Last night I learned that my old friend Storm Thorgerson, the great album sleeve designer, had died. He’d been in poor health for some time so it wasn’t that big a surprise, but it was still a shock to hear it on the BBC rolling news at around 8.30 when I’d sat down to watch my recording of the previous night’s Mad Men, and it just happened that our TV was tuned to that news channel.
I first met Storm in November 1974, after a Floyd gig in Edinburgh. We were staying in the same hotel, as was the band, and afterwards, hanging around in the lobby, I was looked upon with deep suspicion by their entourage. Unlike many others, the group never really extended the hand of friendship towards music writers. Nevertheless, I somehow managed to ingratiate myself into their large party, joining one and all for a sumptuous post-gig supper. At first I sat next to their manager Steve O’Rourke who seemed an agreeable chap if you were prepared to talk about fast cars but before the food arrived Storm asked me to move “because there was something important he needed to discuss with Steve”. He’s an odd cove, I thought as I moved to another seat.
We met many times over the years after that and, in 1997, through Omnibus, I published his book Taken By Storm. When the book was launched at a party at Abbey Road I made a speech and was unnerved by the fact that Messrs Gilmour, Mason and Wright were in the audience, especially as I mentioned that Dark Side Of The Moon and Wish You Were Here were recorded in Studio Two, the same room where we were all gathered, and that the LPs’ covers were among Storm’s greatest creations. Taken By Storm was followed a few years later by his magnificent Floyd book Mind Over Matter which we picked up from the original publishers Sanctuary and, after good deal of difficult negotiation, improved. We stayed in touch throughout all this time and were discussing a possible third book, about which we last exchanged e-mails in March.
Storm was by no means the easiest man to work with but that’s often the case when you’re working with the best in the business. He wanted to do things his own way and was unwilling to compromise. I have no doubt that art directors at record companies, too, groaned inwardly when an act on their label decided they wanted Storm to design their LP sleeve. "How much?" OMG! The thing you have to remember is that all those weird, surreal, thoughtful images he created for Floyd and everyone else weren’t done by Photoshop, they were real photographs for which he’d assemble the props, the models, the lighting and the backdrop. It often took him ages, like weeks, to get it right. He was a stickler, a perfectionist, an artist, and that’s why it was both a privilege and – occasionally – a pain in the neck to work with him.
RIP Stormy old pal.