“Dr. Strange” & “A Saucerful of Secrets”: Storm Thorgerson’s Clever Cover

By on April 2, 2015

Late last year, Marvel Studios announced that Benedict Cumberbatch would be starring in Dr. Strange, which is not due into theaters until late 2016, but we thought we’d mention it now that if you looked closely at the cover of Pink Floyd’s A Saucerful Of Secrets, you can see the good doctor hidden in Storm Thorgeson’s clever cover design.

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First, a bit about the forthcoming movie: Scott Derrickson is directing Dr. Strange, which is currently scheduled to be released on Nov. 4, 2016, as part of Marvel’s phase three of superhero movies. Jon Spaihts is writing the script. Cumberbatch will play the title character, neurosurgeon Doctor Stephen Strange who, after a horrific car accident, discovers the hidden world of magic and alternate dimensions and becomes the next Sorcerer Supreme and primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats.

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Marvel Comics vets Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (who did the art) co-created the character back in 1963 (they were the same creative team behind Spider Man).

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Just a few years after Dr. Strange first appeared on the scene, in 1967, the late Storm Thorgerson used an image of Dr. Strange — taken from Marvel’s Strange Tales #158, illustrated by Marie Severin and published the year before — for the cover of Pink Floyd’s second album.

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Dr Strange shows up on the right side of the front cover — additionally, you can also see the character Living Tribunal, who are facing off over the future of the Earth. Here’s the same cover, altered a bit so you can see the hidden image:

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Thorgerson, who died in 2013, spoke about the design in this 2010 interview:

“…The cover is an attempt to represent things that the band was interested in, collectively and individually, presented in a manner that was commensurate with the music. Swirly, blurred edges into red astrology/Dr. Strange images merging into images, a million miles away from certain pharmaceutical experiences. Beginning with Saucerful, they were beginning to experiment with more extended pieces and the music would cascade and change from thing into thing.”

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Hypgnosis was the working name for creative designers Storm Thorgerson and Aubury Powell, who did nearly all of Pink Floyd’s album covers and inner sleeve artwork, and also did the artwork for albums released in the 70s by Led Zeppelin, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney, 10cc, and many, many more.

Additionally, Pink Floyd also made another reference to Dr. Stephen Strange in their song “Cymbaline,” on the soundtrack to the movie More, with these lyrics “…and Doctor Strange is always changing size.”

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Here they are playing it live in 1971:

As an aside, Marc Bolan also referenced the good doctor in the T. Rex tune “Mambo Sun” with the lyrics: “I’m Dr. Strange for you”, and so did other artists in the 70s, including Country Joe and the Fish. You can also see images of Dr. Strange, if you look very closely, in covers designed by Thorgerson for two different albums by British singer-songwriter Al Stewart.

Just a few years later, Thorgerson’s original design for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon featured yet another Marvel character, the Silver Surfer, although he eventually settled on the now famous light prism design instead. He talks about it here.

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.