Great artists turn limitations into strengths. Case in point: the cover art for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, the subject of my latest post in a series that celebrates memorable album covers.
The story of this astonishing design begins in 1972, when Led Zeppelin, at the height of its creative powers, commissioned the Hipgnosis team, led by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, to design the cover for the band’s new album. Led Zeppelin had already recorded a diverse body of songs for the new LP, ranging from the soaring “Song Remains the Same” to the quiet, romantic “Rain Song.”
But Thorgerson and Powell were given access to none of the songs on the album. The only creative direction the band gave Hipgnosis was that the title of the forthcoming album was Houses of the Holy.
This was no small assignment. Led Zeppelin was one of the world’s most popular and powerful bands, with an image steeped in dark mysticism. As Thorgerson would remember in For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis, “Something large, strong, powerful, awesome and mythic was clearly called for but what would that be?”