Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon – 3/1/1973

I’ve talked about personality-based bands before; most of the best bands are based on not just music but who is making that music. The Beatles are an excellent example. So much of their popularity (at least initially) came from who they were as people, not just musicians. The fact that they were four very visible and appealing youngsters gave their fans something visual to latch on to, something that went beyond mere music. The Beatles’ fans felt that they knew them as people, that every time they played one of their records they were inviting friends into their home.

Personality is a distinct advantage, but the flipside is when you don’t have the musical chops to back it up. Countless artists and bands use up their musical cache in one shot, creating the cliché of the One Hit Wonder. OHWs get by on their one hit and make up for the rest in personality. Their flame is bright, but it quickly burns itself out.

And then there are personality machines, the boy bands and girl groups and the like. These musical acts are all personality, with little to no musical merit to them. Only a miniscule portion of the thought and energy put into their creation is spent on the music they perform.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, you have Pink Floyd. If acts like the Spice Girls, One Direction, Ke$ha, and the New Kids On the Block are all personality and no music, then Pink Floyd is the exact opposite – all music and a distinctly absent personality. Granted, they were around before this modern age of musical artist being recognized for how they look just as much as how they sound – we have MTV to thank for that. But the fact is that Pink Floyd are really just four quiet, shy, unobtrusive Englishmen, and much more representative of the typical British citizen than other more flamboyant and radical acts. Where Brits like Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Johnny Rotten explode in a fury of “look at me, look at me,” Pink Floyd is almost anonymous.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a visual element to what they did – quite the opposite, actually. Pink Floyd is one of the pioneers of visual spectacle in rock music. At their live shows, they used to have a huge screen hanging from the roof of the stage on which they would project multi-colored psychedelic abstracts, moving and pulsating like the band itself. And in 1982, they made a feature film to go along with their 1979 concept double album, The Wall.

Pink Floyd’s album covers, though, are probably the most striking way they set themselves apart. Seven of them were designed by Storm Thorgerson, and a few more by Hipgnosis, the studio he heads. Pink Floyd had a very lucrative partnership throughout the 70s until he and Floyd bassist Roger Waters had a falling out. In the early 80s, Roger had a further falling out with his band mates and quit. David Gilmour kept making Floyd records, and Storm came back to design those.

Storm’s work is vivid, unsettling, and a special and unique sort of beautiful. When you look at a Storm picture, it’s like you’re an alien looking quizzically the strange planet called Earth you’ve just arrived at. In many instances, they have subtle yet scathing messages, while others are simple yet difficult to interpret. And Hipgnosis is responsible for one of the most famous covers in all of rock and roll history, and it’s nothing but light passing through a prism.

The cover for Muse’s Black Holes & Revelations, designed by Storm Thorgerson

Those who know of the relationship between Thorgerson and Pink Floyd just assume that he designed the cover art for The Dark Side of the Moon, but actual credit goes to George Hardie, a designer at Hipgnosis. It came out of Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright’s request for something “simple and bold.” The folks at Hipgnosis came up with seven different designs, and the prism one was agreed upon by the band members to be by far the best.

The triangle features into the design of the album in more than just the cover, too. Inside the gatefold is an infrared picture of the Great Pyramids at Giza, designed by Storm and Hipgnosis co-founder Aubrey Powell. The original LP also came with several triangle-themed stickers. I’m not sure what the triangle symbol means, but my guess would be something to do with the triangle’s long association with mysticism and esoteric knowledge.

Next: that geezer was cruisin’ for a bruisin’.