Album covers are relics from an ancient age. When a 12.375 inch (31.43 cm) square cardboard sleeve provided the canvas for designers to come up with an eye-catching piece of artwork to persuade the viewer to part with his or her hard earned money. We want to celebrate these art designers by spotlighting the best rock album covers of all time! (In alphabetical order!!)
Band on the Run – Paul McCartney and Wings (1973)
Reflecting the concept of the title track, the album cover depicts Paul, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine plus six other celebrities dressed as convicts caught in the spotlight of a prison searchlight. Photographer : Clive Arrowsmith.
Breakfast in America – Supertramp (1979)
A loose concept album about coming to America with an appropriate album cover design. Taking the album title literally with the city of New York represented by breakfast items, most notably the waitress standing in for the Statue of Liberty. Inventive! Designer : Mike Doud.
Charge! – Paladin (1972)
70s progressive rock featured many an imaginative album cover. Though here it seems to literally reflect the title i.e. Charge. Memorable nonetheless. A deserved entry in the Best Rock Album Covers of All Time! Designer : Roger Dean.
Country Life – Roxy Music
Roxy Music always had glamorous women on their covers and Country Life was the sexiest one of them all. Designer : Bryan Ferry.
Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973)
Well, it does not get more iconic than this album cover. While the design is clever indeed, it really has nothing whatsoever to do with the album concept – the madness of modern life. Designers : Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis.
Duke – Genesis (1980)
Though some might plump for The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, I personally find that Duke’s cartoon artwork seems to fit the music inside better. The character Albert, is taken from a French children’s book and the band got the artist to create new art featuring Albert. To great effect, in my view. Designer : Lionel Koechlin.
Fables of the Reconstruction – R.E.M. (1983)
Probably my favourite R.E.M. LP, Fables of the Reconstruction (or Reconstruction of the Fables, depending on your preference) features a surrealistic cover of unrelated objects cast in psychedelic lighting. Designer : M. K. Johnston.
Fragile – Yes (1970)
Whole bunch of Yes albums could have made this list but I settled on this one, for sentimental reasons. Fragile was my first Yes LP. Designer : Roger Dean.
Ghost in the Machine – The Police (1981)
I have a T-shirt with this design. Took me a while to realise like all their album covers, Ghost in the Machine features the three members on the cover. Very cool. Designer : Mick Haggerty.
Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin (1973)
A memorable album cover inspired it seems by Arthur C. Clarke’s classic scifi novel, Childhood’s End. Designer : Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis.
I Can See Your House From Here – Camel
A distinctive cover, inspired it seems by a popular joke of the time. Jesus, while hanging up on the Cross dying, calls out for his disciple Peter to come to him, who does so with great difficulty. The punchline is that Jesus merely wants to tell Peter, “I can see your house from here.” Photographer : Gered Mankowitz
In the Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson
A visceral image greeted the buyers of the debut King Crimson LP. Unforgettable! Designer : Barry Godber.
In Rock – Deep Purple
A bit corny some might argue. A literal representation of the album title in effect. Well, considering the power of this album, the band deserved to have their visages memorialised in this manner! Photographer : Alan Hall.
News of the World – Queen
The story goes that drummer Roger Taylor had an issue of Astounding Science Fiction (October 1953) whose cover art depicted a giant robot holding a dead man. The band dug it so much, they got the original artist to re-draw the image with the members in place of the dead man. Designer : Frank Kelly Freas.
Out of the Blue – Electric Light Orchestra
I have always loved the art design of this double LP, even if the music was alright only. The whole ELO spaceship concept was exciting to me, especially as a scifi fan. Designed by Kosh with art by Shusei Nagaoka.
Permanent Waves – Rush
A brilliant album cover concept with various random images collaged together. Designer : Hugh Syme.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
Probably the most famous album cover of all time. Epitomised the pop art aesthetic of the day as well. Designers : Peter Blake and Jann Haworth.
Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones
Another pop art exercise was in order for yet another controversial Stones moment. The artwork showed a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch with the visible outline of a penis; the cover of the original vinyl release featured a working zipper and perforations around the belt buckle that opened to reveal a sub-cover image of cotton briefs. Designer : Andy Warhol.
Tommy – The Who
In the words of the designer himself – “The cover uses the form of the globe to represent both the Earth and Self floating in an endless infinite black universe like space. A space that can never be touched, only imagined.” Designer : Mike McInnerney
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd
Inspired by the concept of “absence”, there is a very surrealistic quality to the art design of Wish You Were Here. Notably, the influence of Rene Magritte is strong. Designers : Aubrey Powell and Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis.
There you go, the best rock album covers of all time. I am sure you have your own opinions on this – let us know at our Facebook page.
… still there’s more …