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The story behind Styx's Pieces Of Eight album artwork

Styx - Pieces Of Eight cover detail
(Image credit: A&M Records)

Styx made history by being the first band to have four successive albums that each sold three million copies in the US. Pieces Of Eight was the second of them. It has arguably the most surreal cover artwork of any of the band’s many records: three mature women, all wearing earrings shaped like the famous enigmatic statues that stand on Easter Island. 

Former Styx frontman Dennis De Young once said of his initial reaction to the artwork: “I hated it. ‘Why do you have these old women on our album cover?’ was the first thought that came to my mind.” 

Guitarist James Young, with the hindsight now of decades, says: “It’s a cover that, at the time, we’d like to have changed, given the opportunity. But we had gone to the high priests of album artwork, and they delivered the finished thing so close to our deadline that there was no time to do anything. 

“It was Jeff Ayeroff, who had done the design for the previous album [Grand Illusion, also released in ’78] who suggested we go to Hipgnosis.

Hipgnosis came up with a number of ideas, so why did Styx go for this image?

Styx - Pieces Of Eight Cover

(Image credit: A&M Records)

"Let me first of all explain how Hipgnosis work,” James Young continues. “They gave us a lot of choices, which was very impressive. But a lot of the ones we rejected I ended up seeing on other covers. So, clearly they come up with a constant stream of ideas independently of any specific commissions. But, hey, that’s cool. 

“We went for the one that seemed to best reflect the concept behind the record: the idea that you shouldn’t sell out your art for gold – for pieces of eight, if you want. The women on the cover have cashed in their principles for the Easter Island set to be trendy. Besides, Hipgnosis bamboozled us with artspeak. I’m a graduate in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and didn’t understand a word. 

“We all thought the women on the cover would be a lot younger than they ended up. It was strange for guys in their mid-20s to be looking at their album cover featuring women in their late 40s. But, with a tour booked, we had to get the album out. We did make some suggestions for changes, but it was too late.” 

Young has, though, come to more than just be able to live with the design: “I now feel it’s the best cover we’ve ever had. Although it took me an age to come to that conclusion. I also feel that in the era of vinyl, the detail really worked. If we’d had that sleeve specifically for a CD it would have lost a lot of the impact.”