I love music. I always have. I thank my mom for opening up my mind and heart to all kinds of it. She always made sure to bring home the best albums! I remember being a child and spending hours listening to music and flipping through stacks of vinyl, mesmerized by the cover art. The elation I would feel from getting lost in the cover while the music played in sync with my thoughts. From Roxy Music and The Velvet Underground to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, I saw and heard them all. How many kids do you know that got an original copy of The Beastie Boys “License to Ill” from the Easter Bunny? I did and for the record, I still have it. Album cover art rules and is often considered to be one of the archaic fields of design due to digital albums which is a shame because they can be extremely expressive and convey the message of the album in a number of creative ways. Some covers were interactive, others changed the way music was marketed. One thing is for sure – they are the best way to get the attention of a potential buyer.
In no particular order, here are five albums who’s cover art and design have had a major impact on the way I listen to music.
Breakfast In America – Supertramp (1979) – Artist: Mike Doud
One of my earliest childhood memories was the cover for Breakfast In America. I have always had the words “Take a look at my girlfriend…” playing over in my head. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what I once thought was a funny diner in need of a box Fruit Loops or at least some colour, was actually an overlook of New York City from an airplane. The waitress “Libby” was his Statue of Liberty and the city is made up of forks, spoons, bottles of ketchup and other breakfast necessities. Brilliant.
The Information – Beck (2006) – Artist: The Fans
With it’s blank cover and one of four sets of stickers, Beck’s, The Information, was fully customizable allowing the fans to design their own cover and ensuring that no two would be the same. Some called it a marketing gimmick which lead to the album being banned from the U.K. charts, while others, like Forbes Magazine, called it ‘A Genius Innovation”.
2 Live Crew – As Nasty As They Want To Be (1989) – Artist: 2 Live Crew
Misogynistic and over the top are the best way to describe this cover which was the first album deemed legally obscene by the United States Government. Have you ever seen the Parental Advisory stickers that plague covers? This album (and a few others) are the reason why. Despite that, the album was 2 Live Crew’s best seller, being certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – Artist: Peter Blake
Leave it to The Beatles to have the most famous cover of all time. The concept for this cover was “people we like”. Peter Blake has been known to say that “In my mind I was making a piece of art rather than an album cover.” It’s playful colours and unique design delve into psychedelia while rumors of McCartney’s death and the subsequent clues left by Lennon sparked controversy surrounding the images and design. I would highly recommend that any music aficionado investigate and come to your own conclusion.
Black Sabbath – Self Titled (1970) – Artist: Unknown
I remember looking at this cover just to scare myself. It was almost like I enjoyed the torment. Little did I know that it would become one of the most influential and historical albums of all times (it was the first heavy metal album ever). The self-titled album is an excellent example of art and horror and is the reason why I am a horror movie junkie.
Rad. Awesome. Bitchin’. These are the words of my trade. Yeah, I’m a skateboarding lady. It’s one of my great loves. While most 12 year old girls were dressing their dollies and putting on make up I was learning how to ollie and building launch ramps in the backyard with my sister. One summer, I spent every Saturday afternoon in my local Medicentre tending to a broken finger or twisted ankle. The scars on my knees are my badges of honor.
I remember the day I bought my first Thrasher magazine. It changed my life! I became obsessed with the super gnarly ads that dominated the mag. They were covered in skulls, dragons and creepy images that made my mom cringe. These added to my increasing fascination and devotion. I plastered my room with these ads and bought everything they were selling. I was proud to rep the gear and I associated myself with these edgy, independent companies run by skaters. They symbolized everything I stood for; anti-establishment and non-conformity. Little did I know the sport was at the climax of its evolution from an underground movement to where it is today.
The rest is history. Skaters began to market themselves as professional athletes and rock stars. Skateboarding is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. It’s everywhere! When I go to a competition or watch a video or even television shows where the focus should be skating, I am inundated with the message “ If you buy these shoes, you can skate harder”, “Drink this and you will go faster for longer”, “Wear this and you will be cooler”. All I can say is for @#$! sakes! I just want to see these people skate! Has the industry that I loved so much for keepin’ it real changed into the corporate monster that I was so against? Yea, probably, but I still love it.
In 1975, A photographer named Hugh Holland was lucky enough to see a group of boys tearing up a drainage ditch on the side of Laurel Canyon Boulevard. While not a skateboarder himself, he was able to befriend the locals and began documenting their sessions over the next three years, capturing the purity of the sport at the beginning of its culture. He photographed the skaters at sunset, using old negative movie film, giving the photos the warm tone that we now try to copy using Instagram. His work is amazing to me. I owe thanks to Hugh Holland for giving me something to look back on, the good old days when the sport was innocent. Well as innocent as the saying “Skate or Die”.
All images © Hugh Holland, courtesy of M+B (www.mbart.com).