This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
Since this series has sat awhile, languishing I lament, might as well return to it with an album cover that tops so many ‘Best of’ lists. The Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd. Allmusic covered what made this striking gatefold LP sleeve, sublimely designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie, better than most, musically:
“…what gives the album true power is the subtly textured music, which evolves from ponderous, neo-psychedelic art rock to jazz fusion and blues-rock before turning back to psychedelia. It’s dense with detail, but leisurely paced, creating its own dark, haunting world. Pink Floyd may have better albums than Dark Side of the Moon, but no other record defines them quite as well as this one.”
It’s interesting to note indigo, normally part of the traditional division in the light spectrum, was missing from the delineated colors the designers had coming out of the cover’s prism.
“Rick Wright suggested we do something clean and graphic,” designer Storm Thorgerson told Floyd biographer Mark Blake. “Not photographic.” Accomplished that for sure by using the very darkest color as a statement. Certainly, done to startling effect while paired with a refracting geometric prism to set it all off.
“It was black and white, but a color beam was going through it. Using that as a jumping off point, the team at Hipgnosis created the iconic cover”, as Rolling Stone would put it. I can’t say it’s my greatest LP cover ever, but the cover’s influence on other album art, especially in the use of black as a means to focus your attention, remains more than weighty — for four decades now.
- “Speak to Me”
- “On the Run”
- “The Great Gig in the Sky”
- “Us and Them”
- “Any Colour You Like”
- “Brain Damage”
The entire series can be found here.