Hand in hand with some of music’s most iconic tunes, the 70s boast album covers some of which could be pieces of art in their own right. These 12 square inches of artwork were just as important as the music inside.
Made to stand out on the record shop shelves and encapsulating the style, look and feel of the 70s here are some of the decade’s most memorable album covers.
Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Immediately different from what other bands and albums were doing at the time the cover of Led Zeppelin IV shows a 19th century oil paining belonging to Robert Plant.
This was a well thought out marketing move by Zeppelin which made the album stand out and of course increase sales. The album features the iconic song “Stairway to Heaven” and is reported to be the greatest rock album ever made.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
The album that took the world by storm and featuring the title track ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ was easily distinguishable from other album covers of the time.
The design for the cover was inspired by a photograph of a beam of light projecting through a glass prism.
The trio of light beam, prism and spectrum apparently stood for three aspects of the band and their music.
David Bowie: Aladdin Sane (1973)
The album design was a simple concept featuring a photo of Bowie with a lightning bolt painted across his face, his Aladdin Sane persona was an extension of Ziggy Stardust.
Allegedly reflecting Bowie’s split feelings regarding his sudden rise to stardom Aladdin Sane was split down the middle by the glittery makeup. The tear drop was the photographer Brian Duffy’s idea and cleverly portrays Bowie as both mysterious and tender.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
Possibly one of Elton John’s best ever albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’s cover is based on an image taken from the movie, The Wizard of Oz.
The album cover’s eye-catching artwork reflects the sentiments of the title song about leaving the grimness of the city behind – and a failed romance – and going back to the simplicity of the countryside.
The album was a 3-panel design, unique at the time, and featured individual illustrations for each song on the record, along with the lyrics.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was Elton’s seventh album and was undoubtedly the record that sealed his fate as an all-time pop icon.
The Eagles: Hotel California (1976)
The front cover’s ‘Hotel California’ was in fact the Beverley Hills Hotel. Pictured in a sunset glow but remaining shadowy and mysterious it aims to emulate the bands’ rich and confusing lyrics.
And the true meaning of Hotel California? No-one really knows, least of all the band. But Don Henley is reported to have said “In a sentence, I’d sum it up as the end of innocence, round one.”
Fleetwood Mac: Rumours (1977)
This slightly risqué album cover shows Stevie Nicks in character as Rhiannon, the mythical Welsh witch cavorting with Mick Fleetwood whilst trying to look into Fleetwood’s crystal ball.
The eye is then drawn to the objects dangling between Fleetwood’s legs which were apparently his personal good luck charm stolen from an old-fashioned toilet chain years earlier and were used to adorn his drum kit during the band’s live performances.
Meat Loaf: Bat Out of Hell (1977)
A motorbike in the middle of a cemetery with a giant bat this cover was certainly going to get the album noticed. It was Meat Loaf’s debut album, featuring songs by Jim Steinman, and was big, brash and loud almost bursting out of its cover.
Bat out of Hell was released by Cleveland International Records but it almost never got released at all as it was disliked by their parent label Epic Records. It took a while to become popular but eventually went on to become one of the best-selling albums of all time with songs from the album becoming classic rock staples.
Pink Floyd: Animals (1977)
Not many were better at creating iconic images as Pink Floyd with The Wall being an iconic album in its own right. Animals was another incredible album that really struck a chord with the national psyche.
Roger Waters came up with the idea of floating an inflatable pig over Battersea Power Station and a 40-foot balloon was made for the cover shoot. However things didn’t go to plan. The inflatable pig broke free and floated directly into the path of planes landing at Heathrow Airport. It caused a lot of panic and all flights were grounded. Pink Floyd couldn’t have got better publicity for their album if they’d tried!
ELO: Out of the Blue (1977)
Out of the Blue was ELO’s seventh studio album and enlisting the help of Japanese illustrator Shusei Nagaoka they created a cover that reflected the many sci-fi themes of the time.
Nagaoka created a colourful space station the concept of which the band went on to use with UFO-style sets in their subsequent live shows.
Did you have any of these albums in your record collection? Do you still have any today? Are there any you would add to the list?