A Little-Known Story Behind Led Zeppelin’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ Album Cover

What comes to mind when you hear the band name Led Zeppelin?

Is it the singer and lyricist of the group, Robert Plant? The long, but iconic, “Stairway to Heaven”? Either way, one can’t help but think of “Kashmir” and the album that houses the song, physical graffiti.

But what about physical graffiti? We know that it was officially released in 1975 as a double album and that the disc has only grown in importance since then. But what isn’t commonly known is the story behind the album’s instantly recognizable album art. The solemn-looking album cover is mysterious, yet curious, and we wanted to know more.

So read below for the little-known story behind the physical graffiti album cover.

The physical graffiti building

The building on the cover of the physical graffiti the album is a physical place. It’s done of them physical locations; these are two apartment buildings that have been built side by side at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in New York City, New York.

Graphic designer Peter Corriston sourced the buildings for the cover and orchestrated the artwork. Corriston also collaborated with art director and designer Mike Doud on a unique feature for the physical graffitimy album. The original album cover included internal sleeves that could be swapped out to feature different scenes in the building in St. Mark’s Square. One of those scenes is, of course, the red letters that spell out “Physical Graffiti” in every window. Another cover art scene features photos of notable celebrities in each window, including WC Fields, Pope Leo XIII and Buzz Aldrin.

Also, the front of the album cover is a day scene, while the back is a night scene.

“We wandered around town for a few weeks looking for the right building,” Corriston said in a 2008 interview about physical graffiti art. ” I had come [with] a concept for the group based on the building, the people who live there and move in and out of it. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information, or liner notes.

Check out a video of a fan displaying the album below.

Did you know?

The two buildings in St. Mark’s Square are actually five-story buildings, but you only see four stories on the physical graffiti cover. Corriston cropped one of the building’s floors to ensure that boxy shape that defines album covers. Also, Corriston’s design was so complex for the album cover, that the making of the album took longer than expected and delayed the album’s release by a few months.

Another little-known fact is that the buildings in St. Mark’s Square play a role in the musical history of another famous band, the Rolling Stones. In the Stones’ 1981 “Waiting On A Friend” music video, Mick Jagger is filmed waiting for bandmate Keith Richards on the front steps of the famous buildings.

Oh, and one more thing about Peter Corriston. He also worked with the Rolling Stones on four of their album covers: Certain girls, emotional rescue, tattoo yourselfand Sheltered. What a small world.

About Elizabeth J. Swartz

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