Storm Thorgerson, over the last few years of his life, was an artist truly racing to realise as many of his ideas as possible in the time he had left; time he knew was borrowed. Though he was battling a serious illness there was never any question of his letting up the pace.
Storm was working on several print editions with us right up to the end of his life, and no doubt all kinds of other projects with other publishers, clients, galleries, musicians. The triptych edition Opposites, from the Biffy Clyro artwork, and a set of nine images produced with Aubrey Powell at Hipgnosis many years ago; these both made it through approval at his bedside. Stacks of prints were brought to him there for signing, at his insistence.
Storm's self believe and the force of his passion for the sleeve design genre fuelled a loyal and passionate following - both public and professional.
Here are some of his best album covers in our opinion, along with annotations by the man himself.
10cc Look Hear
"This picture of a sheep on a psychoanalytic couch was designed as a poster insert for 10cc's 1980 album Look Here. The band had asked for 'something different'. I decided to take them literally and suggest something without imagery, without imagery? Bit like shooting myself in the foot. "I suggested that the album cover was verbal, like a newspaper headline, large fragmented text, no imagery. I thought it was more engaging to ask a question and between us we came up with 'Are You Normal?' as if the viewer were barmy, which somehow applied to the intrinsic madness of rock'n'roll, of 10cc....."
Pink Floyd A Momentary Lapse of Reason
"The design for A Momentary Lapse of Reason by Pink Floyd came initially from a line of lyric, namely 'visions of an empty bed' from the song Yet Another Movie. The line prompted 'a vision of empty beds' stretching into the distance, winding away from the camera like a river, as in 'river bed'. It seemed preposterous enough to suit the album title: loads of empty beds sitting on a beach certainly constituted something crazy, an act of madness, a momentary lapse of reason at the very least.
"Who but the Floyd would be crazy enough to endorse shooting a vast number of empty hospital beds on a sea shore? And pay for it, the lovely crazy fools."
Riff Raff Vinyl Futures
"Since the album was called Vinyl Futures and the band called Riff Raff the combination called for something quirky but to do with vinyl. The model’s face and particularly his expressions inspired the finished cover. The image was shot in an old train carriage to add to the quirky feel we wanted"
Steve Miller Band Water Guitar
"Steve Miller is very much about guitars and I was trying to think of a way to imbue a guitar with all the emotion and artistry that is part of Steve Miller. So I imagined that this guitar was full of water, and the people were pouring the water or their emotions or their history or stories into the guitar or into the song that the guitar was playing."
Thornley Tiny Pictures
“So... is it a travel weary image for a much travelled rock'n'roller Ian Thornley? Is it a suitable case for treatment? A nut case? Or indeed a head case? Or is it about luggage? - one takes ones luggage/baggage with one as one travels though life, ain't dat de troot. Maybe it's a left luggage repository at the back of Heathrow's notorious Terminal 5, and the cases have temporarily arranged themselves to communicate with the visitor. 'Sorry madam your case is not here'. The star of the show is of course the dog Chester, known in his local park as Chester the Molester - I just thought you'd like to know that.”
Pink Floyd Atom Heart Mother
"I wanted to design a non-cover, something that was not like other covers, particularly not like other rock or psychedelic covers – something that one would simply not expect. Not shocking, not mind altering, just unexpected. The cow was, in fact, more eye-catching than I had ever dared imagine; it was so different because it was so normal: so ordinary it stood out a mile. The cow was your regular cow, your standard cow, what every cow should look like.
"To Pink Floyd the cow seemed suitably resonant, but unrelated and certainly open to different interpretations. For them, Atom Heart Mother was the big breakthrough in the UK despite the fact that the record company hated the cover. Still, nobody knows the nature of the link between sales and design, if one exists at all...."
Read Storm Thorgerson remembered by Aubrey Powell in Guardian Art & Design from April 19th 2013