Eye of the Stormby Dylan Muhlenberg / 17.02.2010
As convenient as an iPod is (other music players are available), the problem with technology is that it strips music of its tactile aesthetics. It’s one thing having the complete Pink Floyd back catalogue on mp3, but to have hard copies in LP, especially when it doubles as art, well that’s connoisseurship.
When I was still a little spermatozoon chilling in my daddy’s nuts, he used his first SADF pay packet to buy himself an amplifier, a turntable and a pair of speakers. 21 years after fighting my way out of my mom’s vagina I inherited all of this along with his music collection, which comprised mainly seventies rock bands like Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Rolling Stones and what-have-you. Then he had a vasectomy and now he listens to Pink. Anyway, I’ve still got my balls and a hard-on for vintage rock. So obviously I went to the Storm Thorgerson exhibition at the Bell-Roberts Gallery, which came to Cape Town a few years back.
Storm Thorgerson is responsible for rock-art that’s covered Floyd, Led Zep, Sabbath, Audioslave, The Mars Volta, and more. The visual language speaks of surreal tongue in cheek imagery that Storm calls exstallations – installations in outside places. Indifference is futile.
Says Storm: ‘I like to create things that are unlikely (dog in designer shorts), unbelievable (beds on a beach) and unacceptable (setting a man on fire) which might incline people to doubt what they see.’
Thorgerson has created 20 Pink Floyd album covers, has been nominated for seven Grammy awards, been honoured by Billboard and MTV as best director and has had five Rolling Stone covers.
So, how’s he do it?
Speaking of his company Hipgnosis, Storm says: ‘Rather the computer in the head than the one on the desk. We like to think of ourselves as translators. We hope to translate an audio event, the music, into a visual event – the cover. We invariably listen to the music in question, read and re-read the lyrics and talk in depth – or at least as much as they permit – to the musicians about their work. We try jolly hard to be original, as much as one can ever be. We stage events, erect sculptures, invent complex props, build sets, orchestrate actors – in effect we arrange the improbable, locate it in some unlikely spot and then take a carefully composed photograph.’
Well if I include Waddy Jones then this article is bound to go viral, and so in order to get more hits I’m obliged to mention Die Antwoord. Like Storm, they understand a thing or two about the complete package. That music isn’t just about the music, but has got to do with the bells and whistles too. Just look at how many mainstream people wear Ramones T-shirts without knowing anything about their music. It’s like Francois van Coke’s manboob says, ‘But you don’t really care for music, do you?’ And that, friends, is the power of album art, that it can convince someone to give a band a listen based purely on an image. And when that image complements the sound, well that’s music to anyone’s ears.