Storm Thorgerson, one of the key figures in album art graphic design, and who created some of the most iconic album covers in rock history, including ones for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, died today at the age of 69. The artist died peacefully after having battled cancer for a long time, according to The Guardian.
The English-born Thorgerson had a storied career with the many album covers he created, but the signature one that may be the standout is the simple, yet stark and highly memorable triangular prism, emitting a rainbow of colorful lines set against a jet black background which made up the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, an album which became one of the biggest sellers of all time and just recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.
Thorgerson created, with his graphic design team known as Hipgnosis, classic records with iconic album covers like T-Rex’s Electic Warrior and Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, to name two, and created album covers for a virtual who’s who of British rock starting in the late 1960s into the early 80s, like Paul McCartney, Peter Frampton, ELO, UFO, The Moody Blues, and The Alan Parsons Project. He also had a solo career as well, which included a rich history with the aforementioned Pink Floyd, also designing other covers for them like the humans portraying the natural elements cover of Wish You Were Here and the pigs in flight over the industrial landscape which made up their Animals album. Thorgerson also came up with the final two original Led Zeppelin studio album covers: Presence, in which a small monolithic obelisk which was mysterious and hypnotic and placed in regular settings interspersed in photos throughout the album, and In Through The Out Door, which was a bar setting and released with different covers depicting various points of view from the subjects within the photo, packaged in a brown paper envelope and even had an album sleeve in which one could “color” the black and white imagery by simply wetting the image.
The surreal range and scope of Thorgersen’s work and art sometimes even trumped the records themselves and his work became somewhat instantly identifiable, as much as Roger Dean’s illustrative Yes album covers or Cal Schenkel’s work on many Frank Zappa releases.
He was versatile and ran a gamut with his art and choices, designing album covers for bands and solo artists as diverse as 10CC, Anthrax, Audioslave, Black Sabbath, Dream Theater, Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Phish, Rainbow, Styx, and lots more. Thorgersen also directed music videos as well, mainly during the decade of the 1980s and again, focusing his rich ideas visually in the film medium for artists such as Floyd, their guitarist David Gilmour, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, and possibly his most well known and most remembered, the video for “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” which was a number one hit for the progressive unit Yes.
Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour released a statement on his website about Thorgerson, explaining that “The artworks that he created for Pink Floyd from 1968 to the present day have been an inseparable part of our work.”
Taking obvious elements out of context were indeed Storm Thorgerson’s stock in trade. In his passing, he leaves behind an eclectic work which dazzled music fans and showcased his one-of-a-kind art. The man himself may have been an enigma in terms of who he was to many music fans, but the work is always right in the forefront and in many cases, as memorable as the artists that they showcased. Rest In Peace to a wunderkind illustrative and genius artist, Storm Thorgerson.
RIP – Storm Thorgerson February 28, 1944 – April 18, 2013