Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Spencer Zahn

Artist and designer for Grand Hotel


American artist and designer Spencer Zahn gave Procol Harum arguably their most distinctive album cover when he created the package – and the lavish lyric-booklet – for 1973's Grand Hotel, which sold so well all round the world. BtP met Spencer in London at Procol Harum's last gig of 2003, and he has kindly sent us a little background to his work, including an intriguing self-portrait entitled 'The Enigma' (no image manipulation involved) which is © the artist, 2003.


The Enigma (a self portrait with no retouching) © 2003 Spencer ZahnSpencer Zahn: background
1960s–1970s,
Drawing/Painting

First Showing of Work: 1971 / Sold Out

Clothing Design: High Heel Boots and Velvet Trousers

Stage Design: Commissioned for Eric Clapton, Elton John, Rolling Stones

Album Design (among others) ...

Procol Harum: Grand Hotel Cover and Book
A Whiter Shade of Pale (1990s CD single)
Gary Brooker Echoes in the Night
[all the above have won various Art Direction awards]

Poster Art, Art & Design (among others) ...
Pops Staples & Staples Singers / Bill Cosby / Paul Anka / Norman Connors / Grateful Dead / Alice Cooper / Ten Years After / Isaac Hayes / The Band / Traffic / Elton John / Three Dog Night / Procol Harum / Savoy Brown / Jethro Tull / Captain Beefheart / Chicago / John Sebastian / Joan Baez / Faces with Rod Stewart / Fifth Dimension / Chamber Brothers / Neil Diamond / Roberta Flack / Hot Tuna / James Gang

In The Collections of: (among others) ...
Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Keith Reid, Gary Brooker, Temple University

Grand Hotel ... background
Gary, Keith and Spencer had first met in the late sixties. Keith Reid, Gary Brooker and Spencer Zahn first broached the idea of doing an album concept/design in 1970, and then waited for the proper timing and subject. As Grand Hotel emerged from Keith’s and Gary’s pens, words were forwarded to Spencer and concepts began for the album package.

Locations in Europe and the States were selected for the album-shoot, yet the only date available when all members of Procol Harum could be together was on 4 July in Los Angeles. New locations had to be viewed, and any proper hotel worth its salt was not willing or able to give up any part of their location on ‘America’s Great Day’ ... so an infamous villa on the Pacific Palisades was attained for the site. Measurements 'from head to toe, tip to tail' were done and Top Hat and Tails were acquired for the Hot Los Angeles Shoot.

As the album concept progressed, the execution of the book with words and drawings evolved while the album began recording in London. Spencer went off to the tropics of Acapulco during this time to render and create the book (the Rum Tale came very naturally here, as the drinks in by the pool flowed). Keith would forward new words and new drawings evolved. You can imagine the excitement of what might come next in the mail, and what turn the evolving album would take was always met with anticipation: what new room of Keith’s imagination would I awaken in next?

Note: intriguingly, Spencer Zahn also illustrated three sets of Reid words that were destined not to appear on the Grand Hotel album

Artwork for the book
The complete album concept, design, art direction and drawings by Spencer Zahn
Photography by Jeffrey Weisel [colour tinting by SZ]
The drawings / artwork were executed in charcoal on Rives BFK Elephant double weight paper.

Illustration on this page: The Enigma (a self portrait with no retouching) © 2003 Spencer Zahn


The Grand Hotel album


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