album covers explained


Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

  • EMI Harvest 1973
  • Design: Hipgnosis with George Hardie

On its release in 1973, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon topped the Billboard chart for one week and it was to remain in the chart for an astonishing 741 weeks until 1983, selling in excess of 45 million copies.

EMI Records were always a bit nervous about what Hibgnosis would come up with for a Pink Floyd cover. They didn’t understand or like obscure designs with cows, or covers that didn’t even feature the band’s name or album title. But Hipgnosis were employed directly by the band, and since that band generated BIG sales for EMI, the record company was obliged to take what was presented to them, whether they liked it or not.

The brief from Pink Floyd was to get away from photographic imagery and come up with a design that was, said keyboard player Rick Wright, “Smarter, neater…more class." 

The concept of the light passing through the prism was based around the idea of Pink Floyd being all about ‘sound and light’. The design itself was taken from an illustration in a science textbook in the Hipgnosis studio. The original illustration  was set against a white background but this was changed to black because it looked and felt far cooler … more classy even.

The light emitting form the prism breaks up into seven colors - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Indigo and violet are very similar tones and since the bands of color were a purely graphic not a scientific device, indigo was dropped and the prism emits only six colors. The bands of color continue around onto the inside cover where they become a pulsating heartbeat to echo the sound of heartbeats at the beginning of the album. For the purpose of in-store displays, the outer and inner spreads all line up to make a seamless continuation.

Inside the package were two 20” x 30" posters - one of live shots of the band and the other an infra-red photograph of the Great Pyramids at Giza, shot at night by Po and Storm. These Pyramid shapes echo the triangular shape of the font-cover prism and reflect themes touched on in the album lyrics. The British album had a blue poster and the US version a green poster. Finally, two postcard-size stickers illustrated by George Hardie completed the striking package.

The original artwork was created by George and consisted of a 'mechanical’ artwork. Technically speaking, this means the prism was airbrushed as black and white graphic and the spectrum colors indicated by trace overlays. The color separator then made the color plates form these overlays following the specification on the artwork to produce the color tints. The black background was produced by printing a solid black and a 50% cyan tint to give a very dense black. 

The album was remastered and re-released with variation to the design for its 20th anniversary edition, and the cover was recreated 'for real’ with photographer Tony May shooting a beam of white light passing though a glass prism. The spectrum’s seven colors were clearly visible against a paper background. 

And then in 2003 for the album’s 30th anniversary, Storm reproduced the original design in stained glass and and photographed it against a background of trees and buildings.

I wonder what’s on the cards for the upcoming 40th anniversary? 

(Does anybody have any requests?)