Best Rock Album Covers Of All Time – Jenna’s Top 10
Going through my stacks of vinyl the other day, I realized something: Music is becoming a vapor. Album art used to be so important to the artist and buying a record was an experience for the buyer. Now, with the invention of mp3, I feel cover album design is a lost art. Here, I count down what I feel are the Top Ten Best Rock Album Covers of All Time. Can you guess which album topped the list?
The Velvet Underground and Nico
It’s their debut album and is pretty recognizable for the Andy Warhol banana print on the cover. Early pressings of the record tempted the buyer to “peel slowly and see”, as the banana peel was a sticker. What they saw when they peeled it was a flesh colored banana underneath. On the 2006 CD re-issue, the flesh colored banana is inside the case underneath the CD. In 2008, the album was pressed on to heavyweight vinyl with the banana sticker back in place.
Wish You Were Here
Storm Thorgerson used the idea of the opaque packaging to hide the album cover because the theme for the record was absence and obscuring the cover art made it absent from the buyer. The actual cover image was inspired by the idea that people often tend to conceal their true feelings out of fear of getting burned. On the album cover, it looks like there are two men shaking hands and one of them is on fire. If you look closely, you can see the man on the album cover is actually shaking his own hand.
Born To Run
The cover art for this record is a shot of Bruce and saxophone player Clarence Clemons. There were 900 pictures taken of the pair over the course of three hours by photographer Eric Meola. When he was looking at the contact sheets following the shoot, he said that this one was the one that really popped. The font on the cover was also very thin, which was unusual for that time in rock and roll.
Long time friend of the band, Klaus Voormann illustrated this cover. Part hand drawing, part photo collage, Klaus worked his own photo and name into George Harrison’s hair on the right hand side. This photo of George has been updated and replicated throughout the Beatles works.
This is another Andy Warhol creation. The original vinyl pressing of this album featured a real working zipper that when unzipped revealed cotton briefs underneath. The crotch image on the front is not Mick Jagger, by the way. The bulge belongs to actor Joe Dallesandro.
The shot on the cover features bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass on stage at the Palladium in New York City. Originally, photographer Pennie Smith did not want the shot to be used, but guitarist Joe Strummer and graphic designer Ray Lowry convinced her that it would be a great album cover. Q Magazine agreed, and in 2002, named it the best album cover of all time, saying, it “it captures the ultimate rock 'n' roll moment – total loss of control”. By the way, you may think the pink and green block lettering highlighting the album title isn't very punk rock and you'd be right. The pink and green is a nod to Elvis Presley’s debut album.
This cover was conceived by Apple Records’ Creative Director Kosh and is the only UK Beatles album sleeve that does not show the band name or album title. Paul McCartney sketched the idea for the cover and the photograph was taken at 11:30 that morning outside of EMI Studios, located on Abbey Road. The photo shoot took all of ten minutes. Photographer Iain Macmillan stood on a small ladder, while a police officer stopped traffic. The Volkswagen Beetle between Paul and George in the shot belonged to someone who lived in a nearby apartment complex and its license plate was repeatedly stolen following the album’s release. The other man on the cover is an American tourist who was unaware he was being photographed until he saw the album cover months later.
The idea for this cover came to singer Kurt Cobain while watching a TV program about water births, but when they went to dig up photographs, all of them were too graphic for the record company, so the photographer was sent to a pool and took five pictures. The one they settled on is a boy named Spencer Elden and is the son of the photographer’s friend. There was some concern about the cover art because Spencer’s thingie was showing so Geffen made an alternate cover without the thingie, but Kurt said the only compromise he would make would be a sticker over it saying “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.”
The Dark Side of the Moon
The prism design involves three elements: Pink Floyd’s stage lighting, the album lyrics and Richard Wright’s request for “simple but bold” artwork. The prism runs through the entire gate fold of the liner notes and lyrics and also shows the visual representation of the heartbeat that is a running theme throughout the entire album. The band felt that Roger Waters’ lyrics were so strong, they printed them in their entirety on the inside sleeve.
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
This package was nominated for a Grammy and it depicts the Fab Four and 70 other famous people on the front with the lyrics printed on the back, which was a first for a British pop LP. The cover was designed by Peter Blake and his wife. They officially titled the work, “People We Like”. The notable names on the cover include Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, Bob Dylan, Sigmund Freud and original Beatles bassist, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. There is also a Shirley Temple doll wearing a sweater in homage to the Rolling Stones. The Stones later returned this favor by hiding an image of the Beatles on their album Their Satanic Majesties Request.