Is Album Artwork Still Important?

Is Album Artwork Still Important?

Album artwork is half art and half science. With so many artists and music releases out now, it’s even more important to have artwork that will capture the audience’s attention. In this post we will look at an album that has one the most iconic art of all time; Led Zeppelin’s self titled debut album.

Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album, Led Zeppelin, has one of the most dramatic art covers of all time. The album cover was designed by George Hardie, who also worked on the album cover for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (Colothan, 2016). It features a distorted image of the Hidenburg disaster. The Hidenburg disaster is a catastrophic event that occurred in 1937, in which a Zeppelin (a lavish skyliner invented by Ferdinand von Zeppelin) ignited in mid-air, resulting in the death of 36 people (Time, n.d.).”

Album artwork is “an important aspect of the creative process… which triggers all kinds of feelings and emotions (Shah, 2015).” The aesthetics of Led Zeppelin is bold, and conveys to music fans that they are about to hear an explosive and daring album. According to Jimmy Page, “the idea… was to use the impact of [the event] but use it in a graphic interpretation… It’s Led Zeppelin’s first album so it’s really good to go in there – not quite like a lead balloon – but like a streaming rocket… It’s a dramatic incident, it’s a dramatic album, it’s a dramatic statement. (Time, n.d.).” The artwork brilliantly captures how monumental this moment is, and communicates to the world that something unforgettable is transpiring.

The artwork is a metaphor in itself. It’s play on the band’s name, Zeppelin, but also playing on the saying, go down like a lead balloon (which means fail wretchedly). According to Jimmy Page, Keith Moon came up with the name Led Zeppelin, during a studio session in which John Paul Jones, himself, Nicky Hopkins, and Keith Moon worked on “Beck’s Bolero,” for Jeff Beck. Moon jokingly said they should form a band and call themselves Led Zeppelin, because a band like this “can only go down, like a lead balloon (Fricke, (2012).” The name stuck with Jimmy Page, and he would later use it when forming a band with Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham.

Hardie discusses how he used a “radiograph [to stipple] a facsimile of the famous photograph to avoid copyright problems (Cartwright, 2016),” but the impact of the image is still major. The Hidenburg disaster “helped bring the age of [Zeppelin] airships to a close and [serves] as a cautionary reminder of how human fallibility can lead to death and destruction,” but the band used the image to usher in “the era of album rock (Erlewine, n.d.)” and show the world that music can rebuild humanity in a world of war and chaos. The story behind the artwork continues to captivate audiences and illustrates how art can fortify an album.

References

Cartwright, J. (2016, October 10).  The first thing I ever designed: George Hardie on why Led Zeppelin I “Wasn’t really a proper idea.” Retrieved from http://forums.ledzeppelin.com/topic/24028-artist-george-hardie-on-led-zeppelin-i-cover-design/

Colothan, S. (2018, September 20). 50 facts about Led Zeppelin’s iconic album covers. Retrieved from https://www.planetrock.com/news/rock-news/50-facts-about-led-zeppelins-seminal-album-covers/

Erlewine, S.T. (n.d.). Led Zeppelin Biography. Retrieved from https://www.allmusic.com/artist/led-zeppelin-mn0000139026/biography

Fricke, D. (2012, December 6). Jimmy Page: The Rolling Stone Interview. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/jimmy-page-the-rolling-stone-interview-101221/

George Hardie. (Graphic Designer). (1969, January 12). Led Zeppelin [digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Led-Zeppelin-1/dp/B000002J01

Shah, D. (2015). The importance of album artwork. Retrieved from https://humanhuman.com/articles/the-importance-of-album-artwork

Shere, Sam. (Photographer). (1937). (1937, May 6). Crash of the Hindenburg, Lakehurst, New Jersey [digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/crash-of-the-hindenburg-lakehurst-new-jersey

Time. (n.d.). Time 100 photos. Retrieved from http://100photos.time.com/photos/sam-shere-hindenburg-disaster

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