The Most Iconic Photo Album Covers In Rock Music

Posted at March 24th, 2015 | by Harshvader | in Art, Entertainment, Metal/Rock/Alternative

An iconic album cover is the one that leaves an impact just as easily as the music it contains, summarizing the adventure the artist is about to take you on. Here is our list of 10 greatest album covers ever to grace record shops.


Hole – Live Through This

“Wanted to capture the look on a woman’s face as she’s being crowned… this sort of ecstatic, blue eyeliner running, kind of ‘I am, I am— I won! I have hemorrhoid cream under my eyes and adhesive tape on my butt, and I had to scratch and claw and fuck my way up, but I won Miss Congeniality!’”

Shows the disdain sprawled across women of rock for generally accepted perception of beauty. A topic we wouldn’t want to touch with a twenty foot pole!

The Doors – Strange Days


Born out of spontaneity and improvisation, and an egotistical frontman’s demand not to be featured in the album’s cover. The catch?  People featured on the cover of Strange Days aren’t street performers at all.

Despite the obstacles, the result is an unforgettable shot; a bunch of one-day circus performers being strange, capturing the often surreal and Vaudevillian music of the Doors. Certainly better than another stuffy, self-important shot of a self-serious band.

Systems of a Down – Steal This Album

For starters, if you were to go out and buy it (yeah right). It’s the cheapest of all the albums on the list. Or maybe the listeners are being taken a dig at. Go figure!

The Police – Ghost in the Machine

The cover art features a seven-segment display-inspired graphic depicting the heads of the three band members each with a distinctive hair style (from left to right, Andy Summers, Sting with spiky hair, and Stewart Copeland with a fringe). Wire bonds can be seen on the original issue vinyl album cover, suggesting that the display is custom rather than merely seven-segment or perhaps is a photographic collage.

The album’s cover is ranked at number 45 on VH1’s 50 Greatest Album Covers. The graphic was designed by Mick Haggerty. And it’s irritating how the 666 reference creeps in every time. We won’t dwell on that. But I guess you saw that coming. Flip the cover upside down. Oh the lengths fans would go to validate their theory!

Johnny Cash – American Recordings

Could be a fortuitous quirk, but the dogs depict the convergence of multiple identities of Johnny cash.  Flanked by two dogs, one with spots of white on black and the other spots of black on white. From an inmate “Folsom prison blues” to “The Beast in me” are testament to how Cash plays around with the duality of man. Phhewww, enough of that! The cover does justice to the Johnny Cash/ J.R. Cash persona shaped up over the year.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik


As the inscriptions (handwritten by Anthony Keidis) suggest the 74 minute long album is full of sex and drug innuendos.  And just for the feels, the recording was done in Harry Houdini’s former California residence.

Also, to support the band members’ claim of the mansion being haunted, the album features a photo of a spirit hovering over the frontman Keidis (Looks more like a distorted image of an ecstasy pill to me).

Aerosmith – Get a Grip


With music videos of ‘living on the edge’ and ‘crazy’ rendering it timeless, not much could be gathered about this action provoking photo. But the branding above the udder serves as a sly warning against undertones that transformed them in to country icons as well. Even if all else failed, the cover would have gotten people to grab this album back in 1993, when people still paid for their music!

U2 – Achtung Baby


The album name screams oxymoron much like the cover photo that provides contrast between the band’s serious demeanor and a sense of flux they embraced through this maddening photoshoot.

After rejecting Anton Corbijn’s initial black and white Berlin photos, the band re-commissioned Corbijn for an additional two-week photo shoot in Tenerife to present a more playful side of them. The result, a baffled cow, the old Berlin black and whites, and a lively carnival crowd at Santa Cruz de Tenerife weaving their way into the same 4×4 Montage. A much needed relief from their older monochromatic album sleeves.  As for the Trabant taxi, it made its way to the Berlin Hard Rock Café.

Supertramp – Breakfast in America


The album’s front cover resembles an overlook of New York City through an airplane window. It was designed by Mike Doud and depicted Kate Murtagh, dressed as a waitress named “Libby” from a diner, as a Statue of Liberty figure holding up a glass of orange juice on a small plate in one hand (in place of the torch on the Statue), and a foldable restaurant menu in the other hand, on which “Breakfast In America” is written.

The background featured a city made from a cornflake box, ashtray, cutlery (for the wharfs), eggboxes, vinegar, ketchup and mustard bottles, all spraypainted white. The twin World Trade Center towers appear as two stacks of boxes and the plate of breakfast represents Battery Park, the departure point for the Staten Island Ferry. The back cover photo, depicting the band members having breakfast while reading their respective hometown newspapers, was taken at a diner called Bert’s Mad House.

Van Halen – 1984


This one we might have dropped off the list, after mistaking it for pure graphic art. Apart from the wings, everything was already in place. The four year old model posing as a cherub, the candy cigarettes, the sky and marble counter constituted the photo presented to band members, among several in the designer’s port folio. The slick hairstyle too was carried forward from the original photo.

Like others on our list, this too was a replacement for the commissioned photo (TIL: Never pitch your best first). This photo of a four year old is just fractally wrong, to an extent that makes it perfect for a ‘6th’ Van Halen album.



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