I was sitting at home a few days ago listening to some vinyl when I came across the Beatles “Revolver”. Musically it is one of the greatest albums of all time. But while I was listening I was looking at the album cover and its pretty bad-ass. So, I decided to go through a few other records and pulled out Queen, The Who, and Pink Floyd, bands that had some of the most iconic albums and album covers of all time. I decided to write about nine records that I think have awesome covers. Everyone else does lists that are the top ten and I want to be different so my list includes nine. I am not giving a list of what I think are the top nine nor am I implying that these nine are the coolest. In fact, I could probably write a list of fifty albums that I think are badass but nine seems like a good number so here I go…
Elvis Presley (1956) Elvis’ debut album!
This is the one that started it all. For people who love rock n’ roll as I do, this cover should be the Holy Grail. It’s simple, it’s profound, and it’s alive. When I look at this cover I am drawn in, this guy is singing about something awesome and I wanna know what the hell it is!
Catch a Fire – Bob Marley (1973)
Okay, I am going to try and be as simplistic as possible here. This album cover art is a freakin lighter. On the original production you could flip open the top portion to reveal the fire inside…the record “Catch a Fire”. Most rock n’ roll from the 60’s and 70’s is characterized by smoking weed and Bob Marley and the Wailers were no exception. Probably the stonerist of all stoner bands…I just think this is damn cool. And to top it off, this was Marley’s major label debut.
Beastie Boys – License to Ill (1986)
Another debut album here. You see the album cover from the front with the Beastie Boys logo centered on the tail of a large plane, the Def Jam logo slightly left which is positioned next to the alpha numerical “3MTA3” which reads EATME when viewed backwards. Then you open up the album sleeve and view the full picture only to see that the plane has crashed into a wall. The plane in the full picture looks similar to a joint or cigarette being extinguished. It’s chaotic, slightly brutish, and unruly. The perfect depiction of what awaits the listener of the album. It’s epic!
Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)
First of all, for those of you who don’t know me, I am sort of a Bruce fanatic but that is not why this album ended up here. Typically I am more of a fan of album art that doesn’t include the band or artist who recorded the album but this one is just too cool to not include. Being Bruce’s third album, he still hadn’t quite been introduced to the world yet. This album and cover did that and more. At the front we see Bruce looking like he is about to crack up about something then you open to view the full picture and see him leaning on his saxophonist Clarence Clemmons with whom he is presumably sharing this laugh. The cover tells you all you need to know about Bruce and how he felt about his band.
Rage – RAGE (1992)
Another debut album by a controversial band Rage Against the Machine. The album cover is a picture of Thích Quảng Đức who was a Buddhist monk who literally set himself on fire to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. His martyrdom was fruitful in that it caused many Buddhists to rally around the cause and put pressure on other governments (specifically the U.S.) to withdraw their support of the dictatorial government. The original photograph was so compelling and highly regarded that it won a Pulitzer Price and a World Press Photo of the Year Award.
London Calling – The Clash (1979)
I feel like I am over using this phrase but the album cover tells you all you need to know about the band. It has elements of aggression and rebellion, along with the simplicity of the way the bands’ name is written in just white lettering across the top. The album title is written in a parody of another cover on this list. I find the parody interesting because of the choice of who they parodied. In the late 50’s Elvis was enacting his own sort of rebellion and was breaking barriers in forging rock n’ roll. Twenty years later, The Clash are on the scene and wreaking havoc.
Sgt. Peppers – The Beatles (1967)
The greatest album from the greatest band of all time; the concept for this cover was that the Beatles would be pictured with famous and otherwise inspiring people of their lives. It was an interesting and expensive concept, but they’re the Beatles so they can do what they want. The story goes that John Lennon wanted to have Jesus and Adolf Hitler included as well but was rejected; Hitler for obvious reasons and Jesus because of the backlash the band received after Lennon’s comments concerning the band’s popularity and Jesus’.
Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)
The symbolism on this album cover is palpable. It characterizes everything you need to know about Kurt Cobain and his band. They are the ever incorruptible band who frequently voiced displeasure over a corporate society, especially in the music industry. Nothing else to really write about this one except that it’s funny, it’s funny cause it’s true; and it’s sad, it’s sad because it’s true.
Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (1975)
I love this album cover, I find it interesting, compelling, and full of symbolism, symbolism I probably don’t even fully understand. The guys in Pink Floyd were the ultimate artists. The truth is, they probably have 4 or 5 album covers that are worthy of greatness, but this is my favorite.
To conclude, I give you my 9 cool albums covers. Truth be told I left a lot of great ones out, I didn’t include any by Queen or Iron Maiden who both had classic album covers. I left out the Rolling Stones and the Who and didn’t include any really contemporary bands. I also could have made a list with just Beatles or Pink Floyd but I only included one from each. The fact is, there are so many cool album covers to choose from. And it’s just one of the many reasons that I love rock n’ roll!!!