AN ARTIST has told how he made one of Pink Floyd’s most renowned album covers.

Aubrey Powell had worked with the band on album art for their most famous album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

But the pressures of the music industry and Syd Barrett’s departure from the band posed him problems about what to create for the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.

“I knew I had got a great picture,” he said, after setting a stuntman on fire in the car park of a movie studio.

Aubrey, 74, from Worthing, spoke to The Guardian how grasping record company executives inspired the picture idea. Alongside colleague Storm Thorgersen and friend George Hardie, they bounced ideas around after listening to the song Have A Cigar.

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Storm said: “Have A Cigar is about insincerity in the music business. What about an image of two businessmen, and one of them is getting burned in a deal?”

Aubrey and George agreed and asked Storm how it could be done.

“Set a man on fire,” Storm said. From that moment the idea was born. Aubrey said: “One day we were asked to Abbey Road Studios to listen to tracks from the band’s new record. The lyrics were mostly about absence and the title, Wish You Were Here, was a reference to Syd Barrett, who had left some years earlier due to issues with LSD.

The Argus:

“They were also making a statement about record company executives who regarded musicians as money-making machines, demanding one hit song after another – an absence of a different kind.”

For the cover, stuntman Ronnie Rondell was to be set on fire, alongside another stuntman Danny Rogers as the other businessman. It was set up in the car park of Warner Brothers studios.

Aubrey said: “I explained to Ronnie what I needed and he said, ‘it’s dangerous for a man to stand still on fire. Normally, you’re running and the fire’s spreading behind you or you’re falling and the fire is above you, or you can always make out with camera angles that the stunt person is closer to the fire than they really are, but to stand still…?’. He was very reluctant but eventually agreed.”

Ronnie was given a suit and wig soaked in fire retardant before being covered in a “gel like napalm” and set on fire.

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Aubrey said: “We repeated the process 14 times, took the shot and then on the 15th a gust of wind blew up and wrapped the fire around his face and burnt him. He threw himself to the ground and his whole team piled on blankets to put him out.

“He said: ‘That’s it! I’m done!’ However, I had captured the shot successfully on that last take.

“Ronnie was very gracious about it considering he had lost an eyebrow and some of his moustache, but as far as he was concerned as a professional in the movie industry it was all in a day’s work.”

The image later featured on a stamp to commemorate Pink Floyd’s 50th anniversary as a band and is still one of their most renowned album covers.