Toyah Willcox: Sheep Farming in Barnet, 1978
Art Direction / Design: Bill Smith. Photography: Andrew Douglas
Toyah Willcox: “I come from the generation where an album cover is considered a work of art, as much a part of the album as the music contained within the package. Shooting Sheep Farming In Barnet was as anarchic as making the music and touring during the height of the punk movement in the UK. Bill, myself and my then wonderful partner Gem Howard drove to Yorkshire and broke into the Fylingdales Early Warning Site to get an actual photo that could today be photoshopped. Because we were on MOD land we got chased off but managed to get the desired picture and I got to stash the film in my underwear!”
Bill: “Toyah was no diva. She wanted good work and was willing to make the effort, foregoing the usual entourage of vanities for a bacon butty in a motorway cafe.
“RAF Fylingdales is and was a military radar base and part of the NATO ballistic missile early warning system. It’s still there but the ‘golf balls’ seen on the album cover have been replaced by a more modern tetrahedron structure.”
The Cure: Three Imaginary Boys, 1979
Art Direction / Design: Bill Smith. Photography: Martyn Goddard
Bill: “I found Robert [Smith] a bit distant and uncommunicative, but when he did say something it was very articulate, but he gave me no real clue as to what they wanted on the cover. It seems Robert wasn’t particularly happy with the music on the album and ultimately, not very happy with the visual elements either.
“I had been looking at modern artists like Jeff Koons and pop artist Richard Hamilton, where they had used domestic appliances within their collages/installations. I also wanted to make the shot look like a page in an Ideal Home magazine circa 1965, maybe to accent the band’s suburban roots.
“Much to the band’s annoyance there was some brouhaha about the band members as domestic appliances – was Robert the fridge or the lampstand?”
Various Artists: NOW That’s What I Call Music, 1983
Art Direction / Design: Bill Smith
Bill: “I was one of a small number of agencies called in to ‘pitch’ ideas for the cover. I decided that NOW was a strong ‘call to arms’. It was full of current hits that should be listened to NOW, it made sense that we should feature the artists’ photos on the cover, so fit them all inside the word.
“In the end it isn’t the world’s greatest design I don’t particularly like the font I used but I can say I was there at the beginning of the NOW history.”
Kate Bush: Hounds of Love, 1985
Art Direction: Kate Bush / Bill Smith. Photography: John Carder Bush. Design: Bill Smith Studio
Bill: “Working with Kate was always a joy, she had the whole picture in her head for each project, the photos were normally ready for us to work from, we’d discuss ideas on layout and typography and then she would leave us to get on with it.
“Dealing with so many different artists over the years, I found it much easier to work with people who had a clear direction in which they were going, our job with Kate was to help her get what she wanted for each cover.”
Led Zeppelin: Remasters, 1990
Art Direction: Bill Smith. Image manipulation / design: Bill Smith Studio
Bill: “Now when it comes to design by committee, this one takes the biscuit! Three different band members each with their own manager and a deceased band member with his trustee all wanting a say, a major record label on both sides of the Atlantic and six design agencies all doing pitches.”
The Rolling Stones: Jump Back, 1993
Art Direction: Bill Smith. Photography / design: BSS
Bill: “A mash-up of Mondrian, Gilbert and George, Glam and Rock.”
Alison Moyet: Voice, 2004
Art Direction: Bill Smith. Design: BSS. Photography: David Scheinmann
Bill: “Alison was easy to work with, very self-deprecating and honest in her views of her own work as well as ours.
“Alison was adamant that the album be titled Voice, just Voice because that was what she was all about, she was spot-on. The album included tracks such as Almost Blue, Cry me a River and Alfie – jazz standards, as well as classic Chansons. I got the feel of her singing in a jazz club, shot in black and white and with a hint of Blue Note album covers.”
Cover Stories is out on May 27 (Red Planet Publishing).