Roger Dean is most famous for his album cover art created for the British progressive rock band Yes. Dean's first album cover work was in 1968 for the band Gun and by 1971 Dean was working on several album covers for progressive rock bands such as Atomic Rooster, Lighthouse, Gentle Giant, Osibisa, and Yes. These early 70's covers start to reveal aspects of Dean's emerging style, where Dean brings us out of this world, as he pursues the incomparable, everything Dean envisions, designs and touches are slightly altered and emerges a-new with a peculiar and significant look. With settings with-in, science-fiction and fantasy worlds help characterize his vibrant creations.
Dean renders the time, the mood, and the atmospheric conditions of his fantasy landscapes by utilizing a dazzling color palette with intense lighting and strong contour lines. The landscapes show graceful stone arches, floating islands, and organic habitats. He often juxtaposes disparate elements as he challenges the nature of perception. Dean is still creating album covers, to date with the most recent cover being March of 2015 for the Yes release titled "Progeny". Although he primarily works with watercolors, many of his paintings do make use of multiple mediums and in addition to his paintings and album covers, Dean is a well-respected calligraphist and has created several iconic logos and record label artworks which we will explore here.
The Gun "Gun" 1968
Gun "Yellow Cab Man"
The First Album Cover
Roger Deans first album cover was for the self titled album from the band Gun who had a distinctive psych-flavored proto-metal" sound, although the work was not really created as an album cover by Dean, meaning that the band pulled an existing image out of his portfolio and asked if they could use it for such. The imagery is a bit darker than that which Dean is later known for.
Atomic Rooster "In Hearing Of" 1971
Osibisa "Osibisa" 1971
Osibisa "Fire" Live
Osibisa Album Cover Art
This self titled album was Roger Deans first album cover for the African/Caribbean band Osibisa, which features a hybrid insect-elephant and is much closer to Dean's body of work as we have come to know it. Osibisa's extraordinary merger of African drum beats, colorful rhythms, and rock-inspired keyboard and horn parts give it an expansive sound that infuses countless musical influences. Even the melodies take bits of rhythm & blues and modern rock and affix them to the accompanying percussion beats to come up with a contemporary feel with an avant-garde atmosphere. What may be the most predominant aspect about Osibisa is that the vast blend of instruments and the playful lyrics inject just enough of a modern element into the album that it's properly kept from being labeled as world music or as new age.
Osibisa "Osibisa" Open Gatefold Album Cover
Pete Dello and Friends "Into Your Ears" 1971
Yes "Fragile" 1971
Yes Fragile Booklet Insert
Back Cover Booklet Insert
The Fragile album was the first project that Roger Dean created for Yes, where Dean designed, illustrated and also photographed the band for the gatefold album cover and an accompanying promotional booklet which contains two additional Dean paintings; the front cover depicts five creatures huddled under a root system; where the back cover depicts a person climbing up a rock formation. The pages inside show several photographs of the band with an individual page dedicated to each member, with smaller illustrations and photographs of their wives and children. Anderson's page contains a short poem, while Wakeman contains a list of acknowledgements, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The White Bear pub in Hounslow, and Brentford F.C..
Upon reflection of the design, Dean said: "'Fragile' was very literal, really. I think the band has named a number of their albums after their current psychological state, and 'Fragile' described the psyche of the band. And I thought about that very literally, painting a fragile world that would eventually break up." He commented further: "'Fragile' was quite a complicated cover because there was a book inside. It was elaborate although it wasn't one of the most striking of all the Yes covers. I was kind of learning my trade at the time. The main feature on the cover was a little Bonsai world with a wooden space ship flying overhead! It was literally meant to be a fragile world with implications of a delicate and breakable eco-system. This idea of a broken world would continue on the band's live album, Yessongs.
Lighthouse “One Fine Morning” 1971
Ramases "Space Hymns" 1971
Open Six Panel Gatefold Cover
In 1971, a message was delivered from an Egyptian god through his vessel to the youth of the world via the infamous Vertigo label. That vessel was one Martin Raphael, a central heating salesman from Sheffield, who was shocked into servitude by Ramases in order to preach his word. Space Hymns was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Stockport, backed by the band Hotlegs, who were moments away from being known as 10cc, Ramases created this one-of-a-kind cosmic mind blowing UK psychedelia filled with pop-psych clashes and acid drenched madness to create a superb album of hippy rock with moogs, sitars and guitars to the fore! A true rarity, with bizarre and alluring message of peace and the supernatural, housed in a six-panel fold out gatefold album cover designed by Roger Dean. This was the most expansive artwork Roger Dean was ever allowed to produce with a 6-page fold out on printing card of a Cathredral Steeple lifting off into the cosmos while hues of wild greens, yellows and reds are all boiling underneath.
Osibisa "Woyaya" 1971
Osibisa "Woyaya" Open Gatefold Album Cover
Various Artists: Motown Chartbusters, Vol. Six 1972
Gentle Giant "Octopus" 1972
Uriah Heep "The Magicians Birthday" 1972
Yes "Close To the Edge" 1972
Yes Logo Art by Roger Dean
Yes "And You And I" Live 1975
Did You Know ??
In 1972 Roger Dean designed the now-classic Yes "bubble" logo, which first appeared on the album "Close to the Edge". The idea was to create a permanent logo, a brand that the band could use on all there albums and advertising. Deans first album cover for Yes was "Fragile" where you can see the beginnings of the logo but he found the capitol or uppercase letters to restricting, where the lowercase letters are free flowing, Dean describes the logo as being a waterfall constantly refreshing itself, pouring from all sides of the lake, as a flowing river that has no beginning and has no end. The bubble logo was the perfect chameleon for Yes album covers, able to change color and patterns, for example the "Close To The Edge" album the logo was colored in monochrome green where 1973s "Tales from Topographic Oceans" is a gradient blue and Yes Songs is a solid black.
Budgie "Squawk" 1972
Uriah Heep "Demons and Wizards" 1972
Uriah Heep "Demons and Wizards" Open Gatefold 1972
Uriah Heep Stealin'
Billy Cox "Nitro Function" 1972
Virgin Records 1973
Second Label Variation
Third Label Variation
Fourth Label Variation
Did You Know ??
The original Virgin logo known to fans as the "Gemini" logo was designed by artist and illustrator Roger Dean, where a mirror image of young naked woman with a large long-tailed serpent and the word "Virgin" in Dean's familiar script, the was originally used in black and white for the first few issues and were then colorized.
:Virgin Records was the brainchild of record shop owner Richard Branson and business partners Simon Draper and Nik Powell. The partnership launched a new record label in 1972 which was primarily used to release UK editions of various ‘krautrock’ imports they had been selling in their shop. Famously launching with Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, its success was pretty much guaranteed by the use of the music as part of the soundtrack to the film “The Exorcist”. Virgin went on to sign a diverse range of avant-garde, generally obscure artists, not really capitalizing on this earlier ‘exorcist notoriety’ until picking up the contract of The Sex Pistols in 1977, who’d been dropped by EMI and A&M due to ‘adverse public reaction’ to their initial releases, by signing the Sex Pistols Virgin dissolved its outdated ‘hippy’ image and reinvented the label as a new-wave outpost, a move that plunged the record company into the mainstream of the punk rock era
The label design made some changes from 1973 - 1975 featuring a variety of colors and styles before the "two virgins/dragon" label design was dropped and replaced with a simple red, white and blue design introduced in 1975, which coincided with the height of punk and new wave era until being finally replaced by the now familiar Virgin ‘scrawl’ logo created in 1978, commissioned by Simon Draper which has been subsequently adopted by all Virgin brands within the group.
Yes "Tales from Topographic Oceans" 1973
Yes "The Ancient"
"Tales from Topographic Oceans"
This is the fourth Yes album cover designed and illustrated by Roger Dean, who had also created the artwork for the band's previous records "Fragile", "Close to the Edge", and "Yessongs". These three albums were tied together with a narrative thread which was not carried over for "Tales from Topographic Oceans". Dean used watercolor and ink for this painting, the cover depicts fish circling a waterfall below constellations of stars. In his 1975 book Views, Dean explains the painting: "The final collection of landmarks was more complex than intended because it seemed appropriate to the nature of the project that everyone who wanted to contribute should do so. The landscape comprised amongst other things, some famous English rocks taken from Dominy Hamilton's postcard collection. These are, specifically: Brimham Rocks, the last rocks at Land's End, the Logan Rock at Treen and single stones from Avebury and Stonehenge. Jon Anderson wanted the Mayan temple at Chichen Itza with the sun behind it, and Alan White suggested using markings from the plains of Nazca. The result is a somewhat incongruous mixture, but effective nonetheless."
Yes "Tales from Topographic Oceans" Open Gatefold Cover
Budgie "Never Turn Your Back on a Friend" 1973
Greenslade "Greenslade" 1973
Vertigos' "Spaceship" Logo
Vertigo Records 1973
In 1973 Dean also designed the relaunched Vertigo label, known as the "Spaceship" label or "UFO" label which replaced the iconic "Vertigo Swirl" design.
Vertigo was a subsidiary of the Philips/Phonogram record label launched in 1969 in the UK to specialize in progressive rock and other non-mainstream musical styles and was the brainchild of Olav Wyper which was launched as a competitor to labels such as Harvest, a prog subsidiary of EMI and Deram who was a sub of Decca. Vertigo was the home to bands such as Colosseum, Jade Warrior, Affinity, Ben and other bands from 'the cutting edge of the early-'70s British prog-folk-post-psych circuit.
Magna Carta "Lord of the Ages" 1973
Yes "Yessongs" 1973
Yessongs was the first live Yes album, comprised of recordings from the "Fragile" and "Close to the Edge" tours between February and December 1972. The album was initially released on three records in a fold-out package featuring artwork by Roger Dean. The Inside consists of four individual panels by Dean which continue a theme that began with Fragile in 1971. On the back cover of Fragile is an image of a small planet breaking apart into several large pieces with a giant sailing spacecraft nearby. The first panel in Yessongs, is titled "Escape", which shows the craft apparently leading the planetary fragment through space. The second panel is titled "Arrival" which depicts these fragments landing in the waters of a new world. In the third image "Awakening" shows a new landscape that becomes the habitat for various plant and animal species. The final image "Pathways" depicts the emergence of civilization This theme is also the basis of the film Floating Islands. The sailing craft was used as a small logo on many of the band's subsequent albums, and the image sequence inspired Yes vocalist Jon Anderson's first solo album Olias of Sunhillow in 1976, although Roger Dean was not involved with this Anderson project.