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Adventures in Pink Floyd land: cover image artist Tim Davies Print E-mail
Written by Tim Davies   
Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Pink Floyd - Take It Back single coverAmongst those who worked on later period Pink Floyd covers was Tim Davies, initially roped in for his artwork which ended up on the One Slip single cover. This was just part of his Pink Floyd adventures, and in this exclusive piece for Brain Damage, Tim talks about those days, what it was really like working with the late, great Storm Thorgerson, and reveals what could have been for the cover of A Momentary Lapse of Reason...

I was working in London at Nexus in 1988 as a freelance designer. Nexus and another design company Icon (by whom I was commissioned to create the cover paintings for Robert Plant's LP "Shaken N Stirred" in 1985) were formed when the design company Hipgnosis broke up a few years earlier. Colin Chambers, the guy running Nexus, asked me to put together some rough ideas for a French pop-group called "Blue Matisse" who were high up in the French charts at that time. I didn't have much time (as usual they wanted it "yesterday") so I flicked through some copies of my girlfriend's "Elle" and "Vogue" magazines, and then I tore out some full page colour adverts for perfume that showed a girl sitting on the side of a luxurious-looking marble bathtub. I took some oil crayons and paint and scribbled over the figure, almost totally covering the figure, but leaving enough to show a rather impressionistic figure which would be perfect for the french pop-group!!

Feeling pleased with my work I returned to the studio in Goodge Street, London. I spread the images out and Colin seemed very pleased with the results. We planned to show them to the group and their management in the next few days. The next day when I arrived at the studio all the images were gone. Colin told me that Storm had come to the studio with one of the musicians from Pink Floyd, possibly Dave Gilmour who was around a lot then. They saw the sketches and grabbed them for the singles cover image. Colin had told Storm they were for "Blue Matisse", and Storm had replied "Not any more!"

A few days (a week?) later I was walking down London's Tottenham Court Road and saw my artwork plastered across a huge billboard and then almost immediately bumped into Colin who looked at the billboard, and then at me, and said "I think we owe you some money!" I got £50!!! It was explained that there wasn't much of a budget for the come-back single's cover! However I am really proud to this day that a little piece of my art has made it onto a Pink Floyd record cover.

Pink Floyd - Take It Back single cover
Pink Floyd - Take It Back single cover
Pink Floyd - Take It Back single cover

Incidentally another one of the images I created was used on one of Pink Floyd's 12" singles in the United States and quickly got banned as it was too "revealing". It was another "nude" figure and it didn't get past the censors! I heard that one member of the band thought it was cool that there was a bit of controversy surrounding one of the images....good publicity in a cool way! In the end that image in question made it onto a poster available with the 12", but the image was tweaked a bit to make it less racy!

A year before, I had been working on the LP "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" as production illustrator. My job was to as quickly as possible sketch out ideas that the Pink Floyd musicians, Storm and anyone else around had, including myself. Whoever came up with the winning idea would get, we were told, a nice bonus! There were 2 working titles for the album, "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "Visions of an Empty Bed". We had a rough mix of the LP on a cassette that Storm would come by and collect every evening in case anyone had ideas about running off a few copies! So, we listened to the music for hours on end every day, but it didn't really help very much and in fact was a bit distracting in the end.

Ideas we had included "a snail sliding down a razor blade" (too cruel), "a couple blowing out their brains with pistols in New York's Grand Central station" (abandoned as it could have inspired copy-cat suicides!), a ghostly couple sitting on an old four poster bed (the photo would have been a bit like the inner sleeve photo of the scarf blowing in the breeze on the "Wish You Were Here" cover), "wrapping up Ayers Rock in Australia" (very expensive), "a sky-diver diving into an active volcano" (plain nuts!), "beds in a line going up a very steep mountain" (almost there!). The budget had no limits so we could almost have gone to the moon to do the shoot. In the end, the finished cover had a bit of everything on it and was shot on a beach in Devon I think.

It was a great experience working with Storm and I learnt a lot. One afternoon he came into the studio to see what I had done. I think I had created about 30 different images for the "Momentary Lapse of Reason"/"Visions of an Empty Bed" project. He looked through them all and hated them. It was late afternoon and as he was going out of the door he said "See you at 11 then!", I replied "Ok, see you tomorrow". Storm replied: "No, 11 tonight! You are going to stay here, get all the images to work and then you and Colin can come to my place later!" We turned up around midnight at Storm's flat and went through all the art, sorting them out, making changes. I think we left at 4 in the morning and I was back in the studio at 9am the next day to continue with the changes. He was a perfectionist and he always brought out the best from every design idea. No wonder Storm's finished artwork is considered a classic! Storm and his team created incredible iconic images in that period totally without the use of digital/computer technology, just the occasional re-touch with an airbrush!

I was also involved with the tour poster shoot, driving a lorry full of old hospital beds to the shoot location in Suffolk that look just like northern France with rows of poplar trees. I think the shoot was near a farm called Apple Acre farm. My then girlfriend is the French maid on the tour poster. Storm always liked to use girlfriends of the people working for him as it was cheaper and easier than working with stroppy expensive agencies. He also used the studio assistants sometimes for shoots as they worked for free and weren't allowed to say "No way, I am not doing that!" Myself and some other assistants are on several album covers from the mid-'80's.

In the mid-1990's Pink Floyd's accountants contacted me and asked if I could paint a mural in the staircase of Britannia Row Studios using a limited colour range of blue, red, black and yellow. I came up with an idea of art-thieves and harlequins running down the stairs with stolen paintings and photographers with old vintage cameras on tripods (there was by this time a photography studio on one of the floors).

Years later (2005) I was on holiday on Formentera where members of the band and Hipgnosis still have a house, and holiday there sometimes. It's also where the windmill seen on the cover of "More" still stands (it's also in the booklet of Dave Gilmour's "On An Island" CD). A friend, Felix (a big Pink Floyd fan) had a small bar in one of the villages on the island. He told me one night he was alone in the bar strumming "Wish You Were Here" on his guitar. Guy Pratt walked into the bar and chatted with Felix and then said he would come back later on with a friend. He returned later with Dave Gilmour. Poor Felix nearly had a heart attack. Dave asked him if he could play along! Needless to say for Felix it was a dream come true!

Around the same time, when I was back in London, and wondering what to do on a rainy Sunday afternoon, my girlfriend and I decided to visit the Science Museum in Kensington. After many hours spent walking through the huge building we arrived at the section with all the rockets and spaceships (Apollo etc). I was absorbed by a map of the moon that showed the dark side, showing where all the Russian space probes had landed. I was aware of another man who had also been stood there too for quite a while looking at the exhibit. I turned to look and it was Roger Waters! I looked at him.... he looked at me, we both looked at the map of the dark side of the moon... and I decided it was probably not the right time to say anything. He smiled and walked away.

One final recollection, from earlier days. From 1979 until 1983 I studied at Camberwell School of Arts in London. I knew that Syd Barrett had enrolled in the fine art painting course there and one day a friend and I tried to find out more about his time there from a technician who was also there in the early to mid '60's. We asked him about Syd but he refused to be drawn (excuse the pun) on the subject, saying only that Syd was "Bad to his women" whatever that meant. We asked if there was any of Syd's work still at the college. We were told "Yes". We asked if we could see it and were told quite firmly "No!". That was that...but as the technician was connected with the print-making department, it is possible that the work(s) were either etchings, screenprints and/or lithographs. Camberwell as well as other art colleges always kept a few examples of students work in an archive.

Tim Davies
Hannover May 2015
www.timpdavies.com

Our grateful thanks to Tim Davies for sharing his thoughts and memories with us. Please visit his website at timpdavies.com.

 
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