Thursday, September 11, 2008

Album Cover Art

As we continue our look at album cover art, let's look again at the Gigwise list of controversial, weirdest, worst and best album covers as compiled by their crack staff.


Arctic Monkeys: ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ - Featuring the band’s close friend and brother of The Reverend, Chris McClure, the Arctics landed into hot water after anti-smoking groups complained about the cigarette in McClure’s mouth.

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is the debut album by Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, released on 23 January 2006 and the album sold over 360,000 copies in its first week. It has since gone quadruple platinum in the UK. Its release in the United States on 21 February 2006 saw it become the second fastest selling debut indie album in history, turning over around 34,000 copies in its first week and achieving #24 in the album charts. The album also went to #1 in Australia and Ireland.

The image caused controversy when the head of Scotland's NHS criticized the cover for "reinforcing the idea that smoking is OK." The band's product manager certainly denied the accusation, and in fact suggested the opposite saying, "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good." In March 2006, McClure announced that he would be giving up smoking, due to lack of funds.



Coming in at #48 on Gigwise's list of weird album covers is the legendary Doors LP The Doors: 'Strange Days'

Strange Days was the second album released by the rock band The Doors (September 1967). The album earned the group a gold record and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 200. The record's producer, Paul Rothchild however, considered it a commercial failure, even if it was an artistic triumph.

"We all thought it was the best album. Significantly, it was also the one with the weakest sales. We were confident it was going to be bigger than anything The Beatles had done. But, there was no single. The record died on us." he said.

Against this view, one could argue that the album still sold well, managing two top 30 hits, a top 3 placing on the US charts and a platinum certification. "Strange Days" certainly did nothing to derail the overall success of the Doors, and this was evident by their next release, the chart-topping "Waiting for the Sun" album.

The cover photo was taken in Sniffen Court, a small residential suburb of New York City. Photographer Joel Brodsky originally wanted Jim Morrison and the band on the cover, but the frontman refused. However, most carnivals were out on summer tours so it was a struggle for Brodsky to find professional circus performers. The acrobats were the only ones he could find; the dwarf Lester Janus and his younger brother (not twins) Stanley Janus (who appeared on the back cover) were hired from an acting firm; the juggler was Brodsky's own assistant; the trumpet player was a taxi driver; and the strongman was a doorman at a club.


Logging in at #48 on the Gigwise list is an album cover by Freddie Mercury & Queen. It was the band's thirteenth studio album, released in 1989.

The striking cover art utilised then cutting-edge image-manipulation technology to combine photographs of the familiar faces of the four band members into one morphed giant four-faced head. The image was in line with their decision to dispense with individual credits and simply present their music as the product of Queen the entity. The album reached #1 in the UK, in Austria, Germany, in the Netherlands and Switzerland, and #24 on the American Billboard 200 chart.



Nirvana: ‘In Utero’ - ‘In Utero’ was an aggressively dark exploration of subject matters which had affected their frontman’s life thus far such as the dysfunctional family, cancer, privacy, and abortion. The imagery of the Transparent Anatomical Mannikin was originally meant for the single ‘Lithium’ or another track from ‘Neveremind’ but was scrapped due to copyright

In Utero was the third and final studio album by the grunge band icons Nirvana, and was released on September 21, 1993 by DGC Records. The album's abrasive and aggressive sound was a departure from the polished production of the band's breakthrough second album, Nevermind (1991), due in part to the selection of recording engineer Steve Albini. The subject matters of the songs included dysfunctional family, cancer, issues of privacy, and abortion.

The art director for In Utero was Robert Fisher, who had designed all of Nirvana's releases on DGC Records. Most of the ideas for the artwork for the album and related singles came from Cobain. Fisher recalled that "[Cobain] would just give me some loose odds and ends and say 'Do something with it.'"

The cover of the album is an image of a Transparent Anatomical Mannikin, with angel wings superimposed.