Album Art – Joe Petagno

When you think of Led Zeppelin you get the image of the iconic Icarus Swan Song logo that is so closely associated with Jimmy Page and company. It’s the perfect image for a band like Led Zeppelin, a timeless piece of art that just feels right in the lore of classic rock.

This is where I’ll be talking about the Album Art that I like. That is one of the benefits of 12″ vinyl albums, the cool packaging that surrounded the record. Here I’ll research the creations that we all loved as children, teenagers, and adults. I’ll try to find as much information on the artists as I can.

Joe Petagno was born in Portland, Maine January 1, 1948. He majored in art in high school in Los Angeles but is mostly a self-taught artist. Joe is totally ‘old school and proud of it, gouache, watercolors, acrylics, or oils are applied with a brush, usually on aquarelle paper, sometimes on canvas.

I started out in California in the heady 60s designing black light posters and underground comics, which eventually led me to the music business and LP sleeves

Joe Petagno

He uses Photoshop for t-shirt designs and logos etc. simply because he can get a staggering amount of variations from a single design quickly, which can sometimes be advantageous commercially speaking. Besides Motörhead´s brilliant album covers and extremely popular ”Snaggletooth” AKA “War-Pig” character, Joe Petagno has an honorable history as a graphic designer and artist.

Working also with bands like Led Zeppelin, Nazareth, Pretty Maids, Sweet, and Pink Floyd he has created unique visual images for the world of music. In 1974 he was contracted to create the logo for Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label. is actually based on a sketch by William Rimmer, titled Evening (The Fall of Day), originally drawn in 1869. You can find the original piece at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

While the Swan Song logo is tied so closely to the band, it was actually created as the “mascot” for their record label, Swan Song Records. The label lasted nine years (’74-83) before shutting down, publishing just under 30 studio albums while active. The next biggest act to Led Zeppelin was probably Bad Company, another legendary band.

Petagno was the artist behind the back cover and installment about keyboard player Richard Wright in the comic book that came with Pink Floyd’s 1974-1975 tour. Other artists involved were Richard Evans, Gerald Scarfe, Paul Stubbs, Colin Elgie, and Dave Gale. Joe also worked for Hipgnosis, the design group headed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell for a while.

The Pink Floyd Super All-Action Official Music Programma For Boys And Girls!

Joe Petagno did illustrations for albums like “Another Night” by The Hollies (1975), “The Brady Bunch Phonographic Album” and “The Kids from the Brady Bunch” by The Brady Bunch (72-73), and “Wish You Were Here” Pink Floyd (1975).

Hipgnosis was contracted to do the artwork for “Turn of the Cards” (1974), the fifth studio album, by the band Renaissance. It was the last Renaissance studio album to include excerpts from existing classical pieces. It was also the first album recorded by the group after Michael Dunford, who had written songs for their previous three albums, joined the group as an acoustic guitarist. Joe created this playing card design.

Joe created the artwork for “The Kinks Present a Soap Opera” (1975) by The Kinks. This concept album was their fourteenth studio LP. When Graeme Edge left The Moody Blues he teamed up with Adrian Gurvitz to form The Graeme Edge Band. Petagno created their two album covers, “Kick Off Your Muddy Boots” (1975) and “Paradise Ballroom” (1975).

When Adrian Gurvitz joined forces with Ginger Baker to form The Baker Gurvitz Army Petagno illustrated their first two vinyl releases, the self-titled “The Baker Gurvitz Army” in 1975 on the legendary Vertigo label which depicted the three members of the group on horseback;

and “Elysian Encounter”, 1975 on the Mountain label depicted almost certainly as “spacemen” or possibly religious figures in the typical early Petagno style, fabulously exotic outfits and suits or armor.

Joe created the cover for “High on the Hog” the most commercially successful album by the southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas. It is mainly known for its cover of the LaVern Baker song “Jim Dandy”, which reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album prominently featured southern electric guitar licks and James Mangrum’s scratchy, hillbilly vocals.

Joe drew the cover for “Strung Up” the 1975 double live/compilation album by the English glam rock band Sweet released by RCA Records in 1975. The first LP contains seven songs recorded live during a concert at the Rainbow Theatre, London on 21 December 1973. The second one contains ten selections of their songs recorded since 1973, including three songs that have not been released previously on any album.

Petagno created the cover for the 1976 “Give Us A Wink” by Sweet. It was their fourth studio album and the first LP to be fully written and produced by the band members. The original LP cover was released with a die-cut cover that caused the eye to wink as the sleeve was removed and placed back into the cover.

Joe started out in Metal album covers after meeting Lemmy[2] with Motörhead in 1975. Petagno refers to Motörhead’s mascot as The Bastard (or The Little Bastard). Joe Petagno came up with the concept after studying skulls of wild boars, gorillas, and dogs. He would continue to design the majority of the album and single-sleeve covers for the band.

I met Lemmy in ’75. I had just finished the Swan song logo for Led Zep, and I was working on some sketches for their formula car which I was to paint. He had just fallen out with Hawkwind, whom I had worked with earlier that year, and he asked me if I would help him out with cover art for his solo project ‘Bastard’. I genuinely sympathised with him, he was down and out…this was back in another universe, on another planet, in another dimension. I have a lot of good memories from those days, times change, unfortunately some people do too.

Joe Petagno

From 1977-2006 Joe created the artwork and most LP covers for the Motörhead catalog. He also does metal bands work like Armageddon, Diabolic, Pretty Maids, Satan’s Host, and many, many more. He is also known for his science fiction book covers, notably for the Corgi SF Collector’s Library edition of Ray Bradbury’s The Silver Locusts a.k.a. The Martian Chronicles.

The Sorcerer and the Cat by Joe Petagno (Black Light Poster)

  1. William Rimmer was the son of a French refugee, who emigrated to Nova Scotia, where he was joined by his wife and child in 1818, and who in 1826 moved to Boston, where he earned a living as a shoemaker. Rimmer’s father “believed himself to be the French dauphin, the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. ” The son learned the father’s trade; at fifteen became a draughtsman and sign-painter; then worked for a lithographer; opened a studio and painted some ecclesiastical pictures. [Back]
  2. Ian Fraser Kilmister (December 24, 1945 – December 28, 2015), better known as Lemmy, was an English musician. He was the founder, lead singer, bassist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Motörhead, of which he was the only continuous member, and a member of Hawkwind from 1971 to 1975. [Back]


KK Downing
Metal Archives

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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