Storm Thorgerson, 1944–2013

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Wish You Were Here (outer and inner sleeve, 1975) by Pink Floyd.

Whenever people ask questions about your work at some point the subject of influences always turns up. Influences for me are usually few, they’re those things which skew your perception to such a degree—or which enlarge the range of possibilities—that they make you follow a path you might otherwise have never pursued. I’ve said on many occasions that the window of our local record shop in the 1970s was an art gallery whose contents changed every week, with gatefold sleeves offering an endless variety of fantastic visions and smart designs. I was often indifferent to the music the sleeves were intended to advertise, if a favourite band happening to have a great record sleeve then so much the better. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a record sleeve designer as such, more that the views (as Roger Dean called his first book) were incredibly stimulating, and they excited me enough that I wanted to have the creation of images like that in my future.

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Wish You Were Here shrinkwrap and George Hardie’s sticker design.

I’ve written at some length about Roger Dean and Barney Bubbles but it was Hipgnosis that dominated those window displays during the golden age of record sleeve design. Obituaries of Storm Thorgerson have rightly been acknowledging the contributions of his Hipgnosis design partners Aubrey Powell and Peter Christopherson, but Thorgerson always came across as the driving force, a position reinforced by his text for the group’s first book collection, An ABC of the Work of Hipgnosis: Walk Away René (1978), and by his post-Hipgnosis career which continued to generate even more startling images. Walk Away René is like the designs of Hipgnosis themselves: witty, clever, and beautifully produced, while Thorgerson’s commentary is refreshingly honest both about the details of album sleeve production, and in its lack of the affectation which afflicts many design books. Working in the music business probably helped maintain a no-bullshit attitude; it’s difficult to imagine many other designers cheerfully announcing in their first public showcase that their studio is so primitive that everyone has to piss in the sink. Or, as I noted in December, drawing attention to your least favourite covers in an even more lavish showcase.

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The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) by Pink Floyd.

The cover examples here have been chosen via the essays in For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis (2008) where several people were asked to choose their favourite sleeves. I’d find it impossible to choose a favourite although at a push I’d probably go for Wish You Were Here. With its absence/four elements concept, in its original package—the postcard insert, the unlabelled sleeve shrink-wrapped in black cellophane then stickered with a George Hardie drawing which I once laboriously copied—it comes close to perfection when you’re discussing album covers as works of art.

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Presence (1976) by Led Zeppelin.

The Hipgnosis Covers site is the place to see more work by Storm Thorgerson and company.

Storm Thorgerson, Pink Floyd and the final secret of the world’s greatest record sleeve designer
The Guardian: “The best album designer in the world”
Storm Thorgerson remembered by Aubrey Powell
Adrian Shaughnessy at Creative Review
Mark Blake at MOJO
Telegraph obituary

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Go 2 (1978) by XTC.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The record covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Hipgnosis turkeys
Peter Christopherson, 1955–2010
Storm Thorgerson: Right But Wrong
Battersea Power Station

René Bull’s Rubáiyát

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One of the more obscure artists from the Golden Age of the illustrated book, finding this volume by René Bull (1872–1942) makes up for my earlier dismissal of his Arabian Nights where the illustrations tend towards the comical. This volume dates from 1913, and shows Bull to be a fine exponent of Edwardian Orientalism. Browse the rest of it here or download it here.

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Continue reading “René Bull’s Rubáiyát”

Weekend links 144

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Ruins 3 by Rachel Thomas and Dan Tobin Smith.

“Dan wanted to do something on a really large scale and was looking at a lot of Piranesi and started talking to me about ruins. I then started looking at modern interpretations of this idea, I was obsessed with the post modern architecture of SITE, Disney fantasy settings, Busby Berkeley, Sotsass ceramics, Art Deco motifs in general, Giorgio de Chirico’s paintings, Arabic temples and on and on…” Rachel Thomas talks to Daisy Woodward about Imaginary View, an exhibition currently showing at Somerset House, London.

• A brief description of The Yokel’s Preceptor (1855), a guide to Victorian London’s gay underworld by William Dugdale. When do we get to see a facsimile of this document? The slang is a treat.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen Mix 054, a great selection by Biosphere of doomy ambience from the Post Punk/early Industrial era, 1979–1981.

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Stella (Ernest Boulton) with Fanny (Frederick Park) (c. 1860–1870).

While Stella and Fanny might be the most terrible show-offs, not to mention industrious sex workers, even they drew the line at coupling in public places. Over the course of the subsequent trial, and despite bribing witnesses, the prosecution failed to prove that sodomy had ever occurred, either between the two young men themselves, or within their circle of genteel “sisters”, or even in a dark corner behind the Haymarket with a passing guardsman. Eventually, and only after a second trial a year later, the young men were found not guilty and allowed to slip back into their lives of pro-am theatricals, touring together and separately in such limp pieces as A Comical Countess and A Morning Call.

Kathryn Hughes reviews Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna. Related: photographs of the pair.

The Twilight Language of Nigel Kneale, a book of essays and a cassette tape dedicated to the television dramatist.

Sheltered and Safe from Sorrow: “Victorian mourning rituals, tombstones, epitaphs, and other creepy things”.

Crate digging and the resurgence of vinyl. Related: Men & Vinyl, a Tumblr devoted to men and their discs.

• Designer Shirley Tucker talks about her cover for the first edition of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

• More Will Bradley at The Golden Age (formerly Golden Age Comic Book Stories).

The Mirror Reflecting (Part 2), a new track by The Haxan Cloak.

Psychedelic Press UK | Related: Catnip: Egress to Oblivion?

Paris in colour circa 1900.

Twilight (1983) by Pete Shelley | Twilight (2000) by Antony and the Johnsons | Twilight (2005) by Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd

Weekend links 82

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At the Mountains of Madness (1979) from Halloween in Arkham by Harry O. Morris.

• Golden Age Comic Book Stories always pulls out the stops in the run up to Halloween. In addition to a wonderful collection of Harry O. Morris collages, Mr Door Tree has also been posting Virgil Finlay’s illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe, Lynd Ward’s tremendous illustrations for a collection of weird tales entitled The Haunted Omnibus, Barry Moser’s woodcuts for an edition of Frankenstein, and Virgil Finlay’s illustrations for stories and poems by HP Lovecraft.

• “Eugene Thacker suggests that we look to the genre of horror as offering a way of thinking about the unthinkable world. To confront this idea is to confront the limit of our ability to understand the world in which we live – a central motif of the horror genre. In the Dust of This Planet explores these relationships between philosophy and horror.”

• “…the reader […] becomes a conscious participant in the process of imposing a linear sequence, while at the same time remaining aware that all narrative is an act of memory, and that memory is necessarily random.” Jonathan Coe reviews Marc Saporta’s book-in-a-box, Composition No.1, recently republished by Visual Editions.

• Nearly fifty years after its first performance, Peter Weiss’s Marat/Sade is still disturbing playgoers. And nearly ninety years after its release, Alla Nazimova’s silent film production of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé is touring the UK with live musical accompaniment.

Tom of Sinland at Homotography, in which illustrator Bendix Bauer portrays some of the fashion world’s notable male designers as Tom of Finland-style characters for Horst magazine.

Neil Gaiman Presents is a new audiobook imprint which launches with works by Jonathan Carroll, Alina Simone, Keith Roberts, M. John Harrison and Steven Sherrill.

• The Weird Wild West: Paul Kirchner has put all his Dope Rider comic strips online.

Leonora Carrington prints at Viktor Wynd Fine Art, London, from November 5th.

The Fall to Earth: David Bowie, Cocaine and the Occult.

Photos of New York City, 1978–1985.

Kathy Acker recordings at Ubuweb.

The Occupied Times of London.

The Golden Age of Dirty Talk.

Pushkin silhouettes.

• This week I’ve been lost in the Velvet Goldmine (again): John, I’m Only Dancing (1972) by David Bowie | The Jean Genie (1972) by David Bowie | Drive-In Saturday (1973) by David Bowie.

Weekend links: Hodgson edition

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Masters of Terror, Vol 1, Corgi Books, 1977. No illustrator credited.

It was all happening this week so there’s a lot to get through. Are you ready? Deep breath…

For ye Hogge doth be of ye outer Monstrous Ones, nor shall any human come nigh him nor continue meddling when ye hear his voice, for in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end.

The Hog (c. 1910) by William Hope Hodgson.

• “The Hog is Hodgson’s most nakedly Jungian setpiece; fetid waves of archetypes sweep repeatedly against the thin walls of quotidian reality.” Thus Iain Sinclair, writing in a 1991 afterword to Carnaki the Ghost-Finder which I highly recommend to both Hodgson and Sinclair enthusiasts. China Miéville dissected Hodgson’s Hog on Wednesday and a few hours later a student protest in London turned into an assault on the Tory HQ. Coincidence? Here at {feuilleton} we only offer the facts, it’s up to you to join the dots. M John Harrison approved. Of the protest, that is, not the raising of Porcine Malevolence from the Gulfs Beyond, although he might approve of that as well.

• Further Hodgsonia: Science of The Night Land: Dying Suns and Earth Energy while for real devotees there’s Andy Robertson’s Night Land site.

• “Amplifying the vibrations of the ether” for a view “beyond the limits of ordinary life”: The Fugitive Futurist (1924), a remarkable short film at the BFI’s YouTube channel in which Trafalgar Square is flooded, a monorail crosses Tower Bridge and a dirigible takes to the air over the Houses of Parliament. Also Trafalgar Square Riot (1913), a newsreel with suffragettes at the centre of a civil disturbance. Some of the critics of Wednesday’s events seem to have forgotten that women gained the vote in this country only after repeatedly smashing windows and causing trouble.

• Related to the above: How to Hex a Corporation at Arthur magazine. And let’s not forget Hakim Bey’s Occult Assault on Institutions.

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Cover illustration by Ian Miller (1972). The other great cover for THOTB was by Ed Emshwiller in 1962.

The wanderings of the Narrator’s spirit through limitless light-years of cosmic space and Kalpas of eternity, and its witnessing of the solar system’s final destruction, constitute something almost unique in standard literature.

HP Lovecraft reviewing Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland in Supernatural Horror in Literature.

• Lovecraft has long cast a shadow over Hodgson’s fevered visions even though words of praise like those above have done much to keep the earlier writer’s work in print. I’ve been talking for years about doing a series of illustrations for The House on the Borderland and may yet make good on that threat; never say never. Meanwhile, Rick Poyner returned to Design Observer this week pondering the challenge of non-Euclidean architecture in What does HP Lovecraft look like?

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Druillet illustrates Hodgson (1971).

• In his latest piece of Barney Bubbles detective work, Paul Gorman discovered the identity of BB’s first design employer, the alluded to but never named Michael Tucker. More surprising for me than the Robert Brownjohn connection is that there’s now a tenuous link between Barney Bubbles and William Gerhardi.

777 classical music album covers from the collection of Dr Horst Scherg. Related: The Golden Age of Wacky Classical LP Covers — Westminster Gold and the Westminster Gold discography.

Chez Fini: Little Augury looks at the work and workplaces (and cats!) of the marvellous Leonor Fini.

• There’s yet more Lovecraft (and much else besides) in Nomad Codes, a new book from Erik Davis.

• The Irrepressibles: “They’re scared of what we’re going to do next”.

• New Scientist asks Is this evidence that we can see the future?

Of Electricity And Water: A Thomas Dolby Interview.

Jarvis Cocker talks to Brian Eno.

Fuck Yeah, Gay Vintage

Hog Callin’ Blues (1962) by Charles Mingus. Play loud and often.