THE ORIGINAL DRAWING USED FOR THE COVER OF LED ZEPPELIN’S DEBUT ALBUM
The original drawing used for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled first album.
Black rapidograph ink drawing on translucent paper (178 × 178 mm / 7 × 7 in.), affixed by tape to a card mount (263 × 200 mm) with black ink registration marks to top and bottom, and a note by Hardie stating ‘lift carefully tape employed’. Signed by Hardie in pencil on verso of mount.
This is the original drawing used for the cover of Led Zeppelin’s debut album, one of the most seminal releases of the twentieth century. In October 1968, shortly after the band had formed, George Hardie was asked to work on cover ideas for their forthcoming album. Hardie’s graphic interpretation of a photograph showing the LZ 129 Hindenburg airship as it burst into flames over the Lakehurst naval airfield in New Jersey has become one of the most iconic images in the history of rock music.
‘It wasn’t quite plain yet, but Led Zeppelin were effecting—or representing—a sea change in popular music and popular culture. They were, as Steve Pond once noted in Rolling Stone, the last band of the 1960s and the first band of the 1970s. In 1969 and early 1970, Led Zeppelin had competed with the Beatles’ Abbey Road, the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Those were all epochal works, in part because they were summarizing or finishing an epoch. Led Zeppelin’s albums were also epochal because they were starting one’ (Rolling Stone).
George Hardie (b. 1944) completed his undergraduate degree at Saint Martins’ School of Art, London and then attended the Royal College of Art, London, graduating in 1970 with an MA in Design. He was a founding partner at NTA Studios and worked on a number of record covers with Hipgnosis. In addition to his cover for Led Zeppelin’s debut album, his work includes Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and Wish You Were Here (1975), Led Zeppelin’s Presence (1976) and The Song Remains the Same (1976), and Black Sabbath’s Technical Ecstasy (1976). He has worked continually since as a freelance illustrator and designer, and between 1990 - 2014 he taught at the University of Brighton where he led two interdisciplinary MA courses, encouraging his students to examine narrative, sequence, and memory; the meaning of objects; collecting and classifying as a design tool; symbolism and allusion; maps; self-publishing and batch production; and word as, and with, image.
A profile in Eye magazine recounts the moment when a fellow guest at a dinner party asked Hardie what he did for a living. His reply: ‘I’m an illustrator, designer and teacher.’ Unsatisfied, his tablemate pressed and asked him to elaborate on what he really did. After a lengthy pause, Hardie replied, ‘I notice things and I get things noticed.’
References: Mikal Gilmore, ‘The Long Shadow of Led Zeppelin’, Rolling Stone, August 10, 2006; Eye no. 58 vol. 15, 2005.
Provenance: Direct from the artist.