“Weasels Ripped My Flesh”, being one example…
Album covers are the “icon” that identifies the music within. Think about your favorite album and the album cover rushes into your brain. When it’s done right the album cover represents the music; no small feat given that a good number of records shift moods and even genres song to song. In my opinion it’s a big cop-out to simply put a photo of the band on the cover. Sometimes it works, though, like Nick Lowe’s Jesus Of Cool, where he is shown representing, through many different guises, the many faces of rock, which is exactly where his music takes you. Patti Smith’s “Horses” works as well, as it’s a stark, androgynous black and white cover representing the poetic simplicity and stark reality within. It’s tricky, as proven by the fact that a full 50% of album covers feature bland band shots.
Of course what makes a good and enduring album cover is a matter of taste, and most often than not your decision on what makes a great cover is based on nostalgia. Your nostalgia. A great album design can be artistic (Dark Side Of The Moon, Happy Monday’s “Bummed”), groundbreaking (Sgt. Peppers), funny (Zappa’s “In It For The Money), confrontational (Two Virgins, Plastic Surgery Disasters), simple (Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks—also groundbreaking and confrontational) or complex (Cheap Thrills by Big Brother and the Holding Co.), again depending on your taste. And even though some of the best designed albums have gone on to sell millions and millions of copies (Dark Side Of The Moon, anyone?), popularity has nothing to do with it, really.
Album covers are now an important part of our pop culture, and they are quickly becoming a thing of the past, and that is a true shame. Go pull out some of your old vinyl, or go get a magnifying glass and pull out your CD’s and marvel for a few hours at the beauty of the simple album cover!