Album Cover Hall of Fame – Interviews with Album Cover Photographers

Album Cover Hall of Fame – Interviews with Album Cover PHOTOGRAPHERS

Richard E. Aaron – Holding the record as the biggest-selling live double album of all time for nearly 30 years, 1976’s Frampton Comes Alive is the record that made guitarist/singer Peter Frampton a household name. Once it was decided that this would be a double album, A&M’s art department needed to create an eye-catching package, calling on photo-journalist Richard E. Aaron to contribute the perfect live-action photo (his first album cover credit, too)

Sherry Rayn Barnett – Verve Records released this gem of a recording in the late 80’s that showcased songstress Nina Simone’s ability to work her magic with both traditional cabaret tunes and the works of songwriters such as Janis Ian, Randy Newman and Bob Dylan. Sherry Barnett was asked to produce a suitable cover image for this immense talent (who was ordained with not one but two industry names – the “High Priestess of Soul” and the “Queen of African Rooted Classical Music”), and the details of this assignment are now yours for the reading

Maryanne Bilham – Having released 3 albums in the early 1980s along the path that took them from bar band to opening act for the Police to superstardom on their own, the Go-Gos disintegrated within a year after releasing 1984’s Talk Show, and the members went their separate ways. Then, after many years working on solo and side projects, the original band members reunited in 2001 to create an album of new music called God Bless the Go-Gos. Of course, then, it would take a photographer with a strong sense of how modern women should be interpreted visually to create just the perfect set of images for the cover of the first new Go-Gos record in 17 years. They found that in Maryanne Bilham, who shares her recollections of the process of turning “good time girls” into Saints—t.html

Drew Carolan – In the mid-late 1980’s, no one had a better claim to the title of “best DJ and MC” in the hip-hop scene than NY’s Eric B. & Rakim.  Their second landmark major-label record – 1988’s Follow the Leader – cemented their place in rap/hip-hop history (one of Source Magazine’s 2005 list of the “100 Best Rap Albums”), and it was up to a fixture in NY-area photo-journalism, photographer Drew Carolan, who was there to capture many of the stars of the emerging scene, to shoot a series of photos out of which would emerge the memorable cover image for this historic release—e.html

George ChinFires At Midnight was the first Blackmore’s Night release on Germany’s Steamhammer/SPV label, whose other well-known acts include metal fan favorites Motorhead, Dio, Judas Priest, and Type O Negative. The label wanted to impress fans with this new release and trusted that the collaboration between ex-Deep Purple guitarist Richie Blackmore and UK-based photographer George Chin would produce just the right image to appeal to fans of all ages and musical genres. The tale of how George went about getting “just the right shot” in a centuries-old castle in the U.K. – complete with magic and a beautiful maiden – is the subject of this 2007 interview—b.html

George DuBose –  George DuBose first became associated with New Wave music after working with the fledgling B52s from Athens, Georgia. He has since photographed and designed over 300 album covers for groups as diverse as REM, The Go-Gos and Melissa Etheridge and many of the pioneers in the world of rap/hip-hop music, such as Afrika Bambaataa, Run-DMC and Big Daddy Kane. One of his most-memorable assignments involved a photo shoot of an up-and-coming young rapper named Biggie Smalls (AKA “The Notorious B.I.G.”). The resulting portfolio of photographs show Mr. Smalls and his “posse” visiting some of their favorite local NYC haunts and leaving the photographer a bit uncomfortable about what he’d just witnessed

Interview #2 – The cover for 1985’s Too Tough To Die – which many critics have called the “last great Ramones” recording, showing that the band was ready and able to hold its own in the emerging early-mid 1980’s hardcore punk scene – was one of nine covers George DuBose shot for the Ramones. The song “Durango 95” bears the same name of the car driven by Alex in the Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange. Why is that important? Read this 2007 interview to find the answer—t.html

Karl Ferris – Considered by many music fans and critics as one of the (if not THE) greatest debut record from a rock-era artist, Are You Experienced? also illustrated how records were produced, packaged and tailored for distribution to the world’s music marketplaces. Released in the U.K. in May, 1967, the LP’s music represented the leading edges of both musical prowess and technical sophistication. Sadly, the packaging in the U.K. was not what Hendrix thought accurately matched the act’s psychedelic and forward-reaching nature, so he took this complaint to manager Chas Chandler, who then called upon well-known London photographer Karl Ferris to work with him and the artist to come up with imagery for the upcoming U.S. release that would be a better match to the music

Interview #2 – Throughout the 1960’s, the Hollies focused on keeping pop listeners happy, landing on the U.K. Top 20 charts nearly 20 times. At the same time, other top British acts began to experiment with more studio-based psychedelic sounds and records “that made a statement”. Hollies singer Graham Nash, in particular, thought that it was time to explore their more trippy side, and so their next album (Evolution) would begin taking them in that direction. In early 1967, Karl Ferris was invited to Abbey Road studios (where The Beatles were also recording Sgt. Pepper’s) to begin the process of creating an image for the cover of Evolution that would show the Hollies “pushing through to a new wave of music style and consciousness”

James Fortune – Photographer James Fortune’s Life, Death, Love and Hate” is a photograph chosen for use on the cover of California Bleeding, a CD of 1973-74 live concert recordings of Iggy Pop & The Stooges released in 1997 on Bomp Records. It shows Iggy clutching a mic in one hand, a knife in the other, with blood is running down his chest from several self-inflicted cuts. In this 2007 interview, James told us what it was like to be there to take this disturbing-yet-fascinating photograph—i.html

Theresa Kereakes – The streets in Queens, NY that bred the Weiss sisters and the Ganser sisters (AKA The Shangri-Las) were simply different than the streets in Tenafly, New Jersey, where pop star Leslie Gore grew up, and so where Leslie was all about “Boys, Boys, Boys” and would cry if she broke a nail, the Shangri-Las – dressed in black and hanging out with bikers – really convinced you that they knew about heartbreak, death and never being able to go home anymore. As independent a spirit as ever, in 2007, 40 years later, singer Mary Weiss released a new record on Norton Records called Dangerous Game which featured the single “Stop and Think It Over”. I think you’ll agree that photographer Theresa Kereakes’ pictures used to illustrate the single show Mary as we like to see her – un-posed, working hard and happy to be making music for her fans again (and, by the way, still looking cool in leather!)

Robert M. Knight – In 2006, after a string of posthumously-released recordings, Sony’s Legacy division put out a re-mastered and updated 16-track retrospective of guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music titled Real Deal: Greatest Hits – Vol. 1 and went to well-known SRV photographer and friend Robert M. Knight to find just the right image to grace the cover.  Robert was the only photographer on hand that fateful night in Wisconsin in 1990 when SRV was killed in a helicopter crash and took the last photos of SRV in performance, so when asked to reach back into his archives, it brought back a flood of memories – some happy and life-affirming; others quite painful. He’d choose an image for this package from another concert in 1990 where he’d caught SRV “in the light”, and Robert recounts some of the details of his relationship with Stevie Ray, the photos he took of him that fateful night, and more in this 2007 interview

Elliott Landy – A photo Elliott Landy shot at Bob Dylan’s Byrdcliff home in Woodstock, NY, in 1968 using infra-red film (originally, for an article in the Saturday Evening Post) was used on the cover of The Collection, Volume 4 – Nashville Skyline/New Morning/John Wesley Harding (Reissue), released in 2005 on Sony Records. In this 2007 interview, Elliott shares some of the details of what it was like to successfully work with a subject known for his nervousness in front of the camera

Interview #2 – Everyone who was part of “the 60’s generation” knows this particular Elliott Landy photo of Bob Dylan – used on the cover of 1969’s Nashville Skyline – so much so that, in order to provide visitors to their “Summer of Love – Art of the Psychedelic Era” exhibition in 2007, the Whitney Museum of American Art chose this image as the principal illustration for the fold-out handout given to attendees during the show. And why not? To many, this photo of Bob Dylan at his home in Woodstock represents the mood of the era where, as Elliott puts it, “it reflects the love we were all seeking to find through making the world a better place”—n.html

Simon Larbalestier – The pairing of the influential Boston-based band the Pixies with their photographer-of-choice Simon Larbalestier on their 1989 release Doolittle serves to show how a successful pairing of artistic and musical talent can produce a truly compelling package. This record was also the first where the design team – including Larbalestier and the fine graphic artist/designer Vaughan Oliver – had access to some of the themes that would be featured in the new record’s music and so, with these clues, they set about to imagine the appropriate visual representations of the band’s new music

Bob Minkin – Beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to this day, the Grateful Dead have made good use of their archives by releasing three series of live concert recordings, launched in 1993 and  named Dick’s Picks for Grateful Dead archivist Dick Latvala, who personally worked with the band members to select the shows for the series. The band also chose a long-time fan, artist & photographer Bob Minkin, to create the look of the last 11 volumes of the Dick’s Picks series. How this opportunity for a Deadhead to leave a lasting mark on the products for his favorite band came about is the subject of this 2008 interview

Stephen Paley – The front cover imagery for Sly & The Family Stone’s 1971 album There’s A Riot Goin’ On was produced by photographer Stephen Paley who, in an unusual twist on the role of image-maker for a musical act, was also hired on to be the band’s A&R liaison with their record label (Epic Records). How this rather unique relationship produced the memorable cover for this even more-memorable recording is detailed in this interview, so if you’re ready to take a peek behind the scenes of this complicated family affair…

Mick Rock – Mick Rock’s cover photo for Queen’s 1974 recording Queen II has the distinction of being an image that both served to establish the band’s unique “class act” image and, later on, provided the setting and inspiration for the video production that convinced record labels and music fans that “the music video” could be much more than simply “promotional”

Jerry Schatzberg – In 1967, The Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper’s record represented what was “in vogue” at the time, so composer/guitar genius/satirist Frank Zappa and his crew felt that it was important to use that record’s newly-famous imagery as a starting point for a parody cover they’d feature on their own release that year, titled We’re Only In It for the Money. Famed photographer and (film-maker) Jerry Schatzberg was called in to aid in this “homage to the collage” of Sir Peter Blake and Michael Cooper, creating the first of what would be many parodies we’d see over the years

Vic Singh – As it was that Barrett – Since Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter and singer Syd Barrett was also quite fond of LSD, it only made sense that their first full-length effort, 1967’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, would employ new technologies to craft “spacey” songs and experimental musical tracks. London photographer Vic Singh has the distinction of having shot the trippy image that turned out to be the only one that would feature the band (including the soon-to-be-sacked Barrett). Vic, too, was interested in creating something unusual (and “psychedelic”) for this commission, and the result was an image that represented the “vibe” of the time exceptionally well

Stephen Stickler – The release of Korn’s 1994 debut album (Korn) also established a new genre called “nu-metal” that showed the way for a number of bands who all wanted to give skate/surf kids the high-speed, beat-driven adrenalin rush that they weren’t getting from Seattle’s “grunge” bands. While Korn’s music is often filled with a sense of dark humor, the front/back cover shots for this record did not tickle everyone’s funny bone. Brought in to use his artistic and photographic talents to develop these stunningly creepy images, photographer Stephen Stickler recounts what went in to making this memorable work of art

Paul Till – Back in 2008, I sought out and interviewed the creator of the iconic cover image for Bob Dylan’s 1975 classic Blood On The Tracks, that being Ontario, Canada-based photographer Paul Till – to learn his story about “the making of” that fascinating snapshot. The story is particularly interesting in that – in the days before Photoshop – it was the “art” of photography and experimental film processing that produced one-of-a-kind images like the one we’ll talk about today

Nitin Vadukul – When Sony/Epic Records and Sharon Osbourne asked photographer Nitin Vadukul to come up with an image for the cover of Ozzy’s 2001 record Down To Earth, the guidance he was given was to “think dark” (he is the Master of Darkness, isn’t he?). Having photographed a wide range of other artists (from Radiohead and Moby to Korn, as well as Dr. Dre and Eminem), you would think that Nitin would have been prepared to deal with the imagined extremes of such a photo session, but as you’ll read in this 2008 interview, he found himself caught off guard by one aspect of Ozzy’s personality that shaped the entire creative process—o.html

W.A. Williams – Writing an earlier interview about an album cover for the late guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan introduced me to another fine photographer who was part of the SRV “inner circle” – W.A. Williams (aka “The Reverend Billy Rose”, a fine performer on his own right), from Cincinnati, OH. Well, after visiting W.A.’s web site, I knew that I’d need to do an article on W.A. and, arguably, his best-known image – his portrait not of the musician, but of the musician’s favorite instrument, known to fans as “Number One” (or “#1”) used on the cover of Sony Music’s 1996 CD/DVD A Tribute To Stevie Ray Vaughan

Neil Zlozower – Beginning his career as a glorified fan, photographer Neil Zlozower (aka “Zloz”) spent as much time as possible in Hollywood record shops and concerts – bringing with him a camera that he and his father bought in an East L.A. pawn shop and using phony backstage passes to gain entry. Since then, Zloz has gone on to become one of the most sought-after photographers in the business. He met guitarist Zakk Wylde when he first joined Ozzy Osbourne’s band in the late 1980’s and so when he was approached to shoot the soon-to-be-controversial cover for Black Label Society’s 2006 release Shot To Hell, he knew that he’d be in for quite a ride