Music History

Weekly survey: What album(s) did you buy just because of the cover artwork?

I realize that this is a very analogue question in the digital age, but I’m still curious. Have you ever bought an album (CD or vinyl) just because you liked the cover artwork? You knew nothing about the artist or their music, but the album cover was enough to make you part with some cash.

I’ve been suckered in many times. The worst was this. Starz was an American hard rock band which released this record in 1978.

Totally suckered in. I don’t think I listened to the whole thing once.

On the flip of that, is the debut album of King Crimson. I’d never heard of them before I saw this album, but when I saw this in the store, I knew I had to have it.

What albums have you bought unheard just because of the artwork?


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ 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.

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20 thoughts on “Weekly survey: What album(s) did you buy just because of the cover artwork?

  • Deep Purple – Made in Japan. The photograph of the group onstage sold me on buying the

  • Iron Maiden “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” – I was just getting into ‘metal’ but my friends said if I wanted to say I was really into metal I had to own an Iron Maiden album. I knew who Iron Maiden was, but hadn’t heard any of their songs. When I went to the local indie record store I had a choice between 4-5 different albums and not being familiar with their music, I bought one based on the album cover.

  • Jane’s Addiction – Nothings Shocking – It made me listen to the cassette tape, and I was immediately hooked. Blew my 16 year old mind!

  • Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R
    Something about the plain blue cover with the MPAA type design intrigued me enough to spend $22.99 on the CD at HMV in 2002.

  • Grim Reaper-See You in Hell

  • Meatloaf’s bat out of hell.
    Still love that album though

  • I’m sure I bought a few. I usually knew most of the bands ahead of time, and some of the artwork was amazing, especially for Yes and King Crimson and a lot of the prog rock bands. I bought few albums sight unseen. Sometimes I was surprised by the cover artwork of albums I wanted to buy, but hadn’t seen yet, like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” I do have a little story. I had a friend who lived up the street from me who had an amazing stereo system, and still one of the best I have ever heard. Every time he bought a new album he would call me to come over, and we would have a listening party. He was telling me about this album he saw called “Paranoid,” by Black Sabbath. I hadn’t heard Black Sabbath at that time, and neither had he. He was fascinated by the cover, which shows a man in tights swinging a large sword. He told me, “I’m going to buy that. I have to hear it!” About a week later he got it and called me over, and although he had already played it once, he said to me that you are going to like this one! I did!

  • Pixies- Come On Pilgrim … and then pretty much signed up for anything 4A.D./23 Envelope.

    The White Album- Rutherford Chang.
    First vinyl purchase since the 80’s, nothing to play it on.

  • It‘s actually a thing I still do a lot and and can surly end both ways: You listen to something new that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise and it’s good… or not so much. I’ll give you an example for each.

    Sigur Rós – Agaetis Byrjun
    I loved the cover so much when I first saw it in the record store that I just had to buy it. That dull black picture with the drawing of an strange looking angel foetus just spoke to me in a way. We are talking about the late nineties and I was knee deep in my goth-phase loving Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails so i guess it was an easy prey for that kind of imagery. Then I listened to it and to this day I am still trying to like this album giving it a spin like once a year, but I guess it’s just not my cup of tea.

    Rivershores – Fuck it, dude! Let‘s get wasted!
    How wrong can you go with a cover referencing „Mars Attaks“? Right. You can’t! A straight forward fun punk rock record that I would have never listened to if not for that cover. Highly recommend for everyone who likes stuff like Iron Chic (Also beautiful covers in their own way), Tiger Army or older stuff by Frank Turner or the Gaslight Anthem.

  • Elton John Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Still love that album cover, I used to stare at it for hours….

  • Metallica – Ride The Lightning. Because when you’re 13 and just getting into metal, this cover looked cool. Still my fav Metallica album.

    Iron Maiden – Powerslave. Especially when you consider the original vinyl has a textured cover, as well as the awesome artwork!

  • ZERO
    Guess I never had enough disposable income to be that flippant about music purchases

  • The three that come to mind are AC/DC Back In Black (simple black cover, mysterious to 12 year old me, it had to be good), Janes Addiction Nothing Shocking (had heard the name, the cover hooked me as a must have), and the Mars Volta Deloused in the Comatorium (it just called to me from the new releases shelf). Still listen to all three regularly along with the rest or their respective catalogues, plus they all opened a gateway into something else in different ways.

  • Parliament – The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein. It came out around 1977 when I was hugely into Kiss. I figured they were a hard rock and funky version of them. Not so much hard rock but very entertaining for a 13 year old.

  • I bought and still have because The Beat Goes On won’t take it ‘As Far As The Eye Can See…’ by People In Planes, a Welsh group. Liked the cover art but don’t remember the music; cover reminded me of dreams I used to have of raiding milk crates and pulling out LPs I don’t recognize in the conscious world. Again, unfamiliar music but cool art. If I could spend days on end in thrift stores I bet there’d be one or two records by a group or artist I don’t know who never had that album reissued on CD, never made enough follow up releases to warrant a greatest hits set because they never caught on.
    … Maybe it might be a failed debut by someone you could have crossed paths with? “And this is my dad, he’s worked at Acme Corp. since the mid-80’s. He also says he played in a rock band in the late ’70s and made a record. Whatever!”

  • Hi Alan. I bought “Rock And Roll Over” by KISS somewhere around 1978. It was the first album I ever bought with my own money. I was 7 years old. My older cousins used to Air-Guitar and Air-Concert to KISS all the time. In the eyes of a 7 year old, they were the coolest cousins EVER because of this. So, naturally, I needed to get cool too, and my Charlie Brown and Snoopy records weren’t cutting it (hell, even a 7 year old knows this). I remember staring at the record rack at some stereo store in Edmonton, and they had KISS albums up to 1978 on display. Now, as cool as the covers of “Destroyer”, “Alive” and the self-titled “KISS” looked, you gotta remember. I was SEVEN. “Dressed to Kill” was out of the question (I mean, they were wearing SUITS. My Dad wore a suit.). “Love Gun” sure looked, um, appealing, but considering I’d found my Dad’s stack of Playboys recently, I already had the ingrained sense that all those hot KISS-ettes in black body-suits and white face make-up, preening and swooning to Gene and company, probably would’ve had to been kept high on a shelf in a closet somewhere, very much like my Dad’s stack of Greatness. So, naturally and organically, I bought “Rock And Roll Over”. Cartoon KISS. Of course. This made all the sense in the world. Considering I was still spending my Saturday Mornings watching the SuperFriends, it was a natural that I chose the Rock n Roll equivalent of the SuperFriends. At seven years old, I didn’t give a damn about the music (and how could I? “Calling Dr. Love”? Why, did someone need a check up? “Ladies Room”? Like, do ladies get sent to their room or something? “Makin Love (Live)”? How do you “make” love? Is it like “making” dinner?)… I digress. At seven years old, all I knew was a) by buying a KISS album I’d be cool like my cousins, not lame like Charlie Brown and Snoopy, b) I really liked looking at the album cover of Rock And Roll Over because it was a cartoon (and Ace had lazers coming out of his eyes… awesome!) and c) I liked looking at my Dad’s stack of Playboys. In retrospect, it’s fun bragging to my friends that the first album I ever bought was this one. It gives me serious cred. Almost as much as the fact that the first album I ever got as a present was AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. From my parents. For Christmas. Damn, my parents are cool. But that’s a story for another time.

  • Go by XTC. In the early days of punk/post punk you could literally judge an album by its cover. It all fell apart for me with an album by the justly forgotten Sinceros.. I realized that marketing departments had figured things out and were jumping on the bandwagon.

  • A Fridge Too Far by GBH. And I absolutely love that record to this day.


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