The Strokes, ‘Is This It’. The butt you see here belongs to the then-girlfriend of sleeve designer Colin Lane. Only true indie nerds, however, will know that the back cover of the album depicts the West 39th overpass over Dyer Avenue in New York, as the band emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel.
The Clash, ‘The Clash’. Shot in an alleyway opposite the front door of the band’s practice rooms, ‘Rehearsal Rehearsals’, in the railway yards of Camden Market, London, this cover is minus a member. Drummer Terry Chimes opted out of the take, having made the decision to leave the band shortly beforehand.
U2, ‘The Joshua Tree’. U2 travelled the Californian desert in search of the perfect landscape shot before happening upon a curiously lone Joshua tree (they usually grow in clusters) – though the shoot itself was done at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park to capture what photographer Anton Corbijn envisaged as “man and environment, the Irish in America”. Yeah, whatever.
Beastie Boys, ‘Paul’s Boutique’. Beastie Boys arranged for the Paul’s Boutique sign to be hung outside Lee’s Sportswear shop at 99 Rivington Street in New York for this album shoot, as the men’s clothing store they took the album’s title from no longer existed. From 2004-2007, the address was home to a Mediterranean restaurant called Paul’s Boutique, named after the album.
The Streets, ‘Everything Is Borrowed’. Skinner described this as a “peaceful coming to terms album” – so he chose a suitably pastoral image to illustrate it: the Skógafoss waterfall in southern Iceland, famed for the beautiful rainbows it forms. Much of the info in this gallery comes from Word magazine’s excellent Album Atlas.
The Charlatans, ‘Melting Pot’. Pictured here is the Weaverdale Café at 96 Witton Street, Northwich, one of the band’s favourite haunts. It’s where they repaired to after signing to Beggars Banquet Records in 1990.
The Verve, ‘Urban Hymns’. Frontman Richard Ashcroft wanted people to “just listen to the fucking record” – so he made the sleeve as unremarkable as possible. Hence this not-very-urban shot of the band sitting about in London’s Richmond Park, looking bored.
Stereophonics, ‘Performance And Cocktails’. The 23-year-old female model was paid £75 for this shoot at a football pitch under the Westway flyover in Notting Hill, London. Apparently, the faraway look in her eyes was the result of an absinthe and opium binge the night before. The photo was taken by Scarlet Page, Jimmy Page’s daughter.
The Killers, ‘Sam’s Town’. Photographer Anton Corbijn described the components of this shoot as “elements of faded glory”. After a “chic, gypsy look”, he photographed model and singer Felice LaZae in the Nevada desert just outside Las Vegas, with a stuffed version of Nevada’s state animal, a bighorn sheep. Nice.
Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’. This picture was taken by Kirk Weddle in a swimming school in Pasadena, California. He photographed several babies on the shoot but first-time swimmer Spencer Elden grabbed the money shot. His parents were paid $20. Now 18, Elden said recently: “It’s kind of creepy that that many people have seen me naked. I feel like I’m the world’s biggest porn star.”
Beach Boys, ‘Surfin Safari’. “Everybody’s gone surfin’” on Paradise Cove, Malibu for this picture – though, seeing as most of the Beach Boys couldn’t surf, photographer Kenneth Veeder shot them simply contemplating the waves in a yellow car-cum-hut.
The Jam, ‘Snap!’. A year after The Jam split, their greatest hits double-album was released with a picture of the mod trio standing in St Katherine’s Dock, London, to compliment their blue-collar image. Shame the docks are now home to luxury apartments and a yachting marina.
The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’. Photographer David Alexander hung from a crane over the Sunset Boulevard rush hour traffic to capture this dingy image of the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles. If the band had known it’d end up being one of the biggest selling albums ever, they might have tried a bit harder with the artwork.
Black Sabbath, ‘Black Sabbath’. Presumably this arty portrayal of Mapledurham Watermill on the River Thames, Oxfordshire wasn’t quite ‘evil’ enough for Sabbath’s label, because they added an an inverted cross to the inner gatefold sleeve. The band objected, fearing it would fuel rumours that they were Satanists. And they were upset by this because…?
Bob Dylan, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. Captured off Jones Street and West 4th Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, Dylan and his girlfriend Suze Rotolo pose a short distance from their apartment. Rotolo saw the sleeve as a “cultural marker” of “spontaneity and sensibility”, whatever the hell that means.
Modest Mouse, ‘The Lonesome Crowded West’. The highest hotel building in Seattle – the Westin on 5th Avenue – also marked the highest point of Modest Mouse’s career at that time. For info on many more album sleeves, check out Word magazine’s Album Atlas.
Pink Floyd, ‘Animals’. Floyd decided to float a 30-foot pig-shaped balloon (pet-named Algie) over Battersea Power Station for the cover of their Animal Farm-themed album. Ironically, Algie broke free from his moorings, rose up and caused air traffic chaos. Eventually landing in Kent, he was found by a farmer who was furious that the helium-filled hog had “scared his cows”.
The Kooks, ‘Konk’. The Kooks’ second album shows the band in the doorway of Konk Studios on Tottenham Lane in Crouch End, London, where the album was recorded. The only difference between the ‘Konk’ and ‘RAK’ sleeves (‘RAK’ is a special edition of the album) is the colour of the blue Konk sign, which appears in red on ‘RAK’. Exciting, huh?
Wings, ‘London Town’. This album spawned monster-hit ‘Mull Of Kintyre’, the first ever single to break the two million sales mark. Yet despite the single’s popularity and palpable Scottish theme, the band decided to superimpose themselves – badly – onto a picture of Tower Bridge in London for the album sleeve. Fools!
Embrace, ‘The Good Will Out’. Will it? While the group used a reasonably modest shot of themselves walking east down Christopher Street in New York for the sleeve, their salt-of-the-earth image took a knock when songs from the album were used by Nike.
R.E.M., ‘Murmur’. The back cover of R.E.M.’s debut album saved Athens’ Trail Creek in Dudley Park from demolition in 2005. The pictured railway trestle is still a popular tourist attraction since fans of the band persuaded the local county to buy the land from property developers.
The Cranberries, ‘Bury The Hatchet’. Graphic designer Storm Thorgerson fought with unseasonal snow and a temperamental mechanical eye to shape the cover for the Irish foursome’s fourth album in Monument Valley, Arizona. The results were both disturbing and slightly shit.
Oasis, ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’. The band’s art director Brian Cannon and DJ Sean Rowley walk down Berwick Street in Soho, London, once known for its independent record shops, many of which have since shut down. The shoot had to be taken in the early hours of the morning to avoid the pedestrian rush hour.
Echo & The Bunnymen, ‘Ocean Rain’. To visually maintain the natural themes of the previous three albums, Brian Griffin photographed the band in a rowing boat inside Carnglaze Caverns, Liskeard, Cornwall. The design was only slightly altered for ‘Ocean Rain’’s 2003 re-release, which included additional photos and a booklet on the album’s background by music journalist Max Bell.
Morrissey, ‘Under The Influence’. A young Morrissey poses, mardy as ever, outside the Kray twins’ local watering hole, the Grave Maurice pub on Whitechapel Road, London. Morrissey’s fascination with the criminal couple inspired his 1989 hit ‘The Last Of The Famous International Playboys’.
Rage Against The Machine, ‘Rage Against The Machine’. To highlight the album’s anti-authoritarian message, Rage used the famous picture of Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who burned himself to death at a Saigon road intersection in protest of the persecution of Buddhists in 1963.
Faithless, ‘Sunday 8pm’. Just like their ever-profound single ‘God Is A DJ’, there’s no doubt Faithless had a deep and meaningful reason behind using The Bluebird Theatre in Denver, Colorado for their second album’s cover sleeve. Really.
Owl City, ‘Ocean Eyes’. Owl City said his song ‘Cave In’ “captures in just a few words, all my hopes and dreams.” It’s all very emotional, with thoughts collapsing and frameworks snapping – but we reckon this photo of the ultra-expensive, 7-star Arabian Tower hotel in Dubai captures the rising star’s hopes and dreams a little more accurately. Ker-CHING.
Incubus, ‘Morning View’. Morning View Drive in Malibu obviously got the band’s juices flowing: according to frontman Brandon Boyd, he “got a big creative boner” every time he pulled up to the house where the album was recorded. To be fair, it beats our walk to work through gloomy Southwark.
Hot Hot Heat, ‘Happiness Ltd’. Snapped outside the Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse on West Street and Noble Street, Brooklyn. The building mysteriously burned down just as it was about to be landmarked. Oh, the irony.
The Doors, ‘Strange Days’. Shot at Sniffen Court, East 36th Street, New York. Photographer Joel Brodsky chose a carnival-esque themed cover, a challenge as most circuses were on summer tours at the time. Only able to find acrobats, the juggler was Brodsky’s assistant, the trumpet player was a taxi driver and the strongman a bouncer.
Depeche Mode, ‘A Broken Frame’. Despite the album’s theme being the Ukraine, photographer Brian Griffin shot the sleeve somewhat closer to home, in a field south of Duxford, East Anglia. This was the first album released without departed songwriter Vince Clarke’s input and was described by keyboard player Martin Gore as “our worst album”.
Eric Clapton, ‘461 Ocean Boulevard’. Astonishingly, this shot was taken at – wait for it – 461 Ocean Boulevard, Golden Beach, Miami, where Clapton was living at the time.
The Velvet Underground, ‘Live at Max’s Kansas City’. The band played two sets a night for nine weeks in 1970 at this Park Avenue South New York club. Everything they played was recorded by Andy Warhol associate Brigid Polk on a portable cassette recorder, including Lou Reed’s last performance with the group. Author Jim Carroll can be heard inquiring about drugs between songs.
The Hold Steady, ‘Separation Sunday’. Photographed at the corner of Maspeth Avenue and Conselyea Street in the band’s hometown of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the sleeve compliments the album’s autobiographical storyline of three people living in New York.
Counting Crows, ‘Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings’. This release of this album was delayed for four months while the band agonised over a suitable sleeve image. Why they ultimately plumped for this dismal shot of New York’s Empire State building is a mystery.
The Divine Comedy, ‘Promenade’. ‘Promenade’ is about two lovers who spend a day together at the seaside eating fish, taking a Ferris wheel ride and discussing French New Wave cinema. Perhaps that last detail explains singer Neil Hannon’s choice of the Louvre in Paris for the cover art.
Led Zeppelin, ‘Physical Graffiti’. Designer Peter Corriston’s vision for the cover meant that St Mark’s Place, New York had to be digitally reduced from five floors to four to fit the square-shaped cover. Window holes were cut into the outer sleeve so that various pictures from the inner sleeve could peep out including photos of Robert Plant and Richard Cole in drag.
Joy Division, ‘Closer’. The image of the Appiani family tomb in Genoa, Italy was like a message from beyond the grave for Joy Division fans, who had learned of frontman Ian Curtis’ suicide just days before ‘Closer’’s release. The album itself reveals the harrowing inner workings of Curtis’s mind during his downward spiral into depression.
Oasis, ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’. This photograph of the New York skyline is a mishmash of different images captured from the rooftop of the Rockefeller Centre over an 18-hour period. Nerd fact: the photographer wanted to make the time of day in the picture ambiguous so had to capture the same frame every half hour.
Pink Floyd, ‘Wish You Were Here’. Shot at Warner Bros studios in LA, the album’s theme of estrangement relating to former singer Syd Barrett’s declining mental health is extended to illustrate the idea that people hide their true feelings for fear of “getting burned”. On the first take, the wind blew in the wrong direction and the flames set the stuntman’s moustache alight.
Madness, ‘The Rise And Fall’. The album’s fusion of jazz, pop and Eastern music is mirrored by its sleeve photo, which was shot on north London’s Primrose Hill. The band are dressed as characters from songs on the album, which celebrates the diversity of life in London.
The Beatles, ‘Please Please Me’. Taken outside the EMI building in London’s Manchester Square, 1963 (since demolished). An update of this photo was snapped for the planned ‘Get Back’ album in 1969 to illustrate the band’s progression from clean-cut teen heartthrobs to beardy hippies – but it remained unused until 1973, when it became the cover image for the ‘1962–1966’ and ‘1967–1970’ albums.
Eminem, ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’. Shot on the front steps of the house Mathers grew up in, Dresden Street, Warren, Michigan. The rapper’s reflective hunch pre-empts the album’s themes of broken relationships and dealing with his sharp rise to fame. Diddums.