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?
As mentioned, The Rolling Stones have their own exalted place in music critics’ and followers’ hearts and minds. Though their previous album artwork drifted into the surreal, this rock band wasn’t about to turn its back on the dark alluring appeal that worked so well for them during the 60s. In no uncertain terms, their 9th British and 11th American studio album re-emphasized it with their first LP of the Sexy Seventies.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing for Allmusic:
“Pieced together from outtakes and much-labored-over songs, Sticky Fingers manages to have a loose, ramshackle ambience that belies both its origins and the dark undercurrents of the songs. It’s a weary, drug-laden album — well over half the songs explicitly mention drug use, while the others merely allude to it — that never fades away, but it barely keeps afloat.”
Widely regarded among The Rolling Stones’ best (as well as best-selling) albums in their storied history, what with the chart-topping “Brown Sugar”, the surprising country ballad “Wild Horses”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, and the ballad “Moonlight Mile” in the repertoire, we’re already in legendary rock territory. But when we take a gander at its front cover we swing over to the artistically scandalous. No surprise, I say.
In case you think this album cover is no longer influential, here’s the most recent release for the group Falling in Reverse.
The style that defined their work during the decade found no better, or at least suggestive, banner than the one conceived by famed artist Andy Warhol. His artwork featured a mock belt buckle and a working zipper — the latter notorious for record sellers and collectors over the years as the LP didn’t play nice with its own vinyl and others stacked next to it. The design had a back cover and inner design of almost equal repute1.
Voted VH-1’s All-Time Best Cover in 20032, the in-your-face, high contrast black and white close-up photo of a jeans-clad male crotch, with the bulging outline of the model’s penis, the whole (ahem) point3.
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Sticky Fingers
Label: Rolling Stones Records
Track Listing (I know, a vinyl record you had to flip to fully hear — but then again we walked barefoot to school, in the snow, too):
- “Brown Sugar”
- “Wild Horses”
- “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”
- “You Gotta Move”
- “I Got the Blues”
- “Sister Morphine”
- “Dead Flowers”
- “Cool Waves”
- “Moonlight Mile”
The entire series can be found here.
- The working zipper and mock belt buckle design actually opened to the album’s inner cover, which revealed the model in his cotton briefs. ↩
- Influential, too, as others have riffed on this specific front cover design over the years (see the post’s featured image). ↩
- Originally thought as Mick Jagger’s “close-up” in tight blue jeans, the cover photo had fans speculating over time as to whose crotch it was. Warhol photographed several different men (though not Jagger), but never revealed who made it on. Candidates included Jed Johnson (Warhol’s lover at the time) and his twin brother Jay, artist and designer Corey Tippin, and Joe Dallesandro. ↩