Album Covers

Deep Brushstrokes: The Hipgnosis Bestiary

Hipgnosis is The Beatles of album cover art —  nobody has ever done it better than the British design firm founded by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell.  Their first cover was Pink Floyd’s 1968 album A Saucerful of Secrets and their last was Led Zeppelin’s Coda, released in 1982.  There’s quite a bit of poetry in that.  In their fifteen years together the firm produced many of the most iconic covers in music history. Below is a gallery of all 190 Hipgnosis covers.  Do you have a favorite?  I’m listening.

For more information check out the book For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis.  (Note:  I couldn’t find an image of Hignosis’s 48th album cover, 1972’s self-titled Danta.)

15 replies »

  1. Now THAT is a body of work. This work could be a class in Graphic Design. Some very important aspects of art composition handled with dispatch. A nice homage to be sought by so many artists of music.

    Aaah, poor sweet, sad, wondrous Syd. Had to download the image of Syd Barret’s “The Madcap Laughs”… out of sentimentality. I imagine him perched precariously upon those painted rafters, with the swirling abyss ever present below. Syd was the Peter Pan who took potions with Alice, acid-drenched and bequaaluded, could never find his way home.

    I believe Syd painted those rafters. Fitting.


    • “The Madcap Laughs” was a record bin obsession for me. It was one of those album covers that I’d visit every time I went to the record store because Syd was almost a ghost story.


  2. Amazing stuff. Although each image is so different they all cause a sort of disturbance…sometimes you can’t quite trust what you are seeing. I remember gazing at many of these back in my early 80’s days in the record dept. at Gemco. Not sure I have a favorite, but is there any album cover more iconic than Dark Side of the Moon? Or maybe Houses of the Holy? Or perhaps Bad Company? Wow….


  3. I do miss the larger canvas of albums and double-albums, albums with cut-outs etc. CDs just can’t offer that level of detail and interactivity. I remember how delighted I was when Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” cover opened up to reveal the halves of a peanut butter / jelly sandwich. This collection was fun to look over and remember.

    Aside from ones you have here I liked surrealism like Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and Zappa’s “Overnite Sensation”, clean simple ones like what Phil Hartman did for America, or the Beatles’ “Revolver”, and the photography of a guy named Norman Seeff (Exile on Main St., Joni Mitchell’s “Hejira”)


    • Can’t argue with those picks. Alice Cooper had some nifty “cut out” record covers. School’s Out opened like a desk, and From The Inside had little doors on the cover that opened. Another favorite is Led Zeppelin III with the little spinny wheel inside that changes what you can see through the holes in the cover.


  4. 10cc diver one is a fave. Looks like whenever he ran out of other ideas, he just went with Gratuitous Genitalia Symbolism and/or Frame A Crotch.


    • That’s one of my favorites, too. Regarding the sexuality yes, there was a lot of it in Hipgnosis design. I’m surprised that you’re the first to comment on it, as some of it (UFO’s Force It, The Scorpions’ Animal Magnetism) is a bit disturbing.


      • Trying to stay classy for your excellent blog. Now you seem to not only challenge my manhood, but also my snark and continuous cavorting with the low brow. Penis. Vaginga. Aaah, that’s better.


  5. Wow, I hadn’t realised Hipgnosis had done so much! My faves of theirs are and always will be the zep covers, though I’m not a great fan of the Coda cover (nor of the album bar one or two tracks). Also P.F’s Dark side of the moon.

    Now you need a post about Hapshash and the Coloured Coat’s artwork! 🙂


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