In my last post HERE I went over a brief history of vinyl record album art and how it all got started. In today’s post I like to mention a few of my favorite vintage record album covers. These are not known as valuable album covers, just a few that I really like. Perhaps next post I’ll go over some that are far more valuable than these listed below. These are in no particular order.
King Crimson “In The Court Of The Crimson King”
King Crimson,” In The Court of the Crimson King” is right up there at the top of my list, if not at the top. The Album was released in January of 1969 and catapulted the group from underground cult to mainstream success.
King Crimson was one of the first of the progressive rock genre bands. One of it’s early members was Greg Lake, who would, in short order, leave the band to join up with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer to form the powerhouse group Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
The face on the album cover is titled “Schizoid Man”, which is quite scary in itself, especially when seen on a large poster. Crimson guitarist and founder Robert Fripp also insisted that there would be no print anywhere on the album exterior artwork, It was a gatefold album with Schizoid Man taking up the front and back of the cover. The name of the band and the name of the album were not even printed on the cover. Lyrics and other artwork were displayed on the inside of the gatefold as seen in the photo on the right.
The cover was painted by Barry Godber who was an artist and a computer programmer. Some articles you run across on the internet about Barry Godber will say he was not an artist, but a computer programmer. That is wrong as he did study art at Chelsea Art School in England. This was the only album cover that Barry painted. Barry died in bed in February, 1970 at the age of 24.
Unfortunately, for me, I sold my copy of this record (an original press) about a year ago. I hated to see it go, but I got a good price for it at the time so, instead of it being left for a yard sale after I die I decided to let it go. I see copies on eBay for reasonable and quite inexpensive prices so one day I might buy another copy.
Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers
My vote for one of the most shocking album covers has to be “Sticky Fingers” from the Rolling Stones. This cover by Andy Warhol was a big hit with fans simply because everyone assumed the crotch belonged to band frontman and lead singer, Mick Jagger
Adding to the controversy was the fact that the cover had a working zipper. Record store owners hated the zipper because it ended up scratching other albums in the same rack. One rather odd fact about this cover was that in Spain, the cover was replaced by an image of a can of fingers. (yuck)
The working zipper was only on the original pressing and when pulled down allegedly revealed numerous things, but it actually looks on to the inside cover of a man’s briefs. The zipper was later abandon by the Stones due to damage being done to vinyl shipments. Typically, vinyl orders were stacked and shipped and the weight of the albums caused the zipper to dig into the vinyl.
The owner of the denim-clad “Johnson” on the cover has been forever disputed and is part of rock and roll folklore. It is inevitably tied to Andy Warhol and pop artist Billy Name. The two artists had photographed a number of male models for the cover, but neither ever confirmed whose crotch made the cover.
I consider “Sticky Fingers to be musically the best record produced by the Stones and I still have several original pressings, complete with working zipper, in my collection.
Andy Warhol was the artist on another album cover which does have some extreme value that I will talk about in my next post, when I reveal some rather valuable album covers.
Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Ok, we simply cannot talk about iconic album covers without mentioning the Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. At the time of it’s release 50 years ago, it was the most expensive album cover ever made.
Produced by Peter Blake and his wife, Jann Haworth, this Sgt Peppers depicts 58 different people, chosen by John, Paul, George, Blake & his wife along with art dealer Robert Fraser. The selection of people represent a cross section of cultures, importance and each Beatles individual interests.
If you want to have a little fun with this one CLICK HERE for an interactive cover to see who is who on the cover.
There is one rare version of this cover that is worth an unbelievable amount of money, which I will show you and talk about in my next post.
Note the Beatles grave in the foreground decorated by a dozen or so marijuana plants. One figure that the band liked who did not make the final version was Gandhi, because record label executives worried that his photo would be thought to be sacrilegious. So the palm frond in the photo replaced the image of Gandhi sitting under a palm tree.
EMI, the record label, also thought that the celebrities on the cover might object to the use of their images and sue, so each one was contacted for permission. The only one who would not grant permission was Leo Gorcey of the Bowery Boys, who wanted to be paid $500
This is another album that I have multiple copies of (at least four), but sadly none of them are the valuable copy.
Small Faces “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake”
One of the more unique albums covers I’ve ever seen has to belong to The Small Faces “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake”. When this album was originally released in May of 1968 it came in a circular novelty package of a metal replica giant tobacco tin. Inside it contained a poster that was created with five connected paper circles with photos of the band’s members.
This packaging did not last long as it was expensive to produce and the circular tins tended to roll of shelves, so it was quickly replaced by a cardboard replica with a gatefold cover.
The artwork for the album was done by Nick Tweddell and Pete Brown who were art school friends of the band keyboardist Ian Mclagan.
This album release was also accompanied by a bit of controversy. The record company, Immediate Records, issued an advertisement that parodied the Lord’s Prayer. This caused an uproar in the British press and many outrages readers wrote in to express their anger. Below is how the ad read.
Which were in the studios
Hallowed by thy name
Thy music come
Thy songs be sung
On this album as they came from your heads
We give you this day our daily bread
Give us thy album in a round cover as we give thee 37/9d
Lead us into the record stores
And deliver us Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
For nice is the music
The sleeve and the story
For ever and ever, Immediate
About the ad, band front man, Steve Marriott, said “We didn’t know a thing about the ad until we saw it in the music papers and frankly we got the horrors at first.”
Ogdens’ Nut-brown Flake was an actual brand of tobacco that was produced in Liverpool from 1899 onward by Thomas Ogden.
Several of the songs from this album were included in the soundtrack of the popular video game “Grand Theft Auto” which exposed many people to the music of The Small Faces for the first time. In my opinion, Steve Marriot was one of the best band frontmen in the business, even surpassing Mick Jagger! I know that’s a bold statement, but I am far from alone with that opinion.
The Beatles “Abbey Road”
Even though I already have a Beatles album on this list of five, it is hard to leave out arguably the most iconic album cover ever. This was the last album by the Beatles where they were all in the studio at the same time. “Let It Be” was released after “Abby Road” but all of that material had been recorder earlier.
The cover, which features the four Beatles walking across the street has become one of the most famous and imitated images in the history of popular music.
This cover led to a rather macabre conspiracy theory and the story of the photo shoot is interesting as well. Paul McCartney had given a pencil sketch to photographer Iain Macmillian and the sleeve shows the four Beatles walking across the zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios in London.
Incidently, this is the only Beatles album that does not have the group’s name on the cover.
This famous photo was one of six taken by Macmillin on August 8, 1969. A policeman stopped traffic and the photographer had just ten minutes to balance on a stepladder and get the shots. The
result was dramatic and iconic. No one could have realized the reaction it would receive.
Shortly before the album’s release, an American newspaper had released a story that said Paul McCartney had dies in a car accident in 1966, and that the current Paul was actually a lookalike named William Campbell. The rumors gathered steam and when Abby Road was released that October, its sleeve was called by conspiracy theorists as final proof of Paul’s demise.
Here are some of the clues that came from the album sleeve photograph. McCartney was out of step with the others; his eyes were closed and he wasn’t wearing shoes (as a buried body). Also, he held his cigarette in his right hand despite being left-handed. Over his shoulder was a Volkswagen with license plate numbered 28IF, pointing to the fact that he would have been 28 years old if he had lived, although he was actually 27.
It continues: The order in which they were arranged was also seen as significant. John Lennon, bearded and in white was supposed to represent Jesus. Ringo in a black suit was the undertaker. George Harrison’s jeans and denim shirt pictured him as the grave digger.
Paul McCartney said “We were wearing ordinary clothes and I was barefoot because it was hot.” I’ve seen a coupleof snapshots of the “lads” standing on the sidewalk waiting to walk across the street and you can see McCartney wearing saddles, which he removed right prior to taking the walk. The VW just happened to be there.
McCartney returned to this same zebra crossing in 1993 for the sleeve of his (knowingly titled) “Paul Is Live” solo album.
I thought about including Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” on this list, but I simply could not exclude Abby Road. The thing that made School’s Out so unique was that the inner sleeve that covered the actual vinyl itself was a paper set of girl’s panties. The panties were only included in the original 1st pressing so, if you have a copy of this one it could net you around $50 on eBay. I recently sold my copy of it for $75 that was in excellent condition.
Well there you have it. Five of my favorite vintage vinyl record album covers in no particular order. There are many more worthy of mention but I suppose I should save that for an eBook or something more in depth. Next post I am going to show you some album covers that are worth a lot of money. It will probably motivate you to go out crate digging or estate sale cruising. You never know what you are going to find on those ventures.
One More Thing
On another subject, in my research about the resurgence of vinyl records I discovered that there are quite a few new collectors over the last few years that do not own a turntable. I know different folks have different reasons for what and how they collect things, but if you have a bunch of records and no way to listen to them you are missing out. You need to experience the warm sound of your favorite music the way it was meant to be heard.
I know there are many who probably have never seen a turntable so perhaps you are unsure of what you need to actually play the records. If you are one of those type collectors then let me direct you to three previous blog posts I have written that might be of value.