Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Best Album Covers: Tattoo You


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?


Back to one of the most iconic bands out there, Allmusic‘s Stephen Thomas Erlewine summarized what many believe was their last great album:

“Like Emotional Rescue before it, Tattoo You was comprised primarily of leftovers, but unlike its predecessor, it never sounds that way. Instead, Tattoo You captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band. Divided into a rock & roll side and a ballad side, the album delivers its share of thrills on the tight, dynamic first side. “Start Me Up” became the record’s definitive Stonesy rocker, but the frenzied doo wop of “Hang Fire,” the reggae jam of “Slave,” the sleazy Chuck Berry rockers “Little T&A” and “Neighbours,” and the hard blues of “Black Limousine” are all terrific.”

The Stones have always been an “in your face” kind of group right from the start of their career, and maybe why this album’s initial track remains so emblematic1. Their eighth studio album for their own label a mixture of outtake material2 and covers. Of course, by this time most bands in the world would be more than happy to have an abundance problem like this given the caliber of the tracks on the LP in question3.

Once more, the Grammy-award winning graphic designer Peter Corriston brought a distinct touch to a Stones cover. His oddly mesmerizing, legally challenged Some Girls4, which already tilted expectations askew for such artwork when it came to the group. As did the unsettling medical imagery of Emotional Rescue, then this. Tattoo You implemented its body mod title literally and provocatively (for its day); impossible to ignore, in other words.

With photographs by Hubert Kretzschmar and illustrations by Christian Piper, it couldn’t be more “in your face” than this. Don’t know if I’d agree with , “That’s Mick, of course, under all those tattoos, an unwitting prototype for models that appeared in a Duran Duran video for the following five years.” Still, the boldness of the heavily tatted, facially inked to a haunting degree, in grayscale against a strikingly red background can’t help but stand out.

But that’d be the point of any Stones album, now wouldn’t it?

Tattoo You earned the band a Grammy Award for Best Album Package.

Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Tattoo You
Date: 1981
Label: Rolling Stones Records (US distribution by Atlantic; EMI in the UK and elsewhere)
Track Listing (and yes, turn those records over):

Side one

  1. “Start Me Up”
  2. “Hang Fire”
  3. “Slave”
  4. “Little T&A”
  5. “Neighbours

Side two

  1. “Worried About You”
  2. “Tops”
  3. “Heaven”
  4. “No Use in Crying”
  5. “Waiting on a Friend”

The entire series can be found here.

  1.  “Microsoft paid about US $3 million to use this song in their Windows 95 marketing campaign. This was the first time that the Rolling Stones allowed a company to use their songs in an advertising campaign. Several users considered the advertisement quite ironic, considering the several bugs present in Windows 95 and the bridge of “You make a grown man cry”. The advertisement however did not feature those lyrics and instead cut away after “Start me up”.” ~ Wikipedia 
  2. New vocals and overdubs applied to earlier album efforts from Goats Head Soup, Black and Blue, Some Girls, and Emotional Rescue
  3. Tattoo You was number one for longer than any other Stones album; nine weeks on the US charts. 
  4. “The cover design was challenged legally when Lucille Ball, Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minnelli (representing her mother Judy Garland), Raquel Welch, and the estate of Marilyn Monroe threatened to sue for the use of their likenesses without permission.” ~ Wikipedia 

7 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Tattoo You”

  1. Vinyl Connection

    A Grammy, eh Michael? What were the other contenders, I wonder? Some nominees might include: OMD’s ‘Architecture and Morality’ for design and a die-cut sleeve (not to mention a classic Alan Partridge moment); ‘Heaven up here’ by Echo and the Bunnymen; Siouxsie and the Banshees ‘Juju’, and my personal fave: ‘Computer World’ by Kraftwerk.

    I enjoy this occasional series very much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • le0pard13

      You certainly got me curious so I looked it up:

      Best Album Package
      The nominees were:
      Rolling Stones – Tattoo You
      Eagles – Eagles Live
      Understones – Positive Touch
      Carla Bley – Social Studies
      Rick Springfield – Working Class Dog

      I’m going to have to look at yours next, Bruce. Thanks so much for the kind words and comment, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person


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