Although a future where recorded music no longer exists in any physical form is looking increasingly likely, up until now the way and album has looked has sometimes said as much about a band as the music contained within it.
Indeed the artwork of the likes of Abbey Road, Sticky Fingers and Dark Side of The Moon has taken on an iconic status equal to the albums themselves. Equally it is hard to find a review of the Velvet & Underground that doesn’t mention the Andy Warhol Banana or find some discussing London Calling without mentioning Pennie Smith’s photo of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar and the Elvis aping graphics.
A good cover can attract you to an album you didn’t know existed, or turn you on to an artist or photographer you’d never heard of. Some are a mission statement, a manifesto for the record, neatly encapsulate the spirit of the album, others are deliberately obtuse, revealing little and some are just fucking cool. The best seem like an invitation into something exciting.
These album covers are as much an example of modern art as anything in the Tate and as good a barometer of the politics, fashion, style and taste of an era as anything else.
However, a generation of children are growing up who will be telling people what the first song they downloaded was rather than the first record they bought and whilst they may tell us it’s a technological advancement and Steve Jobs was a visionary the world will still be worse off for it.
From old favorites to modern classics, to commiserate, here’s a look at a few of my favourite album covers to grace record shops, t shirts and bedroom walls across the globe.
By Callum West