Rock n’ Roll Deaths In April 2013

Andy Johns, Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones Right Hand Man; Storm Thorgerson, Album Cover Creator Extraordinaire; Christina Amphlett, Lead Singer Divinyls; All Die in April

April has been a bad month for the world of rock ‘n roll, as death has taken away three unique talents.

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns with Eddie Van Halen © Getty Images

Andy Johns who worked on some of the greatest rock albums of all-time as a producer and engineer died in Los Angeles on April 7, at the age of 62 due to complications of a stomach ulcer.

Johns was a name not known to casual rock fans because he worked behind the scenes, but his contributions to dozens of classic albums is immeasurable. From the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street to Led Zeppelin’s greatest period of production in the early 1970’s, Johns was setting up and overseeing the recording of albums that will be played for as long as people listen to rock n’ roll. Some of the many bands and artists Andy Johns worked with included Free, Eric Clapton, Blind Faith, Cinderella, Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Mott The Hoople.

After Andy Johns died I scanned The New York Times on a daily basis in disbelief that they did not cover his death. Nearly two weeks after his passing, an obituary finally appeared.

Here, Andy Johns talks about his experiences working with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and the recording of Led Zeppelin’s classic Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. 4 Symbols or Untitled) and the song Stairway To Heaven.

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Throrgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

David Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd between Storm Thorgerson photo possibly by Jill Furmanovsky

Storm Thorgerson was a name even less known by the general public than Andy Johns, but literally millions of people have seen his work. Thorgerson, as half of the design firm Hipgnosis with Aubrey Powell, created dozens of the most iconic record album covers, sleeve and insert artwork of all time. After the dissolution of Hipgnosis in 1983, Thorgerson ran his own firm and continued working until he died on April 13 at the age of 69 from cancer.

LP Cover Scorpions Lovedrive LP Cover The Who Who's Next LP Cover Led Zeppelin Presence LP Cover AC DC Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Thorgerson’s work was surreal and many times bizarre. But it caught your attention like any great artwork that was meant to be contemplated. Millions of people who bought albums would study the large canvas that an LP album offered for insights and clues about the music and the band they were listening to. With the supremacy of CD’s in the 1990’s, cover artwork was given a much smaller space and a less important role in point of purchase sales of music. Despite this, Thorgerson maintained a steady stream of clients who wanted original and outstanding works of art to go with their musical output.

LP Cover Yes Going For The One LP Cover Peter Gabriel LP Cover Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here LP cover Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy Gatefold

Best known for his long association with Pink Floyd, Thorgerson also created album covers for a wide variety of bands including Led Zeppelin, Yes, Scorpions, UFO, Phish, AC/DC, 10cc, Black Sabbath, The Alan Parsons Project, Anthrax and many others.

In this clip below, Thorgerson talks about the beginnings of Hipgnosis.

Chrissy AmphlettThe Divinyls lead singer Christina Amphlett was known in the United States as more of a one-hit wonder for the 1991 top ten song I Touch Myself than for anything else. But in her native Australia, Chrissy Amphlett was a rock legend. The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard even spoke of the impact of Amphlett’s death and what she meant to the Australian music scene.

Amphlett died in New York City at the age of 53 on April 20 after battling multiple sclerosis and breast cancer for many years.

The Divinyls were not just a pop band, they could rock as hard as anybody as evidenced here in a 1982 live performance of Boys in Town. With her schoolgirl outfit Amphlett displays some head-banging moves reminiscent of AC/DC’s Angus Young.

 

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