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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Pink Floyd, 'Wish You Were Here' (1975)
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A. Powell Graphics: G. Hardie Retouching: R. Manning © Pink Floyd Music Ltd6/15

Pink Floyd, 'Wish You Were Here' (1975)

The idea for the cover came from the band talking about the insincerity of the music business. You know the lyric on "Have a Cigar," "Which one is pink?" That was a true story of a record company asking, "Well, which one of you guys is Pink?" So the album's lyrics were all about insincerity and absence, the latter particularly in the sense of Syd Barrett, like how the industry is a movable beast that actually takes casualties with it. Syd Barrett was one of them, and inspired "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."

So the band and Storm and I thought about ideas related to absence and insincerity in terms of business. There was a great expression at that time, "Man, I've been burnt," like ripped off. Storm said to me, "Why don't we set something on fire?" You know, it was kind of like, one of those mad ideas. "What about two businessmen shaking hands, and one of them is on fire."

So I flew to Los Angeles and found this guy, Ronnie Rondell, who was a stuntman. He agreed to be set on fire a number of times. So we did it on the back lot of Warners in Burbank. As you can imagine, it's a very unpleasant experience being set on fire, and it's very dangerous because you're standing still. Normally, with a fire shot, somebody's moving. They're running away from your face. But we were lucky that afternoon. There was no wind. I shot it 14 times. On the 15th time, a gust of wind caught up and blew the fire straight into his face. Immediately, his team jumped on him, sprayed him with extinguishing foam and saved his life. He just got up from that and said, "That's it. I'm never doing this again." But I had it in the can.

The singe on the corner of the cover was just an added little trick. That was Storm. I personally preferred it without that, but we worked as a partnership. Lots of people like the singing on the edge. It makes it another dimension. Yet another world.

The photograph that I love more than anything on Wish You Were Here is the diver, which is on the inside cover. I'd done a reconnaissance with a plane over Lake Mono in Northern California, and I thought, "This is an interesting place with all those incredible stalagmites and stalactites and that." And we had to get a special yoga chair made to sit in the mud, and I got a stuntman who could hold his breath for a long time. It had been windy all day, and as he went into position, the wind dropped and the lake went flat. And it was the most beautiful, beautiful, calm evening. And I got the shot. That stillness, without any ripples, is about absence. There's no sign of any splash.

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