The Golden Age of Album Cover Art

If you remember gazing at a 12×12 piece of album artworking wondering what it all meant, then this article from The Daily Beast is for you.

The golden age of the rock album cover, as I measure it, lasted exactly 14 years, 4 months, and 19 days. I can even give you the birth and death dates. My golden age started on March 12, 1967 with the release of The Velvet Underground’s debut LP (showcasing an Andy Warhol banana on the cover) and ended on August 1, 1981 with the launch of MTV.

Before 1967, most rock album covers featured boring portraits of band members. I love the music on the Rolling Stones’ Aftermath (1966) and The Beatles’Yesterday and Today (1966), but the covers are a step below meh. (The Beatles, you may recall, pushed for a less conventional album cover, but the record label vetoed it.) Yet just a few months later, the more visionary rockers forced a change, and by the time school got out in 1967 and the Summer of Love had arrived, the transformation was almost complete.

Those boring publicity photos were pushed to the side, and album cover designers instead drew on the full range of avant-garde and contemporary art techniques. But we knew it couldn’t last, didn’t we?

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “The Golden Age of Album Cover Art

  • December 10, 2014 at 11:26 am
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    I disagree… Many bands after 1981 came up with great artwork. Of course, being a fan of Pearl Jam, there’s definitely a bias… but look at the work they did with Vitalogy, No Code, Yield and so on… Tool’s 10,000 days, Pink Floyd with Pulse, and many, many others…! I do agree that Sgt. Peppers changed my perception of music when I was 11, flipping through my dad’s vinyl. But, again, this argument that “things were better before…” I’m actually going through this phase right now, debating with myself that there are still great new bands out there… And some of those bands are able to come up with great artwork for their albums. With the revival of vinyl in the last 5 years, I’m pretty sure we will see some cool ideas in the future!

    Reply
    • December 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm
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      i can’t fund any good bands anymore. i know, i’m old. but i really can’t.

      Reply
  • December 10, 2014 at 10:48 pm
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    so guy who grew up on Hipgnosis design prefers Hipgnosis design.

    23 Envelope made some fine album covers through the 80’s.
    Come on Pilgrim.

    Reply

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