Saturday, January 22

From Tubular Bells to Horses: 10 of the Best Album Artwork | Music

Mike oldfield
Tubular bells (1973)

Before the internet, it could be difficult to find anything about music, so a record cover might be the only information you had access to. In elementary school, I learned that Tubular Bells was in a controversial movie called The Exorcist (which at the time I thought was porn). I got the album for its mysterious glowing tube floating in the clouds like a UFO, and the music inside matched that towering image.

Fox fleet
Fleet Foxes (2008)

Fleet Foxes' Fleet Foxes.

The golden age of vinyl album cover, often enhanced with folding sleeves, disappeared in 2008. However, Fleet Foxes’ first album beautifully evokes this era using Bruegel’s Netherlandish Proverbs paint, literally illustrating outlandish expressions. It was a return to a time when you would actually buy albums for their covers.

Pink floyd
Animals (1977)

The animals of Pink Floyd.
Photography: Pink Floyd

The high-concept album art of this psychedelic group, who became an icterial chronicler of their own growing wealth, led me to collect everything they wrote in Welsh record stores when I was 13 years old. The cover of Animals, with its pig floating over the Battersea power station. Against an eerie sky, it defined how I envisioned London.

Bob dylan
Bring it all back home (1965)

Bob Dylan brings it all back home.
Photograph: F8 Archive / Alamy

With so much discussion about Dylan’s songs when he turned 80, plus the Nobel Prize, it seems unfair that many of his manga are also great art. Filled with albums, magazines, and that dress, this one conveys her moody mood when she left the folks of Greenwich Village to rock Americana in upstate New York.

De La Soul
3 feet tall and on the rise (1989)

3 feet tall and rising from De La Soul.
Photograph: Garry Weaser / The Guardian

Buying albums for their art is a good idea – I was hooked on the psychedelic joy of this and accidentally bought a classic. The rebels of English art, the Gray Organization, worked with De La Soul to create it, causing the band to form a circle. A pop art delight.

The Smiths
This Charming Man (1983)

This charming man from the Smiths.

Technically, this is a 12-inch single rather than an album, but it is the best Smiths version. The image is from the film Orphée by Jean Cocteau, about a poet trying to save his wife from the underworld, but it also echoes the myth of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection.

Sam smith
The Thrill of Everything (2017)

Sam smith

This cover is not ironic, witty or referential; is very powerful. Smith’s existentially naked and spiritually tormented face is like a black and white sculpture. His isolation in a vacuum is poignant and compelling. It tells you a lot in a completely unbuttoned and unprotected way. In art, you can’t beat a good portrait.

Patti smith
Horses (1975)

Patti Smith's horses.
Photograph: The Cover Version / Alamy

Reading Patti Smith’s memoir of Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, brings new intensity to the photographs she took for her first album. She looks youthful. In fact, it looks like a Botticelli portrait of a handsome young Renaissance man. But he also has a lean and hungry look, as he confronts you with Rimbaud’s sensibilities and rock aggression.

Lou reed
Lou Reed Live (1975)

Lou Reed Live.

Reed, behind his impenetrable glasses, appears tough and scared, an image of someone whose life he imagines to be dark, dangerous, and poetic. His denim hat and star-studded leather jacket add something else: a touch of sexual ambivalence. His covers, including Transformer and Rock’n’Roll Animal, are insidious punk masterpieces.

The velvet meter
Loaded (1970)

The Velvet Underground is charged.

Today, the cover of the Velvets’ first album, featuring its Andy Warhol peelable banana, is revered, but it was hard to find. Instead, I found this and was fascinated by that pink smoke coming from the New York subway in a literally hilarious interpretation of its name. What decadence did it denote?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *