Led Zeppelin – Presence : 1976
My favourite Hipgnosis cover ever. It’s so..weird. And when I first saw it back in 1978, even then it had this particular kind of nostalgia to it. Each and every one of the photos on the cover just screams 1970s, yet the motifs have a strange 1950s feeling to them.
Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell let their imagination run wild back then. So many amazing albums covers from so many bands. But there’s no doubt that the work they did for Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd is among the Hipgnosis best-known artworks. The same suburban, middle-class figures at work or play were also used for 10cc’s ‘How Dare You’. Looking at them today is like looking through a mirror that reflects a very different time.
There is mystery to the album art of ‘Presence’. Even to this day the collection of manufactured and very “fake” photos is enigmatic enough to keep you company throughout the whole of the album. Who are these people? Why do they seem so happy in the company of the «object»? What’s the deal with the teacher holding one hand on the pupil’s head and the other on the object?
As a piece of album cover art, it is unparalleled not only when it comes to rock music but also in Hipgnosis’ portfolio.
I’d be lying if I said that ‘Presence’ is my favourite Zep album. It isn’t. For years I struggled with it. ‘Achille’s Last Stand’ is a standout album track, so is ‘Tea for One’ but everything between those two songs…Hmm, not so much.
But I’ve grown to love all of it. It is (as always) immaculately produced, even if it has a «colder» atmosphere than all the other Zep albums. And in turns of musicianship, it is also unparalleled. Bonham’s drums and Jones’ bass are so much in synch that you could almost accuse them of having a psychic connection.
But it’s the album art that keeps me coming back. Never before has such a perfect symbiosis between music and design existed. This is a perfect example of why we attached emotional ties to the LP as an ‘object’.
Frode Singsaas | Now Spinning Magazine