10 iconic photographs used as album covers
The album cover is a delicate game. There really is only one rule to follow: be memorable. Whether it’s through an abundance of vibrant colors and tones, or perhaps more subdued and monochrome images, ideally an album cover should match the content of the album, thematically or sonorously. But even that notion takes a back seat to pure visual splendor and the lack of the ability to forget what you’ve just seen.
Often an artist will find inspiration in pre-existing images. Sometimes these are adapted and manipulated in some way to add a unique touch to the visuals, while other times they are simply thrown up in bulk due to their striking qualities and daring nature. . Today we take a look at some of the most iconic images of all time and how they ended up on some of the greatest albums ever made.
For this list, we’re looking at album covers with photographs that were already well known by the time they were used as album art. This means an iconic photograph that is uniquely associated with its parent album, like the covers for London call or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, are omitted. In some cases, the album’s fame has now eclipsed the original photography fame. But in any case, these photographs were in the public eye before the musicians took hold of them.
10 iconic photographs used as album covers:
10. Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I
Needing to part ways with their old nickname the New Yardbirds, Jimmy Page searched for a potential name that would complement the power and heaviness of his new outfit. It was then that he remembered what Keith Moon had joked during the recording of “Beck’s Bolero”: that a supergroup between Page, Beck, John Entwistle and Moon would pass like “a lead ball.”
With a few grammatical changes, Led Zeppelin has been newly christened and ready for its maiden voyage. Their debut album contained a punchy new style on tracks like “Good Times, Bad Times” and “Communication Breakdown”, and the band needed a sufficiently volatile image to accompany both the music and the name. Step into Sam Shere’s iconic photo of the Hindenburg disaster, where the exact moment the cursed ship burned was the perfect illustration of Zeppelin’s hard rock style.
9. Electric light orchestra – Eldorado
In terms of cinematic imagery, it’s impossible to get more iconic than Dorothy’s ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz. As the Evil Witch of the West reaches out to retrieve her fallen sister’s shoes, a powerful mass of sparks return to her. These slippers would forever be associated with Dorothy’s journey home and the inherent goodness she brought to the Land of Oz.
Jeff Lynne needed an image of this caliber to communicate his themes of escape and fantasy from the 1974 Electric Light Orchestra concept album. Eldorado. But no simple approximation would be enough: Lynne went straight to the memorable movie to end all memorable movie frames, perhaps cinema’s most famous shoot. It takes some nerve, but Lynne was fully indebted to greatness on an epic scale, so removing such an iconic image seems appropriate.
8. Big star – Radio city
William Eggleston was renowned for his ability to take color photographs and create bold, indelible images even from the most basic and universal equipment. His photos were both stark and vibrant, taking ordinary settings and producing captivating results even from the most mundane of elements. The red ceiling is his most famous work: a Mississippi ceiling with a light that nevertheless has a moving and palpable quality.
The ethic of taking every day and making it magical could also be applied to Big Star, the Memphis power-pop group that was already in shambles by the time they finished their second LP. Radio city. Group leader Alex Chilton wanted to contrast the interpersonal drama the group was going through and visualize it with worldly daring. His friend Eggleston showed him his famous Red Ceiling image, and the rest was history.
7. Dead Kennedys – Plastic surgery disasters
The Dead Kennedys knew the power of confrontation. Their name alone caused an uproar from tasteful referees because of his apparent casualness in the face of the national tragedy of the assassination of the Kennedy brothers. The group’s debut album featured footage of several police cars on fire after Dan White was convicted of manslaughter, not murder, in connection with the Harvey Milk murder.
So when the band got even more confrontational on their second album Plastic surgery disasters, they needed an even more poignant image for the cover. Michael Well’s “Hands” shows the startling difference between the size and strength of the frail hand of a hungry Ugandan child against the palm of a white missionary. The image was politically charged and aggressively upsetting, which made it the perfect combination with songs like “Government Flu” and “Terminal Preppie”.
6. The blacksmiths – Meat is murder
Subtlety was never really Morrissey’s thing. Whether it was through his lyrics on tracks like “Barbarism Begins At Home” or his caustic comments in interviews, the Smiths frontman was predisposed to hit you on the head with a message rather than let you perform it yourself. same.
The photograph chosen for the Meat is murder The front cover is one of the most remarkable images from the Vietnam War: a young soldier with the phrase “Make War Not Love” engraved on his helmet. The image was perhaps most famous for its use in the documentary Year of the pig, and Morrissey, still a cinephile, could probably have seen the poster featuring the soldier and be inspired by it.
5. George Michael – Listen without prejudice Vol. 1
George Michael’s Listen without prejudice Vol. 1 (we’re still waiting for volume two, but personally I wouldn’t be holding my breath) was meant as a significant artistic leap for the singer, incorporating elements of a quiet storm and more mature writing into his powerful mix of pop. The double punch of “Praying for Time” and “Freedom! “90” certainly accomplishes that, and Michaels wanted an image that kept its own face off the marketing plan.
So his solution was to choose a giant group photo of influential New York street photographer Weegee, depicting an impossible mass of people on Coney Island in 1940. The image was retrograde in nature and would not feature any of the sex- Michaels appeals. Faith album and promotional cycle. It’s about as impersonal as it gets, complimenting the celebrity-setback Michaels.
4. Rage against the machine – Rage against the machine
In 1963, Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức executed the final protest against Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm’s systematic oppression of his religious cohorts: he sat quietly in the middle of a busy intersection and burned himself lively. The resulting images by photographer Malcolm Browne would win the World Press Photo of the Year award and alert the world to the atrocities perpetrated by the Diệm government.
What better visual complement to the radical, fiery and fiercely political sounds of Rage Against the Machine. The band needed a strong first impression for their debut, and the content of their sound was so aggressive and direct that a single photo of the band wouldn’t be enough. The flaming c image was the only suitable companion. Nothing else could have communicated the group’s ethics so thoroughly.
3. The blows – Is this this
The original cover photo of The Strokes debut LP Is it this, featuring a naked woman’s hip and buttocks with a suggestively placed glove, was the best way to communicate the band’s raw and rugged indie rock. The only problem was that singer Julian Casablancas didn’t like the photo. So he went to find something else.
He came across one of the very first images of a subatomic particle photographed in beautifully magnified detail. Casablancas was unaware that the same photo had already been included in the image collage on Prince’s Graffiti Bridge album.
2. Antoine and the Johnsons – I am a bird now
British experimental pop singer Anohni staged a major coup by recording her second LP under the name Antony and the Johnson’s, I am a bird now. Recruiting leading musicians like Boy George, Rufus Wainwright, and Lou Reed, she created a baroque soul tapestry that won her the Mercury Prize in 2005.
For a visual portrayal of the album’s tragedy and gruesome content, Anohni turned to former compatriot Reed Candy Darling, who was best known as a Warhol superstar in the ’60s. The transgender actress was dying. of lymphoma at the age of 29, and her last image, taken by photographer Peter Hujar, was the one chosen to adorn the cover of I am a bird now.
1. Brand new – The devil and God are raging in me
Brand New were experts on the aggressively whiny form of rock and roll known as emo, and credit is due, they were overall one of the most musically talented propagators of the genre. They also loved the stark images for their album covers, as opposed to the busy and sordid ugliness of their peers.
The devil and God are raging in me features important themes of death and religion, so the “Untitled # 44” photograph from Nicholas Prior’s “Age of Man” collection was the perfect match to illustrate the raw, everyday aspects of Brand’s morbid curiosity New.