5:02 PM GMT 17/05/2013
With mega-multi-disc "Immersion Editions" of The Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here due imminently - an arrival heralded this week by MOJO magazine's unmissable Pink Floyd tribute issue - MOJO nabs artwork nabob Storm Thorgerson to talk us through the themes and logistics behind the Wish You Were Here album cover.
"Speaking non-egocentrically, I still think the design for Wish You Were Here is great," says Thorgerson, whose company Hipgnosis designed almost all of Pink Floyd's album sleeves.
While buoyed by the success of his rainbow prism design for The Dark Side Of The Moon, in early '75 Thorgerson was struggling to think of an image for its follow-up, just as the band was struggling to make the album: "Once we got the theme of absence - of physicality, emotion, commitment and talent - the rest seemed to follow."
Wish You Were Here's artwork represented the four elements: fire (the burning man on the front), water (the diver in the lake, originally used on a postcard inside the album), air (the red veil in the wind on the inside sleeve) and earth (the back cover's bowler-hatted 'invisible salesman' in the desert). "With the artwork of Wish You Were Here, you know what's going on but not how or why," he says. "Part of the intention was to seduce the viewer into looking again. What is happening? Is he really on fire?"
Well, yes - he really was on fire. The two men shaking hands on the front cover were stuntmen Ronnie Rondell and Danny Rogers, shot on an empty Hollywood film lot. A gust of wind blew the flames from Rondell's asbestos suit into his face, and he had to be doused with a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile, the diver upside down in California's Lake Mono was a yoga practitioner able to hold his breath underwater "until the ripples had subsided and we could shoot a perfectly still lake."
Thorgerson pitched his ideas to Pink Floyd and manager Steve O'Rourke in the Abbey Road canteen, and received a round of applause ("The last time that ever happened," he grumbles). Storm's final brainwave was to conceal the sleeve in black cellophane wrapping. "So not only was the theme absence, but the cover was absent. EMI were not impressed. But after we stuck a cow on the front of Atom Heart Mother they knew that anything to do with Pink Floyd was difficult."
Interview by Mark Blake
Read the full story of Floyd's journey from The Dark Side... to Wish You Were Here in this month's MOJO magazine, on sale now.
Regular issues feature both albums on one CD, re-covered in their entirety by contemporary artists.
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 9:00 AM GMT 23/08/2011