I suppose you have to be of a certain type. You have to be of a certain age, a certain background, and have certain tastes. I saw that there was a showing of a documentary called Squaring The Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis) and immediately thought “Oooh…that sounds interesting!” I mentioned it to my long suffering wife and she looked at me blankly. She decided that she’d prefer to stay at home in her pyjamas rather than grab a big coffee, a bag of M&Ms, and go and sit in a dark room watching the story of the people behind the most iconic album covers ever.
I originally said “some of the most iconic album covers” but decided that I was being too tentative. Hipgnosis worked from 1968 to 1983 and they produced over 250 album covers; that works out at over one a month. And they produced covers for over 130 different acts across the majority of the popular music spectrum. Status Quo, T. Rex, The Hollies, and The Shadows represented one area while Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, and Be-Bop Deluxe represented another. Meanwhile Danta, Glencoe, Public Foot The Roman, and Percy “Thrills” Thrillington pad out the “Who?” section.
A Nice Pair
Hipgnosis was formed by Aubrey “Po” Powell and Storm Thorgerson in the Cambridge of the late 1960s. Po used to hang out in Storm’s mother’s house along with a group of friends. They would later become Pink Floyd. Storm’s mum was a very laid back liberal and didn’t mind that the youngsters were experimenting with various substances. One day there came a hammering on the front door which indicated that the local constabulary had decided to take an interest in the proceedings. Most of the throng jumped up, grabbed whatever illicit stuff they could and ran out of the back door.
Apart from Po. He stayed with Storm while the police searched the place, finding nothing. From that day on they were inseparable. One day Storm announced that he was off to the RCA to work on his Master of Arts. He told Po to come along and enrol too. In 1968 their friends had gone on to form Pink Floyd and had made their second album and needed some cover art. They knew who to turn to. Po and Storm put together the cover for A Saucerful Of Secrets and things started there.
Wish You Were Here
Squaring The Circle is, in the main, a series of talking heads interspersed with archive footage of the design process, shooting the album covers, and concert footage of some of the bands. The main narrator is Po himself, but there are numerous contributions from David Gilmore, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Nick Mason, Jimmy Page, Noel Gallagher, Graham Gouldman, and Roger Walters. Those are the names that you may recognise; there are many contributions from friends, associates, and even rivals like Roger Dean. For me, the best thing about Squaring The Circle was how it brought together music and memories. Over the years I’ve bought most of the albums that were featured.
Afterwards I was torn as to what I would chose to listen to on the way home. One thing that demonstrated the heart of everyone involved was the emotion shown by Po and the surviving members of Pink Floyd when they spoke of the surprise visit of a drug raddled Syd Barrett. Similarly, when Po talked of his and Storm’s falling out in 1983 and Storm’s death in 2013. How well loved Hipgnosis were was demonstrated by the music used. Normally the cost to get the rights to the music that was used would be prohibitive. If you get the chance take a look at Squaring The Circle and guess how much it should have cost.
Movie Grade: A+
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!