Top 10 Pink Floyd Album Covers

Pink Floyd Album Covers

Photo: By Paul Carless [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During the Fall of 1975, I was walking past a record store in Long Island’s SmithHaven Mall, when a large poster caught my eye in the window of Sam Goodys. At the time, Sam Goodys was one of the largest record chain stores in the State of New York. The poster that caught my attention featured two men shaking each other’s hands. While pictures of men shaking hands may not be that unusual, the aspect that one of the men was on fire somewhat deviated from commonalty. I was only thirteen at the time and was just learning about music, so at that particular moment in time I had never heard of that guy, “Pink Floyd.” However, the album cover looked so cool and interesting that I begged my reluctant mother to buy the Pink Floyd album for me. I brought the album and was completely surprised by what I heard when I got home. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. While listening to the music, the cover still made no sense to me, but I loved staring at it while listening to the songs. Somehow that made sense in a somewhat ambiguous way.

But this list is not about the music, it’s about choosing some of the best Pink Floyd album covers. In the days of the LP, cover art played a significant role in point of purchase. Most fans that grew up buying records throughout the sixties to mid-eighties are filled with stories of staring at the cover art while listening to the vinyl in the still of their bedrooms.  We tried to figure out what those Pink Floyd covers actually meant. After a bit of research in preparing this list, some questions may have been answered.

# 10 – The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Pink Floyd Album Covers

The cover art to the Pink Floyd album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” stands as one of the few times that members of Pink Floyd were pictured on the cover of a vinyl album. The album was Pink Floyd’s debut record and was released on August 5th 1967. The cover photo was shot by photographer Vic Singh. The photo was shot through the glass of a prism lens. The concept of the artwork was to mimic the visualized response of an LSD trip.In 1967, LSD was a popular drug used by the youth culture that intertwined within the concepts of psychedelic music and art. What was most interesting about the cover shoot besides the concepts of psychedelia was that the prism glass was given to the photographer by The Beatles George Harrison.

# 9 – Meddle

Meddle Cover

The Pink Floyd  Meddle album was released on October 30th 1971. There has been some rumble over the years that this was one of the worst Pink Floyd album cover ever released. The Hipgnosis art design  art group who were responsible for the artwork of many of the Pink Floyd covers have also commented that they were not happy with their work for the Meddle cover. I have never agreed with those arguments for one simple reason. For thirty years, I have been trying to figure out what was being displayed on the cover. The perplexity of the photograph and design gave no indication as to what I were actually staring at. The ambiguity of the design is what made it most interesting to me and why i have included it on the Top 10 Pink Floyd album covers list.

The Pink Floyd box set Shine On defined the process and intent of the cover of Meddle. On the cover was a picture of an ear underneath the water.  The large size of the ear was meant to “represent the musical nature of events.”[1]  It was also explained that the water’s rippled effect suggested a disturbance in the process of hearing. Because of the use of a special type of photographic equipment that was used on the picture, the image appeared upside down and reversed, which basically explains the mystery behind the photograph.

[1] Storm Thorgerson, Stylorouge, Pink Floyd Box Set, Pink Floyd Music, Sony Entertainment.1992

 

# 8 – A Momentary Lapse of Reason

Pink Floyd Album Covers

If only they had Photoshop in 1987, Pink Floyd would have saved a great deal of money in the process of shooting the cover for their “A Momentary Lapse of Reason,” album. Shot on the Santron Sands of North Devon, photographer Robert Dowling and creative designer Storm Thorgerson utilized the deployment of eight hundred hospital beds on the sands for their epic shoot. On the first day of shooting it began to rain, so the crew had to dismantle all the beds and begin again the next day. It took three tractors and thirty workers to move, deploy and position the beds on the sands. Looking closly at the picture, one can see that all the beds were also made up with sheets and blankets The utilization of hospital beds defined the concepts of madness or illness which derived from the title of the album. It  was a brilliant and thoughtful artistic design that merged the concepts of production and artistry into an award winning photograph by photographer Robert Dowling and one of the most interesting Pink Floyd covers of the band career.

 # 7 – Animals

Pink Floyd Album Covers

I wonder how many people realize that the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals album was an actual photograph of a blow up pig flying over the factory.This was at least a decade before computer programs and even computers were available to utilize in artistic design.The first version of Photoshop was not released until 1988.

On the first day of the shoot, the pig broke free of the strings that attached it to the building and floated away before descending onto a farm in Kent. The shoot went on for three days and eventually, the pig balloon from day three was pasted into the photograph of the building from day one. In essence it was still a picture of a pig floating above the factory building, it was just mixed and matched because of lighting issues with the real sky backdrop.The shadows on the buildings, smoke from the smokestacks, the floating pig, and the overall color of the photograph made the Pink Floyd Animals cover a work of art that stands as one of their most recognizable designs.

# 6 – Ummagumma

Ummagumma

Released on October 25th 1969, the Pink Floyd album cover art for their LP Ummagumma was one of the early album covers designed by Hipgnosis. One of the most interesting covers by way of the use of the Droste Effect. However, Pink Floyd album cover designer Hipgnosis altered the concept of the Droste Effect (image inside an image that repeats infinitely) by rearranging the band members inside each repeated window. The Ummagumma cover has always been one of the most fascinating covers for Pink Floyd fans as so many of us have always searched for hidden clues or deeper meaning behind the objects placed in the pictures. Why was that GIGI album placed on the floor? Why was the soundtrack to GIGI chosen as the album to placed in view. Those choices by Floyd and Hipgnosis are what has always made Pink Floyd covers a delight to own and analyze

# 5 – More

Pink Floyd Album Covers

The cover of the Soundtrack to the French film “More” was chosen to be listed in the Top 10 Pink Floyd album covers list because of the use of color against the silhouettes featured on the front cover artwork. Released during the summer of 1969, the orange hue of the cover might have been thought to represent a nuclear fallout in the shadows of the cold war era of the 1960s. The blue tone matched nicely against the orange in creating a ghostly effect that resonated with the ambient textural sounds that Pink Floyd had created for the soundtrack. However, the film had nothing to do with the Cold War or politics and was largely about heroin addiction.Yet the album cover art present a memorable and haunting image not easily forgotten.

# 4 – A Saucerful of Secrets

Pink Floyd Album Covers

The deep superimpostional mix of various items displayed on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets LP provides album purist with one of the best arguments for defending vinyl albums as the choice of media for rock music. There is no way that a small compact disk cover or even worse a digital cover icon can display the intricate designs  that a large 12×12″ album cover  presents to the viewer. Sad, sad, sad.(Yes I know that’s not a sentence)

A Saucerful of Secrets is one of the Top 10 Pink Floyd album covers for good reason.Released on June 29th 1968, the album was recorded at EMI studios nestled by the curbside of Abby Road. The album cover has been described by the band has “representing the swirling dreamlike visions of various altered states of consciousness.”[1]  One can look at the covers for hours and interpret the meanings behind the various images and colors. Album art is all about interpretation by the listener. Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets album cover provided ample opportunity to let the imagination flow no matter what state of consciousness held the listener captive.

[1] Pink Floyd Box Set, Pink Floyd Music, Sony Entertainment.1992 p.32

 

# 3 – The Division Bell

Pink Floyd Album Covers

Talk about making a statement. Bam! this covers hits you right away. Two head sculptures facing each other positioned in a large field at the break of dawn. Really didn’t know what it meant, but art is not always about interpretation, sometimes you just take art in and enjoy just the sheer beauty of the photograph. The silver color and sharp focus of the sculptures against the dim blue sky backdrop and brown fields, presented the viewer with a head turning photograph.(no pun intended) However, on repeated viewings I started to ponder the meaning behind the lights pointed at the mouths of both sculptures. And then Bam ! it hit me again. The four lights positioned at the mouth of both sculptures were actually positioned to represent the teeth of a single face staring into the camera. Okay, now maybe everybody already knew that, but it took me a few years before I saw it.

Storm Thorgerson had done it again. The brilliant Pink Floyd album designer had come up with a wonderful photograph of two actual sculptures shot with a real camera against a real backdrop. What may have seemed to be a normal process of creating photographic artwork with actual organic items has been somewhat lost in the modern day with the use of digital imagery. To be be able to visualize, create, and shoot such images requires the skill set of a brilliant and creative artist. Storm Thorgerson and his team at Hipgnosis created some fascinating Pink Floyd album covers over the years. The photograph that graced the cover of The Division Bell was one of Storm Thorgerson’s best.

# 2 – Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd Album Covers

Can you think of any other album cover or logo that defines the legacy of Pink Floyd more than the Dark Side of the Moon cover? Think about all the Pink Floyd tee shirts, calendars, posters, and notebook covers printed over the years. The majority of those items have all utilized the Dark Side of the Moon logo more than any other Pink Floyd logo in comparison. When looking at the cover I am reminded of the old blues musician saying of, “less is more.”  The cover design presented by Hipgnosis to the band Pink Floyd portrayed a simple black background behind the artwork of a prism and a spectrum of light.

The story behind the development of the cover artwork of Dark Side of the Moon began with the band requesting a few changes to the pattern of previous album cover designs. Roger Waters had spoken to Storm Thorgerson about the pressures of touring under the guise of ambition. Waters related his feelings about the madness of ambition and how the triangle was a symbol of ambition and thought. Richard Wright had wanted a more graphic and less pictorial album cover than the band had used on previous albums. Wright stressed the importance of having something, “a little more stylish than before,”[1] to quote Richard Wright’s own words.

The band had been presented with about seven different cover designs for the Dark Side of the Moon album cover. Within a matter of seconds, all band members picked the same prism cover. The Hipgnosis group has declared that presentation of the Dark Side of the Moon artwork as the shortest design meeting ever.[2]

The Dark Side of the Moon cover has been voted No 1 on many top ten Pink Floyd Album Covers lists. The album cover has also been praised as belonging in the top ten lists of the best rock and roll albums covers of all time. There is no denying the brilliance behind the design and the impact the album cover has had on the saturation of the Pink Floyd logo in popular culture in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. So, in the end, it was very difficult not to vote for the Dark Side of the Moon album cover to appear as No 1 on this list. But subjectivity is what lists are all about.

Dark Side Of The Moon inner cover

[1]Storm Thorgerson, Stylorouge, Pink Floyd Box Set, Pink Floyd Music, Sony Entertainment.1992

[2] Ibid:

# 1 – Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

When the Wish You Were Here album was first released, the vinyl packaging was wrapped in black plastic with only a sticker on the front cover. The sticker was circular in nature with two mechanical arms shaking hands. According to the liner notes of the Pink Floyd box set Shine On, the meaning of the handshake was to define an empty gesture The emptiness of the gesture had been a sad tribute to some of the past issues the band Pink Floyd had dealt with in the music business.Behind the black wrapping would be the classic album cover depicting two businessmen shaking hands. The picture of one of the businessman en-flamed was meant to represent the art of getting burned in a bad deal. The lives of musicians revolve around the results of bad deals. I am sure Pink Floyd has had their share of bad deals throughout their career. Or at least they were giving voice to the history of bad deals that have defined the plight of so many musicians.

One of the sentiments reflective of being burned in a bad deal or a relationship is the feeling of standing alone empty handed. The packaging of the Pink Floyd album featured many pictures that expressed the feelings of loneliness, despair, and the longing for lost ones. As clear as the title, Wish You Were Here, the artwork expressed the intent of the lyrical content on a different plane. But for young teenage fans, all those artistic interpretations were not as evident as the adult analysis.  Honestly, I got none of those graphic interpretations when I first purchased the record as a thirteen year old. I just thought it looked real cool and was something outrageous to show my other naive middle school friends who had never heard of Pink Floyd either. However the deep meaning behind the design of the Wish You Were Here cover presented fans with the most complex packaging the band had done to date. At the core of that packaging was the classic album cover that was utilized by Columbia Records in the promotion of the album. In the fall of 1975, that cover hung in the front windows of record store worldwide. Pages in rock magazines such as Circus,Cream, and Rolling Stone had been purchased to display large images of the Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here album cover. After the incredible success of Dark Side of the Moon, the band had their hands full in following up one of the greatest albums off all time. While mos fans would probably agree that as great as the music on the Wish You Were Here album was, the album still ranked behind the legacy of Dark Side of the Moon. But as far as Pink Floyd Album Covers rate, at least here on this list, it ranks easily as number one.

Use of Pink Floyd album cover art is protected under the United States Office of Copyright Fair Use Doctrine Section 107 of the Copyright Act that protects the authors right to show the art that is being critiqued in the article.


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