The Children Of “Houses Of The Holy”

By Doyle Tatum

Melody Hill was the Circle Sky Records official magazine while we were open between 2002 and 2010.

Melody Hill #14 was our next to the last regular issue of the Melody Hill fanzine.

The cover for this issue was drawn by the Circle Sky store manager, and my good friend, Donnie Thompson.

One of the most iconic album sleeves of 1970s rock is Led Zeppelin’s “Houses Of The Holy.” Created in 1973 by Hipgnosis, it rated number six in VH1’s 2003 list of Top 50 Greatest Album Covers.

Hipgnosis was a British art design group that specialized in creating cover art for the albums of rock musicians and bands, like Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, 10CC, Wings, The Alan Parsons Project, and many others. Hipgnosis consisted primarily of Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, and later, Peter Christopherson.

We only got a few quid for the modeling and the chance to travel to places we had never been before. Our family wasn’t well off, we certainly couldn’t afford holidays, so it worked out great for us.

Stefan Gates

The group dissolved in 1983, but in 1973 they were busy creating the cover for some albums you might recall, “Dark Side of the Moon” and our subject, Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy.” The cover has some naked children mysteriously climbing over a rocky landscape. The young boy and girl were Stefan and Samantha Gates. Stefan now in his forties hosts a BBC2 show called “Cooking in the Danger Zone” and lives in North London with his wife and two daughters.

We went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all the people with guns…we stayed in this little guest house near the Giant’s Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we’d shoot first thing in the morning and at night.

Stephan Gates (recalls for the Zeppelin cover shoot)

Sam is a screenwriter living in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband and daughter. In 1973 Stefan and Sam were child models appearing in commercials, TV dramas, and even Knitwear pattern ads. There were no wigs used, the hair you see was real and what appears to be a number of children is really just Stefan and Sam. They had to crawl around on the rocks nude in freezing temperatures and misting rain for ten days.

I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn’t mind. I’d whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element. My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious.

Stephan Gates

Powell, of Hipgnosis, claims to have been inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s science fiction book “Childhood’s End” where the children climb off the end of the world. Sam says she remembers every detail of the shoot, “mainly because it was freezing cold and rained the whole time….we were naked in a lot of the modeling shoots we did, nothing was thought of it back then. You probably couldn’t get away with that now.” Some copies of the album were sold with a narrow removable title strip that wrapped around the cover and obscured the children’s buttocks.

It carries too much significance for me. A part of me wants to go out to the Giant’s Causeway with a big pair of speakers, strip naked and play it just to see if I have some kind of great epiphany.

Stephan Gates (although a fan of Led Zeppelin, Stefan confesses he has never listened to “Houses Of The Holy“)

It took 10 days to get the “magic light”. One day of work in Photoshop would take care of it today! Jimmy Page has stated that the album cover was actually the second version submitted by Hipgnosis. The first, by artist Storm Thorgerson, featured an electric green tennis court with a tennis racquet on it. Furious that Thorgerson was implying their music sounded like a “racket”, the band fired him and hired Powell in his place.

Thorgerson did, however, go on to produce the album artwork for Led Zeppelin’s subsequent albums “Presence” and “In Through The Out Door.” You can visit Wikipedia.org for a list of other album covers created by Hipgnosis.

Click on images to enlarge

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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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