9780500519325_p0_v2_s192x300Jonathan Meades at Literary Review:

The 12-inch 33rpm vinyl LP began to oust the 45rpm single in the later 1960s. Peter Blake’s endlessly imitated design for the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Andy Warhol’s banana for The Velvet Underground & Nico were as inspired as the music itself, and inseparable from it. These were, however, exceptions to the general rule that the cover should be little more than a flattering publicity shot, even if those depicted were dressed in Alphonse Mucha’s clothes. During the bad-hair decade and a half of its existence, from 1967 to 1982, the prolific design studio Hipgnosis seldom succumbed to flattery. Instead it relentlessly exploited the freedom and limits of the format in multitudinous ways.

It shunned the creation of a house style or ‘signature’. The quality of the work collected here is, then, inconsistent. If you are the kind of artist who insists on starting from zero over and again, it is inevitable that there will be failures. Nevertheless, the triumphs are many. As much as, or perhaps even more than, any of the musicians and borderline-psycho gangster-managers who gave them pretty free rein, Aubrey Powell (who answers to the name ‘Po’), the late Storm Thorgerson and the late Peter Christopherson embellished their era with a mix of thefts, ‘appropriations’ and so on.

At their best they created utterly memorable and oddly moving images. Whenever they could, they did something other than litter their work with mugshots of hirsute interchangeables. The images they created were swift, crisp, neat.

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