The Best of the “Best Album Covers of All Time” lists
by Mike Goldstein, Curator, AlbumCoverHallofFame.com
(Updated 3-18-13, 1-11-14, 3-14-14 and 12/23/15 with additional information)
This article is the ACHOF’s special effort to show, overall, which album cover images that music fans (as represented in music and design mags, blogs and related reader polls) are the most-liked and appreciated. Over the years, there have been many lists done by genre/sub-genre, but we chose to focus on results from polls and/or sites with a long history of publishing stories on album cover art.
While it is always an exercise in futility to say which album covers are the “best” (akin to “who is your favorite child?”), your Curator was able to draw certain conclusions based on the covers that appear repeatedly in each list’s “Top 10” (as detailed below):
1) Bands that have sported the most-popular album images on their covers include Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Clash, King Crimson, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Velvet Underground, The Sex Pistols and The Who.
2) Album covers that appear in most lists (based on our research thus far) include:
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road
The Clash – London Calling
King Crimson – In The Court of The Crimson King
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
3) Time period during which most of the “most-popular” album covers were created – 1965 through 1980
4) Most of the most-popular images are used on the covers of music in the following genres – Progressive Rock (AKA “Prog Rock”), Psychedelic Rock and Punk Rock.
5) Individuals associated with the U.K.-based design group Hipgnosis – Storm Thorgerson, Aubrey Powell, Peter Christopherson, George Hardie and Richard Evans – had their hand in the creation of more of the Top 10 covers mentioned than any other individual or group of designers.
We hope that you’ll take the time to review the following list of references – both online and in book form – that were used to prepare this article and then provide us with either/both any other lists you think we should consider and/or any feedback you might have on our conclusions or methodology. Our goals, as always, are to provide fans of album cover art the best available information and then stimulate ongoing discussions on the topic. Thanks for your attention and participation – Mike G
Billboard Magazine site – November 12, 2015 by Magazine Staff Writers http://www.billboard.com/photos/6715351/best-album-covers-of-all-time/1
Top 10 Covers (of the 50 included in their list) – The Velvet Underground and Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967); The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969); Patti Smith – Horses (1975); The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready to Die (1994); Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin (1969); Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1973); Nirvana – Nevermind (1991); Cyndi Lauper – She’s So Unusual (1983); Public Enemy – Fear of a Black Planet (1990); Elvis Presley – Elvis Presley (1956)
PopPhoto.com site – December 13, 2013 by Stan Horaczek
Top 10 Covers – Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet; Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha; Antony & The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now; Beck – Odelay; Beirut – Gulag Orkestar; Belle & Sebastian – Tigermilk; Bjork – Homogenic; X-Ray Spex – Germ-Free Adolescents; Bjork – Volta; Boards of Canada – Music Has The Rights To Children
Dark Sinistar blog – October 4, 2013 by the site’s editor
Top 10 Covers – Boston – Boston; Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ With Disaster; Sweet – Give Us A Wink; Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast; Savatage – Edge of Thorns; Manowar – Battle Hymns; Thin Lizzy – Nightlife; Y&T – Black Tiger; Tokyo Blade – Night of the Blade; Blue Oyster Cult – On Your Feet or On Your Knees
Music Radar – May 15, 2011 by Matt Robinson
Top 10 Covers – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon; Nirvana – Nevermind; The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; The Clash – London Calling; Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine; Iron Maiden – The Number of The Beast; The Beatles – The Beatles (White Album); Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures; King Crimson – In The Court of The Crimson King; Pink Floyd – Animals
Rolling Stone Magazine – June 15, 2011 by Andy Greene
Top 10 Covers – The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon; Nirvana – Nevermind; The Beatles – Abbey Road; The Clash – London Calling; The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers; The Beatles – Revolver; Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run; Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here; The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Gigwise.com site – April 2, 2012 by Holly Frith
Top 10 Covers – Nirvana – Nevermind; The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks…; The Clash – London Calling; Oasis – Definitely Maybe; The Strokes – Is This It; Beastie Boys – License To Ill; The Beatles – Abbey Road; Roxy Music – Country Life; Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy; The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
Wired.com – June 20, 2010 by Scott Thill
Top 10 Covers – The Beatles – Tie (Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road); The Rolling Stones – Tie (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street and Some Girls); Pink Floyd – Tie (Saucerful of Secrets; Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon); The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed; The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico; Led Zeppelin – Tie (Led Zeppelin I, II, III, IV and Physical Graffiti); The Who – Tie (The Who Sell Out, Tommy and Quadrophenia); Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake; Miles Davis – Bitches Brew; YES – Tie (Fragile and Close To The Edge)
“Reader’s Choice Edition” on Wired.com – July 13, 2010 by Scott Thill
Top 10 Covers – Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills; Mothers of Invention – We’re Only In It For The Money; Rush – Tie (2112, Grace Under Pressure and Roll The Bones); Elton John – Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy; King Crimson – In The Court of The Crimson King; Uriah Heep – Very ‘Eavy, Very ‘Umble; David Bowie – Diamond Dogs; Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral; Blue Note Records – works by Reid Miles; Molly Hatchet – Molly Hatchet
Planet Rock.com site – March, 2012 by ???
Top 10 Covers – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon; King Crimson – The Court of The Crimson King; Rainbow – Rainbow Rising; YES – Fragile; Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti; Iron Maiden – The Number of The Beast; Marillon – Script for a Jester’s Tear; Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here; Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV; Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell
UGO.com site – December 19,2008 by K. Thor Jensen
Top 10 Covers – The Clash – London Calling; The Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks...; Paramore – Riot!; Nirvana – Nevermind; Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream & Other Delights; Pink Floyd – Dark Side of The Moon; The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed; Green Day – Dookie; The Donnas – Bitchin’; Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
Seymour Duncan (guitar accessories mfr.) site – June 19, 2012 by Scott
Top 10 Covers – Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon; Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power; Spinal Tap – Smell The Glove; Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I; The Beatles – Abbey Road; Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here; Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV; The Who – Who Are You; The Clash – London Calling; Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream and Other Delights
IGN.com – May 27, 2011 by Chad Grischow
Top 10 Covers – listed alphabetically, so I was unable to tell which were “the top 10”
Inspiredology.com graphic design site – February 12, 2008 by Chad Mueller
Top 10 Covers – the article lists the “99 Best-Designed Album Covers” in no particular order, although the author states that his favorites in the list include Rise Against – The Sufferer and The Witness; Finger Eleven – Them Vs. You Vs. Me; Cartel – Cartel and Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls
Q Magazine – Internal poll of writers and subsequent book titled Q: The Hundred Best Record Covers Of All Time, compiled by Andrew Harrison and published in 2001
Top 10 Covers – Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen; Joy Division – Closer; Nirvana – Nevermind; The Who – The Who Sell Out; The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses; Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home; New Order – Blue Monday; The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill; The Clash – London Calling; The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Website – Shortlist.com – June 21, 2012 – author unknown – a list of 50 “cool” album covers, in no obvious order, but including designer info and an interesting blurb about the record and its cover. Nice slideshow.
Book – 100 Best Album Covers – 1st edition published November, 1999 by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell
Book – The Greatest Album Covers of All Time – Re-issue edition published October, 2008 Collins & Brown, written by Grant Scott, Barry Miles and Johnny Morgan (ISBN-13: 978-1843404811)