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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Every Picture Tells A Story, Don't It?

This morning i happened to listen to a radio programme, on Radio 4, all about the cover art for Led Zeppelin's 1973 album, "Houses Of The Holy"
 Cover Story - Houses Of The Holy.

Anyone who has ever seen the cover of that album, especially the original vinyl version, will probably remember it & if not, here is a reminder:

Pretty distinctive isn't it?

The programme was about one of the young children, who featured on the album cover. Despite there being several images on the cover, there were actually only two children. A brother & sister.

I must admit, i always thought, as did my wife, that the children on the cover were actually Robert Plant's. The singer with Led Zeppelin.
That is obviously not the case. The two children concerned were in fact models, who were used to appearing in adverts.

Well, the premise for the programme was that the boy in the photo, Stefan Gates, was somehow disturbed by that image. He saw it as almost apocalyptic, with the naked children climbing over the rocks, towards a strange orange sky.

Throughout the programme, both my wife & i kept looking at each other with an increasing sense of incredulity. It was very obvious, to us at least, that Stefan was making far too much of his "fears".
He was concerned about the child nudity, the disturbing vision that the cover art suggested & a feeling that he & his sister had been somehow exploited to produce the image.

He interviewed his mother, sister, the photographer & a respected Rock Music critic. All of whom seemed to think that he was making far too much of this. His sister even said as much.
The programme concluded with Stefan making a strange kind of pilgramage back to the Giants Causeway, in Ireland, where the famous photograph was taken.
Whilst there, it turned out that he had never actually heard the "Houses Of The Holy" album! WTF?

So, what's the point of this blog you ask?
Well, two points actually.

The first being that this, to my wife & i at least, was just an excuse to make a radio programme & possibly get some kind of attention from it. After all, i had never heard of Stefan Gates before today & i consider myself to be a big Led Zeppelin fan.
If he was really that disturbed about this whole episode, why did he have to go on national radio & make a big song & dance about it all? And make himself look a bit of an idiot in the process.
I have many ideas for possible radio programmes. Maybe i should submit them to the BBC?

My other point is that this is yet another case of somebody making a mountain out of a molehill.
Stefan spent the whole programme, reading far too much into what the real meaning of the album cover was & therefore worrying about it
Even the original photographer told him that it didn't really mean anyting. In common with many more album covers & especially those made by the "Hipgnosis" group, who actually designed this cover.
Hipgnosis are also famous for designing many Pink Floyd album covers.
Maybe Stefan can tell me what they're all about? I've been trying for nearly 30 years & haven't figured it out yet!

Art is so often misunderstood & so much, that often isn't really there, is read into it.
Apart from being misleading, that could also end up being dangerous.

Well, that's it, rant over.

There's just time for me to tell you that "Houses Of The Holy" is actually one of my favourite Led Zeppelin albums &, in my humble opinion, a very much under-rated album too.
OK, so it does have a couple of their worst songs on there. But, the rest are all crackers.

Guess what i'm listening to whilst writing this?


  1. Missed the doc but thanks for pointing this out. I wonder if the girl from the eponymous Blind Faith album will do the same.

    Houses of the Holy is not my favourite Zep album, but No Quarter is definately one of my favourite tracks.

  2. Great point about the girl from THAT Blind Faith cover. I think i'd accept her being a little traumatised because of that photo.

    They could do a whole series about album covers. Especially about the people featured on them. Maybe i should suggest that to the BBC?

  3. To me the image is apocolyptic, but hopefully so, if that makes senes. It's new life and a new beginning after the demise of the old, stodgy generation; it's Phoenix rising from the flames; it's a new generation born of, and saved by, rock 'n' roll.

    "As new life will come from death, love will come at leasure, love of love, love of life, and giving without measure..." oops, wait, that's the Moody Blues...

    While listening to the guy speak in the program (I'm halfway into it as I type), I can't help but to think, "Get life."

    Good question above about the Blind Faith cover and model; that's far more "racy" in my opinion (older child, front view). HoH is no more "sexualized" than your average diaper commercial.

    On Stefan's behalf, though, while he's making too much of this for the purpose of the program, at least he's laughing as his sister, mother, and photographer tell him he's being an ass.

  4. First off, i'm pleased that you were able to listen to the prog. So often these sites are blocked on the other side of The Pond.

    Your "get a life" comment is exactly what my wife & i were saying whilst listening. Maybe i was a little harsh on Stefan? But, i really thought he made far too much about it.

    That Blind Faith cover would never be allowed now. I can remember seeing it for the first time myself, all those years ago & it certainly made an impression on me then!