Music and pop culture continually have a tremendous impact on our world. Iconic has re-entered our everyday language. And for a good reason (Have you HEARD Kiwi?)! Something that’s iconic is highly original; it’s innovative or influential. These ten album covers are iconic, the times and artists they represent helped shape music into what it has become, and these particular covers are immediately recognizable even by the most casual listeners.
The baby on the cover of this album is named Spencer Elden, and because of the explosive success of this album, he will always be the most famous baby in the rock industry! Kurt Cobain had this concept come to him while watching a documentary about water births with Dave Grohl. He wanted to paint a picture of a baby already corrupted by money and greed – and he definitely succeeded in a controversial way.
Pink Floyd: Dark Side of The Moon
This slightly trippy prism design adorns Pink Floyd’s eighth album. It is among the most recognizable images in rock music. Storm Thorgerson was the band’s graphic designer for the cover, and he told Rolling Stone that he used the triangle as a symbol of thought and ambition, which he felt related to the lyrics in a big way. It is also reminiscent of a light show. George Hardie put the image together, and he says it represents three things, “the band’s stage lighting, the album lyrics, and [keyboardist, Richard] Wright’s request for a ‘simple and bold’ design.”
The Beatles: Abbey Road
The Beatles are iconic in their own right, but the photo that was used for the cover of their eleventh studio release, Abbey Road, is almost the definition of iconic. It is also the last album where all four of the men participated in the recording sessions. The photo was taken right outside of the EMI Studios building where they recorded the songs. The album saw immediate commercial success and is regarded as the band’s best album, and one of the best albums of all time. The album’s cover has become one of the most famous images in music, and hundreds of people flock to that street to recreate it every year.
The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers
Andy Warhol had been approached before about doing album art for The Rolling Stones, but they didn’t use his design for the original album they approached him for. Later, his idea of using a working zipper on an album cover sprung to life on the cover of Sticky Fingers. Warhol and a graphic artist named Craig Braun worked together on this suggestive art, and the art actually won a Grammy. The zipper opened to reveal some white underwear. Oddly, the cover was banned in Spain and changed to a pretty disturbing picture of a can of fingers in some blood.
David Bowie: Aladdin Sane
The sixth album in David Bowie’s discography came right after his 1972 concept album, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust. Even though this wasn’t the first time his alter-ego was featured, when music fans think of Ziggy Stardust, this is exactly what comes to mind. The lightning-bolt eye makeup, the red mullet, and his sharp facial features work together to paint this quintessential image of the flamboyant and incredible Bowie.
Blink-182 had two album covers that were truly iconic. One of them was Enema of the State, a famous play on words and an incredibly suggestive image that was featured on their mainstream breakthrough record. If you’ve ever seen TRL, it is burned indefinitely into your brain. This one, however, made the list instead. This face was truly the logo for the band, and that is why it was selected. This was on the cover of their fifth release. During the tour, the setlist was painted with the pink and blue smudges, this logo is still on t-shirts being made today even though the band isn’t currently active, and we’ve even seen some dedicated fans get tattoos of it!
Michael Jackson: Dangerous
The late King of Pop released this album in 1991, and there have been people scurrying around the internet trying to ‘decode’ the art work ever since. Countless blog posts, YouTube videos, and random radio articles have profound speculations about this striking art piece by Mark Ryden. Michael sought him out because he liked circus images, and that was what he wanted to go after with this album cover. Michael asked Mark to make the designs mysterious, something that everyone could interpret in their own way. Mission definitely accomplished!
Bruce Springsteen: Born In The U.S.A.
“The picture of my ass looked better than the picture of my face. That’s what went on the cover. I didn’t have any secret message. I don’t do that very much,” is what Bruce had to say about this much-imitated image. There are rumors that he’s depicted urinating on the flag, but he denied them. Bruce Springsteen captured what was Americana, captured the idea of a working man, in this one photo Bruce Springsteen is blue collar America. The flag, the well-loved jeans, white t-shirt, and the red hat in his back pocket all make him look like just anyone else after a long day at work, and the songs were centered around his hometown. This 1984 album encapsulated heartland rock.
Van Halen: 1984
Van Halen’s sixth album, 1984, was a source of much controversy because of the unforgettable photo emblazoned on the cover. The baby in the picture was photographed with candy cigarettes originally; then the image was painted over to create the art. “Jump” and “Panama” are on this album, and it is among their best-selling of all time and combined with the striking image, it’s made for something truly iconic. In the UK, there were stickers placed over the cigarette because of an anti-smoking campaign that was going on at the time. The stickers were roman numerals for 1984.
Madonna: True Blue
Madonna’s third studio album, True Blue, was covered by a striking image that was taken by photographer Herb Ritts. It is one of the most memorable photos of the diva, and the album is her biggest international seller to date. The album is named after an expression her then-husband used to use all time, True Blue. The first single on the album was a big risk for her to take, the track is called “Live to Tell.” Critics said it would alienate her fans and wouldn’t perform well. It is now considered her best as a songwriter and saw the incredible commercial success that truly set the tone for the album sales going forward. The second, of course, was “Papa Don’t Preach.”