As voted for by Gigwise writers and staff, here they are in all their glory!
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The WORST album covers of all time
The most CONTROVERSIAL album covers ever!
The SEXIEST album covers of all time
The WEIRDEST album covers of all time
50. King Crimson: ‘In The Court of King Crimson’ -
The longer you stare at the cover to ‘In The Court Of King Crimson,’ the more emotions seem to seep out of it. Painted by computer programmer Barry Godber, the picture was the only painting he ever painted. Yet, it’s one that will be remembered forever.
49. Peaches: ‘The Teaches of Peaches’ -
Giving a new meaning to 'eye catching', looking at this tells you everything you need to know about peaches. In your face crotch and hot pink hot pants, it's perfectly sleazy and fun at the same time.
48. Nirvana: ‘In Utero’ -
‘In Utero’ was an aggressively dark exploration of subject matters which had affected their frontman’s life thus far such as the dysfunctional family, cancer, privacy, and abortion. The imagery of the Transparent Anatomical Mannikin was originally meant for the single ‘Lithium’ or another track from ‘Neveremind’ but was scrapped due to copyright issues.
47. The Ramones: ‘Road to Ruin’ -
By the time Road to Ruin hit the shelves, The Ramones were already a total cliché of themselves, with the smack addict skeletal frame, denim/leather get up, and bastardised Beatles mop of hair an unmistakable uniform for the band members. The cartoon caricatures of the lads helps to push this incomparable image of the band, throwing them into the realms of inimitable rock gods and total style icons.
46. The Smiths: ‘The Queen Is Dead’ -
Over the series of albums the covers have slowly become iconic mainly because they're just beautiful photographs. In many ways they have a lasting impact- they're not something you can ignore.
45. Kiss: ‘Alive!’ -
Possibly the only album cover to physically blow the minds that gaze upon it - there must be one or two documented cases. The live shot full of smoke and poses and platform heels explodes the music off the record like few others.
44. Thom Yorke: ‘The Eraser’ –
Inspired by floods in Cornwall in 2004, long-term Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood made a woodcut depicting a mock King Canute trying to beckon back the sea, but to no avail. The black and white imagery and pronounced lines give it extra weight.
43. The The: ‘Infected’ -
It was about disease and infection and that's exactly what The The gave us. A disfigured figure that looks part pizza/part human, snot and blood all done in crassly dolloped daubs of paint. Wrong but very right.
42. Nick Cave: ‘Henry’s Dream’ -
Designed by the ever cool Anton Corbijn, his cover for Cave’s Henry’s Dream captures the essence of Cave. It’s moody, dark and gothic. Check the colours of the sky and the imposing billboard featuring a suitably serious Cave. In a word, evocative!
41. Pixies: ‘Surfer Rosa’ –
The record sounded as if it was recorded in a garage (in the best possible sense of course), yet the album cover featured a half naked flamenco dancer. Black Francis wanted it to be tasteful – we just think he wanted to see a bit of tit.
40. The Groundhogs : ‘Split’ -
Heavy acid blues was their sound and the album dealt directly with front man Tony McPhee's paranoid, broken and almost schizophrenic mind through its lyrics - making the fragmented cover perfectly fitting.
39. Snoop Dogg – ‘Doggy Style’ -
Cheap? Yes. Crass? Yep. Plenty of mother fucking swearing? Definitely. Genius? Without a shadow of a doubt. The comic tales of a cartoon dogg toking on too much weed and bumming too many beyatches until he gets busted by the cops was the mirth and humour that accompanied a groundbreaking record.
38. Tangerine Dream: ‘Rubycon’ -
The German electronic experimentalists' career may span five decades, but 1975's 'Rubycon' is perhaps their standout moment, both visually and musically. The simple idea of a solitary splash in water proved made for a durable image. It's what Hard-Fi could create if they had brains.
37. Motorhead: ‘Ace of Spades’ - Desperados in tight denim and bullet belts, this is one of the most clichéd filthy metal covers of all time, with Lemmy and co. tracking through the desert like true cowboys from rock and roll hell. The truth paints a much less metal picture, however - the photo shoot took place on a pile of builder's sand in the middle of a busy London street. Tragically brilliant!
36. Pulp: ‘Different Class’ -
A simple wedding photo interspersed with monochrome cardboard cut outs of the band adorns the front cover of Pulp’s 1995 classic ‘Different Class’. In some cases the album came with twelve different options for the cover art and it was the first time Mark Webber, who was President of the Pulp fan club, appeared with the band playing guitar and keyboards before he became a more permanent fixture.
35. David Bowie: ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’ - The cover to the tale of Ziggy Stardust’s attempts to liberate humanity from banality sees the protagonist standing guitar in hand in the dimly lit Hebden Street in London, The location has since took on legendary status amongst Bowie fans similar to that of Abbey Road for Beatles’ followers.
34. Peter Gabriel: ‘Melt’ -
While his former bandmate Phil Collins was destroying Genesis, Gabriel was churning out decent solo albums. The create the poignant image, Gabriel and photographer Storm Thorgerson simply smudged a wet photograph to devastating effect.
33. Pink Floyd: ‘The Division Bell’ -
Stalwarts of the brilliant album cover, their final effort – 1994’s ‘The Division Bell’ – was no exception. A crying shame that the music was pretty middling though.
32. The Stone Roses: ‘The Stone Roses’ - The debut album from Madchester’s favourite sons was created by guitarist John Squire with much influence from Jackson Pollock and his piece ‘Bye Bye Badman’ about the 1968 Paris riots. The lemons were a reference to the rioters who used them as an antidote to tear gas used by the Police.
31. Nick Drake: ‘Pink Moon’ -
Inspired by Magritte and Salvador Dali, yet not at all contrived - the artwork perfectly and subtly echoed the melancholy and painfully personal songs that Drake narrated.
26. The Beatles: ‘Revolver’ -
The pencil drawn Beatles faces were almost the antithesis to the Sgt Pepper artwork a year later, yet for many people it’s just as striking. Who needs Peter Blake eh?
30. Iron Maiden – ‘Number of the Beast’
Eddie, the cartoon skeletal thing that was Iron Maiden’s mascot and stalwart of their artwork, was paired alongside Satan himself for one of the band’s most iconic album sleeves.
29. Marillion: ‘Fugazi’ -
Despite the arguable quality of their music, Marillion most certainly gave a shit about their album artwork and this multi-tiered image of a young man suffering an apparent overdose is their most startling brilliant and thought-provoking.
28. Smashing Pumpkins: ‘Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’ -A sprawling concept album was matched with suitably epic artwork directly inspired by renaissance masterpieces of the past. A masterpiece of an album too.
27. Radiohead: ‘Amnesiac’ -
Yet another Radiohead album cover designed by Stanley Donwood (he’s done the majority of the band’s complete back-catalogue), ‘Amnesiac’s’ cover, although simplistic, is distinctly eye-opening – with the tears of an amnesiac stitched into an antique red book. However, the real treat was the limited edition version, which was the library book itself.
25. Prince: ‘Lovesexy’ -
Quite simply, the cover to this leaves very little to the imagination. Prince has always been one to flaunt it and ‘Lovesexy’s’ cover was no different. Thank goodness for his left knee position!
24. Sonic Youth: ‘Goo’ -
Sonic Youth have to had some bloody ace album covers, so it's actually quite hard to choose, but this one is almost too cool for school. It's one album that you can judge by its cover.
23. The Cure: ‘The Cure’ -
Imagine what it would look like if you got a five year old child to design you album. Et voila! Complete with lined paper, disproportionate figures and plenty of crayon doodling. Brilliant.
22. Manic Street Preachers: ‘The Holy Bible’ -
The Manics’ third and darkest album was predominantly written by the soon to disappear Richey Edwards with most of the lyrics taken from his personal journals. The cover is a painting by artist Jenny Saville entitled ‘Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face)’ which the band were able to use after Edwards explained the meaning of every song during a 30 minute phone call to Saville.
21. The Libertines: ‘The Libertines’ -
It doesn't matter what you think of the album, great artwork should represent something rather than just a photo of the band and this manages to sum up the whole album in one moment. You can look at it, listen to it and the two go hand in hand, it captures the whole downfall of the band in one shot.
20. Pink Floyd: ‘Atom Heart Mother’ -
Every Pink Floyd cover is brilliant, but the one from 1970 of a cow – Lulubelle III, is one of Storm Thorgerson’s finest for the band. It’s simultaneously hilarious but perfect. Thorgerson describes it as a ‘cow how a cow should be’, and like most of the album is totally irrelevant to anything else.
19. Dinosaur Jr: ‘Green Mind’ -
There must be something about the fourth album and an amazing cover, because a number of artists on our list have made it thanks to their forth LP. ‘Green Mind’ is no different. The Dinosaur Jr cover- a picture by Joseph Szabo - is perhaps one of the most challenging on our list.
18. David Bowie – ‘Aladdin Sane’ -
The Couldn’t perhaps be a more (in)sane cover to an album called, ‘Aladdin Sane.’ Beautifully evocative, the cover captures everything that Bowie was, and, was about to become in the 1970s. It does indeed show the birth of a pop superstar.
17. Joy Division: ‘Unknown Pleasures’ - Their 1979 debut features a simple rippling effect which was based on a graph discovered by Morris of 100 consecutive pulses. Set against the stark black background, it made for a dark, brooding image – very much like the music, then.
16. Beck: ‘Odelay’ -
Featuring a Komondor, a rare Hungarian breed of matted hair dog, the cover to Beck’s second album ‘Odelay’ is as off the wall as the music contained with in it. The artwork bears a resemblance to the inside cover to Bush’s 1994 album ‘Sixteen Stone’ which showed a picture of a Puli being tossed in the air.
15. The Rolling Stones: ‘Sticky Fingers’ -
The cover to what is considered to be the Stones’ most drug drenched album features the image of a male crotch in jeans and a leather belt. The original release featured a working zipper which opened to reveal cotton briefs emblazoned with the stamp ‘This Is Not ETC’ and was created by Pop-Art legend Andy Warhol. The album was also the first time the band’s now famous tongue and lips logo was presented to the world.
14. The Beatles: ‘Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’ -
Perhaps the most celebrated cover of any Beatles album, this is a masterpiece in iconography and is a goldmine for pop culture trivia. Painstaking put together by pop artist Peter Blake, it was zeitgeist-defining in more ways than one.
13. Pink Floyd: ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ -
The cover to, ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon,’ certainly comes close to topping the most recognisable covers ever list. Featuring a simple refracting prism and no text, the cover cunningly left everything to the imagination.
12. Supertramp: ‘Breakfast In America’ –
The majority of the band may have hailed from UK, but this album cover said more about the vain, commercial obsessed country that America has become in contemporary times than a thousand words. The scary waitress standing in for the Statue of Liberty is a stroke of genius.
11. Sigur Rós: ‘Agaetis Byrjun’ -
It’s perhaps suitable that a band that communicate in a mystifying language that 99.9% of us can’t understand should create album covers which are just as bewildering. Take Sigur Ros’ debut, ‘Agaetis Byrjun,’ as a prime example.
10. The Velvet Underground: ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ - ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ is often referred to as the ‘Banana Album’ because of Andy Warhol’s fruity creation on its front cover. Early copies came invited the owner to ‘Peel slowly and see’; peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-colored banana underneath.
9. Led Zeppelin: ‘Houses of the Holy’ -
Best enjoyed when the gatefold vinyl cover is fully spread out, the ambiguous, nymph-like crawling children, the orange Mars-esque glow and the scene of Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland combine to mark a strikingly original work.
8. Roxy Music: ‘Country Life’ -
Perhaps the band’s most consistent album, the cover to ‘Country Life’ sums up everything that was risqué about Roxy Music. Like the band’s music, the candid cover was designed to test the openness of the record buying public.
7. The Beatles – ‘Abbey Road’
The image that created a million pilgrimages and even more bad holiday snaps, the cover to Abbey Road and the album’s title cemented the studio’s legendary status in the hearts and minds of Beatles fans worldwide. The famous photograph also helped fuel rumours that Paul McCartney was dead and has since been paid tribute to by numerous bands including McCartney himself on his live album ‘Paul Is Live’.
6. Beastie Boys: ‘License To III’ -
“Rather than make an album cover that was understated and ‘safe’ for their debut, Beastie Boys went with a clear message of intent. ‘License To III’ featured a Boeing 727, inscribed with the band’s name and the logo, '3MTA3,' which when held to a mirror says, ‘Eat Me.’
5. The Strokes: ‘Is This It’ –
The album that has probably defined indie music since the turn of the millennium more than any other sports a cover of simple cheekiness. A naked female rear caressed by a leather gloved hand is the perfect allegory for the sleazy tales of sex, drugs and rock & roll the record contains.
4.Oasis: 'Definitely Maybe' The band's debut album cover was taken in guitarist Paul 'Bonehead' Arthurs' house. The image features a number of iconic props including a picture of Rodney Marsh. A still of Gian Maria Volonte from the film A Fistful of Dollars is visible on the television on the back cover.
3. The Clash: 'London Calling' -
Capturing the iconic moment as Paul Simonon smashes his bass guitar onstage, this remains one of the greatest music photographs of all time even though the photographer Pennie Smith criticised it for being out of focus - she was moving for cover as shards of the bass flew at her when she took it. An image that encapsulates pure punk spirit from the band that probably defined it the most.
2. The Sex Pistols: 'Never Mind the Bollocks' -
The first and only Sex Pistols album features as front cover and album title as vitriolic and garish as the songs contained within and on its release resulted in Richard Branson and a Nottingham Record shop owner being prosecuted under the Indecent Displays Act after it was put in the shop window.
1. Nirvana: ‘Nevermind’ -
A stunningly original idea and an undoubted classic. The swimming baby chasing the American dollar was a defining image of the nineties and summed up the endless rat race of contemporary society perfectly – an innocent baby corrupted by money.
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