Rock History

Cover Story – Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, cover by Vic Singh

vspfpiper1.jpgSubject – Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn – a 1967 release on Columbia Records (distributed in the U.S. by Capitol Records), with cover photography by Vic Singh.

All images Copyright 1967 and 2007 Vic Singh –

2007 marks the 40th anniversary of the world’s introduction to the recorded music of Pink Floyd. Clubgoers in London had been treated to the band’s psychedelic blues and instrumentals – with 20 minute jams of “Interstellar Overdrive” and ground-breaking lightshows the highlights of a typical concert event – but it was their first singles, “Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”, released early in 1967, that introduced the song-writing capabilities of Syd Barrett to a wider listening audience. The singles had done pretty respectably in the U.K. charts and the band was keen on trying out new technologies in the studio. As it was that Barrett – the chief songwriter and singer – was also quite fond of LSD, it only made sense that their first full-length effort, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (whose title was adapted from a chapter in a fondly-remembered book – The Wind in the Willows – from Barrett’s childhood), would both employ these new technologies to craft songs and experimental musical tracks and also be altered by drugs to the point that they were considered “spacey” and “hallucinogenic” in nature.

While the record was a hit in the U.K. at the time (hitting #6 on their album charts), the record did not fare well here in the U.S. until it was re-released in the 70s, after the band’s popularity had soared due to the popularity of their subsequent albums and their touring with other psychedelic stars of the day – including Jimi Hendrix – and their appearances at many music festivals. Of course, Floyd fans are all aware of Syd Barrett’s rapid and disturbing slide into sickness – both mental and physical – that ultimately lead to his ouster from the band in 1968. After his departure and guitarist David Gilmour’s joining the band, Roger Waters took on the role of the creative lead and the band would go on to create a roster of rock classics, selling over 250 million records (!) world-wide. It wasn’t until many years later that rock critics and fans would revisit the band’s debut album and explore its many intricacies, with most fans and critics now in agreement that it deserves consideration as on of the most-important and influential psychedelic recordings of the rock era.

Pink Floyd has also been associated with a number of the best-known artists and illustrators throughout the years, including Storm Thorgerson/Hipgnosis (who created covers for Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and many others) and Gerald Scarfe (creator of the amazing imagery used for The Wall’s packaging and stage show). After they had reached a certain degree of fame (i.e., right after their first album), they did not appear on the cover of any other album, but in 1967, it was an “industry standard” to feature a photograph of the recording artist on the cover, and so London photographer Vic Singh has the distinction of having shot the image that turned out to be the only one that featured the band – and that featured the soon-to-be-sacked Syd Barrett. Vic, too, was interested in creating something unusual (and “psychedelic”) for this commission, and the result was an image that represented the “vibe” of the time exceptionally well. The “making of” this image is the topic of today’s groovy and gear fab Cover Story, so enjoy, you dig?

In the words of the photographer, Vic Singh (interviewed in September, 2007)

In the mid-1960’s, I was a young established photographer and a member of the 60’s swinging “in-crowd”. I first met the Pink Floyd at an event – or happening as it was called in those days -under the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus in London. They were a new, unknown band and we all chatted for a while. They looked trippy and said they were making their first record album.

A few weeks after our meeting at Piccadilly, their manager (I can’t remember who called, but it was probably either Peter Jenner or Andrew King) rang me at my studio and asked me if I would like to shoot the album cover for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I agreed, and we fixed a date for a one day shoot in my studio. At that time, The Pink Floyd were a new band unsigned to any record label, and so there was no art director. I asked their manager if he or the band had any ideas for the album cover, the answer was “no”, and so it was left up to me to come up with ideas. I don’t know if the band had seen any of my work, and since I was not given much to work with visually, the inspiration would need to come from the music and the band’s image.

The band was psychedelic and their music was surreal and alien compared to other popular music of the time, so it needed a far-out image. Having to work with a small production budget (Colour labs for special effects were mega-expensive, and there was no technology like today), I decided to use a prism lens which George Harrison had given me because he could not find a use for it and I had not used it up till then, so it seemed like the perfect solution. All I had to do was screw it on my Hasselblad camera lens and the creative special effect would go straight on to the film.


All images Copyright 1967 and 2007 Vic Singh –

The photo shoot was in my studio and was shot on a white background with flat, even electronic strobe lighting (i.e., a studio flash). I used my Hasselblad with an 80-mm lens and 2 1/4 square Kodak Ektachrome Daylight type film. As I had decided to shoot with the prism lens – which multiplied and softened some of the images – I also asked the band to bring colorful psychedelic clothes (fashionable at the time) which would stand out and provide us with more contrast as the prism lens tended to soften and loose contrast as it split the image. I don’t know how long it took the band to get the clothes together, but they arrived at the studio in the morning, put the coffee pot on, and sat around the studio chatting. There was a lot to chat about as London was buzzing – it was a time of love and peace.Finally, we decided to get on with the photos and the boys went to the changing room and started trying on the clothes. I first started with some test Polaroid shots, positioning them on the white background, which was a bit tricky as the prism lens multiplied each figure – they all overlapped each other! – so I had to get the figures positioned right or the whole thing looked like a mess. Syd got especially interested at this point and was quite intense, changing outfits and the positions of the band on the background and shooting tests on the Polaroid film with me.

All images Copyright 1967 and 2007 Vic Singh –

(Above) Alternate takes from the session

When it was time for a lunch break, my assistant arrived with sandwiches, a couple bottles of Scotch and some joints – all quite enjoyable. After lunch, we put on some Piper music. I had a rather loud stereo system and the Piper sounds could be heard all the way down the street. With the music blasting away, we got into the session, shooting quite a few reels of film and finishing up around 6:00 PM. We had the films processed the next day and I delivered the photos the day after.They loved the photos and Syd got inspired to create the back of the album cover. It had been a beautiful day – as had the day before the shoot and the day after – I attribute it to Flower Power!

About the photographer, Vic Singh

vicsingh1.jpgVic was born in Lucknow, India, his father a son of Raja of Kalakankar, situated on the banks of The Ganges in northern India and his mother a daughter of a well-known Austrian society photographer in Vienna. He was sent to St. Christopher’s College in Letchworth, Hertfordshire as a young child and his mother decided to move to London.In his teens, he attended St. Martin’s College of Art in London and then got a job at Mayflower Studios as a junior assistant – delivering prints, sweeping the floor, making tea, etc. He then moved on to his first job as a photographer with Studio Five in London’s Mayfair, and a couple of years later, he opened his own photo studio called “Vic Singh Limited” also in Mayfair.

He worked for the fashion, advertising and music industries. Being a member of “the Swinging 60’s In-Crowd” from it’s formation, he had many acquaintances in the music industry. Besides photographing various independent artists such as Pink Floyd, Marc Bolan and others, he also worked for Chris Blackwell of Island Records with artists such as Jimmy Cliff, The Spencer Davis Group (Stevie Winwood) and others shooting PR, record covers and music video (16-mm b/w film), including The Beatles film ‘A Day in the Life’ (from Sgt.Pepper) for Apple Records.

In the last few years, Vic’s concentrated his efforts on the digital side of photography and video and is working in a new environment of the avant-garde music and fashion scene that is, at present, evolving in London.

To see more examples of Vic Singh’s work, please visit his Web site at:

To see more examples of artwork related to Pink Floyd in the RockPoP Gallery collection, please visit

About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.

Every Friday and syndicated on The Rock and Roll Report the following Monday, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.

We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.

All images Copyright 1967 & 2007 Vic Singh
Except as noted, All other text Copyright 2007 – Mike Goldstein & RockPoP Gallery ( – All rights reserved.