Most Iconic Rock Music Photo Album Covers of All Time

Posted at April 16th, 2015 | by Harshvader | in Art, Entertainment, Metal/Rock/Alternative

So, here’s a list of the most Iconic Photo Album Covers of all time.


Blink 182 – Enema of the State


The album features porn star Janine Lindemulder on its cover. At the back the three band members pose semi naked for the dreaded enema shots. The band was initially torn between ‘Enema of the State’ and ‘Turn your head and cough’. Either way both fit the album cover.


Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine

Sharing the same name as the band, the album features a photo of Thich Quang Duc’s self immolation. The photo was the subject of deliberation over funding of the Vietnam War. And its widespread impact brought the word ‘self-immolation’ into the lexicon of western media.A similar, yet relatively calmer photo of the incident won World press photo of the year. But for lyrics resounding with a leftist stance, this dynamic carpet of flame beckons minds into motion.


Marilyn Manson – Mechanical Animals


Brainchild of New York City-based long-time Manson photographer Joseph Cultice , this controversial cover art has won critical acclaim and numerous awards. The infamous photo depicts Manson as an androgynous naked figure with breasts, six fingers and airbrushed genitalia. The shock of the image was increased because it looked like a real photograph.


The cover art text is an anagram which, when rearranged, reads ‘Marilyn Manson Is An Alchemical Man’. Contrary to popular internet rumors, Marilyn Manson did not undergo any plastic surgery for this androgynous alien look but was covered head to toe in latex paint.


David Bowie – Aladdin Sane

It took Brian Duffy 16 similar outtakes to immortalize this David bowie alter ego. Known as Ziggy Stardust, this one is credited with the global outreach of London Glam rock. Sprouting out of hitch to perform on stage, David bowie started hiding behind a succession of outcasts. What he began to justify as an attempt to gain artistic validation, later on turned out to be a rock cliché.


Fleetwood Mac – Rumors


One of the longest running partnerships between band and photographer. This epitome of professional relationship brought Herbert Worthington to contrast an off white background, with the natural flare displayed by Mick and Stevie Nicks. Herbert also conceived the famous crystal ball imagery and others that aided Nick’s Rhiannon persona.  As this non choreographed photo was clicked in the spur of the moment, the other band members weren’t in frame.


Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors


From “Street Survivors” to Air plane crash survivors, Lynyrd Skynyrd are the Last of a dying Breed. Three days after the release of the album, the band lost three of its members and assistant road manager to a plane crash. Out of respect and to avoid controversy the original album cover was withdrawn, but restored thirty years later in the deluxe CD version.


N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton


Although this list features mostly Rock cover albums. It would be a crying shame not to include N.W.A.’s (Niggaz With Attitudes) Straight Outta Compton.Considered to be a seminal act for West Coast “Gangsta rap” and one of the first to use the neighborhood references you’d find flying around in hip hop. Young Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E were the first to translate the Compton angst into “reality rap”. Some of the Members also feature in a trailer for the eponymous movie to be released this year.





Be honest, you’ve seen this one more on t-shirts than playlists. Blame this on oblivious kids trying to act cool, or the band’s more than just a cameo in Rock n Roll High school (1980). But the band defined the path for punk rock’s cult following.


This photo again falls in with the underlying pattern of this list. The first commissioned out takes rarely prevail. Shot by a Roberta Bayley (then photographer for Punk magazine) against the brick wall of a New York private community garden, the rights were sold to band members for just $125.


The Clash – London Calling


Sharing the Brixton connect with David Bowie and maybe an affinity for experiments, songs like Rock the Casbah and London calling were slightly politicized, and defied punk rock clichés.


We’ve reached a section in the list where the album photos are pegged to be more iconic than the songs. Pennie Smith, shot this during the band’s New York concert at The palladium 1976, and wouldn’t consider it initially as it was too out of focus. But this display of total loss of control paved the way for onstage guitar smashing, and landed it the title of best rock and roll photo of all time in Q magazine’s 2002 issue. Furthermore, the artwork pays homage to Elvis Presley’s self titled debut album.



Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy



Yet again for this iconic album cover the band not only disapproved of Storm Thorgerson’s first commissioned version featuring a tennis racquet, rather got him off the project.


The photo Shoot lasted ten 10 days and turned out to be less than satisfactory again. The cover is a collage of several photographs which were taken at the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, by Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis. Shooting was done first thing in the morning and at sunset in order to capture the light at dawn and dusk, but the desired effect was never achieved due to constant rain and clouds. But a fluke in tinting effects gave them the perfect hue of Tangerine.

The children on the album cover are siblings Stefan and Samantha Gates. Stephan now a famous TV presenter in his own right. He also presented a documentary for Radio 4, Stefan Gates’ cover story concerning his part in the Houses of the Holy photo-shoot.


Nirvana – Nevermind


In order to take a dig at herd mentality of consumers, Cobain released an advertisement for this album under the tentative name Sheep: “Because you want to not; Because everyone else is”. This also served to convey their disdain for the public opinion on operation Desert storm. A U.S. led coalition of 34 countries against Iraq.


But finally the grammatically incorrect Nevermind encompasses their general indifference to all such issues and Cobain’s attitude towards life. The idea crossed their minds while watching a television program on water birth. Spencer Elden, the blessed infant and now a street artist, tried recreating the photo as an adult. The band too had similar photos clicked.



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