I don’t know what got me thinking about this, perhaps it comes from reading GiddyUpAmerica by Ryan O’Connell. But instead of some of the other ideas I’ve intended to write about, I decided to do something a little lighter and write about some of my personal favorite album covers.
Until recently, it was a long time before I owned an actual record. Excuse me, “vinyl” as the newest generation of aficionados call them. ( This seems silly to me, referring to an object as the material it’s made of. It’s akin to calling a compact disc a… wait, what the hell are cds made from? )
I don’t pretend to think these are the end all of iconic album covers. Nor do I rank them in any particular order of importance. It’s simply a list of album covers that, to me, have stood out over the years.
Rolling Stones – Tattoo You
To be honest, I’m not even sure why this one occurred to me as I was thinking about album covers. But if you were to ask me about a Stones album, I believe this is the one that would pop into my brain. Maybe it’s that late 70’s turning into the iconic decade of the 80’s artwork.
I didn’t even know until just now that it contains perhaps my favorite Stones song, Waiting On A Friend. So I guess now it fits on this list even better.
Blondie – Autoamerican
Keeping with the turn of the decade theme, Autoamerican by Blondie is another one of those albums with artwork that just popped into my head. It’s got that gritty, New York look to it for starters, but also you’ve got Deborah Harry there, striking a pose.
And anyone who knows me surely knows that even before every school boy’s crush Princess Leia, for me there was Deborah Harry. Lest I seem shallow, I’ve long loved her voice and this album contains two of my favorite songs, The Tide Is High and Rapture.
Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet
I’m gonna be honest with you, I haven’t heard a single song from this album. Truth be told, I don’t know if I can name a single Molly Hatchet song off the top of my head. But I know this album cover.
I don’t know where I first saw it, it’s been so long. But I knew at first glance it’s a badass cover. Look at that artwork and tell me it isn’t. I have no idea what’s going on there or what it represents, but I like it.
Nirvana – Nevermind
The very first thing that comes to mind when I think of 90’s music is the birth of grunge. More specifically, the first time I heard it. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when Smells Like Teen Spirit came on the radio. Like an entire generation, I was completely blown away. So it’s this album cover that really encapsulates all that for me.
Interestingly enough, the baby in that picture grew up to sue the band for use of his image, saying that hill at first he enjoyed some notoriety from it, he eventually grew uncomfortable and likened it to child pornography/ exploitation. A federal judge later dismissed the case, and rightly so in my opinion. Embrace that shit man!
Asia – Asia
To me, Asia is one of those groups that you don’t really think of until you hear a song on the radio and think, “Who is that again?” They had a lot of really trippy albums covers, but this one has always gotten my attention.
Look at it. Seriously, I have no idea what’s going on there, do you? It reminds me of the cover art for an Atari 2600 game cartridge more than an album cover. But I like it. I don’t know why, but I do.
Bruce Springsteen – Born In The USA
I tried to think of an album that represent the 80’s in a way that Nevermind did for the 90’s, at least in my head. I considered a lot of them, but ultimately this one seemed to be the one. If for no other reason that it was arguably a great decade for “The Boss”.
Van Halen – 1984
Sometimes I wish I knew what was going on in someone’s head when they came up with this.
“Dude, a kid smoking a cigarette? We can’t use that!”
“Wait. ( Sketches furiously ) How’s this?”
“Angel wings? Brilliant!”
If you were to ask me to name an album from my childhood, this would likely be one of the first to come to mind. And, it’s got some great music on there, as well as some of the band’s best music videos before Dave went solo, and in doing so, committing career suicide I think. ( He just never recovered that cool, “Diamond Dave” swagger, did he? )
Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood
First off, while Dr. Feelgood may have been more polished than their previous albums, it’s my favorite. Not only for this great album cover, but the music was perhaps their best. Vince hadn’t killed anyone lately, Nikki hadn’t killed himself again, and the band was, in fact, clean and sober for once. It shows in this album.
The cover art, specifically the tile background, has a clean yet still flawed appearance, much like the band at this time. I don’t know, it’s just a cool design.
Johnny Cash – American Recordings
This and other albums Cash recorded in the early 90’s are simply amazing both in the song choice and the simplicity with which they’re recorded. It’s not something you’d expect out Rick Rubin, but he had the vision and appreciation of Cash to let him do what he wanted, and how he wanted: stripped down and raw. Some of Johnny’s best work resides in these recordings if you ask me, including covers of heavy rock and grunge band songs such as Rusty Cage and of course the most beautiful swan song ever recorded, Hurt ( which, it you can watch the video for and not tear up, you’re not human and I don’t want to know you. )
Getting back to the album cover, it’s simple like the music within, and like that music, there’s a quiet ferocity to it. There’s strength emanating from that picture. It says so little, and exudes so much.
Christy Moore – King Puck
Many artists have influenced my own musical style over the years. Starting with John Denver, whose songs helped me learn guitar to in more recent years, Christy Moore.
Moore isn’t as well known as the others listed above, but he is a giant in the genre of Irish traditional and contemporary music. And while two of my many favorite songs reside on this album, ( The Two Conneeleys and a cover of Jackson Browne’s Before the Deluge ).
The picture on the album cover is simple, but again, it speaks volumes. Years ago I purchased a copy of King Puck from someone in Ireland to frame and hang in our living room where it still hangs. Perhaps speaking for me a little as well.
Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of the In Times of Trouble and In Times Of Trouble: Aftermath, a post-apocalyptic series set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the third book in the trilogy. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com