Art | Need To Now

Celebrating the work of an album-art legend

A deluxe limited-edition book for connoisseurs of album-sleeve art

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Celebrating the work of an album-art legend

November 11 2011
David Cheal

Two men in business suits are standing outside what looks like a Hollywood film studio. They are shaking hands. One of the men is on fire, flames leaping from his suit and hair. This unforgettable image is of course the sleeve artwork for Pink Floyd’s 1975 album Wish You Were Here, and it was created, as Floyd aficionados will know, by their long-time visual collaborator, Storm Thorgerson.

Over the past four decades, Thorgerson and his colleagues at Storm Studios have brought their distinctive visual wizardry to the sleeves of albums by dozens of bands, among them Yes, Led Zeppelin, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Muse and The Cranberries (whose Wake Up and Smell the Coffee album artwork was directly inspired by Wish You Were Here). Thorgerson’s work is characterised by its often disturbing surrealistic imagery, such as the sleeve for Dream Studio by The Plea (third picture); as Thorgerson says of the image by way of explanation, “The boys are carrying lighted orbs, which I saw as ‘the great spheres of knowledge’.”

Today, a 160-page coffee table book, The Raging Storm: The Album Graphics of Storm Studios, goes on sale (£35) which celebrates the work of Thorgerson and Storm Studios. It’s a sumptuous coffee-table affair packed with stunning images, while the accompanying text tells the stories behind the artworks. For instance, the recently created “liquid” version of Thorgerson’s sleeve for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (first picture), destined for use on a Pink Floyd calendar, began life as an image created in an array of brightly-coloured fruits. But Thorgerson and his team realised that the dividers holding the fruit could also contain coloured paints; thus this randomly swirling image was born.

But what will be of special interest to album artwork cognoscenti is that it’s also available in a deluxe edition, of which just 10 copies will go on sale; this luxurious package consists of a fine art print of the book’s cover (second picture), signed by Thorgerson (despite his exotic name, he was in fact born and raised in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire), and a signed hardback copy of the book. At £395, it’s a small price to pay to own a piece of rock history.