Best album cover ever?


Hi. Damian here. Today on Newshour we’re going to be looking back at an iconic image – four men, one barefoot, walking across a pedestrian crossing in north London. This became one of the most famous album covers of all time.

The four men were the Beatles and it was the picture on the cover of their Abbey Road album. I asked some of my colleagues what their favourite covers were. Richard likes Aerosmith Rocks for its “sheer gorgeousness”, while Rebecca chose David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs for its illustration of hybrid half man, half dog characters.

What is your favourite album cover?

And what do you make of all the conspiracy theories surrounding the Abbey Road cover? … the most famous of which is the “Paul is Dead” urban legend.

45 Responses to “Best album cover ever?”

  1. 1 Dan Abbott
    August 6, 2009 at 17:46

    One of the impressive things about the Abbey Road cover is that there’s no text at all on it – Just a shot of The Beatles crossing the road!
    The Beatles were one of the few bands in the 60s so famous that they could pull off something like this (Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin continued the tradition in the 70s).

    • 2 Dan Abbott
      August 6, 2009 at 18:25

      Although I have to say that I think “Revolver” is the best Beatles album cover!
      The beautiful and flowing monochrome drawing from Klaus Voorman perfectly compliments the music and set the yardstick for a lot of psychedelic album art in the following years. Amazing stuff. Apparently the original artwork has been lost – a tragedy!

  2. 3 Gilbert
    August 6, 2009 at 17:47

    This is the best album cover ever not only because of the artistic aspect but this cover represents the beginning of a great era in music. It’s like they are walking towards a better way of making and representing music artistry.

  3. 4 Tom K in Mpls
    August 6, 2009 at 17:51

    So many were so good for many different reasons. For humor I like: The Who ‘Who’s Next’, and Supertramp ‘Indelibly Stamped’

  4. 5 Helen
    August 6, 2009 at 18:52

    Abbey Road might be mine. I have a framed poster of it and I see it every day. I also like Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard A True Star. Very surreal. Very psychedelic. A little like Frank Zappa’s Overnight Sensationss but more art quality and less umm,the art is fine on Zappa’s album. The aesthetics of the images themselves are descriptive but less inspiringh than A Wizard A True Star. And the cover art by Roger Dean on the Yes albums might be my absolute favorite if I had to pick One. For art. Favorite image might be Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. I don’t blame poor cows for seeing a person and not looking too calm ,though. Cows usually look angry in pictures. But people subject them to awful things. I don’t blame them.

    August 6, 2009 at 19:06

    My most memorable cover which I found more shouting than the music itself is the one that covered the LP produced back in the 80s titled: MUSIC FOR UNICEF. The artistry, I can’t remember by who was quite excellent. It caricatured the legends of those days, Rod Stewart (If You Think I am Sexy), Donner Summer, Abba, Dione Warwick, and and many others including the group EARTH WIND AND FIRE. Oh, it was a lovely night.

    It was such an impressive possession for me which I gave to a friend mine 3 years back when he demanded.

    August 6, 2009 at 19:16

    By the way, any of the BEETLES cover is likely to grab your attention. They were real revolutionaries in music and I hope Michael Jackson paid tribute to them for I think they paved the way for his own success. When I see this cover or any other BEETLES cover the tune OCTOPUS’S GARDEN IN THE SHADE hits the air which is my personal trade mark for these once beautiful insects.

  7. 8 patti in cape coral
    August 6, 2009 at 19:36

    I liked the album cover for Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. Probably not the most original or artistic cover, but I remember it fondly because it was my favorite aunt’s album and she would let me read the lyrics on the inside when I was very young (7 or 8). Maybe that is why I love to sport over-sized sunglasses to this day?

  8. 9 patti in cape coral
    August 6, 2009 at 19:38

    The big tongue on the Rolling Stones album was always memorable to me as well.

  9. 10 Stephen in Portland/Oregon
    August 7, 2009 at 05:23

    Smell the glove by the Spinal Tap. 🙂

    Sounds best if you turn it up to eleven!

  10. August 7, 2009 at 10:43

    Best album covers ??

    Elliott Landy’s great shot on The Band or His photo of Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline

    Other than that,my favorite is unquestionably The Mothers Of Invention’s
    “We’re Only In It For The Money”

    I think the Beatles were a bit over-rated.Abbey Road is Paul and George Martin
    wanting to tie things up nicely and is the Fabs worst album.

    Their best period and albums is Hard Day’s Night -Revolver.

    I prefer the Rutles though -better musicians and better songs.

    • 12 Tom K in Mpls
      August 7, 2009 at 15:47

      Ahhh, Cheese and Onions.

      • 13 rj1
        August 10, 2009 at 17:18

        how bizarre. I was just telling someone three days ago about the Rutles and sang a bit of “Cheese and Onions” to give him a sense of their work…
        I also have “Bonzo Dog” stuff, from whence Neil Innes sprang, including a 45 he did solo, years after he began “recovery”. Genius.

    • 14 Helen
      August 8, 2009 at 02:13

      Talking music is off the topic of album art but-i think The Beatles are often taken for granted. I rediscovered songs I liked by Paul Mc recently. His guitar work is very good. Let Me Roll It,Juniors Farm,Venus and Mars,Jet,too many to mention. And it does come down to what you like. But Gimme Some Truth,I Found Out and Working Class Hero(are probably what got John kicked out;he had a gift for saying”the wrong thing”at times,didn’t he). And I’ll leave my input at that. To Each His Zone. One more excellent image from album art is from Blackdance by Klaus Schulze. A surreal painting by Urs Amann. With Dali influences. But I’m not complaining.

  11. 15 Dinka Aliap Cahawul-Kamala
    August 7, 2009 at 10:55

    Late.Lucky Philip Dube is ma best eve with all the Albums he had produced,he`s ma hero.MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

  12. 16 Colin in London
    August 7, 2009 at 11:02

    I liked that Frank Zappa’s “We’re Only In It For the Money” was such a quick, sly parody of Sgt Pepper. I read John Lennon was very annoyed.

    • 17 Helen
      August 8, 2009 at 18:26

      I wouldn’t blame anyone for being annoyed that anything public and which is immediately identifiable with one’s self or one’s art is a slur on that art or one’s integrity. You don’t do what The Beatles did(or what the Stones did,or any band that works hard and devotes so much time and energy to playing out and practicing-just for money)You can do a lot of things to earn money. I like Frank Zappa’s music and his sense of humor. If they wanted it wouldn’t surprise me if legal action could have been taken. Politics is an entrely different thing and it might be more appropriate but FZ’s overture is like seeing a picture of a candidate with a “For Sale” sign on his picture.

  13. 18 Graeme
    August 7, 2009 at 11:08

    The Penguin Cafe Orchestra covers by Emily Young.

  14. 20 RightPaddock
    August 7, 2009 at 11:56

    Sorry I meant to say – because it was my first MD and my first hard bop album

  15. 21 Blackthorn
    August 7, 2009 at 13:22

    I think Abbey Road is one of the most iconic album covers…as for best…I’d have to vote for Sgt Pepper’s.

    Favourites? Roger Daltry’s “Ride A Rock Horse” (never heard it, never bought it, just LOVE the cover. Same for Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” (The original ones with the real zipper…how many of us un-did the zip…?

  16. 22 nora
    August 7, 2009 at 14:56

    Album most frequently stolen from my house, Sticky Fingers by the Stones. Black and white crotch with a zipper; can’t be beat.

  17. August 7, 2009 at 15:41

    Sgt. Pepper’s was by far the best album cover since the music was also the Beatles best and one’s visual preference is influenced by the content.

  18. 24 John in Salem
    August 7, 2009 at 16:00

    I’m sure I’ll think of something else in the middle of the night, but at the moment…
    Best photo cover – Who’s Next.
    Best original art – Yessongs.
    Weirdest – Zappa’s 200 Motels.

  19. August 7, 2009 at 16:13

    Favorite album cover : “Agartha” by Miles davis.

  20. 26 Deidra Buchanan
    August 7, 2009 at 16:21

    My very favorite is The Rolling Stones’ “Their Satanic Majesties Request” with the 3D picture of the group dressed as wizards. Very cool!

  21. 27 ecotopian
    August 7, 2009 at 16:30

    I find this discussion sorta strange since there is no album art anymore. This seems to aimed at a certain generation of people who remember album art. I’m one of them.

    The band Yes had a certain art style on their covers. I love the Fragile cover. I also like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon cover for its simplicity. I like the back cover of Jethro Tull’s Songs From the Wood. It shows a tree stump with a record player arm on it.

    I never really much cared for the Abby Road album cover. It just seemed too staged. I know it was, but maybe taking a picture of them crossing the street with other people would have been more, i don’t know, real?

    • 28 Dan Abbott
      August 7, 2009 at 18:43

      Hello Ecotopian – hope this doesn’t come off as being too smart-arsed, but I have to correct you. Album art is alive and well! I should know, because I design the things for a living and have plenty of work at the moment (touch wood!
      It’s not a nostalgia thing either, I work with a lot of young bands and the cover is really important to them.
      There’s a good site http://sleevage.com that features great articles on album covers new and old. Well worth a click.
      Long live the beautiful square!

      • 29 ecotopian
        August 8, 2009 at 18:39

        You don’t come off as a smart alec, just as yourself this, will there be a discussion like this about CD art now being produced in 40 years? I somehow doubt it. The other part of this discussion is the band. Name me a band right now that can rival The Who in its heyday. The reason people are naming bands from the 70’s and earlier is that these bands were intensely popular and their albums sold a lot of physical copies and were seen by people who might not have liked the band but they might have liked the art. People today don’t buy many CDs, they download their music. So how many people see this art as something other than an icon on iTunes? Since everything is becoming digitized, what sort of staying power will it really have? What physical copy will be around in 40 years for us to admire? I’m not trying to be a smart alec either, but you have to consider that as well.

      • 30 Helen
        August 10, 2009 at 17:30

        To answer points brought up by ectopian I don’t think we’re naming bands from the ’70’s because they were intensely popular. Zappa and Todd didn’t fill huge venues in America. I saw a Zappa concert in ’78(in fact I think he might have been checking the place out before the show. We went in pretty early,it was still pretty empty,and there was a nice looking long coat by our seats in the upper left balcony. A tall,thin,dark haired guy came to retrieve it. Frank?)I think we’re the age to have been listening to the music we’re talking about. And I don’t know how other people feel but I like or very much like the music and the artists I mentioned. Still have the albums. We could have given away the”bad”ones to be resold at the used-shops. I found Bowie’s Images there. Cartoon square album artwork. It all sounds like Broadway or movie songs. Very theatrical. I love it.

      • 31 rj1
        August 10, 2009 at 18:29

        The cover of “Abbey Road” was innovative for the time period, but seems a bit pedestrian today (Get it – see how I worked that whole walking thing in there?…)

        Sorry – I digressed – anyway; there are many album covers that could vie for the title, but when you try to recall them years later, it’s hard to remember exactly. Think of “Who’s Next”. Which member of the band was at the far left, and which member was at the far right? Same thing with several other albums. “Dark side of the Moon” was innovative in its simplicity, much like the Beatles “White Album”. So there is my “determining factor” in choosing which was the “best” album cover: which one sticks in my mind, down to the detail?

        This is why it is hard to say CDs have memorable covers. There may be ones that are really great, but I don’t recall any of them jumping out at me like several 33 rpm covers, possibly due to the size factor, or possibly I was just more impressionable in my youth.

  22. 32 Jeff Tweedy
    August 7, 2009 at 16:37

    It has to be Todd Rundgren’s 1973 album ” A Wizard, A True Star.” The front image is very psychedelic, and besides, I think Todd recorded the entire album when he was on magic mushrooms. Great album. In fact, he’s performing the entirety of the album at the London Hammersmith Apollo in February!

  23. 33 Bram
    August 7, 2009 at 17:23

    My personal Best Of album covers would certainly inlcude a lot of Fela Kuti’s (great artwork, wondertful and often witty commentary). Still, not all is lost even today: have a look at the great artwork Ojos de Brujo put on the CD covers. Agree with all the praise for Roger Dean’s Yes covers – and may I end with a special mention of Tom Wait’s Mule Variations cover? Broody, strange, magic!

  24. August 7, 2009 at 17:58

    “…hit by a bus…” – nice thinking 😉
    I hope it’s just the phone line.

  25. 35 James Turner
    August 7, 2009 at 17:58

    You have me there! While I love all sorts of music. I could not pick an album cover if my life depended on it! lol

  26. 36 Elias
    August 7, 2009 at 18:55

    There is no best cover, simply what is best for one, is not the best for someone else.

  27. 37 T
    August 8, 2009 at 03:38

    A question. Who owns the copyright?

  28. 38 andrew
    August 8, 2009 at 21:55

    my best album cover is soulife by Anthony Hamilton.
    i dont think what the covers is really matters it is the content that sales or promotes an album

    from abuja

  29. 39 Pete B
    August 8, 2009 at 22:37

    I remember the amazing work by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick on the covers for albums by Irish band Thin Lizzy. Check them out on the web.

    I also recall the first album by U2 called “Boy”. It had a photo of a bare chested young boy on the cover as a reference to them being a fledgling band making their debut. To release it in the US the cover had to be changed as it was said that the cover could encourage paedophilia – I’m not joking! To this date it’s still impossible to sell the album in the US with the original cover – but you can buy as many copies of ‘Gund and Ammo’ magazine as you like!

  30. 40 Helen
    August 9, 2009 at 17:01

    I guess it wouldn’t apply very well now because you don’t have albums to flip through like you had when you only found music in a record store,but cover artwork can make you buy music you’ve never even heard before. I discovered Klaus Schulze that way,and also Steve Hillage. L is the album title and there’s a translucent pyramid on the back. It’s all geared toward the moon,which symbolises artistic creativity. (Yes,I knew this stuff at 15 or 16 because I read on my own and was into astrology and palmistry;and too many other things to mention;but they’re all loaded with symbolism and spirituality). Another memorable album cover was a surrealist image with a top hat on. It was SpookyTooth or Steve Winwood(it was my boyfriend’s album). Anyone remember the RoxyMusic album cover they changed from topless models to a picture of a shrubbery?

  31. 41 Dennis Junior
    August 10, 2009 at 02:58

    Damian from NewsHour: I am in complete agreement with the Beatles cover was the best ever…..

    -Dennis Junior-

  32. 42 rj1
    August 10, 2009 at 17:31

    Spinal Tap’s “Black Album”.

    No, seriously, who but the Beatles management team could have pulled off an album with nothing on it?

    • 43 Helen
      August 10, 2009 at 18:41

      A distant memory. I think the cover was going to have a not-socially-acceptable image of a pig (reference the song Piggies)and that was not To Be. Hence the White album cover. Zeppelin pulled off an album with No Title! Too many bands pull off albums with No Music,but they’re very,very noisy.

  33. August 26, 2009 at 17:24

    One that doesn’t often get mentioned in these ‘Great Album Covers’ things is Husker Du’s Zen Arcade.

    It’s a great cover, really evocative of the kind of abstract urban decay expressed on the record.

  34. 45 carson g long
    November 29, 2009 at 20:22

    I’ll never forget the first moment I saw the album for Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I recognized The Beatles immediately. The colours and busy design of the picture froze me in front of the record for some time. I nagged my poor mom to buy the LP for me.(we were in an ACME food market at the time) I loved the music of course and have listened to the album countless times in the past 42 years. Anytime I want to return to June, 1967 with my mom, alive once again, and be in that happy country of the mind all I have to do is pick up that album cover and look at it again with amazement and awe, and sweet memories. I think the great masters of art could achieve such reverie, and of course: The Beatles.

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