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Album Art Evolves from Vinyl to Digital

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Originally aired on September 5, 2007.

Tom Fudge: If you're a baby boomer and you think of a record album of your youth, what do you remember about it? I bet in a lot of cases, you don't remember a tune – but an album cover. You remember the odd tableau on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Or the real zipper on the Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers LP.

 

Back in those days, album art was taken very seriously. In fact, the Sticky Fingers cover was the work of artist Andy Warhol. But today, records come in much smaller packages. CD jewel cases don't provide the same kind of canvas. And when listening to computer files, you might as well just go to the band's Web site. But for decades, album design was a high form of commercial art. Some of the album pictures defined the artist, and some were controversial – even censored. So what has album art become? 

There are no more LPs, at least not in popular, mass use. But there certainly are opportunities to show visual images of bands and musicians. At one time, we saw them on MTV. And even though that TV channel has pretty much abandoned music videos, there are computers, other TV shows and iPods. All of them offer the opportunity to show visual images related to the music you listen to. But where are the pictures? Is it still possible to present a band in a powerful visual way that we all share?
 

Guests
 

  • Rich Shelton, artist and professor at Otis College of Art and Design. He has an extensive record collection and curates exhibits featuring album art.

 

 

This album's art was designed by Alex Steinweiss, who is credited with inventing album art.
This album's art was designed by Alex Steinweiss, who is credited with inventing album art.
Album: Moody Woody by Woody Herman and his Orchestra (1959)

 

 

Elvis' first album cover was the inspiration for The Clash's London Calling.
Elvis' first album cover was the inspiration for The Clash's London Calling .
Album: Elvis Presley by Elvis Presley (1956)

 

 

This album is an example of how black musicians were represented by record labels in the '50s.
This album is an example of how black musicians were represented by record labels in the '50s.
Album: Flamingo Favorites by The Flamingos (1960)

 

 

This album cover was considered scandalous in the 1950s.
This album cover was considered scandalous upon its release.
Album: Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert (1965)

 

 

This album art is often cited as the most famous album cover in history.
This album's art is often cited as the most famous album cover in history.
Album: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles (1967)

 

 

This album was designed by the groundbreaking design firm Hipgnosis.
This album was designed by the groundbreaking design firm Hipgnosis.
Album: Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd (1973)

 

 

This album cover was designed by Andy Warhol.
This album cover was designed by Andy Warhol.
Album: Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones (1971)

 

This album cover was also designed by Andy Warhol.
This album cover was also designed by Andy Warhol.
Album: The Velvet Underground and Nico by The Velvet Underground (1967)

 

This cover was very controversial because of the nudity and the age of the model, reported to be 11. The U.S. record company released an alternate cover with a photograph of the band on it.
This cover was very controversial because of the nudity and the age of the model, reported to be 11. The U.S. record company released an alternate cover with a photograph of the band on it.
Album: Blind Faith by Blind Faith (1969)

 

 

This is the album cover released in Europe.
Album: Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix (European Version, 1968)

 

 

This is the U.S. version.
Album: Electric Ladyland by Jimi Hendrix (American Version, 1968)

 

 

This is the infamous “butcher cover” that was eventually recalled after a public outcry.  A new cover version was pasted over this one for the remaining prints.
This is the infamous “butcher cover” that was eventually recalled after a public outcry.  A new cover version was pasted over this one for the remaining prints.
Album: " Yesterday" ...And Today by The Beatles (European Version, 1966)

 

 

This is the tame cover that replaced the butcher cover.
This is the tame cover that replaced the butcher cover.

Album: Album: " Yesterday" ...And Today by The Beatles (American Version, 1966)

 

 

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