Happy Record Store Day!
Album Covers Featuring Art By Notable Musicians & Artists
I was raised in a vinyl household. For my dad, sliding record from sleeve and switching on the turntable will always be akin to the spiritual. Sound quality and speakers were the mainstay of many father-daughter conversations. And while slamming doors in childhood angst was an issue, listening loudly to 45s never was.
Today gets first billing as Earth Day, and rightly so, but it also happens to be the 10th annual Record Store Day. In honor of the vinyl, enjoy a collection of record covers that features artworks created by the musicians themselves, with a few others thrown in because the art is noteworthy and the artist’s connection to the band is too.
Fleetwood Mac — Kiln House
This album cover was created by Christine McVie before she joined band in 1970. The art speaks to adventure and return — similar qualities celebrated by many critics of the album itself, with its rock-and-roll revival sound.
Miles Davis — Bitches Brew
Released in 1970, this album was Miles Davis’s first gold record, selling over half a million copies and it is now recognized as a progenitor of the jazz rock sound. The cover art was painted by Abdul Mati Klarwein, who created dozens of album covers in the 60s and 70s for musical heavy-hitters including Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. He was “the man literally responsible for every great, legendary record cover you’ve ever seen–if he didn’t do it, he inspired it.” (Juxtapoz Magazine)
Joni Mitchell — Ladies of the Canyon
Joni Mitchell is famous for describing herself as “a painter derailed by circumstance.” (Toronto Globe and Mail) She had a brief career as a student at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary in the 60s, but is largely self-taught as a painter and draftsman. She created much of the art for her album covers.
The Flaming Lips — Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
Wayne Coyne formed The Flaming Lips in 1983. He is primarily responsible for the band’s psychedelic sound and much of its head-tripping album cover art.
Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) — Tea for the Tillerman
Early on in his career, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) contemplated a life as a cartoonist while going to school at the Hammersmith School of Art. The singer-songwriter designed the art for several of his album covers.
John Lennon — Walls and Bridges
A draftsman throughout all his life, Lennon attended the Liverpool Art Institute for three years before his career as a Beatle took off. Sketches from childhood were featured on the album cover of Walls and Bridges.
Blur — Think Tank
The band Blur came to the artist Banksy for this commission. The notable street artist’s late career is marked by a lack of commercial work but this early transaction is one he stands by. “I’ve done a few things to pay the bills, and I did the Blur album. It was a good record and it was quite a lot of money. I think that’s a really important distinction to make. If it’s something you actually believe in, doing something commercial doesn’t turn it to shit just because it’s commercial.” (Banksy: The Man Behind the Wall)
Jackie Gleason — Lonesome Echo
Jackie Gleason and Salvador Dali were close friends. The musician asked the artist to design the cover for his 1955 album. In the record’s liner notes, a note from Dali: “The first effect is that of anguish, of space, and of solitude. Secondly, the fragility of the wings of a butterfly, projecting long shadows of late afternoon, reverberates in the landscape like an echo. The feminine element, distant and isolated, forms a perfect triangle with the musical instrument and its other echo, the shell.”
The Velvet Underground — The Velvet Underground and Nico
‘Peel slowly and see’ instructs the 1967 album cover designed by Pop Art wunderkind Andy Warhol. The Velvets and Warhol’s relationship started in 1965 when the artist became patron, providing instruments, rehearsal space, and access to the, ahemhemhem, New York high life. The suggestion to have German it-girl Nico front the band also came from the Warhol camp.
David Bowie — Without You
A collector and fan of Keith Haring, David Bowie collaborated with the artist for the artwork for a single from his Let’s Dance album. Apropos are the two figures grooving to a seen but not heard tune.
Fleet Foxes — Fleet Foxes
This 2008 album cover reaches waaaaay back into the art history archives, featuring Netherlandish Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Painted in 1559, the original artwork is known by many names: Flemish Proverbs, The Blue Cloak or The Topsy Turvy World. The numerous follies illustrated in the painting include being a pillar-biter, belling the cat, and shearing…but not skinning. Questions anyone?
The Small Faces — Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
This album cover was originally not an album cover at all but a case made to look like a tin of tobacco from the Victorian era. The artist Mick Swan handlettered the original artwork in this throwback stye.