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The Inspiration Behind Pink Floyd’s 1997 Back Catalogue Poster

One of our most popular designs is our shot glass capturing the 1997 Pink Floyd “Back” Catalogue.

 

In celebrating 30 years of Pink Floyd’s music, we wanted to investigate the story behind this iconic artwork.


In 1997, Pink Floyd was set on releasing a compilation of 6 of their previous albums while going on Tour featuring some of their most popular tracks.


The 1997 Back Catalogue Promotional Posters is one of the most iconic pieces of Rock History and has an interesting story behind its origins. This was actually only 1 of the 5 ideas that were pitched by Storm Thorgerson’s Studio, Hipgnosis, to EMI, Pink Floyd’s Record Label.


The original idea was to do a TV commercial. The actual TV ad they made was called Art Gallery, and featured people in an art gallery speaking in completely incomprehensible languages - Icelandic, Hindi, Japanese - about Floyd covers hung on the wall.

Here is the actual commercial that was aired:

The "backs" idea was intended to be a TV commercial, too, but EMI decided they liked this in addition to Art Gallery. So they commissioned him to photograph it, for a promotional poster.

Did you know that originally, the Graphic Designers wanted to paint the albums on the backs of boys and girls?

Because album covers are uniform in size and shape but the childrens’ backs were all different, this posed a problem.

Storm Thorgerson, the team’s Official Graphic Designer, comments,

We needed uniformity, and girls and boys’ backs are obviously quite different. We had to choose one or the other, and we chose girls – probably because we’re boys. It is a questionable thing on a PC level, and the photo has received some critical observations – most particularly by my partner. But most women I’ve shown it to don’t mind it. I just think that girls backs are more elegant than men’s backs, and I was going for elegance and shape here.”


When asked about the inspiration for the iconic picture, Storm Thorgerson, the team’s Official Graphic Designer, comments in his book, ‘Mind over Matter: the Images of Pink Floyd

“It came about when we were commissioned to advertise the back catalogue of Pink Floyd in 1996. There’s an incredible sense of humour in the Floyd camp, and they decided that the back catalogue should be literally, the catalogue on the backs.”  “So they commissioned me to photograph it, for a promotional poster.”

He continued,

“It was difficult to know how to use the album cover images again. You can’t distort them too much, or they become unrecognisable.  The “backs” idea seemed to be a nice way to re-present the images in a slightly different context, but still relatively clearly. It took us forever to paint the girls: they had to be still for five or six hours while their backs were painted by the very expert Phyllis Cohen.”

This classic picture commissioned by EMI in 1997, to cleverly advertise the release of the “back” catalogue of Pink Floyd was taken at a private indoor pool in Putney (London Borough of Wandsworth) by photographer Tony May in 1996.  The unknown nude models had the cover art of six Pink Floyd albums painted onto their backs by artist Phyllis Cohen.

The original concept and design of painting the Pink Floyd album covers on the backs of models was conceived by Finlay Cowan who worked closely with long-time Pink Floyd graphic artist Storm Thorgerson.

Many have wondered who the models in this iconic poster are and if they understood the incredible legacy that they were a part of. Below we have identified both the Album and the Model on whom the album cover has been painted:

Atom Heart Mother (1970) – model: Pauline Swain

Relics (compilation – 1971) – model: Julia Ashbury

Dark Side Of The Moon (1973) – model: Jackie St. Clair

Wish You Were Here (1975) – model: Mandy Lomax

The Wall (1979) – model: Jo Caine

Animals (1977) – model: Kimberley Cowell

Here is an alternate shot with the models positioned differently and the “Relics” girl (Julia) missing from the photo..


In his book, ‘Mind over Matter: the Images of Pink Floyd‘, Storm Thorgerson continues,

“It was difficult to know how to use the album cover images again. You can't distort them too much, or they become unrecognisable. The "backs" idea seemed to be a nice way to represent the images in a slightly different context, but still relatively clearly.

 

It took us forever to paint the girls: they had to be still for five or six hours while their backs were painted by the very expert Phyllis Cohen. From left to right, the albums are: 'Atom Heart Mother', 'Relics', 'Dark Side of the Moon', 'Wish You Were Here', 'The Wall' and 'Animals'. The co-designer was Finlay Cowan, and the photographer was Tony May.

 I think it's also very nice in that it's a photo of a group of people chatting. It's as if they're having a poolside chat, as they prepare to swim.”

 

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