Top 10 Iconic Classic Rock Album Covers
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Aaron Cameron. Sometimes you can judge a book – or a musical album - by its cover. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 iconic classic rock album covers. For this list, we're choosing album covers in rock and its various related genres based on how iconic, cool, well recognized or unforgettable they are. Special thanks to our users Jimmy Washington, Jake Fraser, Al Bebak, Andy Roehl, Sid, pacman1865, Smiley49, Zack Zabiegalski, Paola Garcia, heyheywhatthedooley, Johnnyd42, Toxicroak34, and James Kerslake for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
Script written by Aaron Cameron.
Top 10 Iconic Classic Rock Album Covers
Sometimes you can judge a book – or a musical album - by its cover. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 iconic classic rock album covers.
For this list, we’re choosing album covers in rock and its various related genres based on how iconic, cool, well recognized or unforgettable they are.
#10: War (1983)
Citing war as the theme of the early ‘80s and keen to distort their rep for being a safe and fairly uncontroversial band, U2 settled on War as the title of their 1983 release. Equally keen to show that war can have also mental and emotional elements, the band opted to use a child’s portrait for the cover instead of violent imagery. The child, Bono’s 8-year-old neighbour Peter Rowen, had previously appeared on the cover of their Three EP and debut full-length Boy, and several other U2 releases, so he fit the part perfectly.
#9: Sticky Fingers (1971)
While also notable for the debut of the band’s famous Tongue and Lips logo, the original LP cover of Sticky Fingers is perhaps best known for its functional zipper. Though the artwork was thought up by Andy Warhol, its design was executed by Craig Braun, who hit a snag when many records were damaged during shipment. The zipper damage made the track “Sister Morphine” unplayable on many copies, but the gaff was later remedied by shipping the record with the zipper at half-mast.
The Rolling Stones
#8: Queen II (1974)
Following a somewhat lacklustre response to their debut album, Queen opted to step up the visuals on their follow up. They hired photographer by Mick Rock, who had impressed the band with his work with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. As such, they were confident he could give them the bit of glam they were looking for. Although Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor initially found the Marlene Dietrich-inspired cover pretentious, Freddie Mercury loved it and an image was born; the band would even reuse the imagery in their music videos for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “One Vision”.
#7: Led Zeppelin (1969)
Guitarist and producer Jimmy Page didn’t have to go too far when deciding on cover art for the band’s debut album; he was inspired by earlier discussions about forming a band and how the idea “would probably go over like a lead zeppelin.” Designed by George Hardie around a photo of the Hindenburg disaster, the front sleeve created quite the stir, especially in Denmark. There, members of the Zeppelin family, who were behind early 20th century airship development, complained about the image and the band’s name. This resulted in Led Zep touring the region as... The Nobs.
#6: Are You Experienced (1967)
First released with a relatively uninteresting photo that could be described as similar to those of the Sears Portrait Studio variety, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album cover for the UK failed to impress anyone, including Hendrix himself. Feeling the image didn’t match the band’s psychedelic sound, the guitarist requested a do-over with Karl Ferris. The photographer and graphic designer didn’t only shoot a low angle, infrared and fisheye lens-enhanced shot, but also helped pick out the band’s wardrobe and hairstyles. You don’t get that at Sears.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
#5: Rumours (1977)
The band was set to release the album under the title Yesterday’s Gone, but given the famously tense work environment under which they recorded their eleventh effort, bassist John McVie suggested the much more fitting Rumours. Simple yet suggestive, the cover features drummer and founder Mick Fleetwood and singer Stevie Nicks in their standard stage wear. But it’s also notable for its... balls. All three of them. On close inspection, the crystal ball Fleetwood holds has a flipped image of himself and McVie, while the balls hanging from his waist were originally part of a club’s toilet in the band’s early days, which he wore as a lucky charm.
#4: Hotel California (1976)
Taken by David Alexander and John Kosh while sitting on a cherry picker over Sunset Boulevard during rush hour, this darkly haunting shot of the Beverly Hills Hotel perfectly fulfilled Don Henley’s request for a typical California hotel with a menacing vibe. The artwork, including the band photo at the Lido Hotel as well as Kosh’s title graphic, reportedly cost a then-astonishing $60,000 but perfectly matched Henley’s vision of the successes, losses, and general weirdness of California. Following the album’s success, the Beverly Hills Hotel considered suing, but dropped the idea when bookings for their rooms tripled.
#3: Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, this patriotic close up of The Boss’s butt is perhaps one of the most famous images of the ‘80s. Even without seeing his face, his confident stance, rootsy, small town jeans and t-shirt say all anyone needs to know about Bruce Springsteen. While viewed by some as a sexual statement, and by others as suggestive, heated political commentary, Bruce has explained that this picture bested any taken of his face during the photo shoot, although some may beg to differ...
#2: Abbey Road (1969)
Shot the morning of August 8th, 1969 outside EMI Studios on the road that gave the record its name, this simple but iconic photo is among the most famous, and most parodied, in the world. Local police allotted photographer Iain Macmillan just 10 minutes to get what would ultimately grace The Beatles’ eleventh effort. In all, six photos were taken - but it was only the fifth frame that caught the Fab Four walking in sync. McCartney’s barefooted-ness, meanwhile, helped fuel the infamous and enduring “Paul is Dead” conspiracy – adding to the cover’s mystique.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Enema of the State (1999)
- Bat Out of Hell (1977)
- The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan (1963)
- Aladdin Sane (1973)
- The Doors (1967)
- Who’s Next (1971)
#1: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
Instructed by the band to create something that was clever and elegant, designers Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell delivered the now iconic prism. With artwork by George Hardie, the image represented the thought and ambition of Pink Floyd’s music, but was also suggestive of the band’s live light show. The final image was so strong that neither the album’s title or the band’s name was included on the album sleeve.
Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite classic rock album cover? For more iconic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.