Pink Floyd album cover art work
Below are my thoughts on Pink Floyd album cover art work.  I was surprised to find that I did actually like some of the more simplistic covers.  I am usually more attracted to complexity and multiple layers of discordant information (visually and, often, musically).  Anyway, here’s what I thought (compiled from several emails on the subject).

Albums by the whole band
The Piper at the Gates of Dawn -  Extremely cheap!  I really thought they should have gotten Roger Dean (of Yes’ album covers fame) to paint up some fantasy background to go with the tone and subject matter of the majority of the songs.

A Saucerful of Secrets -  Believe it or not, this is one of my favorites.  It is really busy, but, for some reason, it works in this case.  It’s what I think of when I hear the word psychedelic.  I always imagined that I could climb inside this cover or decode it or something.  Of course, this is way too small to appreciate as a cd cover.  Years from now kids will ask what were they thinking making the writing so small on “The Wall” album cover of their thumbnail-sized DACs (digital audio chips).

More -  Okay, this is hardly original, but it’s such a juxtaposition I like it.  The color is like sci-fi or something, but there’s a windmill.  What’s up with that?!  With the computer-aided visual editing available today, there is so much more they could have accomplished by running things through several effects (and, like audio effects, the order in which you apply them matters a lot!).

Ummagumma -  This one is just all right (the four interpolated pictures), but I never thought it grabbed your attention.  For that matter, the music didn’t either.  Still, they are both sort of “natural” feeling.  And again, this is probably too small on the cd cover.

Atom Heart Mother -  Um, cute, but why a cow?  Like the title itself (you know the story behind it, right?), this just seemed like something grabbed at random and slapped on with little consideration.  I read an interview with Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) in which he talked about working with Strom Thurgeson to design a cover for them (I think he ended up doing Houses of the Holy and maybe a couple others).  Page said one of the ideas he brought in was something like a picture of a lime green colored tennis racket.  Page was like, “What the fuck!” and just about fired the guy.

Relics -  As a kid I had the tape with the mask on the cover.  I wasn’t crazy about it, but grouped with all the others it was kind of weird.  Still, I always thought of PF as a sci-fi band, and this was way too primitive.  The blue cover (based off of the line drawing version?) was really neat.  There’s sort of a Terry Gilliam (of the Pythons) feel to it.

Meddle -  When I was a kid I used to have a subscription to National Geographic’s “World for Kids.”  In the back they always had these close-up shots of common items and you had to guess what they were.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Obscured by Clouds -  Ditto.  Focus the camera, dammit!

Dark Side of the Moon -  Finally, a cool one.  I think this, The Wall, and AHM are the three most immediately recognizable covers from a distance.  I loved all the stuff mixed into this packing though: the pyramids with the prism, etc.  Again, a code to crack!  My favorite thing about this was the front-to-back-to-front continuity of the white light broken apart, reassembled, and round and around (pun) again.  They probably should have played this up a little more in ways you suggested, but it’s a good metaphor for the recording process on this album.  This album probably holds the record for the most individually recorded elements assembled into a single structure of any album.  And then you can start adding the sound fx (especially the clocks) and quadruple that number!

A Nice Pair -  This was a good laugh.  I think this is exactly the sort of thing they should do for a reissue of this sort: a one-time joke.  Not especially clever; no staying power, but cute.  Supposedly there are visual references to other Floyd projects, but I’ll have to look at this one again to see for sure.  Curiously, all I can remember at the moment are the pair of tits.

Wish You Were Here -  I only owned the tape of this one for about 10 years before I got the cd.  No kidding.  Somewhere during that time I realized that the actual cover wasn't the pair of robot hands, but the guy on fire.  Honestly, I like the robot hands picture better.  I think that, of all the pictures in the packaging, they should have used the guy swimming in the sand for the cover and moved the original cover to the inside.

Animals -  Just for a laugh they should have put a picture of a matronly figure with a heart with an atomic symbol on her chest.  For the next decade no one would have been able to keep straight which was Animals and which was AHM.  Actually, for a long time I don’t think I even knew there was a pig in the picture.  Who needs one anyway?  The picture looks great without it.  I didn’t even realize it was a photo for several years.  I originally thought it was a painting until I read the Miles photo-documentary.

The Wall -  As stated above, this is just great.  I love the contrast between the straight-lined bricks and the sloppy brush stroked writing.  Then when you open it up there’s this whole alien world inside.  Before I ever saw the film I used to have weird dreams about what the story was based on the lyrics, artwork, and effects-laden sounds throughout the whole album.  I think it would have been cool to hint at what was on the inside through a hole or holes in the wall.  I wouldn’t have gone so far as to place a distinct character on the cover, but maybe a worm or a few slithering through would have been creepy enough to make you wonder what’s on the other side.  For the back cover (which is unused on the original album if memory serves correctly) I think the back of the band (as though performing to a wall in front of them) would have been cool if it was executed carefully.

A Collection of Great Dance Songs -  This just looks a little too rigged (um, no pun intended).  You can see them starting to get into this era of “shooting on location” that they have continued to the present (Pulse excluded).  As with Animals, the title and cover are too close conceptually.  This picture would be great on the inside, but I think something sort of monolithic would have been more appropriate.  This would probably work better as a segment in the High Hope mini-movie than as a cover.

The Final Cut -  See, this is the monolithic thing working again.  They put all the wild showy stuff on the inside.  You buy it for the music or because it’s got “Pink Floyd” written on it, but you aren’t sucked in by the graphics.

Works -  I wasn’t sucked in by the graphics in this case.  Whose idea was this cover?  Whose idea was this album?  I don’t know what I would have done in this case.  I had forgotten about the pink paint until I looked at it again.  Again, that’s too literal for my tastes.  To me, that’s like a guy playing a concert with his band’s logo on the t-shirt.

Momentary Lapse of Reason -  You can guess my opinion on this one: Too much!  I think this would have been much more interesting as a drawing.  I like the tenuous hint of a connection between the cover concept and album title.  However, the visual interpretations of the songs are obscenely close for a band as notoriously ambiguous as Floyd.  I wish they had left off the dogs, hang glider, etc., and just stuck to the guy/beds/beach.

Delicate Sound of Thunder -  This is another “Say what?” cover for me.  Interesting, but pretentious.  I would have done something that would covey the fact that is a live album (though not with a literal reference).  Now that I think about it, this reminds me of one of those performance art pieces.  The light bulbs are sort of silly.  Peter Gabriel’s "Sledgehammer" video predates this so it looks sort of derivative since there is no connection to anything else.

Shine On boxed set -  First of all, I don’t like the title (too obvious a reference; I’ll forgive Echoes, but not this one).  Second, the cd packaging sucks.  The cover is pretty, but I think it’s all a little over the top.  I guess an exception could be made here because this is a boxed set, but I think I would (again) have moved the cover to the inside and put something emblematic out front.  I haven’t seen the inside of this, so I can’t say more about this one.  I would like to believe that there was some connecting thread from the cover throughout the package, but I don’t see any hint of that.

The Division Bell -  I really, really do not like this cover.  Take the heads away and it works though.  They could have some up with something better than this.  They were really stretching to make a reference to the album title.  How about something to do with computers, mathematics, fractions, whatever?  Stone heads, I don’t think so.  Ironically, this is a case where they did follow through (somewhat) with the two faces theme inside the packaging.  I would like to hear them do that musically again since they really haven’t done that again since The Wall (similar rhythm guitar tracks on otherwise unrelated songs, multiple part songs, using the melody from "Another Brick" as the bass line for several songs, lyrical references elements of other songs (Worm, Your Honour, in The Trial; Mother, did it need to be so high; Empty Spaces as in the wall metaphor, etc.).  Of course, that was why The Wall is considered a masterpiece and people say, “Atom Heart what?”

PULSE -  Finally, a cool one.  They aren’t too blatant about referencing elements of Floyd’s history.  Subtle at last!  The blinking light on the other hand…  I hope this represents a new phase of cover art for the band, although at their present rate of output they’ll be lucky to turn out more than another two albums in their lifetime.

Is There Anybody Out There? -  I like it well enough.

Roger Waters solo albums:
Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking -  Cute as the hitchhiker is, this is a silly cover.  This just doesn’t gel with the music for me the way a lot of the other album covers did.  I did like the covers for several of the singles.  I think if the chick was painted and the background real it would have been more interesting.  The black censorship box wasn’t there originally.  However, since they added it, I would have added an additional box or boxes elsewhere to be silly and drive the point home (cover, say, her thumb).  The highway is too plain.  The truck from the cover of the single for “Every Stranger’s Eyes” (I think that’s where I saw it) would have been cool.

Radio KAOS -  I like this one.  The whole design (back and green computer type throughout) works pretty well.  It references technology without getting in your face.  Hey, they even managed a “secret” code on the cover.  Since there is a noticeable (by me anyway) absence of reverb in the music (counter to Floyd’s past and especially present "spacey" style) it makes sense to me that the graphics (I won’t call it artwork) would be 2-D.
*The code spells out the track listing (you have to do both the front and back covers to get the whole thing).

The Wall 1990- Berlin -  This one kind of annoyed me.  At the time I resented the break from the Gerald Scarfe artwork.  Now I don’t dislike it as much, but I have refined my resentment to the fact that they retained Scarfe’s designs (characters, etc.) without employing his style.

Amused to Death -  Stupid!  Again they used a photo where artwork (or a mix) would have better highlighted the important elements.  The concept borders on humor when the subject matter is supposed to be nihilistic.  A mistake!  I can’t see a literal interpretation of the title working as a cover, but something hinting at the meaning would have been preferable.  This cover denotes animal behavior experiments for me.  It really doesn’t strike me as socio-political commentary.

In the Flesh -  This is a really bleak looking cover.  For a live album you may not want to make it look like a party, but as least imply that the people who went to the show had some fun!  I haven’t listened to this one all the way through.  Again they’re referencing old images just for the sake of referencing them.  Placing a pig on an album cover just because you did that twenty-something years ago is a pretty sad excuse.  Do something provocative not repetitive!

Dave's solo albums:
David Gilmour -  False advertisement.  Judging by the cover I thought I was going to get a country album.  This cover made me think they recorded this album in a barn.  They could have done a bit more than this though, honestly.  I thought the collage elsewhere in the packaging would make a more interesting album cover.

About Face -  Great photo.  What does it have to do with this album?  The music on here is much larger than the cover implies.  I would have used a panorama shot of nature.  I have no idea why.

Syd's solo albums:
Madcap Laughs -  This looks like they were playing off the fact Syd was a whacko from the start.  The bad lighting works here.  I hope it was intentional and not just a low budget or an inexperienced photographer.

Barrett -  I like this one a lot.  It’s abstract like Syd’s mind.  It’s bugs like… well, you know Syd.  Incidentally, the artwork was actually by Syd himself.

Opal -  Spooky.  Syd turns to the dark side.  I drew a picture of this one when I was a kid and it turned out pretty cool.  Syd looked like a gothic superhero like Batman without the mask; a guy who hides in the shadows.  I guess that explains his popularity.  Syd’s too.

Rick's solo albums:
Wet Dream -  This is really neat one.  I think I like it more than most people like the music on this album (which I’ve never heard all the way through, btw).  I can live without the artists' faces on their album covers.  By contrast, that’s all the Police ever did, and Sting has continued that trend almost without fail through his solo career.  I consider that a little conceited.  One of Roger’s few redeeming traits is that he relegates images of himself to tiny inserts on the last page of his cd booklets.

Broken China -  I couldn’t remember what this one looked like.  I just remember black and white and that’s all, so I just looked it up.  Actually, it is kind of cool and simple enough to be used as an emblem.

Nick's solo albums:
Profiles -  Happy Halloween!  Believe it or not I have the LP of this album (or used to?), but I only listened to it once, and that was perhaps 10 years ago.

Fictitious Sports -  Modern art?  I’ve never heard this one, and I’m just going by memory of the picture of the album cover from the Miles book.

Some follow-up comments...
I would love to see a compilation of alternate versions of album covers: designs that didn't make it, the way they do with Star Wars pre-production work.  There are probably a lot of great stories out there.  I had never even seen the herd of cows photo.

My comment about Meddle's cover was meant to be derisive.  As I see it, the majority of PF's covers fall into 3 categories:

1) emblematic/monolithic: a single, easily assimilated image as with the DSotM prism;

2) photosurrealitic: weird juxtapositions of landscapes and such with unusual elements; and

3) abstractions: out of focus images lacking in significance to the music or concepts contained therein.

I can sort of see a tenuous connection between the title of Obscured and its cover, but Meddle was just unforgivable.

I was half-way kidding about the windmill from More.  I figured it was featured in the movie and likely held some significance to the plot, but I thought it made such an unusual contrast to see a traditionally pastoral symbol on this photographically manipulated landscape that was almost alien.  It was like seeing a cow on a Martian landscape.

I had forgotten about the other guy on the Delicate Sound cover.  I always picture the lightbulb guy, and I figured that was a reference to the light show aspect, but it didn't really imply a concert situation to me.  Maybe if he was on stage or something...?

I'm glad to hear there was in fact a design theme for the Shine On box set.  There are probably more advanced incarnations than what they did now.  I have seen a bunch of people use the covers, sides, etc. of the individual cds to make a larger image.  That has since gotten tired.  I'm sure they would do something different if they released it today.

Copyright analyticAle[x].
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