How Def Leppard Ended Up With An Album Cover That Was Offered To Pink Floyd

Considering music is an audio medium, it's easy to overlook the importance of album artwork. It sets the stage for the music and can even be the main selling point to a would-be listener who's leafing through crates of records.

One of the most noteworthy album cover designers in the history of music is a company called Hipgnosis. Founded in 1967 by artists Aubrey "Po" Powell and Storm Thorgerson, Hipgnosis is often credited with shifting the trajectory of album art away from simple portraits of the band to covers that carried with them their own artistic merit (via Rolling Stone).

The company's credits are numerous, and over the decades they created album art for some of music's biggest artists. The artwork for Led Zeppelin's "House of Holy," Black Sabbath's "Technical Ecstacy," Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," and AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" are among Hipgnosis' creations.

However, it's the work for the English rock band Pink Floyd that they are arguably most well-known for, and the company is credited with the art for many of the albums released over the course of the band's career. These include the prism that graces the cover of Pink Floyd's 1973 album "The Dark Side of the Moon" and the two men shaking hands, one of them on fire, on 1975's "Wish You Were Here," which are some of the most famed in music history.

Pink Floyd's trash turns out to be Def Leppard's treasure

Of course, not every idea Hipgnosis presented to Pink Floyd was an immediate winner. The band was gearing up to release their 1970 album, "Atom Heart Mother," and needed artwork. So, Hipgnosis presented them with several options. One — and the choice the band would ultimately go with — was a simple photograph of a cow standing in a field. The ideas that were scrapped consisted of a woman entering a doorway and another of an upside-down diver (via Louder).

For Pink Floyd's purposes, the cow was the right choice. The final album cover, which included the photo of the cow and nothing else — no band name, no album name — piqued the interest of music lovers and wound up being a big success for the band. "It was [Pink Floyd's] first ​​big success in America," Aubrey Powell recalled in a 2017 Rolling Stone article.

Fortunately, Hipgnosis didn't let those unused ideas go to waste. The woman walking through the doorway would be used for the 1971 album "The Asmoto Running Band" by Principal Edwards Magic Theatre. A decade later, the upside-down diver would come to great prominence on the cover of Def Leppard's 1981 album "High 'n' Dry." The diver turned out to be a good fit for the album's title, and it would go on to be a massive success with hits like "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" and "Let It Go" (via Def Leppard Tour History).