The Death of the Artist in Everybody’s Collection

Dan Flynn pays tribute to the greatest album cover artist ever, Storm Thorgerson, in “The Death of an Artist in Everybody’s Collection“:

His greatest critical if not commercial triumph may have come not with his pre-fame friends in Pink Floyd but with a similarly experimentally minded artist. Peter Gabriel didn’t name his early albums. Hipgnosis’s cover art did. The singer’s third solo effort, officially titled Peter Gabriel like the two albums preceding it, unofficially became “Melt” because of the arresting black-and-white image of the singer manipulated to look as though his flesh dripped off his face. Thorgerson created that one, as well as “Scratch,” in which Gabriel’s fingernails leave a trail of white streaks. Thorgerson’s car appears on—what else?—“Car” by Gabriel. Akin to The Beatles’ “white album,” Gabriel’s early releases go by the names the cover graphic bestowed upon them rather than their proper titles. …

If cassettes and CDs supplanting vinyl didn’t signal the end of cover art, then certainly digital downloads did. The LP record awarded Thorgerson a canvass a foot long by a foot wide. Steve Jobs reduced these visuals to roughly the size of a Starburst candy. Small is the new big. Something gained, something lost—what we reclaim in shelf space we miss in aesthetic beauty.

Storm Thorgerson understood visual for people who understood aural. He also knew when to die. Cover art, like the vinyl discs they protected, play about as vibrant a role in contemporary pop culture as the Victrola. Album art is sadly gone. So is the man who most excelled at creating it.

5 thoughts on “The Death of the Artist in Everybody’s Collection

  1. Pingback: The Death of the Artist in Everybody’s Collection | suzzeq's Blog

  2. eheter

    While I certainly understand the lamenting of the passage of the LP for the cover art aspect, I think artists can still take advantage of the current technological landscape to package art with their music – even with digital downloads. Tablets have really worked their way into the mainstream of consumer technology, and the tablet offers a lot of possibilities for visual accompaniment if the artists choose to take advantage of it. Just having a digital booklet to thumb through while listening to a corresponding album on the same tablet enhances the experience of both. I can imagine where artists could put links to websites, embed videos and do other things within that format. Here’s hoping there is a Storm Thorgerson for the digital age thinking of such ideas.


    1. eheter

      I would love that!

      Here’s something that is not too far off from what I was thinking in my previous post:

      The author of a book on Genesis is going to now make an app for the same, with the app being a multimedia creation including music and other media.


  3. As I have blogged elsewhere, I went to one of his exhibitions a few years ago with two floors full of his work. I am lucky enough to have bought a ltd edition print of an unused cover for The Mars Volta album, Amputechture and this hangs proudly on the wall of my music room. I also exchanged words with the great man at a post-launch event. He seemed very humbled by my praise for his work. I do not think the album cover is dead at all. Certainly vinyl is becoming quite fashionable in the UK and there is plenty of scope with digi-packs.
    Long live album art !


Leave a Reply to moreccom Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s