Apart from album covers, Hipgnosis also designed a series of fashion spreads for the softcore porn mag Club International and its more hardcore American edition Club.
Club International was founded by porn supremo Paul Raymond, who ran the legendary strip club the Raymond Revuebar in London’s seedy Soho district and a series of best-selling porn mags. Under its first editor Tony Power, Club International was intended as a high-quality adult entertainment magazine mixing the best of writers with the finest photographers and designers.
Hipgnosis was hired to add a classy touch to the magazine’s fashion spreads. The gig allowed Thorgerson and Powell to try-out a few ideas which they would later re-use on album covers—the flasher who would reappear on Pink Floyd’s A Nice Pair, for instance, while the water-in-the-face shots would feature on Peter Frampton’s Something’s Happened. See more Hipgnosis glorious work here.
See more of Hipgnosis’ fashion work for Club International, after the jump…
Hipgnosis is the kind of creative entity that could be said to be exactly the kind of thing that Dangerous Minds readers know about that maybe isn’t common parlance to the rest of the world. If you’re reading this, I’m going to guess that you know all about (to pick almost at random) the cover for Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and the cover for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Peter Gabriel’s first three albums and maybe the words “Throbbing Gristle” flitted through your head as well.
In 1968 Cambridge natives Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell were approached by Pink Floyd to do a cover for A Saucerful of Secrets, and that partnership proved incredibly fruitful, as Hipgnosis was an absolutely perfect correlative for the music of Floyd, both being so very strong on concept and strong on execution at the same time.
I think of an album cover like Hipgnosis’ design for Def Leppard’s second album High and Dry as the kind of thing that cannot happen by accident, you need professionals with vision, daring, and resources to make an image of a perfectly vertical diver flanked by a crowd of people curiously staring upward to work. If you’ve seen that cover just once, that’s enough for you to remember what album it is every time you flip past it in the LP rack.
Hipgnosis did many covers for 10cc and Genesis and Bad Company and Wishbone Ash and many others. What made their ad-ready covers stand out was their enigmatic feel for drama, and they weren’t short on humor either, as their cover for Scorpions’ Lovedrive would establish forevermore. Many of their covers involved high-definition photography and staging, that was their thing.
The style that Hipgnosis so excelled at didn’t live much past the 1970s, but they’ve continued to be active and they did a great many covers including a few for bands you didn’t know they were associated with. On the occasion of Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art: The Complete Hipgnosis Catalogue, an utterly mouth-watering book to be released by Thames & Hudson in May (quite affordable at under $30, pre-order here), we call your attention to the sustained excellence of Hipgnosis, even on albums you might not have known or not known they had anything to do with.
In 1975, the notable British buttrock band UFO released Force It, a barrage of boogie riffs and and double-entendre lyrics about fucking. As hesher-metal albums go, it was fairly interchangeable with a lot of the era’s hard rock, but its cover art has proven durable even as the band’s sound has aged. It’s a photograph depicting what could be read as a coercive sexual advance between a couple of indeterminate sex, one of whom is sans pants. Collaged into the photo are many, many faucets.
Faucet. Force it. You get it, ha ha, let’s move on.
The cover was designed by one of the era’s most distinctive and forward-thinking design studios, Hipgnosis. The firm consisted of designers Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, and were responsible for singularly surreal album art for Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, and Led Zeppelin, among many, many other clients. Force It was hardly their only controversial work, but it ranked high on that score. The US version of the cover was censored, by making the aggressively embracing couple half transparent. The irony here is that the models for that cover were already known for works that made the Force It cover look kid-friendly. From Neil Daniels’ High Stakes & Dangerous Men: The UFO Story,:
The artwork was risky for the time and because of the amount of flesh on display was almost banned—well, it was the 1970s, a non-PC age, but also surprisingly prudish too. It was toned down for the USA release, where they were even more prudish. One point of interest, is that the gender of the couple remained a cause of debate amongst UFO fans, but the couple turned out to be Genesis P. Orridge [sic] and his then girlfriend Cosey Fanni Tutti.
Kissing and buttocks mercifully ghosted for delicate American sensibilities.
Many of this blog’s regular readers know that Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti were, at the time, the principals behind COUM Transmissions, an art group known for incredibly transgressive performances that included heavy doses of kink, up to and including unsimulated bleeding and vomiting, violence, and even live sex—so this “controversial” photo was actually one of the tamest things they’d ever done. The year after Force It, COUM would evolve into the pioneering industrial band Throbbing Gristle, and Throbbing Gristle included in its membership one Peter Christopherson, who in the mid ‘70s was an assistant at…Hipgnosis.
During Danny Boyle’s short film “Isles of Wonder,” shown as part of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the camera flies from a small stream in the country down the Thames and into the Olympic venue. When the camera gets to the Battersea Power Station, a floating pig flies by, a fun wink, of course, to that most iconic of album covers, the 1977 Hipgnosis-designed sleeve for Pink Floyd’s Animals album.
Animals, a bitter Orwell-inspired anti-capitalism screed needed an image that was appropriate for the dark vision of humanity heard within its grooves. Before they settled on the porcine zeppelin—Roger Water’s concept—Hipgnosis had pitched the group on the notion of a child discovering his parents fucking like… animals. Which could have been interesting, but instead they hired noted Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw to design the inflatable pig, which was then manufactured by the German company Ballon Fabrik, who constructed the Zeppelin airships of the early part of the 20th century.
The 30 feet (9.1 m) long pig balloon—dubbed “Algie”—was inflated with helium and positioned in place on December 2, but bad weather delayed the shoot and the following day the balloon broke free of its tethers and floated off, ultimately ending up in a farm near Kent where it apparently terrified a herd of cows.
One of the most iconic record covers of the 1970s is Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, 1973’s Houses of the Holy and it’s also one of the most mysterious. Fans have long speculated about the “meaning” of this cryptic image of naked, golden-haired children crawling around an apocalyptic landscape towards… what? Was it a reference to the creepy 50s sci-fi film Village of the Damned? An apocalypse cult? Or was there some “occult significance” to Jimmy Page? I’m sure there must have been quite a lot of stoned, meandering conversations back then about this one.
The cover, produced by the legendary London-based design firm, Hipgnosis, was shot on the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Aubrey Powell, the Hipgnosis partner who actually designed the cover, told Q magazine in 2003 that the concept was based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End, where hundreds of millions of Earth’s children gather together to be taken off into space.
But there’s an odd factoid or two about the Houses of the Holy album cover that might surprise you: First off, it was not a small army of naked children with wigs on, it was only two kids, a brother and sister, who were photographed over the course of ten days at dawn and at dusk. One of them went on to become a world famous TV presenter, Stefan Gates, of the BBC’s popular Cooking in the Danger Zone show.
Gates said of the shoot, which he did at the age of five with his older sister Samantha:
“We only got a few quid for the modelling and the chance to travel to places we had never been before. Our family wasn’t well off, we certainly couldn’t afford holidays, so it worked out great for us.
“For the Zeppelin cover we went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all these people with guns. We stayed in this little guest house near the Giant’s Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we’d shoot first thing in the morning and at night.
I’ve heard people saying they put wigs on several children. But there was only me and my sister and that’s our real hair. I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn’t mind. I’d whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element. My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious.”
“It promptly rained for ten days straight. I shot the whole thing in black and white on a totally miserable morning pouring with rain. Originally, I’d intended the children to be gold and silver. Because I shot in black and white and it was a gray day, the children turned out very white. So when we hand-tinted it, the airbrush artist, by accident, put a kind of purple tinge onto them. When I first saw it, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then we looked at it, and I said, ‘Hang on a minute, this has an otherworldly quality.’ So we left it as it was. Everybody was so cold, and so freaked out because it wasn’t working, that the only thing I could keep everybody together with was a bottle of Mandrax and a lot of whiskey.”
Oddly, in 2007 Stefan Gates claimed to have never listened to the album and that he felt there was something perhaps sinister about the cover image. “It carries too much significance for me,” he said at the time. “A part of me wants to go out to the Giant’s Causeway with a big pair of speakers, strip naked and play it just to see if I have some kind of great epiphany.”
Samantha Gates, now living in South Africa, recalls:
“I remember the shoot really clearly, mainly because it was freezing cold and rained the whole time.
“We were naked in a lot of the modelling shoots we did, nothing was thought of it back then. You probably couldn’t get away with that now.”
Stefan Gates believes shooting the album at the age of five has a huge, but mostly subconscious, role in his life. “Although it’s just my naked behind you can see, perhaps being a part of something like that at a young age made me seek out more ambitious and adventurous experiences.”
Above, Stefan Gates holds the famous album cover at the site of the Giant’s Causeway in Nothern Ireland. Below, the image from the gatefold of the Houses of the Holy sleeve, shot at Dunluce Castle.
The February 2010 BBC 4 radio show Stefan Gates’s Cover Story saw him return to the Giant’s Causeway to experience the album there for the first time, played on a boom box (but presumably clothed).