Sep 152010


Certainly, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. We know this to be true, or true enough that we do our part to pass this wisdom down to younger generations, but sometimes we do – judge a book, or record album, by it’s cover, that is. I’m sure I’m not the only Townsperson who’s bought an album based almost solely on the strength of its album cover.

Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, in its die-cut, round cover, was a no-brainer purchase many years ago. I took it home, however, and never fell for it. A few years later I sold it, only to buy it again because the cover was so damn cool! I still don’t like that album.

On the other hand, there are some albums I’ve bought almost solely because of a cool album cover that have delivered. I picked up the first Undertones album based on the cover shot of those cheery, aware teens wearing “floods” before I knew anything about them other than the fact that they were one of those new-fangled punk bands I’d was just getting into. (As an aside, this old Trouser Press article I ran across reminds me that it’s no wonder I still love The Undertones as deeply and as personally as I do!)

There are others, I’m sure (in fact, I had one in mind when I thought about this thread, but it’s slipped my mind), and I’m sure I’ll remember some more as you share your album covers that delivered!


  16 Responses to “Album Covers That Delivered!”

  1. I wrote this article a few years back, so it’s time for some shameless self-promotion:

    I know most of you guys will laugh off more than a few of my choices, but to a five-year-old kid those covers intrigued me.

    For the rest who don’t bother, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan was a complete revelation (as it was to many). Mnay people told me to start with the Greatest Hits collection, but I could not shake the idea of what this sleeve contained. We all know the rest of the story…


  2. I know this cover was recently panned here at RTH, but it is still one of my faves. It reminds me of that summer Saturday night feeling when you’re catching a cool local band at a sweaty bar. For me, it also represents the hot grooves within.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    Great starting points, you two. TB, I can identify with many of your youthful choices in this category. Sonny, although I’m the guy who can’t stand that Blasters album cover, it’s definitely memorable. Your perspective of it makes sense.

  4. 2000 Man

    I constantly buy albums because I like the cover. It’s worked well for me, too.

    I bought The Exploding Hearts – Guitar Romantic solely on the cover, and I think it’s one of my favorite albums of this century.

    One of the first albums I ever bought because I liked the cover was 801 Live. It’s one of my favorite albums from last century.

    I always loved the cover of The Royal Scam, too. Most Steely Dan covers are dull, but I really like that one.

  5. BigSteve

    I always thought the Strictly Personal album cover was awesome:

    The original album title was going to be It Comes To You in a Plain Brown Wrapper.

    And the image on the inside of the gatefold is very mysterious:

    All of the Beefheart album covers are cool, but this is my favorite.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    I love that inside image, BigSteve. I believe it’s also used on one of the many packagings of Mirror Man, maybe a UK edition that I own.

    Here’s another band I first discovered thanks to a cool album cover: XTC and the cover for Drums and Wires. A very enticing image for the 16-year-old me, and a worthwhile payoff musically!

  7. jeangray

    That Undertones cover does not deliver in my neighborhood! Not really a fan of the band shot/artist portrait as album cover.

    That being said, one of my fave album covers is Pretenders II.

    My high school self thought that shot was the epitome of cool!

  8. jeangray

    Sorry! I attempted to make that lync active, but I don’ know how. Intranet fail!

  9. 2000 Man

    jeangray, only Mr. Mod can activate the links. He wields that kind of power!

    Speaking of The Pretenders, I love the back cover of their first album where Chrissie is fixing the cuff on Pete’s pant leg or something. Right before I got that album when I was in High School I was out in the smoking lounge and my shoe was untied and a girl I barely knew, other than to loan a smoke to now and then just leaned down and tied it for me. No one had ever done that before (or since, that I can remember) and for some reason I thought it was terribly sexy. One of my friends that was behind her even did the Martin Chambers, point and facial expression of, “What? How come she’s doing that for him?

  10. Mr. Moderator

    Your link has now been activated, jeangray. I try to stay atop that. We’re making some behind-the-scenes updates to the site that should eventually lead to Comments that default to active links. It should open the door for some more fun.

  11. Mr. Moderator

    Like you, jeangray, I’m usually not a big fan of band photos on album covers, especially all the typical ones with dudes slumping against brick walls and whatnot. What made that Undertones cover different for me was that the shot portrayed a rock ‘n roll band of guys about my age who seemed cool with being uncool – and somehow seemed a little bit cool, as a result. That seemed to be the only way me and my friends could somehow be a little bit cool.

  12. As a youngin’ this cover fascinated me. I don’t think I bought it but I’ve had it since I can remember:

    I knew this band from one song in college and bought the LP after I saw this cover:

  13. ladymisskirroyale

    I’ve typically bought records based on hearing a track or two, or knowing that if a band is on a certain label, it might have a certain sound. If it had great cover art, even better! (For that reason, I will never be able to completely switch over to mp3’s – I like the art work and liner notes on albums/cds too much.)

    However, my artist husband relays that he fleshed out much of his collection due to his love of the 4AD and Peter Saville covers.

  14. diskojoe

    Thanks for the link to that TP article on the Undertones, Mr. Mod. I just happened to have their second album Hypnotized in my car yesterday, which is a pretty solid. Although the front cover (two of the lads w/lobster bibs) isn’t as good as the first album’s, it does have a bit of a charm knowing that it was probably the first time any of them had ever seen, let alone eat, a lobster. It reminds me of the story in the documentary Teenage Kicks when they first went to London to be in Top of the Pops & they had a choice of places to eat & they chose McDonald’s because they never went there before.

  15. jeangray

    2000 Man:
    That is a great story. I felt the same way about that back cover. It summoned up all kinds of thoughts in my teenage mind. How come she’s doing that for him? indeed!

  16. ladymisskirroyale

    Mod – you are prescient: in today’s NYTimes Sunday Styles is a mention of the new installation at the Gagosian Shop on Mad Ave. You can view (and buy) artist-designed album covers including those designed by Andy Warhol, William Eggleston and Ed Ruscha. Prices: $20 to $2,000 (the high end is for the clear plastic Rauschenberg picture disc for TH’s “Speaking in Tongues.”

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