Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Best Album Covers: Cheap Thrills


This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.

Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.

Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?


It’s not like I’m some radio station taking requests. But when loyal reader Cindy Bruchman and spotmagicsolis went out of their way to mention a seminal album (and artwork) from the Summer of Love in the comments of a previous Best Album Covers post, it got my attention. Much like those who saw it on record store shelves way back when. Which William Ruhlman explains in his Allmusic review of said LP:

When Cheap Thrills appeared in August 1968 — sporting a Robert Crumb cover on its gatefold jacket that constituted the most elaborate album design ever lavished on a rock album from Columbia Records, as well as a pop-art classic rivaling the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s jacket — it shot into the charts, reaching number one and going gold within a couple of months, and “Piece of My Heart” became a Top 40 hit and helped to propel the LP to over a million sales.

Listeners were hoping for something special following the group’s storied ’67 Monterey Pop Festival performance. The result was ultimately the springboard to a solo career for the group’s lead singer. The legendary Janis Joplin. Spirited, sad immortality awaited her, too. The likes of which she’d share with rock icons, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and others, the next decade over.

The overall greatness of the music (outside of a few songs) for the San Francisco psychedelic band’s second album remains debatable — its artwork was not.

Few illustrated album covers ever matched its creativity, vibrancy, or era cool. Robert Crumb‘s work as a cartoonist, illustrator, and musician was formative and quite distinctive. Sixties countercultural characters like Fritz the Cat, Mr. Natural, along with images from his Keep on Truckin’ strip, lead back to him. His underground comics background channeled as statement-making cover art for the unconventional hippy band.

Colorful, raw, and risqué, just what the counter-culture of the day wanted to portray — your mileage may vary — the result spoke for itself.


Originally, Crumb’s graphic was intended as the LP’s back cover. Janis was to have graced the front, but she pushed for it instead, as a fan of his work. The telltale sign being the album’s credits and track titles incorporated into its comic strip panels.

Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Cheap Thrills
Date: 1968
Label: Columbia
Track Listing (and yes, turn that record over):

Side one

  1. “Combination of the Two”
  2. I Need a Man to Love
  3. “Summertime”
  4. “Piece of My Heart”

Side two

  1. “Turtle Blues”
  2. “Oh, Sweet Mary”
  3. “Ball and Chain”

The entire series can be found here.

12 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Cheap Thrills”

  1. Jnana Hodson

    Reblogged this on Chicken Farmer I still love you and commented:
    I, too, miss the 12-by-12 album covers (my collection is mostly classical with some jazz and folk, but many of those are still gorgeous).
    In the hippie-era covers, though, I’d put my Bob Dylan and Joan Baez albums right up there for starters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Welcome, and great to find another collector of this art/music form, Jnana 🙂

      Oh, switch Dylan and Baez albums? I’d be interested to hear. Many thanks for the read, reblog, and comment 🙂


  2. cindybruchman

    Yay!!!!! I ADORE Janis Joplin. Cheap Thrills hands on my wall. Great job, Michael. 🙂 What a perfect album. From ‘Down on Me’ to ‘Summertime’ to ‘Piece of my Heart’ — Oh, what a troubled soul and beautiful voice. Thanks for brightening my morning, Michael.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      I thought you might enjoy this 😉 And those would also be my faves from this album, Cindy. Many thanks, my friend 🙂


  3. Rick Ouellette

    Great choice and I look forward to seeing the other entries. I think the reason that digital doesn’t elicit the same tactile passion that vinyl did (and does) is that the medium discourages it. Sure you can put 800,000 songs on a device the size of a wafer, but to me it feels like the final triumph of quantity over aesthetics. In the case of “Cheap Thrills” and the R. Crumb cover, not only were you listening to great music but also were holding in your hands a wonderful piece of pop art.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      Welcome, Rick. You make an elegant point in comparing the two mediums. Wonderfully put. You’ll get no argument from me on this :-). Thank you so much for the read and comment. Much appreciated.



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