Roger Dean: How I designed the Yes classic Close To The Edge

Close To The Edge
Close To The Edge (Image credit: Roger Dean)

For an artist whose name is together in an interesting readily associated with all kinds of fantastical vistas, it’s rather ironic that Roger Dean’s cover to Close To The Edge is a masterclass in understatement.

“The texture on it was meant to feel like a leather book cover. I’ve got hundreds of dark green leather-bound sketch books, and I quite liked that look and feel. I also wanted it to have some memory of that idea of creating a book that we did with Fragile. The common wisdom among advertising and art directors is that green won’t sell, but I thought it might!

“After Fragile, I felt Yes needed a logo and designed it without talking to them. For all I knew they weren’t even going to come to me for the next album, but I still designed this logo. I did it over the course of a train journey to Brighton. I started with a notion that you can put these three letters together in an interesting way and by the time I got to Brighton, I’d pretty much done it.

I wanted to show it off, and so the idea of putting it on the cover was good. Everyone liked it. I talked to Atlantic to have the letter silver-blocked like you would do on a traditional book, but that never happened.”

If Close To The Edge was the soundtrack, opening the gatefold album sleeve on Dean’s spectacular landscape provided the cinematic experience to go with it. “It came with wanting to paint a world that was magical and miniature and impossible but totally credible.

“I was painting landscapes to look real and, in the most literal sense of the word, enticing. I wanted them to pull you in and make people want to imagine what it would be like getting on a boat to the island and walking to the island. I guess I was designing landscapes that I felt would be really cool to visit. I love climbing, and north of Ullapool you’d see these little teeny lakes with rocky outcrops in the middle with trees on them.

“I discovered that the trees very often were Silver Birch, and the first Bonsai in Japan were Silver Birch found on the mountains that were naturally dwarfed. In Scotland there was this area where it was happening naturally which had a fantastic impact. I mixed that with a trip to the English Lake District. There’s a tarn on the top of the mountain, but lakes are meant to be in valleys, not the tip top of a mountain. It was powerfully inspirational for CTTE.”

Roger Dean’s Islands and Bridges Exhibition is currently running at the Manx Museum on the Isle Of Man. It’s open until November 19.

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Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.