Hipgnosis' Life in 15 Album Covers: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and More

Upon release of new book 'Vinyl . Album . Cover . Art,' studio co-founder Aubrey "Po" Powell unpacks striking images created for Wings, AC/DC and more

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Led Zeppelin, 'Presence' (1976)
Pho Cover Design: Hipgnosis/ G. Hardie Photography: A. Powell © Mythgem Ltd10/15

Led Zeppelin, 'Presence' (1976)

At that point in Led Zeppelin's career, things were getting quite dark. They weren't getting along quite as well as they were around Zeppelin III or Zeppelin IV, and Jimmy was in quite a dark space, I think. But it was the same story as with Houses: I got a call from Jim; he said, "We need ideas." "Do you have a title?" He said, "I'm not telling you. Haven't any music for you to listen to." I think they were recording in Stockholm or somewhere like that and I always remember he said, "See me in three weeks and come up with some ideas."

Storm, myself, George Hardie, Richard Evans, a couple of other guys who used to work with us sat around and got a bit stoned to think up ideas. Somebody said, "Imagine a party where everybody has a black cat, because people love stroking cats. Imagine if people stroked cats and they got an energy from it, like a battery or something like that." Black cats – it's too silly, it's too obvious. So we said, "Let's think of something else that's not a cat that will be kind of interesting."

I said, "What about a black object?" The film 2001 has the black slab at the end of it when he's going through space. And it just fit into place. The original black object that we made up was made up of cardboard and black velvet, and actually it was straight; it wasn't twisted. I went to see the band, and I had the object sitting on a table in the hotel room. Robert and Jimmy walked in, and Jim took one look at it and went, "That is it. That represents everything that I feel right now." And I had a series of pictures that I had torn out of National Geographic magazines from the 1950s and just painted in black paint that exact shaped object with ordinary people in ordinary situations. In other words: This was something you needed to live. It was food. It was a symbol of energy, of power, which is what Led Zeppelin were. 

It was so brave of a very, very heavy rock band to take such a surreal idea. I mean, a family sitting at a boat show with a black object on the front is that Led Zeppelin? I don't think so. But if you take it another way, yes, it is Led Zeppelin. On the back cover, you've got a school teacher with a child with a black object on the desk teaching the child. The power of teaching. You know, it's all there. Again, I take my hat off to band for having the balls to take such an outrageous idea. It's all about power. That's what Led Zeppelin were about: power. 

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