Roadburn 40: Houses of the Holy
After a night outside of Galloway Forest Park, in Newton Stewart, Scotland, we took the 2-hour, sea-bobbing ferry over to Larne in Northern, Ireland. This part of the trek has been on my calendar since the day I was born.
Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy was released March 28th, 1973, which was the day I arrived on this planet, so it seemed appropriate, that for the 40th anniversary year, 2013 would be marked in stone…..or basalt.
The cover of HOH is a mystical design that was shot on the basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway on the County Antrim coastline of Northern Ireland. The ethereal cover was a product of Hipgnosis, mainly the design team of Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson, the forefathers of history’s greatest album covers. The team went on to create the most recognizable and iconic imagery of the genre. Covers such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Animals, T Rex’s Electric Warrior and AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap were just a few names in their extended portfolio. The cover took inspiration from Arthur C. Clarkes’ Childhood’s End, in which several million naked children climb off the end of the world. Brother and sister team, Stefan and Sam Gates, were the nude child models that were multi-printed to create the 11 children ascending the stitched rock face. Stefan Gates is currently the host of the BBC cooking show, Cooking in the Danger Zone.
Aubrey Powell headed the Giant’s shoot and after 10 days of terrible weather and keeping the crew together with a bottle of mandrax and a lot of whiskey, he left the causeway with the feeling of less than satisfactory results. After another misstep in the airbrushing of the post-process color tint of the black and white images, the final result was produced. Neither the Led Zeppelin name nor the album title was printed on the cover of Zep’s 5th studio release. In the US and UK, Atlantic Records utilized a paper wrap around to hide the children’s buttocks from public display.
The Hibbotte Crew spent the day playing on the rocks, tanning under the 19 degrees Celsius sunshine and searching for Finn McCool. And yes, even with brilliant weather, we kept our clothes on the entire time. The causeway, without a doubt, is a geologic wonderland. The basalt stacks could just as easily have been a geometrical, geological, psychedelic concept of Buckminster Fuller. The County Antrim coastline is a dramatic and cosmic anchor that is lodged in my grey matter and now eternally twined around those classic tracks on another of Led Zeppelin’s milestone records.
The change in musical direction, arrangements and production techniques is immediately apparent on HOH. From the opening, canon-fire opus of Song Remains the Same to the haunting, merciless netherworld of No Quarter and onto the rock n romp fan dedication of The Ocean, the tracks and imagery of Houses of the Holy is an interplanetary musical heritage site.
Wrapping up our visit to Antrim County, The Hibbotte Road Crew traveled a few miles up the coast to visit Houses of the Holy treat number 2, Dunluce Castle. Dunluce Castle was the location used for the sacrificial image on the inner sleeve of HOH. The castle was erected in the 13th century and has recently been a setting in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Sunshine yielded to cold rain, emphasizing the scene of the ghostly medieval ruins. We shot a few frames and reinterpreted some of Aubrey Powell’s photos, although Milea Faye was unsure of being cast in her role as the sacrificial child from the inner sleeve.
Next destination, Wales.
The Hibbotte Road Crew
“Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain….,”
RIP Storm Elvin Thorgerson (28 February 1944 – 18 April 2013)