Storm Thorgerson’s Greatest Covers (That Aren’t Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin)
Storm Thorgerson passed away last week. You might not know his name, but you certainly know his work. Either as part of his design team Hipgnosis or solo, he created some of the most iconic and memorable album covers of all time, including Dark Side of the Moon, Houses of the Holy, Styx’s Cyclorama, and Def Leppard’s High ‘n’ Dry. The man was a legend, and it’s safe to say that some of his work was just as influential as the albums they appeared on.
Since his passing, most have only made note of his work with Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, but that was only a fraction of his amazing legacy. Here are some of the greatest covers he made for other artists. Some of these are famous, but many are not. All are awe-inspiring.
Anthrax – Stomp 442
One theme that Thorgerson seemed to employ repeatedly in his work was that of a massive circular object in a barren environment. The covers to Division Bell; Audioslave’s first album and Alan Parson’s On Air are all excellent examples of this recurring motif. None do it better though than this cover to Anthrax’s brutal 1995 record, which evokes feelings of a post-apocalyptic wasteland, or possibly the most metal game of marbles ever.
Also, the image of the giant ball of mechanical wreckage is so striking that it manages to distract you from the naked dude’s ass for at least 30 seconds. And that’s impressive.
Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions
Thorgerson was certainly a diverse artist, but some of his images are instantly recognizable as his own. Take this Biffy Cylco album cover, for instance. One look at it and you know it’s a Thorgerson creation. The massive flags, the stark imagery, the contrast of small figures in a vast, barren landscape. All so very Thorgerson. It’s like being transported to another world. Beautiful stuff.
The Cranberries – Bury The Hatchet
Seriously, in a career full of surreal and images, this one really takes the cake.
Alan Parsons – Try Anything Once
Try anything once? Okay,sure, how about hanging upside down while wearing a three-piece suit and holding a bicycle wheel? Okay, then how about having some clowns do the same thing in the background? Why not?
While I truly think that most of Storm’s album covers were carefully thought out works of art, with regard given to overall thematic qualities and cohesion to a general theme, message or motif, I also think some were just him throwing random shit together to see what stuck. This would be a prime example of the latter.
Still a cool image, even if it is random as hell.
Peter Gabriel – Self-Titled
Thorgerson created the covers for the first three Peter Gabriel albums, all of which are self-titled. The second is the best, featuring a shockingly evil-looking Gabriel seemingly tearing through the very fabric of reality itself. This is the most threatening a man wearing a windbreaker has ever looked.
Muse – Butterflies and Hurriances
Such a beautiful image on its own, and then you realize that the clouds are butterflies and you’re like “ooooooh.” Muse was another band who employed the talents of Thorgerson frequently, his epic visuals often matched their epic music. His covers to Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations are also classics suitable for framing.
The Greatest Show on Earth – Horizons
This 1970 cover is one of the first great images by Thorgerson to grace an album sleeve. Simple, haunting and kind of gross all at once. Too bad the album that came with it is pretty much garbage. (The Greatest Show On Earth were only great in showing that horns did not belong in prog rock.)
T. Rex – Electric Warrior
Another iconic cover by Hipgnosis. This image just says “I’m ready to rock.” Ironically enough, both the image and the name of the album are a bit misleading. Sure, “Get It On” is a classic of…um…classic rock, but much of Electric Warrior is acoustic or folk-inspired.
Brand X – Unorthodox Behaviour
Some Thorgerson covers were great because they were surreal images that existed out of reality and time. Others, like this amazing cover from the jazz fusion group’s first release, are striking because they very much take place in our reality, almost creating a story with an image alone.
Who is this man? Why is he peeking through the blinds suspiciously? The name of the album plants a suggestion that he might be up to no good. But maybe he’s the one looking out for the behavio(u)r in question? A picture is worth a thousand words, but images like these suggest a thousand stories as well.
XTC – Go 2
For a man who will best be remembered for his one-of-a-kind visual style, it’s ironic that one of his very best covers was not only just text, but text poking fun at the very idea of album covers. This cover plays with you, confessing that it’s a trick at the start, and going as far to say that the entire idea of album covers are a con designed by the recording industry.
If that’s true, then Thorgerson was probably the greatest con artist of all time.