The really great album cover remain in your mind as easily as a great song and become almost a graphical representation of the sonic content of the album. For today, we gathered ten of the best covers and their stories.
1. Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)
Andy Warhol appears as the producer of the album Velvet Underground and Nico, although in reality all the work was done by someone else. Instead, Warhol had the idea for the cover. On the one hand, it was an allusion to the popular opinion that you can get high by smoking dried banana peels (actually, you just get sick). On the other hand, if you peeled a banana, you would get the skin color. Although it cost a fortune to be printed, MGM covered all costs, thinking that the association with Warhol will bring massive sales.
2. David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)
Aladdin Sane was created by David Bowie both as an extension of Ziggy Stardust and as the embodiment of the idea of American rock & roll musician. During the US tour, Bowie had been caught between the desire to be on stage and the fact that he did not wish to be on the bus with all those around him. From this was born Aladdin Sane.
3. The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)
The four Ramones had initially wanted the photo on the cover to be similar to the one on the album The Beatles, Meet the Beatles, but the result was disastrous. The picture used had originally appeared in a magazine called Punk band and the label bought the rights to use it.
4. Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks (1977)
Jamie Reid, former university classmate of his Malcolm McLaren, saw in the punk movement some roots in Dada and Surrealism. His posters and designs of articulating ideas, many anti-system, perverting the familiar images. The album cover came to visually define the punk movement, with the design as simple as music. The design was quickly imitated by hundreds of bands, and Reid did for art what Pistols did for music: he democratized it.
5. The Clash – London Calling (1979)
When, on September 21, 1979, The Clash ended their concert in New York, bassist Paul Simonon felt like something is missing. Simonon destroyed his bass on stage. The timing was surprised by photographer Pennie Smith and became the cover of his third album The Clash. The writing on the cover is a homage to Elvis Presley’s first album.
6. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (1979)
Suggested by drummer Stephen Morris, the picture on the album cover of Unknown Pleasures was taken from the 1977 edition of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy and the original colors were reversed, black lines on a white background. Although many would think that the lines are sound, the picture actually represents the successive pulses of the first neutron star, the discovered result of a dead star. The neutron star was apparently discovered in 1967, and the picture was taken in 1971. And despite the fact that Peter Saville, Joy Division and Chris Mathan are credited for design, there is no copyright on the image.
7. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead (1985)
In general, The Smiths album covers were some of the most easily recognized and had the same stylistic imprint. Almost all are pictures taken from art and movies. Probably the best known album, The Queen Is Dead, has exactly this type of cover. The photo depicts Alain Delon in the role of Thomas, the main character in the 1965 film by Alain Cavalier, L’insoumis. Taken out of context, the picture seems to sum up everything that is The Smiths: a mixture of melancholy, passion and indifference that crumble under the weight of the world.
8. Sonic Youth – Goo (1990)
Goo is the first album from a great label, Geffen Records, and marks a shift to a more accessible style. The cover is an illustration by artist Raymond Pettibon, based on a paparazzi photo of Maureen Hindley and David Smith, witnesses in the serial killers trial Myra Hindley and Ian Brady.
9. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
According to Kurt Cobain, the idea for the cover came when he was watching programs about underwater births, but otherwise the images turned out to be too graphic for the cover. Instead, it was chosen a picture of a three month baby, Spencer Elden, in a swimming pool. There had been talks because you could see the baby’s penis, but Cobain did not agree with any change, saying the only compromise that would do would do is to put a sticker with “If you’re offended by this, you’re probably a pedophile”.
10. The Strokes – Is This It? (2001)
Although it seems influenced by the Spinal Tap album cover, Smell the Rat, photographer Colin Lane insisted that everything was a spontaneous picture taken when his girlfriend happened to come out of the shower naked. Anyway, the cover angered British distributors, though eventually the album came to be placed on the shelves without warning. It seems that out of fear of American conservatives and the right side, the band change the cover for the American edition, though the band’s manager says the singer Julian Casablancas did not agree with this decision.