Led Zeppelin’s 1975 album Physical Graffiti is considered one of their best, featuring such fan-favorite songs as “Kashmir” and “Trampled Under Foot.” Its release saw a delay due to the complexity of its cover design, which proved difficult to manufacture.
Designed by Peter Corriston, the iconic die-cut artwork portrays a symmetrical brownstone tenement block, something that could only hail from New York City, with each letter of the album’s title written on its window. The inner sleeve had a number of different images printed on them, such as those of Lee Harvey Oswald and Elizabeth Taylor, à la “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The gimmick was that, when placed inside the outer cover, they would appear inside each of the cut-out windows.
The building in question is a real tenement in Manhattan, still standing at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place. Since similar-looking buildings are not uncommon in the city, more than a few tourists have mistaken other brownstones for the one on the album cover. But once you know the actual location, it’s not hard to find. A few creative tweaks were made to suit Corriston’s vision, and the fourth floor of the building was cropped out of the frame, giving the artwork a somewhat different look.
Today, the East Village building is home to a basement tea shop aptly named Physical GraffiTea, boasting a great selection of organic, fair-trade tea and a reputation for offering a wide selection of loose leaf tea and medicinal blends. Quite incidentally, the building also appears in the 1981 music video for “Waiting on a Friend” by the Rolling Stones, making it a great location to pay a visit and feel the history of rock and roll.
Know Before You Go
The Physical GraffiTea shop is open every day from noon to 7 p.m.