Telluride Launches “Squaring the Circle” on Iconic Album Cover Makers – Deadline


This is perhaps the most famous album cover ever created.

The background – black. In the foreground, a beam of white light pierces a triangular prism and exits, splitting into brilliant bands of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The artwork, as any true rock fan can instantly tell you, is for Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The dark side of the moon. We know the band, we know the record, but who designed this album cover? It came from the brilliant British design firm Hipgnosis, the subject of the new documentary Squaring the circle (the story of hipgnosis). Anton Corbijn directed the film, which had its world premiere over Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Film Festival.

“The beauty of white on black [background], with colors, it’s just simplicity,” Corbijn says of this prismatic design. “I think it’s a beautiful album cover, and I think it probably defines the album cover.

Storm Thorgerson (L) and Aubrey “Po” Powell

If Hipgnosis had only created this unforgettable album cover, it would be worth noting. But the team founded by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell designed a slew of iconic covers in the 1970s and 1980s for some of the most important artists in music history, including Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney and Wings. , T-Rex, 10cc , Peter Gabriel, Genesis, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Yes, the aforementioned Pink Floyd and others.

Unlike the austere graphic design for The dark side of the moon, many of Hipgnosis’s best-known covers used photographic imagery. Pink Floyd’s 1970 album Atom, Heart, Mother famously depicts a grazing cow looking over its shoulder at the camera lens. Led Zeppelin’s 1973 album Houses of the Holy shows what have been described as “nudist flaxen-haired children” scattered across an eerily moon-like landscape. As the documentary explores, the Houses of the Holy the cover involved photography from a distance, colorizing in post, and multiplying the two original child models into the nearly dozen seen on the cover (this was created decades before the digital age did such manipulation in a wink).

Corbijn, a filmmaker, photographer, album cover designer and music video maker, says he grew up intrigued by Hipgnosis’ work.

Album covers designed by Hipgnosis

Album covers designed by Hipgnosis

“For all rounds, I was always wondering, how did they do that? Is it behind closed doors? How can you do this behind closed doors? he remembers wondering. “Obviously later I learned how good they were at cutting things out and making collages in an invisible way.”

Thorgerson and Powell chose the hybrid name Hipgnosis for their company as a play on hypnosis, but also “hip” in the sense of cool, combined with “gnosis”, an ancient Greek word meaning knowledge or learning. Their work, too, reflected a hybrid of talents.

“Storm was definitely the artist, the great artist. And Po was a good photographer,” Corbijn notes. “And Po was a good salesman. He’s a great salesman. great storyteller.

Thorgerson died in 2013 at the age of 69. Powell, who turns 76 later this month, kicked off the film project.

Aubrey "Po" Powell with one of his album covers

Aubrey “Po” Powell with an album cover image designed by Hipgnosis
Anton Corbijn

“Po came to Amsterdam to talk to me and see if I was interested in making a documentary,” says Corbijn. “Just listening to his stories, I realized there was a great story in there because of course it’s culturally important, but it’s also a human story between these two guys. So it was good to have that intertwined.

There was great affection between the Thorgersons and Powell, but not a small measure of creative conflict. This was partly due to Thorgerson’s difficult personality – in the film he is paradoxically depicted as rude but endearing. He could be extremely frank, no matter how famous the client was. McCartney once pitched Hipgnosis a cover concept – for the 1975 album Wings Venus and Mars – which Thorgerson rejected.

“To tell Paul McCartney, when he paid for you to go all the way to LA and said, ‘Well, Paul, I don’t like your idea. I’m going home,’ that’s something something,” Corbijn mused. “I’m sorry I never met him. I would have loved to meet Storm.

(An earlier idea by McCartney for a Wings album cover, 1973 Runaway groupflew with the partners of Hipgnosis and they made it another of the most famous album covers in rock history).

Director Anton Corbijn

Director Anton Corbijn
Courtesy of Stephan Vanfleteren

Corbijn interviews McCartney in the film, along with many other rock luminaries with memories of Hipgnosis to share, including Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel and Graham Gouldman of 10cc. The stories are priceless, including the time Hipgnosis set a guy on fire for an album cover, and a photoshoot in London for a Pink Floyd record that went south, forcing the Royal Air Force to send fighter jets to hunt down a wandering flying pig. .

Corbijn grew up in Holland, cherishing many of these albums in his youth, both for the music and the cover art.

“I had all the Peter Gabriel covers, of course…I had a lot of Pink Floyd stuff,” the director told Deadline. “When I grew up, music was my big love. I really connected to it… [collecting] record covers and music magazines. It was the 70s, you didn’t have Google or anything, but all the information you needed was on a record cover.

Vinyl has had something of a resurgence, but the era of iconic sleeves is over.

“There’s a lot of attention, again, for album covers,” says Corbijn, “but the importance of album covers will never be the same as it was in the 70s.”

Squaring the circle (the title refers to the idea of ​​putting a square album cover on a circular disc) is a Telluride acquisition title.

“We will show it to buyers. So hopefully in the next few weeks we will have more clarity on that,” Corbijn said, adding that the Telluride premiere was a success. “It was very well received… an incredibly positive audience. It was really nice to sit in the middle of it.

As a brand new film without distribution, Squaring the circle debuts without a movie poster. As he thinks about creating one, Corbijn faces a challenge similar to the one Thorgerson, Powell and their associates faced when they dreamed up album covers decades ago.

Hit the image of The dark side of the moon on the poster would seem too obvious, says Corbijn, so he thinks of combining elements of text with still-to-be-determined images.

He observes, “I need to see if the poster can attract people outside of people who know the word Hipgnosis.”


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