I very much enjoyed Squaring the Circle, on Netflix. It’s a documentary about the artistry of album covers.
The film mostly consists of interviews with many behind-the-scenes stories about what influenced the various images that have become nearly as iconic as the albums they cover. Most of the film spends time highlighting the rise and fall of Hipgnosis, a London-based design group and management company who handled many of the biggest rock artists of the 1970s. Hipgnosis and their artists designed several Pink Floyd album covers, including the 1973 masterpiece Dark Side of the Moon, shown here.
The stories behind *why* various images were used — milk cows, factories, a man on fire shaking hands, etc. — are told, which I found fascinating. Hipgnosis also did albums for Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney and Wings, Peter Gabriel, and others. COMPLETE LIST OF HIPGNOSIS ALBUM COVERS HERE
I never thought much about those album covers before, other than recognizing just how striking yet also so perfect they all seemed for the times and the music they were linked to. If you enjoy music from this period as I do, and are interested in what inspires creativity and collaboration, I recommend giving this a watch. You may even look upon a few of those classic albums differently.
Oh, one more thing: Hipgnosis faded around 1980 (not to be confused with the music talent management group of the same name). They were hugely influential for about 15 years, then practically everything dried up for them. Music changed, but even more than that — the way music was sold and packaged changed. Albums became less and less about making bold artistic statements packaged as a whole and encompassed in clever cover designs and stark imagery. MTV also had something to do with the downfall of cover art and the way we listened to music. Then, there was the near extinction of vinyl. Music fans became “consumers” rather than “listeners.” By the mid-80s, nobody took the time to read liner notes, nor follow along with the written lyrics, nor pay attention to the artwork, nor talk about the unique cover designs and try to interpret what they meant any longer. And frankly, I think music lost something when album covers became less important. The music therein just didn’t seem as important anymore.
Playing on Netflix. Recommended.