Some of the most memorable photos of the past have been remembered as the covers of important rock albums. They have always helped artists become the true icons we all know, creating links between imagery and music.
Some of these covers have made statements even bigger then the music they portrayed. Before the TV era, album covers were one of the few means for bands of also being brilliant visual artists.
Here are some of the most famous album covers in the history of music.
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The biggest band in history rightfully had one of the most recognizable (and Grammy-winning) album covers ever.
The image includes over 70 cardboard cut-outs of important personalities, friends and influences: from Marilyn Monroe to Freud, from Marlon Brando to Karl Marx. All the figures are representative for that era and are a witness to the band’s creativity. The record label had denied Lennon’s request to also include Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ into the image.
The Beatles members even appear twice (in person and as Madam Tussaud’s wax figures). The cover also includes several suggestions that Paul McCartney is dead, a well-known urban legend.
At that time, this sexy Playboy-inspired vinyl record sleeve created quite a buzz, being one of the most controversial covers ever. As some say, the six million copies sold are mostly due to this cover and not the tracks inside.
The model seams to be (overly) enjoying some whipped cream, probably in connection with the fact that all the song titles are named after types of food.
The photographer wanted to use real whipped cream, but it started melting on the set. Plan B? He had to use shaving cream instead.
Pink Floyd have raised the bar in so many ways. The many powerful and surreal album artworks are no exception.
For a scientist, this is an illustration showing how light passes through a dispersive prism to form a spectrum. To everyone else, this is simply “The Dark Side of the Moon”, and iconic album of Pink Floyd.
It may be considered to represent their famous laser light shows or, most probably, the psychedelic style of the band, a fusion of music and mysticism.
The indigo color is missing from the spectrum. They thought it looked too much like purple.
Hejira is a transliteration of the Arabic word hijra, which means “journey”.
This is a haunting cover of Canadian singer Joni Mitchell, one of the greatest and most influential female songwriters ever. It is actually a collage of different photos, some taken by Mitchell her-self. The black and white frozen look is meant to portray the loneliness and glamor of solitary travel.
She once explained: “I wrote the album while traveling cross-country by myself and there is this restless feeling throughout it”. This album sleeve fits perfectly with the songs.
The cover includes a Fellini-esque mixture of amateurs/friends and professionals, a surrealist portrayal of that generation. Besides from the real acrobats, the others were just improvising: the trumpet player is a taxi driver given 5 dollars, the juggler is the photographer’s assistant and the strongman was a club doorman.
This original idea was only put in practice after Jim Morrison repeatedly refused to appear on the album cover: “I hated the cover of our first album”, Jim Morrison said to a reporter, “So for Strange Days, I said: ‘I don’t want to be on this cover. Put a chick on it or something.’”
The band was looking for a cover different from what american bands were doing, and in the end this was just everything they wanted.
By the time this record was recorded, incredible tension was forming between the band member. They worked on the album in separate rooms. The bands most famous song, “Every Breath You Take”, is in fact not intended as a love song. Sting has always insisted that it’s about surveillance and control, about obsessing over lost lovers (he and his wife had just divorced).
The cover is no different, maintaining the “together but separate” theme. The three strips of photographs were taken by each band member, without even talking to each other. This cover was available in 36 different versions (with different photographs or color stripes).
After three top 10 singles and their most successful tour ever, the band split up.
This image of the Beatles walking on a zebra crossing on Abbey Road has since become the most imitated album covers in history. Dozens of artists and bands have created their own versions of this cover. This is one of the few in the 60s that did not contain any text at all (a tradition continued by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin in the 70s).
Paul McCartney is smoking, walking barefoot and out-of-step with the others. This and many other clues are all supporting the “Paul is dead” rumor/hoax again.
That exact zebra-crossing, still important to Beatles fans, even has its own live webcam!
Other famous album covers:
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And remember, never judge an album by its cover!
What are your favorite album covers and why?
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