Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon is well-known not just for its music, but possibly even more so for the album cover art. Graphic designer Storm Thorgerson has created many iconic images tied to equally recognizable bands including The Alan Parsons Project, The Cranberries, Led Zeppelin, and Muse. This playlist recognizes that the artwork associated with a band can be as equally as impactful as the band itself, and the playlist combines work from several artists that have all had the chance to have their albums graced with Storm’s insight, creativity, and talent. Many of these artists are also some of my personal favorite musicians that I grew up listening to.
1. Pink Floyd – “Us and Them” (Dark Side of the Moon, 1973)
The album art for Pink Floyd’s 1973 masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon is possibly one of the most recognized pictures of the 20th century, printed on posters and t-shirts nationwide and worldwide, so we start our playlist with something off of Dark Side. Thorgerson has talked about how this was his first breach into graphic design; previously, his medium was photography. Although it wasn’t allowed in the final print, Thorgerson had originally drawn the Silver Surfer for the cover. The idea of the prism was meant to represent a lightshow, and the triangle was a symbol of thought and ambition, which was a subject of many of Water’s songs.
2. Alan Parsons – “Siren Song” (Try Anything Once, 1993)
This is the first solo album created by Alan Parsons after his ever-morphing progressive rock project The Alan Parsons Project ended. The album features Eric Stewart of 10cc and Christopher Thompson of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Concerning the cover art, Thorgerson says that “the title suggested something a touch reckless, perhaps, or at least a departure from normal behavior. We joined this thought with the image of a bungee jump from a high bridge on television – wondering what on earth people would do for a thrill.”
3. Peter Gabriel – “Games Without Frontiers” (Melt, 1980)
Thorgerson created the album covers for Gabriel’s first three solo records. These covers are some of the few that actually featured the singer in them. For the third album, Melt, Gabriel’s face is shown dripping and melting. The effect is achieved by squishing and squashing the photograph as it is developed and then various photograph manipulations were applied including burning, dodging, and physically burning the photograph. Thorgerson likes the visual contradictions between these techniques – he states that the photography inherently signifies “the real,” but through physical interventions this reality is made into visual art. The idea for this image in particular came from a dream. When he told Gabriel, the musician jokingly replied, “It’s okay for you to dream about me but I’d be really worried if I start dreaming of you.” The song itself is one of my favorites and is a critique on nationalism and war, stating that those ideas are childish. So listen and enjoy… and remember that if looks can kill, they probably will in games without frontiers.
4. Black Sabbath – “You Won’t Change Me” (Technical Ecstasy, 1976)
The cover for this album by the British heavy metal band illustrates the title.
5. Led Zeppelin – “Over the Hills and Far Away” (Houses of the Holy, 1973)
Growing up listening to classic rock I was introduced to Led Zeppelin at infancy, and along with having some of my favorite Zeppelin songs on it I was always intrigued by the album artwork for Houses of the Holy. The design itself was inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi story that contained a final act where loads of semi-formed human children run off the edge of the earth. I also always found it odd that the album Houses of the Holy doesn’t actually have the song “Houses of the Holy” (it’s on Physical Graffiti for those of you wondering).
6. The Cranberries – “Shattered” (Bury the Hatchet, 1999)
This Irish rock band is best known for their songs “Linger,” “Dreams,” and “Zombie.” Many of their album covers show the members sitting on a couch, so Thorgerson states that he was surprised that they chose this design for the cover: “The second miracle arose after we decided that red earth was paramount to contrast with a blue sky, which had to be empty (i.e. cloudless, to echo the empty landscape and to emphasize that the All Seeing Eye can watch you anywhere [reminds me of a certain Alan Parsons song... -ed.]).”
7. The Offspring – “Spare Me the Details” (Splinter, 2003)
Storm Thorgerson’s artwork for The Offspring‘s 2003 album Splinter came from part of a series of twenty prints, each in an edition of twenty known as the 20/20 Series. Although he was wary that The Offspring would be as aggressive as their music, it just goes to show that Thorgerson doesn’t discriminate against drama, for he wound up working with this punk rock band. For their album Splinter, released in 2003, they commissioned four pictures. In one of the pictures, “Moonstab,” Thorgerson imagined that “the splinter of the title might be the splinter that broke a heart, the heart of a lover betrayed, which I am sure was probably the subject of one or two of the songs.” In another photograph, entitled “Glass Family,” Thorgerson interpreted the title Splinter as being sharp and angular like their music and having several meanings, one of them being the splintering of a relationship.
8. Muse – “Map of the Problematique” (Black Holes and Revelations, 2006)
“Starlight,” a song off of this album, is what led me to look more into Muse, and they have now become a band that I listen to quite frequently. I would probably even list them as of one of my favorites. Thorgerson also did the artwork for Absolution, one of my favorite albums by this English band. The artwork for Black Holes and Revelations features the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation in the Bible. Their four horses of different colors are on the table. The rider of the white horse represents the Anti-Christ, the red one represents war, the black one represents famine, and the pale one represents death. The horses are small to signify that the ills of the riders have outgrown those of their horses.
Check out more Storm Thorgerson on his website.