People always say not to judge a book by its cover, but I absolutely do. I mean, they're usually referring to human beings but when it comes to actual books, I am judging the hell out of those things. I once refused to buy a copy of the novel version of "Rosemary's Baby" because the cover stated there was an introduction inside written by Chuck Palahniuk.
And you know what else I judge by their covers? Records. There are a lot of seriously terrible record covers out there, but I don't want to dwell on the negative here. For every terrible record cover, there's an incredibly beautiful one. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder, you know? Or maybe I'm just trying to fit as many stupid sayings into this article as possible. So I figured I would write about my favourite album covers and then you guys could share yours. Because what I find beautiful might look like a garbage can to you.
I present to you, in no particular order, my favourite album covers.
1. Leonard Cohen "Death Of A Ladies' Man" (1977)
Opinions are mixed on the contents of this one (I love it), but we're here to talk about the cover, which I am also severely obsessed with. First there's Mr. Cohen, suave as ever in a white suit, shirt unbuttoned, chest hair peeking out, making it pretty obvious that this is indeed 1977. Flanked by two female companions (also in white), one seemingly happy (but only half of her face showing), another with luxurious hair and the most unimpressed, faraway look in her eyes. Party accoutrements on the table and above it all, the dark title of the album in white and blue serif font. I love it because it is so clearly "a moment," depicting people who want to be happy, want to seem happy, but totally aren't. It's a bummer but at least they look good.
2. Practically every Roxy Music album cover, including "Stranded" (1973), "Country Life" (1974), "Siren" (1975), and "Manifesto" (1979)
Roxy Music have some of the most over-the-top, sexy, super 70s album covers out there. They're usually adorned with stunning, gleamy models wearing bright makeup and not much else. Even though the covers are so sultry, they never seem pervy. The women always look like total badasses, babes that I want to channel when I walk into a room.
When I look at the cover of "Stranded" I'm all "Yeah, that's totally how I would look if I got shipwrecked, too!" And the "Country Life" girls, staring you down so intensely in their skivves, which caused the record to be sold with blackout censor bars when it was released? Well, those girls, they don't care about mosquitoes or ticks, they just want to show nature their bums. Then of course, there's "Siren." With Jerry Hall dolled up like a mythical, man-ruining sea creature, it was on this shoot where Bryan Ferry first fell for her. After they got the shot, he invited her back to his place to "help [her] wash off the paint." Yeah, come on ... but it worked.
Then we get to "Manifesto," released two years after Ferry's relationship with Hall ended. The cover doesn't have any hot ladies but instead shows some incredibly stylish and well made-up mannequins at a party. I mean, could you beat us over the head any more with your "party people = vacant & soulless" imagery? Poor jilted Bryan.
3. The Damned "Damned Damned Damned," (1977)
I guess I like the '70s, huh? But I mean, what's not to love here? Bright yellow block font, pink sunglasses, a striped sweater, boys and cake. I like all of those things! Even after SPIN magazine did their own terrible version with Sum 41 ages ago (why?), I still love this cover. I think that says a lot.
4. The Rolling Stones "Let It Bleed," (1969)
More cake! Weird cake! This creation on the cover of "Let It Bleed" was put together by designer Robert Brownjohn and depicts the record playing underneath the record-changer spindle, which is supporting a tape canister, a clock dial, a pizza, a tire, and a deliciously elaborate cake topped with tiny figurines of the band. I don't know why I love it so much, it's just always stuck with me ever since I saw it for the first time years and years ago, and I'm not the only one: The Royal Mail chose it to be displayed on a stamp in 2010 as part of a "Classic Album Cover" collection. So, good job, the Rolling Stones. You finally got some notoriety, after all.
5. Richard Hell & The Voidoids "Blank Generation," (1977)
1977 was a good year for album covers, I guess. And here's another favourite of mine that keeps it simple. Richard, bleary-eyed and in a destroyed custom-made jacket, faces down the camera (CBGB's "unofficial photographer" and Richard's ex, Roberta Bayley, was behind the lens), and shows off the scrawled message "YOU MAKE ME ____." Y'know, fill-in-the-blank, "Blank Generation," you get it. The font is Richard's scratchy handwriting, and the background wall was edited to up the contrast (pre-Photoshop!). Lester Bangs deemed this as one of the "worst album covers" in Rolling Stone, which Richard took as a compliment. Friendship!
I'm going to end this here, otherwise I could go on forever, and no one would want to read that. Instead, I hand it over to you. Let's talk about the goats on the cover of "Pet Sounds." Where are they now? Probably dead. But they'll live on forever in our hearts.