Sexy, provocative, playful, beautiful: from their earliest days, LP covers have been objects of art and fascination. This celebration of album artistry presents more than 350 of the best covers, and departs from the usual approach by organizing the images by visual theme. Many of us remember the iconic album-cover images that defined our collective and individual histories—such as the smoldering pinup girl on the Cars’ Candy-O, the plaintive baby following a dollar bill through water on Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Andy Warhol’s controversial zippered pants on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers.
From perennial classics to lesser-known gems, here is the LP art that shook, rattled, and rolled us through music’s early formative years.
The thematic chapters include: Art: Ornette Coleman, Empty Foxhole; Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks; Santana, Abraxas
Death: Otis Redding, History of Otis Redding; Frank Zappa, Hot Rats; Ice Cube, Kill At Will; Metallica, Master of Puppets
Drugs: The Beatles, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; the Monkees, Head; Thelonious Monk, Underground; Peter Tosh, Bush Doctor
Ego: Frank Sinatra, No One Cares; Joni Mitchell, Clouds; LL Cool J, Mama Said Knock You Out; Björk, Debut
Escape: Johnny Cash, Orange Blossom Special; Bob Dylan, Freewheelin’; Peter Gabriel, 1 (Car)
Identity: The Jackson 5, ABC; Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon; Blondie, Parallel Lines
Politics: Funkadelic, America Eats Its Young; Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA
Rock & Roll: Jerry Lee Lewis, Jerry Lee Lewis and His Pumping Piano; Clash, London Calling
Sex: The Ohio Players, Honey; Robert Palmer, Double Fun; Pulp, This Is Hardcore
Real World: The Allman Brothers, Brothers & Sisters; Bob Marley, Catch a Fire; Lucinda Williams, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Ben Wardle is a music journalist who writes regularly for BBC Radio 4’s “Front Row,” The Guardian, and TheLondonPaper.com. He worked in A&R for both BMG Music and V2 Music, and has been an editor at several music-industry websites, such as AOL Radio and Clickmusic. Wardle is the coauthor of The Virgin Internet Music Guide, and currently writes the blog A&Rmchair.
Johnny Morgan, coauthor of The Greatest Album Covers of All Time, is an editor, author, and journalist who has contributed to a variety of popular music titles. He has been a consulting editor on such books as the New York Times best-selling Hippie and The Clash by the Clash.