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Music

The Cover Uncovered: How Echo and the Bunnymen created the cover art for 'Ocean Rain'

On this day, May 4th, 1984, Liverpool post-punk group Echo and the Bunnymen released their seminal fourth studio album, Ocean Rain. The music showed a marked turn from the previous three albums thanks to its refined delicacy and textural depth. This was mostly thanks to the involvement of a 35-piece orchestra. The group recorded Ocean Rain in Les Studios des Dames in Paris with the help of the studio’s engineer Henri Loustau and Adam Peters, who arranged the orchestral string sections and piano passages.

The album was popular upon release thanks to its lead single, ‘The Killing Moon’, which was joined on the singles charts by ‘Silver’ and ‘Seven Seas’. The dark grandeur of the album is best appreciated as a whole, and that includes the perfectly fitting cover artwork. The music covers all bases with its upbeat charting singles and its slower, mysterious hidden gems like ‘Ocean Rain’ and ‘The Yo Yo Man’. As guitarist Will Sergeant once said of Ocean Rain: “We wanted to make something conceptual with lush orchestration; not Mantovani, something with a twist. It’s all pretty dark. ‘Thorn of Crowns’ is based on an eastern scale. The whole mood is very windswept: European pirates, a bit Ben Gunn; dark and stormy, battering rain; all of that.”

The artwork created for the album follows an elemental theme similar to that seen on the cover produced for the group’s third album, Porcupine. For Porcupine, the band visited Iceland for a cold photoshoot with a snowy lithic backdrop. Using the same photographer, Brian Griffin, they chose to take the adventure from the desolate landscape of Iceland to the scenic beauty of the Carnglaze Caverns in Liskeard, Cornwall. 

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The mysterious iridescent cave that the group visited for the photoshoot with Griffin was owned by Elvis Costello’s manager, Jake Rivera. Upon arriving, they noticed an abandoned rowing boat near the opening to the cave. Making use of the newly discovered prop, the band dragged the boat into the cave and floated out into the centre for the iconic shot. The photograph was then edited and processed for the cover art by designer Martyn Atkins. 

In the 2002 book Turquoise Days: The Weird World of Echo & the Bunnymen, the author Chris Adams describes the cover art as “a perfect visual representation of arguably the Bunnymen’s finest album”. Indeed the darkness captures the gloomy mystique of the music and the coarse beauty of the cave reflects the forthright elegance of the album itself. 

The album cover appears to symbolise the songs within; the blue hue of the photograph appears to mimic moonlight, perhaps of ‘The Killing Moon’; meanwhile the floating boat represents the album’s multiple references to the sea (‘Seven Seas’, ‘Ocean Rain’). Of the album’s eight tracks, the one that seems most represented in the cover art instrumentally is ‘Nocturnal Me’. The song marches forth with an eerie confidence that gives an air of adventure and mystery; this air of dark curiosity is captured in the cover image perfectly, how did they get there? Where are they going on this strange cavernous adventure?

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(Credit: Press)