Album cover of the week: Moving Pictures

Next month marks the 30th anniversary of Moving Pictures, one of the great albums of the ’80s and – according to many fans – Rush’s greatest achievement.  In addition to being packed from start to finish with all-time classics like “Tom Sawyer” and “Limelight”, Moving Pictures is best remembered for its covert art.  It’s visually striking and showcases the band’s dry sense of humor (sorry Canadians, humour).

Art direction and graphic design credits go to Hugh Syme, longtime Rush collaborator.  Syme has designed the cover for every Rush album since 1975’s Caress of Steel, and this is one of his high water marks.  On the most obvious level we’ve got movers carrying three pictures – Joan of Arc on the left, one of C.M. Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker paintings in the middle, and of course there’s the famous Rush Starman logo on the right (also designed by Syme).  The pictures, as evidenced by the weeping family on the right, are in fact moving.

The Joan of Arc “painting” is a Syme original.  The model is album photographer Deborah Samuel, who wrapped herself in burlap for the shoot.  The flames were generated using lighter fluid in a pie plate and imposed onto the foreground.  Syme framed this to represent the song “Witch Hunt.”

The setting for Moving Pictures is the front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, Toronto.  Syme choose this site primarily for its architecture, which features three arches with three pillars each (for the uninformed, Rush is a trio).  When Rush presented their record company with the concept for the album cover, it was rejected as being too expensive.  The band, being in a much stronger financial position than a few years prior I guess, ponied up $9,000 (almost USD24,000 when adjusted for inflation) of their own money for the shoot.  Good investment I’d say.

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