Sunday, November 3, 2019

Finn McCool and Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin released their fifth studio album, Houses of the Holy, on March 28, 1973.  The album cover is a collage of photographs taken at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, by Aubrey Powell. The cover was inspired by the ending of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood's End in which thousands of naked children, only slightly resembling the human race in basic forms, metamorph into the Overmind.

The Giant's Causeway is a geologic oddity comprised of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption, and is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland. The two children who modeled for the cover were siblings Stefan and Samantha Gates. The photoshoot was a frustrating affair over the course of ten days. Shooting was done first thing in the morning and at sunset in order to capture the light at dawn and dusk, but the desired effect was never achieved due to constant rain and clouds. The photos of the two children were taken in black and white and multi-printed to create the effect of 11 children as seen on the album cover.

Like Led Zeppelin IV, neither the band's name nor the album title was printed on the sleeve. However, manager Peter Grant did allow Atlantic Records to add a wrap-around band to UK copies of the sleeve that had to be broken or slid off to access the record.  This hid the children's buttocks from general display; still the album was either banned or unavailable in some parts of the Southern United States for several years. Despite any ongoing controversy, it clearly stands alongside LP covers like Pepper, Tommy, King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King and Thick as a Brick.

While Childhood's End rises head and shoulders over nearly every other Science Fiction novel, we'll leave that to you. Instead, here’s the story of Fionn (Finn) McCool:

A giant named Benandonner lived on the Scottish coast. McCool and Benandonner did not see eye to eye and Finn challenged his Scottish nemesis to a fight as they threatened each other from across the water. Building a causeway so he could reach his enemy, Finn moves rocks from Antrim into the sea and completes his new pathway only to find that Benandonner is, in fact, much larger than he. Instantly regretting his trash talk, McCool hightails it back to Ireland.

Once home, Finn turns to his wife Oonagh who saves the day and Finn's life. Wrapping her husband in a sheet and telling him to settle himself into the baby's crib, she welcomes Benandonner to her door, apologizing that Finn is currently hunting deer in Co. Kerry.

Cleverly, Oonagh asks if he would like to see the baby and the Scot is astounded and terrified when he meets their "son" who is, in fact, Finn wrapped up in a sheet. Assuming Finn is enormous if this is his child, Benandonner makes his excuses to Oonagh and flees back across the Causeway, destroying it in his wake. You can keep your geology, I'll take a good story any day.

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