was a tough one at first. If you are into classic rock or
grew up in the seventies it was impossible to avoid the music
of Led Zeppelin, unquestionably one of the most influential
hard rock/blues acts of all time, widely imitated and adorned,
hell even Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler mentioned what
a huge influence they were to his band other than the Stones.
though we can argue about the most popular Zep image (The
Zeppelin of the first Album cover, the old man of the 4th
album, etc.) I went for HOUSES OF THE HOLY. A number of reasons,
a great design and art that does not have the stamp of time
b) I was coming of age at the time and I remember that album
all over the record stores
c) Great story behind it, and as I mentioned earlier I am
a sucker for Hipgnosis artwork.
PROJECT: Jimmy Page called the studio one day and asked Hipgnosis
if they were the guys who had done the ARGOS album cover for
WISHBONE ASH (another great cover) and would they want to
do the next Zeppelin Cover? Considering the fact that by now
Zeppelin had become one of the biggest acts in the world Hipgnosis
be lined right to the management’s office.
were met by Page, and the band’s intimidating manager
Peter Grant. Asking them what ideas they had, Peter Grant
was physically massive, suspicious, intimidating, and excited
all at the same time. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes that
had their ideas scribbled on the back, HIPGNOSIS had two concepts.
The first one was to plow the plains of NAZCA with the ZOSO
symbol in Peru. The other was to have silver painted family
climbing a mystical place to a power source (LED ZEPPELIN)
The idea based on ARTHUR C. CLARKE’S CHILD HOOD’S
END. Arthur in latter years said that he was flattered that
his book was the inspiration for HOUSES OF THE HOLY as ZEPPELIN
was one of his favorite bands.
response was unanimous, do them both!!! Hignosis explained
that this would cost a lot of money, “We don’t
give a F#%k about money!” Peter Grant said. (Ah! those
were the days). HIPGNOSIS were never given such carte blanche,
“ we are leaving for Japan to tour” Page said”
if you don’t want to do both then pick whichever you
think works best.”
wanting to piss off archeologists world wide and governments
by scarring up the plains of NAZCA (remember this was before
Photoshop, and HIPGNOSIS liked doing it for real!) and not
really wanting to be climbing the foothills of PERU, they
went for the other idea. The location they chose was THE GIANT’S
CAUSEWAY IN NORTHERN IRELAND. They also figured that Irish
mysticism was just as good as Peruvian mysticism and was closer
to Zeppelin’s roots.
the idea was of a family climbing the rocks, they decided
on just the children in the end as a more powerful statement.
Although during the shoot there were five models, three adults
and two children (actual brother and sister.) So every morning
at 4:00 am for a week the models were painted gold and silver
and driven to the location from the hotel to be photographed
during a glorious sunrise that never happened! It was cold
and wet and it rained all week, a nightmare. Hot coffee, brandy,
tranquilizers, turpentine to wash off the car paint as the
make up ran out, misery, damp beds, and “in the end
I was never used!!!” one of the adults said although
they gave me 100 pounds.
the end HIPGNOSIS shot it and realizing the color photos unusable
had them processed as black and whites. They then did a collage
(sticking the same various poses of the same two children
in different ways) re photographed it then toned it in sepia
and had their associate PHIL CRENNEL airbrush it with color
and retouch it to produce the desired look. This was a process
they had perfected and used a lot of times in the future.
presented the finished art to the band when they returned,
they had caught lightning in a bottle the results although
accidental at points were amazing. The band’s name and
album title appeared in a Japanese paper obi (basically a
ribbon that was wrapped around the album that you had to break
to open the cover and get to the record.) So that the cover
was pure and appealed to Zeppelin’s anti commercial
also concealed the children’s naked bums, which became
a problem later on. Jimmy Page thought that it really captured
the moment, and that is the highest compliment you can get
earn as a designer.
AND WHERE ARE THEY NOW:
the proofs came back from the printer they looked awful, the
cover had this day glow orange and the children were purple.
An angry Peter Grant had Atlantic fly Hipgnosis to NY and
put up in a luxury hotel where they stayed for weeks until
the cover looked perfect. (like I said those were the days.)
album was banned in Franco's Spain (because of the naked kids)
and the American Bible belt (on the other hand some things
Gates (the little boy in the photos) later laughed and said
as to how he use to pick up girls as a teen by taking them
to the record store showing them the album and saying “Yep
that’s my butt right there!”
though they did not do Physical Graffiti the follow-up Zep
album which ironically had the title track of HOUSES OF THE
HOLY Hipgnosis did all the ZEP albums afterward including
CODA and the live album.
disbanding in the early 1980’s and getting into the
MTV VIDEO biz, Aubrey Powell worked with Jimmy Page and Robert
Plant again by directing NO QUARTER the VH-1 special.
exhibits and still does the occasional record cover (AUDIO
SLAVE, MEGADETH, MARS VOLTA, PINK FLOYD, CRANBERRIES) his
stuff still is incredible.
Grant sadly passed away after an illness in the mid 1990’s
although he lived five lifetimes as the manager of truly the
first wave of super groups in Rock.
remaining members of the band have remained active in various
projects and did a couple of re union appearances during LIVE
AID and ATLANTICS ANNIVERSARY PARTY, after the sad death of
drummer John Bonham.
rumors surface every other year of a ZEPPELIN reunion tour,
personally I think it will be like the Beatles; they will
never stop until they are long gone.
for me my wife is a huge Zep fan so I get a good dose every
now and then and remember the summer of 1973 .
can visit Storm's website here
can visit Led Zeppelin's official site here