When defining how the world views their artistic merit, an artist’s visual integrity is as just as important as their aural distinction. After the recording has finished, and an album’s sound has been expressed, artists must strive for an album cover that embodies the sensibilities of their creative excellence.
When discussing iconic, timeless album covers, an array of images come to mind. From Nirvana’s Nevermind to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, these archetypal artworks are etched in the memories of people across the globe, but why? What makes album art outstanding? What makes it an artist’s trademark? And more importantly, what makes it timeless?
5 Classic Album Covers
- Nirvana: Nevermind
Whenever Nirvana is mentioned, the same image immediately flashes across our minds. An image of a naked baby, suspended in a body of water with a dollar note dangling out in front of it. This album cover accompanied the release of the band’s second studio album back in 1991 and has remained as an eternal tribute to the band’s success. The concept of the album cover was to imitate a water-birth, and is symbolic of the band’s first studio release with DCG Records. Arguably, it also symbolises the initiation of drummer Dave Grohl into the band and acts as a metaphor for what Kurt Cobain was endeavouring to do: to introduce the band’s new sound, that stretched far beyond the boundaries of the Seattle grunge scene.
- Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon
There is perhaps no album cover as cryptic and memorable as Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. The album achieved commercial and critical success in 1973, regardless of how well the band tried not to promote it. This is partly due to the intriguing qualities of the artwork, and also partly due to the band’s refusal to discuss its enigmatic meaning. Thus, what makes this album art an everlasting testimony, is the
allowance for each fan to enchant it with their own theories. The cover features the geometrical shape of a triangle refracting light, but fan theories go above and beyond this simple idea, some delving into the mystic nature surrounding the Pyramids of Giza.
- David Bowie: Aladdin Sane
David Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane is perhaps the most recognised Bowie album cover of all time. This is due to Bowie’s ability to market himself as an artist and create an everlasting, ever-poignant representation of himself. The album, released in 1973, features the David Bowie that everyone remembers and loves; red mullet, glitter work over his eye, and a sombre brooding – the embodiment of Ziggy Stardust. Although some artists rely on clever and obscure messages within their artwork, some of the most monumental album covers are the visual manifestation of the artist themselves, as seen in Aladdin Sane.
- The Beatles: Abbey Road
How could we forget The Beatles’ Abbey Road? It is perhaps one of the most well-known album covers in history, and its testimony lives on eternally through its re-enactment by the bands innumerable fans. The visual aesthetic of the album cover is seamless and intriguing and perfectly captures the band’s unbridled nonchalance and carefree attitude. It is perhaps this encapsulation of the The Beatles’ charisma that
allows for the album cover to be iconic in its own right, and its distinction amongst popular culture is undisputed. If you ask anybody with a shallow knowledge of rock music throughout history, they would be able to recognise this album cover and be able to inform you of which band produced it, which is impressive as it does not feature the band’s name or the title of the album.
- Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA
There is nothing more noticeable or identifiable as America, everyone knows that. So Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, released in 1984 is easily one of the most memorable album covers based purely on recognition. Featuring a James Dean-esque blue jeans, white shirt aesthetic and a very loud, red cap – this album cover is hard to forget. It is iconic because of who it appealed to upon its release, Americans; and how could it not? With the patriarchal colour scheme representative of the American flag and its subtle title ‘Born in the USA’, it is the epitome of the average red-blooded American, and is as timeless as the country itself.