Something to watch tonight: Tuesday 19 December
Squaring the Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis (Corbijn, 2022)
Regular readers of this newsletter will know that I am a big fan of music documentaries, so much so that I have to ration them out lest they swamp all the other content.
Squaring the Circle is good (and different) enough to break through the firewall, partly because it is made by the photographer filmmaker Anton Corbijn (The Joshua Tree album cover shoot and the 2007 feature Control, about Joy Division’s Ian Curtis) and partly because it’s not really about music at all.
Aubrey “Po” Powell was a lonely teenager, effectively abandoned by his parents who chose not to return to England to care for him when he was kicked out of public school in the early 60s. In Cambridge, he struck up a friendship with the rascally Storm Thurgerson and his mates David, Nick, Roger, Rick and Syd who were about to become the Pink Floyd.
He and Storm stumbled into graphic design when they were asked to create an album cover for Floyd’s first album “A Saucerful of Secrets” and they went on to corner the market in rock, prog-rock and pop album covers for the next 13 years, despite being the most chaotic of operations and fractious of relationships.
You’ll know their work – and if you came of age during the punk period you will know and hate the music it represented – and the film is an intriguing mix of social history and design war stories, told mostly by Powell with help from many of his celebrity rockstar clients. The difficult Storm – about whom Floyd’s Nick Mason says “he was man who wouldn’t take ‘yes’ for an answer” – features in archive footage as he passed away in 2013.
It makes a refreshing change to hear from the likes of the living members of Floyd, Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel talking about something that they care deeply about but absolutely are not experts in. Regular music doco talking head Noel Gallagher is very funny, especially when he dishes on how much he hates the sleeve for “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”, Oasis’ biggest selling record and wishes he’d paid more attention at the time. “Who signed off on that? Oh, I did.”
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