led_zeppelin_houses_of_the_holy_avant.jpg

    O.k. I know the two-tone burning Zeppelin image is the Zep equivalent of the Stones’ tongue logo but when I think of Bonzo and co. album covers – I think of Richard Drews’ novelty rotating disc sleeve for Led Zeppelin III,

    led_zeppelin_iii.jpg

    Peter Corristons‘ Physical Grafitti,

    ledzeppelinphysicalgraffitialbumcover.jpg
    led_physical_graffiti.jpg

    and 1973′s Houses of the Holy, designed by Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson.

    To be honest I’m not a huge fan personally of the art for Zeppelin 1 and 2. The fourth album was branded with the cool zep-occult symbols and gave us the straw carrier and the torch bearer but I find them a little too closely related to the billions of shithouse druid-loving fantasy art metal album covers that came after them. CODA has to be one of the worst album covers of all time (and not in a Millie Jackson way). Presence had some great photography accompanying the record (also by Storm Thorgerson) and may well be the classiest zep cover but for me, Houses of the Holy is direct, efficient (in a long-winded, fantasy-art way) and a great representation of a band turning from ye olde metal/folk blues into something more universal .

    Like the band themselves (and I love Zeppelin) the ‘Houses of the Holy’ cover art is all grand ingredients; pompous, epic nonsense – juvenile fantasy – innocence/sexuality (see Blind Faith post for a more direct example of nudie kids in rock art history) conceptual mysticism, dynamic contrasts, big effects (for the time) and, ultimately, more depth than a concept that is potentially lacking ‘seriousness’ (again, like the band) might have achieved.

    Thorgerson, Powell and (later) Peter Christopherson were the core of London-based Hipgnosis (not the polish electronica outfit), something of a popular choice for 70′s rockers, having also done Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes, Styx and other contemporary album covers.
    Wikipedia claims Thorgerson was fired after getting on the wrong side of the band with an idea involving an electric green tennis court – but Aubrey Powell’s account implies the band simply opted for one of two ideas from the design team.

    The design itself was inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi story that contained a final act where loads of semi-formed human children run, like lemmings, off the edge of the earth (I always found the fact that no children are facing the camera a little ominous and this backstory makes them even creepier).

    led-zeppelin-houses-of-the-holy-back.JPG

    led_zeppelin_houses_of_the_holy_a.jpg

    Powell explains the shooting conditions at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland at superseventies.com

    - “I shot the whole thing in black and white on a totally miserable morning pouring with rain.” Though the cover appears to be one wide-frame photograph, it is actually a collage of thirty different shots; only two children posed for the shoot. “Originally,” says Powell, “I’d intended the children to be gold and silver. Because I shot in black and white and it was a gray day, the children turned out very white. So when we hand-tinted it, the airbrush artist, by accident, put a kind of purple tinge onto them. When I first saw it, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then we looked at it, and I said, ‘Hang on a minute — this has an otherworldly quality.’ So we left it as it was.”

    img_12994_musicglanc_1.jpg

    It’s definitely a side effect of living in an age that plunders the past for modern ideas but the fact these images could still sit comfortably (apologies to anyone noting the cart before the horse) underneath a Wolfmother or Priestess logo gives creedence to clarity of the concepts and the contribution Powell/Thorgerson made to setting a standard for contemporary 20th century album art design.

    Originally, the album was released with a thin paper cuff, featuring the bands name and album title, which covered the little phosphorous asses of the kids.
    Unfortunately, just like 2 years earlier, the Spanish government went a bit pink in the cheeks and banned the album (apparently some southern states in the U.S. did the same) and the familiar image is now the one with Atlantics’ contribution to ‘functional’ design.

    The almost hand-drawn, thin-lined, b&w font actually looks great with the photo, complementing the big chunks of colour and soft edges of images – but it’s in the wrong spot innit?

    zep1.jpg

    Zeppelin excelled the way a talented athlete does – by moving, running, jumping, sweating – and attacks on their contributions to ‘serious’ art/music are like chiding a football team for not knowing how to long divide without a calculator.
    So to me, even tho’ some of Led Zeppelins’ artwork may seem a little hokey, including this one – Houses of the Holy remains the perfect banner for it’s team at the time. Confident, epic, menacing, naive and (sorry about the poor pun) cheeky…

Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy

    led_zeppelin_houses_of_the_holy_avant.jpg

    O.k. I know the two-tone burning Zeppelin image is the Zep equivalent of the Stones’ tongue logo but when I think of Bonzo and co. album covers – I think of Richard Drews’ novelty rotating disc sleeve for Led Zeppelin III,

    led_zeppelin_iii.jpg

    Peter Corristons‘ Physical Grafitti,

    ledzeppelinphysicalgraffitialbumcover.jpg
    led_physical_graffiti.jpg

    and 1973′s Houses of the Holy, designed by Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson.

    To be honest I’m not a huge fan personally of the art for Zeppelin 1 and 2. The fourth album was branded with the cool zep-occult symbols and gave us the straw carrier and the torch bearer but I find them a little too closely related to the billions of shithouse druid-loving fantasy art metal album covers that came after them. CODA has to be one of the worst album covers of all time (and not in a Millie Jackson way). Presence had some great photography accompanying the record (also by Storm Thorgerson) and may well be the classiest zep cover but for me, Houses of the Holy is direct, efficient (in a long-winded, fantasy-art way) and a great representation of a band turning from ye olde metal/folk blues into something more universal .

    Like the band themselves (and I love Zeppelin) the ‘Houses of the Holy’ cover art is all grand ingredients; pompous, epic nonsense – juvenile fantasy – innocence/sexuality (see Blind Faith post for a more direct example of nudie kids in rock art history) conceptual mysticism, dynamic contrasts, big effects (for the time) and, ultimately, more depth than a concept that is potentially lacking ‘seriousness’ (again, like the band) might have achieved.

    Thorgerson, Powell and (later) Peter Christopherson were the core of London-based Hipgnosis (not the polish electronica outfit), something of a popular choice for 70′s rockers, having also done Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes, Styx and other contemporary album covers.
    Wikipedia claims Thorgerson was fired after getting on the wrong side of the band with an idea involving an electric green tennis court – but Aubrey Powell’s account implies the band simply opted for one of two ideas from the design team.

    The design itself was inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke sci-fi story that contained a final act where loads of semi-formed human children run, like lemmings, off the edge of the earth (I always found the fact that no children are facing the camera a little ominous and this backstory makes them even creepier).

    led-zeppelin-houses-of-the-holy-back.JPG

    led_zeppelin_houses_of_the_holy_a.jpg

    Powell explains the shooting conditions at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland at superseventies.com

    - “I shot the whole thing in black and white on a totally miserable morning pouring with rain.” Though the cover appears to be one wide-frame photograph, it is actually a collage of thirty different shots; only two children posed for the shoot. “Originally,” says Powell, “I’d intended the children to be gold and silver. Because I shot in black and white and it was a gray day, the children turned out very white. So when we hand-tinted it, the airbrush artist, by accident, put a kind of purple tinge onto them. When I first saw it, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ Then we looked at it, and I said, ‘Hang on a minute — this has an otherworldly quality.’ So we left it as it was.”

    img_12994_musicglanc_1.jpg

    It’s definitely a side effect of living in an age that plunders the past for modern ideas but the fact these images could still sit comfortably (apologies to anyone noting the cart before the horse) underneath a Wolfmother or Priestess logo gives creedence to clarity of the concepts and the contribution Powell/Thorgerson made to setting a standard for contemporary 20th century album art design.

    Originally, the album was released with a thin paper cuff, featuring the bands name and album title, which covered the little phosphorous asses of the kids.
    Unfortunately, just like 2 years earlier, the Spanish government went a bit pink in the cheeks and banned the album (apparently some southern states in the U.S. did the same) and the familiar image is now the one with Atlantics’ contribution to ‘functional’ design.

    The almost hand-drawn, thin-lined, b&w font actually looks great with the photo, complementing the big chunks of colour and soft edges of images – but it’s in the wrong spot innit?

    zep1.jpg

    Zeppelin excelled the way a talented athlete does – by moving, running, jumping, sweating – and attacks on their contributions to ‘serious’ art/music are like chiding a football team for not knowing how to long divide without a calculator.
    So to me, even tho’ some of Led Zeppelins’ artwork may seem a little hokey, including this one – Houses of the Holy remains the perfect banner for it’s team at the time. Confident, epic, menacing, naive and (sorry about the poor pun) cheeky…





14 Comments

  1. I was of course exposed to this album in a different way…

    Ted: “470 BC. A time when much of the world looked like the cover of the Led Zeppelin album ‘Houses of the Holy’.”

    Bill: “We were there. There were many steps and columns, it was most tranquil.” (gives a thumbs up.)

  2. This cover is a great example of the Hipgnosis working method in the Seventies which was often photo-collage used to create the kind of disjunctive effects one can achieve a lot more easily today using Photoshop. Even apparently simple compositions were created this way, with b&w photo prints that were then hand-tinted to create a surreal or hyper-real effect. Very time-consuming but the effects they achieved were striking and memorable.

    The Art Nouveau-style lettering for this album was drawn by illustrator Bush Hollyhead. Hipgnosis also did the sleeve for Song Remains the Same and designed the logo for Zeppelin’s Swan Song label around this time.

    It’s a shame the two Hipgnosis books have been out of print for years, they were created by the company themselves and are essential for anyone interested in this period of album cover art and graphic design in general.

  3. hahaha love the Wolfmother digg :)

  4. Also I know there’s an article somewhere about the brother and sister in the cover.

    They redid the photo shoot again when they were older.

    I’ll see if I can track that down.

  5. Wonder what became of the kids on the cover…

    …oh, here it is:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/showbiz/showbiznews.html?in_article_id=500606&in_page_id=1773

  6. sorry for the long link.

  7. Oh damn… I just realised that there was a whole lot more analysis / pics hidden behind the RSS feed… I might have to go thru the last 200+ feeds and see what else you had to say…

  8. BTW… I’m not sure that LZ would get away with that cover these days… It would probably get classified as kindy-porn…

  9. Great post!

  10. iam very love led zeppelin

  11. What about “Can’t Buy a Thrill” by Steely Dan?

  12. i live in the U.S. and you could listen to almost every song on this CD {houses of the holy} while driving through the countryside on a warm sunny day. i mean the song remains the same has been a favorite song of mine forever

  13. I love this cover. It’s been published (by Rockoptic) as a limited edition fine-art print and signed in pencil by Po (Aubrey Powell). It’s available on our website http://www.hypergallery.com

  14. Oh, by the way, the Arthur C. Clarke story you mentioned in the article? It’s Childhood’s End.

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