In a generation of the iPod and digital downloading, vinyl music has found a way to stay relevant and even profitable. According to Nielsen SoundScan, vinyl music sales rose to 3.9 million copies, versus 2.8 million in 2010, proving that vinyl record collecting and selling is here to stay. Thanks in large part to album art, these records have become popular collectors items, visible in college dorm rooms and on the walls of almost every brick and mortar shop. Let’s take a look at some of the most recognizable album covers and the stories behind them.
1.The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1976
The Velvet Underground & Nico is known for the large banana, by artist Andy Warhol, on the cover. Original copies of the album feature a “Peel slowly and see” sticker, which have now become a rare collector’s item.
2. The Beatles Yesterday and Today, 1966
Tired of routine photo shoots, The Beatles decided to cover their ninth album with a photo of the group dressed in butcher smocks and covered in pieces of meat and doll body parts. Paul McCarthy described it as “our comment on the war” and John Lennon said it was “as relevant as Vietnam.” However, Capital Records decided to print a safer photo of the group: a picture of the band smiling from their “Paperback Writer” single. In 1966, Alan Livingston, then president of Capital Records, took a case of the butcher covers from the warehouse before they were replaced with the new cover. One of the original albums were placed for sale in 2006 and sold for $39,000.
3. Michael Jackson Thriller, 1982
Thriller was Michael Jackson’s sixth studio album and his most successful, with 45 million sales worldwide. The cover features a shot of the 25-year-old. The poster size of the image reveals there s actually tiger in this shot as well. The rarest of Thriller albums features a photo of Michael on the disc with a clear sleeve.
4. Sex Pistols Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols, 1977
The English cover of the Sex Pistol’s only studio album features a yellow background with pink blocked text. The alternate American cover features a pink background with a block of green text. Today, both cover sales for around the same price.
5. The Eagles Hotel California, 1967
The cover image, taken by photographer David Alexander, is of the Beverly Hills Hotel. On the back of the record you can find a photo of the Lido in Hollywood. This album went on to become The Eagles’ highest selling studio album.
6. Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon, 1973
This album is known to be one of the most popular and recognizable covers of all time. George Hardie, of the design company Hipgnosis, designed the refracting prism, meant to represent the group’s lightshows. The credits on the European version of the album are written in grey text, while they are white on the American version.
7. Led Zeppelin Houses of The Holy, 1973
The photo shoot for Houses of The Holy took total of ten days at a rock formation in Northern Ireland. The crew shot from sunrise to sunset to capture the light at dawn and dusk. The models in the picture are brother and sister, Stefan and Samantha Gate. The theme was taken from Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End where all the children run off the end of the world.
8. The Clash London Calling, 1978
Photographer Pennie Smith originally didn’t want her photo of Simonon smashing his bass guitar to be used as the cover of this album. She thought the picture was out of focus. Still, Q magazine named it the best rock ‘n roll photo of all time in 2002. The photo was taken during a New York show at the Clash Take the Fifth US tour in 1979. Today, Simonon’s bass can be seen at the Cleveland Rock’n Roll Hall of Fame.
9. The Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request, 1967
The original cover design of Their Satanic Majesties Request was too expensive to print in large. The group decided to printed small photos and dress the space in a white and blue graphic design. Inside the cover, fans can find a maze that cannot be completed.
10. Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors, 1977
This original album cover features a photo of the group surrounded by fire. Three days after the album was released three of the groups members were killed in a plane crash. The record company decided it was in bad taste to sell the cover featuring the flames and removed it from future copies. The cover with the flames is still very popular today.
11. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963
This album cover was taken by photographer Don Hunstein in the West Village close to Dylan and Suze Rotolo’s apartment home. Critic Janet Maslin described the cover as “a photograph that inspired countless young men to hunch their shoulders, look distant, and let the girl do the clinging”. In Suze Rotolo’s memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time, she said this was “one of those cultural markers that influenced the look of album covers precisely because of its casual down-home spontaneity and sensibility. Most album covers were carefully staged and controlled.”