As the importance of album art diminishes in the modern world of digital downloads, we take a look back at some of the stranger CD and record covers; The ones that made us go “Hmmm?”
1. Weezer – Hurley: 4,8,15,16,23 and 42, indeed, Lost is forever remembered thanks to Weezer. For their 2010 album, the band selected to use a cropped photo taken with actor Jorge Garcia, best known as the character “Hurley” from the popular TV show Lost. As soon as the photo was selected for the cover, instead of self-titling as planned, the band decided to title the album Hurley.
2. Butthole Surfers – Electriclarryland: This 1996 album for the alternative rock group contains the Top 40 hit “Pepper” and continued the band’s legacy of parodying their album titles. Electriclarryland is a take on Jimi Hendrix’ Electric Ladyland.
3. Scorpions – Lovedrive: Despite its especially controversial album cover for the German heavy-metal group, Lovedrive is thought to be a prime early example of the group’s distinctive sound. It was also voted “Best Album Sleeve of 1979” by Playboy Magazine.
4. Wavves – King of the Beach: The third album for the California surf-rock group, Kiing of the Beach, a mix of punk vibes, psychedelic influences and traditional surf-rock tones and was picked as one of the “Top Fifty Albums of 2010” by Pitchfork.
5. NOFX – Heavy Petting Zoo: In 1996 NOFX released this admittedly suggestive album cover which makes a visual play on the album’s title. It could be taken as offensive and disgusting, but that’s all well and good in the punk realm, right? Regardless, NOFX has experienced success as an independent group, having sold over 6 million records worldwide.
6. Prince – Prince: The saving grace for Prince’s disappointing first studio album For You. Prince’s self-titled 1979 album quickly proved its disco-funk chops with R&B chart-topping single “I Wanna be Your Lover.” After appearing on the 55th GRAMMY Awards, Prince proved he’s nearly ageless, if you ignore the cane. the singer/multi-instrumentalist’s last album was released in 2010, aptly titled 20Ten.
7. Phish – Billy Breathes A close-up of bassist Mike Gordon marks one of Phish’s most popular albums. The record included the song “Free,” their most successful chart single to date. In June 2012, Phish headlined Bonnaroo 2012 with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Radiohead.
8. The Kinks – Schoolboys in Disgrace: Although the 1975 album, a series of musical vignettes, received little acclaim upon its release, it experienced success in receiving a spot on NME’s list of the “50 Worst Covers of All Time.”
9. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain: This morbid, funk-infused image on this 1971 album could have been taken to symbolize the “death” of funk, however nothing could be further from the truth for Funkadelic. Maggot Brain went on to enjoy an impressive reception and was named one of RollingStone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito: Although this much-anticipated album will not be released until April 2013, the Yeah YeahYeah’s have already released teasers, including the unveiling of the squeamish album cover. The latest video is a sparkling reverb-heavy performance piece with Karen O sporting a platinum blonde do.
11. Jane’s Addiction – Nothing Shocking: The inspiration for this album, according to creator Perry Farrel, came to him in a dream. A number of leading record stores did find this album art “shocking” and either refused to carry the album or covered it in brown paper. Nevertheless, Nothings Shocking has been ranked as one of the “Greatest Albums of All Time” by Rolling Stone as well as widely considered by many to the band’s best album.
12. Van Halen – 1984: 1984 (MCMLXXXIV on the cover) remains one of Van Halen’s best-selling, most popular albums, with the single’s “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot for Teacher.” In December 2011, the band announced a tour for 2012 and released their first album in 14 years titled A Different Kind of Truth.
13. Vampire Weekend – Contra: The Polaroid picture of an unknown girl used on Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra led to legal action in 2010 when Ann Kirsten Kennis, the woman identified in the photo, sued the band and its label for $2 million for using her image without her permission.
14. Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream: As the debut album for Empire of the Sun, Australian duo Luke Steele and Nick Littermoregathered some sci-fi inspiration for their cover art from Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie posters. Indeed, the album’s New Age electro-synth pop tracks embody the cinematic stellar realm, and it paid off. Walking on a Dream took home Album of the Year along with Best Cover Art at the 2009 Australian Recording Industry Association Music Awards.
15. Michael Jackson – HIStory: Michael Jackson was already a global superstar when this album was released in 1995. Unfortunately it was a magnet for controversy. Its debut was tarnished by accusations that Jacksonengaged in child sexual abuse and used anti-Semetic lyrics on the album.
16. Fatboy Slim – You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby: With the release of YCALWB in 1998, English DJ Norman Cook AKA Fatboy Slim continuedwith his tradition of titling his albums after marketing slogans. “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” was the slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes, and the album comes full circle with the photo of an obese young man with a cigarette in hand (taken in 1983, at Fat Peoples Festival in Danville Virginia).
17. Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh: Inspiration for this Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention’s 1970 album cover came from a September 1956 issue of Man’s Life, a men’s adventure magazine. It is also the second posthumous album released by the Mothers, after the band broke up in1969.
18. Frank Zappa – We’re Only In It For the Money: Preceding the weasel razor of Weasels Ripped My Flesh, Zappa’s cover for his 1968 album was a recreation and parody of a photo of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
19. The Rolling Stones – Dirty Work: Released in 1986, Dirty Work was released at a time in Stone’s history when band-memberinterpersonal relations were tested. This cover is weird because the lack of cohesion among the members is noticeable and uncomfortable.
20. Weezer – Raditude: The iconic flying dog on Weezer’s seventh album was photographed by National Geographic Magazine. Her name is Sophie. While fans are clamoring for new music, the band’s assistant said, “While its impossible to say when the next Weezer album will come out, rest assured the band is excited and united in their desire to make it great.”
21. The Flaming Lips – The Dark Side of the Moon: Using the Pink Floyd prism- light spectrum visual motif in a slightly weirder way, this Flaming Lips 2009 album revisits pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon from 1973.
22. Poison – Open up and Say Ahh: It does not get any more glam-metal than the cover art on this 1988 Poison album. It was censored multiple times after its release, thus increasing it’s street cred. Would Walmart stock the shelves with this album today?
23. Ohio Players – Honey One: Of the racier album covers, Honey was also accompanied by an urban legend that the woman featured on the cover was stabbed in the studio after a dispute and that her screams can beheard on the song “Love Rollercoaster.”
24. Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus: The futuristic armadillo tank, Tarkus, depicted on the 1971 album was imagined by Emerson, who said the cyborg creature was representative of Darwin’s theory of evolution in reverse. The title track, “Tarkus” is a twenty minute musical narrative of the birth and story of Tarkus.
25. The Cranberries – Bury The Hatchet: The first album released after the band’s hiatus from 1996-1999, Bury the Hatchet, to the delight of many fans, returned to the band’s roots that led to its initial popularity. The cover art perhaps visually represents the band’s reason for hiatus, having experienced a rapid trajectory into the spotlight after a trio of successful albums.
— Zack Nechvatal, CBS Radio Chicago / Jay Tilles, CBS Local