In the early 1970s, for a few brief years I was a shoe designer and ran a company called Daisy Roots Shoes with a very hip office-cum-showroom in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge and a retail outlet in Harrods’ Way In boutique. It was a lot of fun but after a few years my backer decided he’d had enough and pulled out. So I was left wondering what I might do next. I didn’t have to wait long . . .
I got a call one day from Po asking if I would come into Hipgnosis’ studio in Denmark Street to talk about designing a poster for Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack. I never did get round to doing that poster because I was sidetracked by Storm into helping him and Po do a ‘best of’ cover for Pink Floyd called A Nice Pair. And from that began my long career as an album cover designer.
Acclaimed author and music journalist Mark Blake has a new book out this week called Us And Them: The Authorised Story of Hipgnosis and this great book lifts the lid on what was an amazing part of my life, that to this day I am extremely proud and fortunate to have been a part of.
Us And Them tells the story of how Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell and Storm Thorgerson met and became friends in late-60s Cambridge and later set up a design group/art house that set the bar in the art of album covers for the next two decades, including creating milestone covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Paul McCartney & Wings, 10cc, Bad Company, and Peter Gabriel – plus countless others for bands and singers from the biggest of the biggest to the smallest of the one-hit wonders.
I worked for Po and Storm in their tatty studio in Denmark Street for several years as their in-house graphics man and I love this book. And having read it, I can honestly say it tells the story of Hipgnosis as I certainly remember it. The book is full of anecdotes and stories of how this and that cover were created and what the various individuals in the story went through to achieve these works of art. For works of art is what they really are.
Hipgnosis rode the crest of the wave in album cover design from the end of the 60s until the early years of the 1980s and, like so many things, its glorious heyday came sadly to an acrimonious end with Po and Storm falling out and not speaking for several years. But fortunately, they met up again and renewed their friendship before Storm’s untimely death in 2013.
With contributions from various designers, photographers, associates and friends associated with the studio (including myself) plus comments and anecdotes from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Paul McCartney, David Gilmour, Roger Waters and Nick Mason, from Peter Gabriel and Po and Storm themselves.
Picking out random excerpts from Us And Them, it becomes very clear that in their time, Po and Storm were world-class experts in the art of ducking and diving. In fact Robert Plant went so far to describe the pair of them – affectionately I might add – as ‘a right pair of chancers’.
I think my favourite quote in the whole book though, comes from Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason who sums Storm up as . . . “A man who never took yes for an answer.”
Us And Them: The Authorised Story Of Hipgnosis by Mark Blake, 382-pages, published February 2023 by Nine Eight Books.
‘Michelangelo was commissioned by the Doges, Stubbs by the landed gentry, and Hipgnosis by the reprobates of rock’n’roll.’ ~ Storm Thorgerson
‘This is a rollercoaster of a book, bringing the story back to life and explaining what it was like to live through the vinyl heyday.’ ~ Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell