Hot coffee + brandy + tranquilizers + turpentine = Houses of the Holy
July 25, 2010 2:28 PM   Subscribe

"Although a fan of Led Zeppelin, Stefan [Gates] confesses he has never listened to Houses Of The Holy, which was released in 1973. 'It carries too much significance for me,' he said. 'A part of me wants to go out to the Giant's Causeway with a big pair of speakers, strip naked and play it just to see if I have some kind of great epiphany.'" Gates, a well-known British food writer and television presenter was, with his older sister, one of the children photographed for the album cover which features them naked and covered in automobile paint, climbing over the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

Originally the album was released with just a paper sleeve with the band and album name covering the most prominent butt, however the album cover was banned in Spain and parts of the US and re-released with the "ass-sticker" design. More details from the photo shoot. See also: Best albums with nude covers and the stories behind. Some links contain nudity.

Gates did finally listen to the album, but copyright restrictions keep the radio program from being rebroadcast. (Previously).
posted by jessamyn (47 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't really want to think about what's going on here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:45 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awesome post. I found this article along those lines:

I want to tell you a cover story (Who’s that girl? Our correspondent tracks down the people who posed for rock’s seminal album covers)
posted by Omon Ra at 2:50 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Love Storm Thorgerson's stuff - I saw an exhibition of his in a little gallery in London (on second thoughts, it might have been part of the Hipgnosis workshop) a couple of months ago. Loads of amazing work there; he did the iconic covers for Pink Floyd's The Division Bell and Dark Side of the Moon (the gallery had a rather lovely stained-glass version of the latter).

He's still working now, in fact - he did Biffy Clyro's Puzzle and Only Revolutions, and Muse's Black Holes and Revelations. Always surreal, but also beautiful and intricate. I didn't realise he'd done Houses of the Holy as well, but looking at it now it does seem like his style.
posted by ZsigE at 2:50 PM on July 25, 2010


I was just looking up columnar basalt earlier today.

/boring
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:52 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


dude!
posted by Drasher at 2:57 PM on July 25, 2010


Great post - I'd somehow always assumed that cover was a mock up but in the sense of there being real kids, fake Giant's Causeway; and to find out that they were actually chucked out there in the rain and sleet in the buff is quite a shock.

On a happier childhood Led Zep note, the twirly cover of Led Zep III was one of my favourite things to play with as a child. Better than any child's moveable book for psychadelic imagery and Zeppelins.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:59 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just looking up at columnar basalt earlier today.
My neighborhood is made of it. I think it's pretty cool.
posted by neuron at 3:03 PM on July 25, 2010


I'm assuming that saying that he has never listened to the album, it means that he's never intentionally sat down and listened to it from beginning to end - you'd have to be living under a rock to not have heard some of those songs. If I had been used to other Zeppelin albums, I might be disappointed in it. I'd love to hear his review/feelings - as a collection of songs they're classic, but I've never felt that it hangs together as an album very well. There's a very diverse style of songs there that to me are quite jarring in their juxtaposition.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:08 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just looking up at columnar basalt earlier today.
My neighborhood is made of it. I think it's pretty cool.


Much less boring! I was just at Multnomah Falls last week, and there's a layer of columnar basalt behind the falls near the bottom, hence my looking-of-it-up. It's neat stuff. HOTH is a damn fine album, as well. Hipgnosis did the coolest album cover of the 70s, for sure. Iconic stuff, and great for rolling joints.

it was me being a geology nerd on the web that I was marking as boring -- not the post or the columnar basalt itself. plz not to misinterpret
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:21 PM on July 25, 2010


from the first link --

"The screenwriter, who also features on the inside sleeve as the child being sacrificed at the top of a mountain"

I remember this album but don't remember this scene on the inside and none of the other links seem to show anything that looks like a sacrifice. Is there a link to this image somewhere?
posted by puny human at 3:36 PM on July 25, 2010


From this: Simon Gates (the little boy in the photos) later laughed and said as to how he use to pick up girls as a teen by taking them to the record store showing them the album and saying “Yep that’s my butt right there!”

A high school friend of mine use to tell prospective girlfriends he was one of the two children born at Woodstock – with similar results. When you think about it, this is a brilliant method for legions of awkward teenage boys to gain the interest of girls. Tweak the story and circumstances a little based on time frame and viola, instant conversation starter.
posted by quadog at 3:39 PM on July 25, 2010


...viola, instant conversation starter.

I've found wind instruments to be good conversation starters, myself.
posted by nevercalm at 3:51 PM on July 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm proud to be Irelenadish.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:52 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


> the twirly cover of Led Zep III was one of my favourite things to play with as a child.

Interestingly, Page said that he wasn't very fond of that cover.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:55 PM on July 25, 2010


i did hear the programme when it was broadcast. it struck me that he was making a bit much of the whole thing - it felt at times he was revisiting the scene of some horrifying abuse he'd suffered, such was his sensitivity about it. but he was kind of likeable and it was an interesting listen.

fwiw it's my favourite led zep album, for reasons i'm not sure i could explain. it's not for the cover, definitely.

and i didn't realise thorgerson did the biffy clyro cover. which probably explains why it looks like quite a lot like this.
posted by peterkins at 4:04 PM on July 25, 2010


Great post, great album, great cover, and great, um, Twitter link.

I'd always heard the cover was inspired by the final scene of Clarke's Childhood's End.
posted by bondcliff at 4:33 PM on July 25, 2010


Nice. Thanks for posting this. Intuitive Music (the 'Best album covers..." link) is a great resource.
posted by sleepy pete at 4:35 PM on July 25, 2010


[HEY JESSAMYN I FIXED THAT IRELENAD THING FOR YOU]
posted by cortex at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2010


> For the job, [the model on the cover of Blind Faith] was paid what she asked for: a young horse.

She became one of the most iconic figures in 20th century graphic design, and she got a pony. How cool is that?
posted by ardgedee at 4:59 PM on July 25, 2010


Wow, I had no idea there was such a backstory behind the album cover. For some reason the cover of the first album feels more iconic to me, but they're all pretty much indelible.
posted by blucevalo at 5:20 PM on July 25, 2010


Zep was one of Arthur C. Clarke's favorite bands? * Mindgrapes exploded*
posted by KingEdRa at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2010


Jimmy Page has stated that the album cover was actually the second version submitted by Hipgnosis. The first, by artist Storm Thorgerson, featured an electric green tennis court with a tennis racquet on it. Furious that Thorgerson was implying their music sounded like a "racket", the band fired him and hired Powell in his place. [via]

(confusing cause I thought Hipgnosis was a duo.)

(also, Hipgnosis was my first IRC handle!)
posted by not_on_display at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2010


and she got a pony.

If you read further, she didn't actually get a pony. Thanks for the article omonra. I was surprised there wasn't some super fan site that outlined all of the HotH album cover options b/c there seems like there were a few [in other languages, esp] and I could find no substantive citation for the banning in the bible belt that people asserted.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 PM on July 25, 2010


I sense a theme, jessamyn.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 6:53 PM on July 25, 2010


Is that theme: unreliable hippies?
posted by jessamyn at 6:57 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you read further, she didn't actually get a pony.

And if you read even further, this article states that the kids in the picture on HOTH are Robert Plant's kids Carmen and Karac, not Stefan and Samantha. ??
posted by tristeza at 7:09 PM on July 25, 2010


Hey hey! Cut out that unreliable hippie thing. Some of us are...

Oooh. a butterfly.
posted by Splunge at 7:10 PM on July 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


if you read even further, this article states that the kids in the picture on HOTH are Robert Plant's kids Carmen and Karac

Yeah weird right? Robert Plant had two kids that look a lot like the kids from the cover of the album. These stills from The Song Remains the Same really look like the same kids which I think is where people got that idea. However in 1972 when the album was filmed, Karac Plant [who died a few years later] was only two and not yet walking when the album cover was shot. This seems to be a misunderstanding based on the similar looks of the kids from that movie.
posted by jessamyn at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2010


This is the album which turned me on to classic rock and I will revere it as the best Zep album until the day I die.

And the cover is one of my favorites as well - so surreal and so beautiful. It's the odd color combinations that do it, really.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:19 PM on July 25, 2010


[HEY JESSAMYN I FIXED THAT IRELENAD THING FOR YOU]

Praise God. Peace at last in Ulster.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


This is the album which turned me on to classic rock...

*Wistfully recalls time when HOTH wasn't classic...*
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


if you read even further, this article states that the kids in the picture on HOTH are Robert Plant's kids Carmen and Karac

If the kids were in a picture on Hoth, wouldn't there be more snow? And tauntauns?
posted by KingEdRa at 9:05 PM on July 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Double ;-)
posted by unliteral at 9:06 PM on July 25, 2010


Everybody was so cold, and so freaked out because it wasn’t working, that the only thing I could keep everybody together with was a bottle of Mandrax and a lot of whiskey.

I'm guessing the kids didn't like the taste of whisky very much -- I didn't when I was their age -- so that must have been a family-size bottle of Mandrax. "Hey, kids, what's with the shivering? If you want to warm up, what you need is more vitamins!"
posted by pracowity at 11:20 PM on July 25, 2010


Crazy, I've listened to HOTH hundreds of times and being Irish am no stranger to the Giant's Causeway, but somehow I absolutely never made the connection that that was the location depicted. Thanks Jessamyn!
posted by nfg at 2:37 AM on July 26, 2010


Worth reading, yes; but not worth going to read.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 2:46 AM on July 26, 2010


This is the album which turned me on to classic rock...

*Wistfully recalls time when HOTH wasn't classic...*


Sigh. Listen, kiddie, time was when Zep and Hendrix were implicitly-forbidden hard rock, listened to scratchily (do you know about vinyl?) at a friend's house on his older brother's record player when no parents were around -- not fodder for baby-boomer-bait car commercials. "Classic rock"; sheesh!
posted by aught at 5:58 AM on July 26, 2010


You can see columnar basalt at Devil's Postpile National Monument in the US.
posted by plinth at 6:51 AM on July 26, 2010


You can see columnar basalt at Devil's Postpile National Monument in the US.

Devil's Tower in Wyoming as well (the huge "tree stump"-looking formation made famous by Close Encounters of the Third Kind).
posted by aught at 7:03 AM on July 26, 2010


If Led Zeppelin was "classic rock" when I was a kid, then the Pixies and Dead Milkmen are classic rock today.

For those who dig this album art, and/or others made by Hipgnosis: you need to get For The Love of Vinyl, the updated version of their 1978 art book Walk Away Rene. Or get both; some stuff's printed bigger in the old book.
posted by jtron at 7:03 AM on July 26, 2010


do you know about vinyl?

No, you listen here, you young punk. When I bought In The Court of the Crimson King on CD, I was buying it for the fourth goddam time. I wore right through three copies of the vinyl. In fact, junior, the first time I ever got drunk on cheap keg beer, it was to the soundtrack of Led Zep I on an 8 track. An 8 track, I tellya!

You know how time gets away from you, then one day it's in your face-- you're a geezer now? I was at the boling alley a few weeks ago -- the bowling alley! and I was bowling away, like my complacent middle-aged self, when 21st Century Schitzoid man came on the Muzak.

Fuck me.

Does anybody remember... what was it? Laughter?

Maybe I'll get brave enough to post up the video of my band playing The Song Remains the Same, back in '92 one of these days. We rocked and I had hair.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:58 AM on July 26, 2010


When I worked at WZRD-FM (88.3) in Chicago, one of the DJs got a phone call, to tell him there was a huge fucking crow on top of the antenna. He proceeded to play The Crunge (from HOTH) in an effort to dislodge him. Afterwards, he opined that it failed to dislodge the crow in any way whatsoever, but did succeed in making it substantially more fertile.
posted by davejay at 10:41 AM on July 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


That would be considered child porn today-- it's kind of weird that it was unremarkable then.
posted by Maias at 5:01 PM on July 26, 2010


Not to be a geo Stick-in-the-Smectite,
But Devil's Tower ,although exhibiting columnar jointing, is actually phonolite. Quite different from basalt geochemically. When our geology class was there for a field trip, we made a crude geoxylophone from chunks suspended by fishing line. It took us quite a while, but we eventually had a nice octave scale going. Hence the name phonolite.
posted by primdehuit at 12:27 PM on July 27, 2010


do you know about vinyl?

No, you listen here, you young punk.


Sorry, DevilsRancher, thought it would be clear I was talking to the person you were quoting there, since your comment was similar in tone to mine.
posted by aught at 2:00 PM on July 28, 2010


Heh -- no offense, I was being totally facetious. Just playing the old fart/lawn game. I hope you didn't think I was actually angry.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:30 PM on July 28, 2010


Guess not :(

Another little known factoid about Houses of the Holy is that its only single, D'Yer Mak'er, had the phrase "Whatever happened to Rosie and the Originals?" written on the sleeve.

I think this or this would make cool Zeppelin covers.
posted by puny human at 9:25 PM on July 29, 2010


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