Hey, have you seen the cover of Lady Gaga’s new album “ARTPOP”? Y'know, the acid-soaked one where she looks like she just birthed an oversized Christmas ornament while lying on Botticelli’s Birth of Venus? Yeah, it’s pretty godawful.
They say don't judge a book (or album) by its cover, but let's face it: her fanatic Little Monsters aside, many of us will judge Lady Gaga's new record by its WTF? cover art. And in this case, the music inside pretty well matches the visual gongshow that is its album art.
But this also got us thinking: What are the best albums we’ve ever heard that feature terrible cover art? Turns out, there are a slew of them. Here’s a sample of what we came up with. If you have other ones we missed, please let us know in the comments.
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966)
"Pet Sounds" is one of the greatest albums ever made. It’s an sonically exquisite, boundlessly influential and simply flawless piece of work. Well, almost flawless. Because: goats.
Blind Faith – Blind Faith (1969)
This hugely popular record by a “supergroup” comprised of Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton boasts some of rock radio’s most trusted staples. But, uncomfortably, it also features a cover adorned by a naked 11-year old girl holding a pretty phallic airplane. So. We aren’t going to put this image up here; you’ll just have to take our word for it.
Rhonda Vincent – A Dream Come True (1990)
Hey, look! Your Sunday School teacher made an album! Hailed today as one of the best bluegrass records of the past 30 years, Rhonda Vincent’s first album may also have one of the all-time dweebiest covers. The hair. The sequins. The font. The blush. The lavender. The hair. Everything about this screams the early ‘80s (which is all the dorkier considering that the record came out in the early ‘90s). But if you are able to unsee that awkwardness, the performances on this extraordinary debut are all utterly thrilling.
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (1974)
So David Bowie is a dog-man, or something, and he’s part of a travelling road show devoted to the "Strangest Living Curiosities" and maybe these guys were all on the same acid that Lady Gaga’s people took? Nevertheless, "Rebel, Rebel" and the title track are standouts on what may be Bowie’s most overtly political record.
Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast (1982)
Widely considered to be one of the three or four best (or at least most important) heavy metal records of all time, "Number of the Beast" also boasts the most hilariously stupid cover by any band who ever had their albums publicly burned by social conservatives. The Devil looks, well, adorable.
The Beatles – Yesterday and Today (1966)
Just a mindbogglingly good collection of songs, this American album – the Beatles had two different series of LPs in Britain and abroad – features several songs that were released on "Revolver" in the UK, along with a few non-album singles. It would have been your favourite album of the year, probably. But you might not have been able to bring yourself to buy it, because: super happy Beatles covered in bloody dismembered babies. (It was re-released with this much safer (bland and forgettable) cover following the <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6a/YesterdayandTodayalbumcover.jpg" target="_blank">inevitable controversy</a>.
Neil Young – Zuma (1975)
Neil Young’s records in the mid-1970s were all dark, ragged affairs. Concerned with addiction, death, loneliness and the discomfort of fame, these are some of his very best works. Musically, that is. There are at least three of them have covers so awful that they could have made this list, as if Young was deliberately flipping the bird to the conventional side of pop music. Of these, “Zuma” has to take the cookie. Hand-drawn in ten minutes by Young’s pal James Mazzeo, it looks like it took far less time. Bonus: it actually features cacti flipping you the bird.
Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele (2000)
It could be worse. It could be the cover of “<a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/51/Bigdoerehabcover.jpg" target="_blank">The Big Doe Rehab</a>”. But that’s not a stone classic record, and this one is. "Supreme Clientele" rides delicious beats and some of Ghostface’s most elaborate lyrics. Appearing at the tail end of what we might call the "Wu Era" everything about it felt just exactly right. Except of course, for that ugly-ass cover. Can we please talk about how deeply uncool this looks? Everything from the silly chrome font to the crooner’s microphone and the, what-are-those, Oakleys? ANYWAY.
Waylon Jennings – Ladies Love Outlaws (1972)
Weirdest thing about this album, arguably the first of the “Outlaw Country” records in the mid-1970s? Waylon Jennings virtually disowned it because he felt that RCA had released it before he’d finished work on the songs. He was upset, in other words, that the record misrepresented him musically. But he was fine with the cover? Dude, looks like a little lady, dontcha think? And, is this why you’re an outlaw? Oh my god, everyone just stop thinking about this. I’m sorry I brought it up. (Great music on here, though, despite Jennings’ own protestations.)
The Rolling Stones – Get Your Ya Yas Out (1970)
Well, boys, I think we’ve managed to record one of the best live rock’n’roll albums yet. The material is bomb-proof, the band is in peak form and the production is raw and intimate. This is historic, really – people are going to be talking about this album for the rest of our careers (especially Mick Taylor’s unreal lead guitar on “Sympathy for the Devil” and Jagger’s snarling ass-kickery on “Midnight Rambler”). So, I was thinking about the cover. You know what would suit this record? I mean, perfectly? OK first, we get a donkey. No, no, stay with me, boys, you’re gonna love this…
Donna Summer – Love to Love You Baby (1975)
The greatest ever disco record. Featuring the 16-minute title track (a glorious, erotic, infectious ode to the wild thang, replete with a moaning, groaning, oohing, ahhing Summer) and, curiously, a bleakly lonely B-side boasting some of the best songs of the era, this is an utterly essential release. But, then there’s the cover. The masturbating, we get (even if we’d prefer not to). I mean the song is about sex. But, um, are you floating in space? When I think about you, I touch myself (in space)?
Linda Ronstadt – Silk Purse (1970)
For her second solo album, Ronstadt travelled to Nashville and made a fairly traditional country record. Though it garnered somewhat mixed reviews at the time, in retrospect it stands as one of her strongest early efforts, and a highly influential album among her contemporaries in the singer-songwriter scene (most of whom would aim towards country in short order). But the cover features one of the greatest vocalists of her generation sitting in a pig sty, apparently contemplating the old saying that “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” for some reason. But the only sow’s ear here is this godforsaken cover.
OutKast – southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994)
The music on OutKast’s debut record may have been "phat like hambone," but the cover is just a boner. Are Big Boi and Andre 3000 glowing? Are they Siamese twins? Is that hat for real, Andre? How can a record this sophisticated have a cover this hilariously unsophisticated? It didn’t matter. The album shot up the charts and announced the arrival of one of hip hop’s most important, most essential acts.
The Louvin Brothers – Satan is Real (1959)
Guys, from where I’m sitting, he really, really doesn't look real. And yet, if you can look past the ridiculous cover art, you wind up with what may be the most compelling portrait of god-fearing America at the tail end of the conformist 1950s. Death is everywhere on this record, and holy terror washes over everything like a cleansing rain, or liquid fire. One of Gram Parsons' favourite records, and among the most important influences on the country-rock sound in the late 1960s and beyond.
Rod Stewart – An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (1969)
We want to think that this is a kindly old man chasing his little granddaughter and we want you to stop thinking whatever awful things you are thinking about this cover because we really like Rod Stewart’s first album. OK? Stop. Please.
Sexiest Album Covers From The 1950s To Today
Mitsou, "Ya Ya" (1994)
Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" (1965)
Rollins Band, "Nice" (2001)
Johnny Mann Singers, "Night" (1956)
Seal, "Seal" (1994)
Roxy Music, "Country Life" (1974)
Maroon 5, "Hands All Over" (2010)
Julie London, "Julie" (1958)
Mariah Carey, "Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel" (2009)
Wild Cherry, "Wild Cherry" (1976)
Hurricane, "Slave to the Thrill" (1990)
Ohio Players, "Honey" (1975)
Sebastien Tellier, "Sexuality" (2008)
Pulp, "This Is Hardcore" (1998)
Sugar Ray, "Lemonade and Brownies" (1995)
The Strokes, "Is This It" (2001)
Barbra Streisand, "Streisand Superman" (1977)
Grace Jones, "Island Life" (1985)
Black Crowes, "Amorica" (1994)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Electric Ladyland" (1968) (UK Edition)
Goldfrapp, "Supernature" (2005)
ice-T, "Power" (1988)
"Music for Hangovers" (1963)
Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream" (2010)
Kelly Rowland, "Talk a Good Game" (2013)
Lady Gaga, "The Remix" (2010)
Ladytron, "Softcore Jukebox" (2003)
Lords of Acid, "The Crablouse" (1994)
Ciara, "Body Party" (2013)
O Donel Levy, "Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky" (1974)
Paul Mauriat, "Blooming Hits" (1967)
Pixies, "Surfer Rosa" (1988)
Peaches, "The Teaches of Peaches" (2000)
Claudia Wheeler, "The Price Is Right" (196?)
Queen, "Bicycle Race/Fat Bottomed Girls" (1978)