My ‘favorite album cover’ calendar: Part 1

Sign Up For Our FREE Daily eNews!


Boomer Life

BOOMER LIFE 1Remember albums playing at 3313  that often snapped, crackled, and popped after listening to them so often? And remember album covers (and inside artwork) that brought the album to life, that you recognized anywhere, and that you often dissected to figure out who of the dozens of people featured on the cover were or why, say, a banana was the representation for the album? (Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention: Weasels Ripped My Flesh; 1970)

Iconic album covers defined an era, a generation, and sometimes an entire musical genre. 

I remember thumbing through albums at Sam Goody’s, Tower Records, and other record stores as a teen. Flipping through the slightly larger than 12×12-inch cardboard-covered albums (they had to be larger for the 12” vinyl record). I pulled out those albums whose covers somehow caught my eye while I was searching for another album. 

Album cover art was/is a part of the entirety of the music and how we regard a particular album. 

“Some go for the less-is-more approach, while others are stuffed with a kaleidoscope of imagery for fans to pore over and decipher. You might see photographic portraits, paintings, sketches, collages, or nearly nothing at all. The artist might appear front and center, or perhaps they take a backseat entirely, letting evocative imagery pull the listener into their world. Some album covers are arguably better known than the music inside, having been parodied in pop culture, lauded with awards, used in advertisements, or hung up in art museums.” — Billboard

Designing album covers began in 1939 when a Columbia Records graphic designer recognized that if a cover caught the eye of the consumer, the label would sell more copies of the album. Duh. Thus cover art became as important as the music in many ways, and part of the process of developing and marketing an album to the masses.

Well, I had a dream that began a few years ago: To create a calendar featuring my favorite album covers; they had to be someone else’s favorites, too and I could make a bundle. But here it is 2024 and all I’ve done is choose my album covers. What’s stopped me is knowing that the artwork is owned by individual artists/corporations/businesses all of whom own the rights of usage and knowing the endeavor will cost lots of money.

So, dear friends, I will share my favorite album covers with you! They may not rate up there with your favorites, but I’ll leave you with links to check out the top 50 or 100 iconic album covers when we reach the end of my calendar.

January, Bruce Springsteen, Born To Run, 1975image1 1

I’ve always loved the simplicity of this cover for the joy, friendship, and humanity Bruce shows. 

According to the story, Springsteen’s manager had booked New York photographer Eric Meola many times, but due to Springsteen’s long hours in the studio across town, he was a “no show” at each of the shoots Finally, Meola issued the ultimatum to Springsteen’s manager that the shoot was “next time or never.”

Springsteen kept the next booking, bringing E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons with him, whom he also wanted on the cover. Following a day of posing – Bruce under a fire escape, Bruce tuning a radio, Bruce with a guitar – and some 900 frames of film, a moment of serendipity saw Springsteen lean against his sideman in a wholly natural but instantly iconic ‘buddy’ pose. “That one just sort of popped,” Meola recalls. 

Said Columbia art director John Berg, “The reason I picked [that specific shot] was because it was very charming to show Bruce that way.”image3 1

However, the cover required turning it to the other side to see Clemons. Using the front and back cover at the same time was extra money and wasn’t done unless there were two records. It took a week of negotiation to approve the cover. “It was breaking the code; we didn’t do that unless we had two records,” said Berg.

I’d say it was a worthwhile investment. Born To Run went six times platinum in the US, and Springsteen, himself, deemed the cover to be a major factor. 

“It was one of those records that you didn’t have to hear,” he once remarked. “When you saw the cover, you said: ‘I want that one’.”

February, The Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers, 1971 


Was there ever an album cover that expressed the Rolling Stones so well as the original album cover with its working zipper that zipped open to reveal a pair of white boxer briefs? The original cover artwork, conceived by Andy Warhol and photographed and designed by members of his art collective, the Factory, showed a close-up of a jeans-clad male crotch with the visible outline of a penis. The jeans featured a working zipper that opened to reveal the underwear fabric. Not only was the cover expensive to produce, but it also damaged the vinyl record. Retailers complained that the zipper damaged the vinyl (from stacked shipments), so the zipper was “unzipped” slightly to the middle of the record, where damage would be minimized. Later re-issues featured just the outer photograph of the jeans. 

Rolling Stones from a trade ad to promote their "Sticky Fingers" album.
Rolling Stones from a trade ad to promote their “Sticky Fingers” album.

The photo of the crotch was assumed by fans to be Mick Jagger, but people involved in the photo shoot claim Warhol photographed various men (not including Jagger) and never revealed which shots he used.

The album also introduced the tongue and lips logo of Rolling Stones Records, designed by John Pasche in 1970. Jagger suggested to Pasche that he copy the out-stuck tongue of the Hindu goddess Kali, associated with time, doomsday, and death in Shaktism.


The Rolling Stones’ tongue and lips logo, designed by John Pasche and modified by Craig Braun,[9] was introduced in 1971.


The black and white copy was modified by Braun and his team, resulting in the popular red version: the slim one with the two white stripes on the tongue. image7

“Without using the Stones’ name, it instantly conjures them, or at least Jagger, as well as a certain lasciviousness that is the Stones’ own… It quickly and deservedly became the most famous logo in the history of popular music.” The tongue and lips design was part of a package that, in 2003, VH1 named the “No. 1 Greatest Album Cover” of all time.  – Critic Sean Egan 

It was the band’s first album to reach number one on both the UK albums and US albums charts, and has since achieved triple- platinum certification in the US. “Brown Sugar” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The album is inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame and included in Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.  

March, Beatles, Abbey Road, 1969


Hard to believe, but the title of the album didn’t come to light until the conclusion of the sessions. One idea was to call it Everest, after the cigarettes that the engineer smoked during the sessions. There was a plan to take a cover photo in the foothills of the Himalayas to illustrate the title. Alas, the band opted not to follow up on that, instead taking, let’s say, the easy way out: leaving the studio and crossing the street!

Although road traffic wasn’t the same 50 years ago, Abbey Road was still a busy main road, which meant photographer Iain Macmillan only had a short time to get his shot on his Hasselblad camera. Bring in a police officer to hold traffic, put Macmillan on a stepladder in the middle of the road, and have the Beatles walk across the road back and forth three times and the shots fired. 

And the reason Paul wasn’t wearing shoes? According to designer John Kosh, “The reason he kicked his shoes off was because they were too tight.” It had nothing to do with being a “clue” that Paul McCartney had died.

To add an exclamation point to the cover, it did not feature the band’s name or the title of the album. At all. Although EMI bosses were furious, designer John Kosh argued: “The biggest band in the world, you don’t have to say who they are — everyone knows who they are.”



About this Author

Annette Kurman

A native of Philadelphia with baccalaureate degrees in journalism, nursing, as well as an MBA from now defunct Daniel Webster College, Nashua, her endeavors in various roles and industries — as well a very supportive husband — once again bring her to the question of “What do I want to do when I grow up?”