I wish I had kept them because, of course, they would have been a piece of history – but they are long gone. It's not as emotional as some of the other album covers I did for Pink Floyd, such as Wish You Were Here, or even as powerful as The Division Bell or as funny as Animals – but I feel proud of it because it is strikingly graphic.
As long as it doesn't alter an idea, then I'm very happy to cooperate with the musicians, because we are trying to represent their music. Muse's drummer, Dominic Howard, saw a little sketch of shadows passing over somebody on my website and he asked us to develop it for their album Absolution. We turned it into a real event; the band wanted the watcher in the picture to be a pilot, while the squadron of flying magical people above him was my idea. The cover of Muse's single "Uprising", showing teddy bears emerging from a field, plays with the idea of uprising and revolution. It was meant for their latest album, The Resistance, but it didn't work out that way.
For Biffy Clyro's single "Saturday Superhouse" there is a dog in the picture, which represents someone living with their demons. When I asked the singer Simon Neil what the song was about, he emailed me three words: sanity, grief and anger. That was all he said, but I immediately saw this picture. The cover of Disco Biscuits' Planet Anthem was shot on a beach in South Africa. You can see Table Mountain in the distance.
The promotional poster for Pink Floyd's back catalogue, with various Pink Floyd album covers painted on the backs of a row of women, is a silly joke really. It is slightly erotic and I thought it made a change to see women's backs rather than their breasts, but I don't think it is exploitative. In fact, we double checked with my wife and her friends who confirmed that it wasn't.
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong, Idea Generation Gallery, London E2 (Ideageneration.co.uk) 2 April to 2 May
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