A not unsignificant part of the charm and appeal of what many Canterbury music fans (including yours truly) consider a prime example of the genre lies in its unique and amazing cover design. It was the work of Laurie Lewis, who went on to design the cover for the follow-up The Rotters’ Club and for National Health’s s/t début [more on those in future blog posts]. The following is drawn from interviews with Pip Pyle and Laurie himself.
Laurie Lewis became involved with Hatfield as a result of his friendship with Pip, who recalled –
I met him through Alfreda Benge who had been to the Royal Film school with him. He also studied film at the UCLA. He made a couple of independent films, one of which I did the music for, but I don’t think it ever got distributed. He then went on to make hundreds of band videos and album sleeves. I think somewhere along the line he overdosed on all that, and he went on to become the regular photographer for ballet and opera for the Independent on Sunday.
The cover has a shot of a town in Iceland with a montage in the sky which is really beautiful. The inside is a shot of us recording in the Manor studio into which he collaged the Northettes, Robert, flying dogs and the Bonanza cowboys.
Let’s look at the outer cover first. The photograph, remembers Lewis…
…was taken on a large format Panoramic camera in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1973, having been commissioned by the Natural History Museum in London to shoot pictures of the volcanic eruption in the Westman Islands.
Pip wanted something to evoke the North and the Nordic legends, so I looked for another image that reflected his idea and found a fresco by Signorelli with a rather savage depiction of Dante’s Inferno. Merging the two transparencies, pre-computer, was tricky and costly.
In 2015, Mike Grant at the Virgin Records 1970s/80s Facebook discussion group posted photos taken by his friend Ingvar Vikingson, who had managed to track down the location used on the cover.
The original photo was taken from the upstairs window of a nearby flat. Sadly no one was home, so the nearest comparison was taken from a garage roof.
The inside gatefold cover was a sophisticated collage, the basic idea suggested by Pip Pyle, who explained :
I always remembered the scene on the ship in the Marx Brothers film [A Night at the Opera] when about 300 people land up in Groucho’s cabin – that was what we imagined. After all, there’s quite a lot of guests on the record that we weren’t accustomed to on stage !
Of course, the band members themselves are featured, alongside guest musicians Geoff Leigh, Jeremy Baines, Robert Wyatt and the Northettes. Remembers Lewis –
I photographed the band while recording at The Manor. The picture of Robert was taken elsewhere.
Outtakes from the same photo session at The Manor later appeared on the cover of the (excellent, needless to say) Hatfield archive collection Hattitude.
Then there are a few more surprising characters : the four cowboys from the American TV series Bonanza (including a young Michael Landon) and a magician throwing a flying dog. Remembers Lewis –
It was Pip’s idea to make the whole thing a collage, using old-style cut-and-paste adding other characters like the Bonanza cowboys, and the man with the flying dog, taken from a photograph by Jacques Henri Lartigue. I re-photographed the artwork and coloured the print by hand.
The original Lartigue photograph was cut out [I have reversed it horizontally to make it more recognisable] –
As was the Bonanza photograph, which appeared on the cover of this 1962 publication –
Explained Pip –
The idea I’d discussed with Laurie was to make the studio shot as chaotic and stupid as possible. I think we both thought the Bonanza cowboys filled the second requirement nicely.
I, somewhat naïvely, asked Pip if he was a fan of either Bonanza or Bob Hope, who received an intriguing “thank you” note in the credits.
No, we certainly weren’t, we positively LOATHED both ! Bob Hope, when heckled whilst compering the Miss World Contest, had retorted to the bloke heckling him that he must be on “some kind of drug”. I don’t think the cockney rhyming slang (Bob Hope = dope) was in current use then, though it probably came about because of the Miss World Incident.
Concluded Pip –
Marvellous stuff !