In little more than one square foot, the album cover captured the dreams, hopes and fears of a music-loving generation.
Then CDs left the record sleeve mortally wounded. People loved the digital format and sound of CD’s, but would gripe at how small the CD cover was. It was there, just not what it was.
Now downloading has performed the coup de grâce on album artwork.
The cover, considered as important as the music it housed, was considered integral to the whole experience of owning an LP, to be studied in minute detail by the rock fan.
In the 1950s, images of Elvis Presley, mouth agape, mid-song, on the cover of his debut album, helped teenagers across the world connect with their new hero. Then, in the Sixties, the Beatles took the album cover to another level – as a work of art.
Today, as technology has taken over, cover art has become nothing more than a postage stamp-sized image on an iPod screen. If that.
The audio “album” is on life support. The album cover as art has assumed room temperature. It’s dead.
And what a shame. Any body who is old enough can remember putting their new record on the turntable, and being transfixed with the album artwork, gatefold, liner notes, lyrics, whatever the artist decided the record needed. And you can put insert your own joke about cleaning your weed on it here.
There was a golden time though. Album art. Here is our list of the greatest album covers of all time:
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (The Beatles)
2. Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones
3. Elvis Presley (Elvis Presley, 1956)
4. Cheap Thrills (Big Brother and the Holding Company)
5. Relayer (Yes)
6. Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)
7. The Beatles (White Album, The Beatles)
8. Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
9. Hotel California (Eagles)
10. London Calling (The Clash)
11. Bringing it all Back Home (Bob Dylan)
12. Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin)
13. With The Beatles (The Beatles)
14. Brain Salad Surgery (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
15. Diamond Dogs (David Bowie)
16. War (U2)
17. Tommy (The Who)
18. Disraeli Gears (Cream)
19. 1984 (Van Halen)
20. Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Derek & The Dominoes)
Did we miss any great ones? What is your list?
Of course, they have not ALL been great works of art: