Dust Covers

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:


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9 responses

  1. Derek Scudder

    I was pleased to see that “Relayer” made the list, although the cover was probably better than the record(not the best from Yes).

    I really miss the stuff that went IN the sleeves, i.e. posters, decals, stickers and some of the creative dust jackets (like Alice Cooper’s paper panties…hey I was 15). Rick Wakeman had a cover that included a silver column that created a 360 degree picture when placed on top.

    March 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm

  2. Shawn Ryan

    Rainbow Rising by Rainbow
    No Heavy Petting by UFO (you just gotta Google it)
    Tales of Topographic Oceans by Yes
    Deadlines by Strawbs
    Weasels Ripped My Flesh by Frank Zappa
    Virgin Killer by Scorpions (great only for being disgusting)
    Blackout by Scorpions
    School’s Out/Billion Dollar Babies/Muscle of Love by Alice Cooper
    Who’s Next by the Who
    Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf
    Nevermind by Nirvana
    Appetite for Destruction (original cover) by Guns ‘Roses
    Blues for Allah by Grateful Dead
    Beck’s Guitar Shop by Jeff Beck
    Illusion on a Double Dimple by Triumvirat
    On the Beach by Neil Young
    Even in the Quietest Moments by Supertramp

    March 1, 2011 at 6:58 pm

  3. FawnB

    The Who ~ Who’s Next
    Aerosmith ~ Toys In The Attic
    Bruce Springsteen ~ Born To Run
    Boston ~ Boston

    March 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

  4. Becky Estes

    Elton John’s Captain Fantasti has very interesting artwork. I have always enjoyed reading album liner notes, lyrics, and seeing the additional photos on albums.

    March 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    • Becky Estes

      That would be “Captain Fantastic”, please excuse the typo.

      March 1, 2011 at 7:56 pm

  5. JOHN MANN

    Blind Faith – Blind Faith (the original cover; can’t believe y’all didn’t include this one! I proudly have a copy signed by Eric!)
    The Dead – Aoxomoxoa
    It’s a Beautiful Day – It’s a Beautiful Day
    Roxy Music – Country Life
    Supertramp – Breakfast In America
    Nirvana – Nevermind
    Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
    Santana – Abraxus
    The Cars – Candy-O
    Little Feat – Down On The Farm
    Free – Free

    That’s my Top Ten That You Missed (I know it’s 11, I just couldn’t quit!)

    And, BTW, vinyl is making a comeback, I believe I read that vinyl albums experienced the largest growth of any form of media in 2010 (or maybe 09, last time they had stats for…) Now, when the demand for vinyl really gets higher, the amazing cover art will follow!

    AND, finally, Prince’s ‘LoveSexy’ could be included with your latter group!

    March 2, 2011 at 3:41 am

  6. I’d have to agree with all of the above, plus:

    Crime of the Century-Supertramp
    Presence-Led Zeppelin
    Face Dances-The Who
    Chicago Transit Authority through about Chicago 17 (special mention for Chicago X, the Chocolate Bar…very cool)
    And, since you didn’t limit this to rock and roll alone, how do you leave off the greatest album cover of all time? One that is better even than Sgt. Pepper? One that had a major impact on every single boy in American age 8-16 when this album came out?

    Whipped Cream (and other songs)-Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass!

    March 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm

  7. Joey

    1. Love Gun – KISS
    2. Girls, Girls, Girls – Motley Crue
    3. Music From the Elder – KISS
    4. Long Cold Winter – Cinderella
    5. Crazy Nights – KISS
    6. Revenge – KISS
    7. Pride – White Lion
    8. All Systems Go – Vinnie Vincent Invasion
    9. Danger Danger – Danger Danger
    10. The Last Command – W.A.S.P

    Death to All but Metal! 🙂

    March 2, 2011 at 3:48 pm

  8. Jim

    Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
    Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin
    The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
    Joe Jackson – Look Sharp!
    The Doors – Strange Days
    U2 – War
    The Beatles – With The Beatles
    Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery
    Cream – Disraeli Gears
    Madness – One Step Beyond…
    Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast

    March 2, 2011 at 5:16 pm

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