Your Take: The Album Cover

Ken Morton, Jr. | May 4th, 2013

A few weeks ago, Storm Thorgerson passed away at the age of 69. Thorgerson was a renowned graphic artist whose catalog includes some of music’s most famous album covers Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.  His Storm Studios design house was behind covers from everyone from Led Zeppelin to the Cranberries.  His work got us thinking…

In an interview in 2011 here at Engine 145, Ray Wylie Hubbard explained the reasoning behind the design of his album, A: Enlightenment B: Endarkenment (Hint: There Is No C), in which he’s holding his own severed head: “Well, here’s what happened. I was looking at the different ads for iTunes’ top twenty albums. They have them all listed there and the album covers are the size of a postage stamp, right? They’re about an inch and a half by an inch and a half. I looked at that and thought there wasn’t much space there. So I drew a little stick man in a two-inch square and said, “Yep, that’s what it would look like.” And for some reason, I erased his head and drew a little circle down by his hand. And so it just seemed natural to put a sword in his other hand. And I laughed and said, “You know, you’ll notice that.””

We want to know your take: Have album covers become less important in the digital download era? What album covers stand out to you? What makes them that way?

  1. Juli Thanki
    May 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

    As a kid, I bought more than a few albums based on their cover. I don’t think the importance of an interesting design has faded, but buying a digital album, squinting at the tiny cover image on an iPod and scrolling through a digital booklet is far less fun than tearing the plastic off a new album and paging through the liner notes.

    As far as album covers that stand out, for me, one of the most iconic would have to be Elvis Presley’s debut, which has been mimicked several times, including one of my favorite records, The Clash’s London Calling.

  2. bob
    May 4, 2013 at 8:07 am

    I haven’t given much thought to album covers recently but the cover of “American Pie”, Don McLean’s second album released in 1971, is one of my favorites. The cover shows the artist off to the left with a closeup in the center of his fist with thumb up. The thumb is painted blue at the top with a white star and extending below the blue are red and white stripes. The back cover has Don’s picture with a guitar and a list of the tracks. Near the bottom it reads, “Dedicated to Buddy Holly”. The brown paper LP sleeve is cool too. It has a picture of Hopalong Cassidy with a tribute to Hoppy below written by Don McLean.

    It just occurred to me that when I buy a complete album digitally, I almost never even look at the artwork.

  3. Jack Williams
    May 4, 2013 at 9:55 am

    In the early 80’s, my artist sister, who was about to graduate from high school, wanted to do a painting of an album cover for me. The one I went with was the Charlie Daniels Band’s Fire on the Mountain. Not only a great album cover, but one of my all time favorite albums. Their following album (Nightrider) had a great cover as well, and was almost as good musically.

  4. Janice Brooks
    May 4, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    if it converts correctly I still get to see album covers on the tracks of my station. Please keep them coming.

  5. Rick
    May 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    The significance of album cover art shrank dramatically (along with the medium) in the transition from LP’s to CD’s back in the 1980’s and has become almost irrelevant in this digital age.

    It only matters to me now when I’m thumbing through a rack of new and used CDs or LPs at a store like Amoeba and unusual covers catch my eye.

    Sometimes a really wacky cover will motivate me to buy a cheap used CD, such as the debut album by the Cactus Brothers that seemed to be inspired by an acid trip!

    Overall I prefer album covers that feature glamour shots of pretty female singers! Mindy McCready had some great cover shots and the rear cover of Cyndi Thomson’s debut album will always be a favorite! (lol)

  6. Paul W Dennis
    May 4, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    I miss the artistry of vinyl album covers – somehow shrinking them to 4.75″ x 4.75″ size reduces the aesthic appeal of even the greatest album covers

    I bought many albums prodded at least somewhat by the album covers (The Ventures Golden Greats, anyone ?)

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