Twelve of the Most Memorable Album Covers Ever

Dale —  April 21, 2009 — 11 Comments

I’m not sure about you, but I haven’t walked into a CD store in years! Since digital media has become so accessible, it really doesn’t make sense to go and pay a premium for the same things you can either find online or download digitally.

This got me thinking. And when trying to remember what I missed about CD stores, it came to me like a well trained dog! Covers! CD covers to be more specific!

Burnt into my memory for eternity, I thought I would spill the beans and give you a list of the twelve most memorable album covers ever… the ones you would see in every music store every time!

Legendary Album Covers

Some are legendary albums, others you might not have heard, regardless, you’ve seen them ALL!

I’ve ordered them alphabetically and found a few facts about each one to feed your curiosity!

Jamiroquai: Travelling Without Moving

Jamiroquai Travelling Without Moving

Released in 1996, this is the third album by Jamiroquai and features the international hit single “Virtual Insanity”. Around this time, Jay Kay’s love of sportscars reached a peak, as reflected by the Ferrari-esque logo adorning the album cover and engine noises on the title track. The RIAA certified Travelling Without Moving Platinum on Nov 3, 1997, denoting 1 million shipments in the United States. One also can’t forget “Cosmic Girl” – what a legendary track!

Led Zeppelin: Iv

Led Zeppelin Four

The untitled fourth album by the English rock band was released on 8 November 1971. It has no official title printed anywhere on the album, and is generally referred to as Led Zeppelin IV after the band’s previous three numbered albums. Upon release it was a huge commercial and critical success with most of the album’s songs being staples on classic rock radio stations, including “Black Dog” and “Stairway to Heaven”. The album is one of the best-selling albums in history at 37 million units. It has shifted over 23 million units in the United States alone, putting it third on the all-time list and in 2003, the album was ranked 66th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

LIVE: Throwing Copper

Live Throwing Copper

Released in 1994, Throwing Copper hit number 1 on The Billboard 200 just one year later. The cover art is a painting by Scottish artist Peter Howson titled Sisters of Mercy and to date, the album has sold over eight million copies in the US alone. The lead singer of Live, Ed Kowalczyk, was asked in an Australian radio interview in 1997 if R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe had sung the backing vocals at the end of the song “Pillar of Davidson.” Kowalczyk laughed and replied, “No, that’s just me trying as hard as I can to sound like Michael Stipe!”

Metallica: Metallica AKA The Black Album

Metallica Black

This was the fifth studio album by the heavy metal band Metallica, released August 12, 1991. It features some of Metallica’s most popular songs, “Enter Sandman”, “The Unforgiven”, “Nothing Else Matters” , “Wherever I May Roam” and “Sad but True”. It spent four consecutive weeks at number one on Billboard 200. Metallica is the band’s best-selling album to date, with over 15 million copies sold in the United States and over 22 million copies worldwide. The album cover features only the band’s logo, angled against the upper left corner, and a coiled snake (derived from the Gadsden flag) on the bottom right corner, both in a dark shade of gray in order to be made out against the black background. The motto of the Gadsden flag, “Don’t Tread on Me”, is also the title of a song featured on the album.

Michael Jackson: Dangerous

Michael Jackson Dangerous

Dangerous is the eighth album by Michael Jackson, released on November 26, 1991. It became his second album to debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, where it spent the next four consecutive weeks. In the space of 17 years, the record has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, with 7 million shipments in the United States alone, making it a faster selling album than his previous record “Bad”. The album won one Grammy for Best Engineered Album. You all remember the “Black or White” music video right?

Mike Oldfield: Tubular Bells

Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells

Tubular Bells is the debut record album of English musician Mike Oldfield, released in 1973. The piece was later orchestrated and had two sequels in the 1990s, Tubular Bells II and III. Finally, the album was fully re-recorded an its 30th anniversary in 2003 as Tubular Bells 2003. It is to be re-released AGAIN by Mercury Records on 8 June 2009, with bonus material. The concept for the triangular bell on the album cover art originally came from the idea of a bell which had been destroyed. Oldfield had come up with this when he had dented the set of Tubular bells used to record the album when playing them. The “bent bell” image which we’ve all seen on the cover is also associated with Oldfield, even being used for the logo of his personal music company, Oldfield Music, Ltd.

Nirvana: Nevermind

Nirvana Nevermind

Nevermind is the second studio album by the American rock band, released on September 24, 1991. Nevermind was the group’s first release on Geffen Records as frontman Kurt Cobain sought to make music outside of the restrictive confines of the Seattle grunge scene, drawing influence from groups such as the Pixies and its use of loud/quiet song dynamics. Despite low commercial expectations by the band and its record label, Nevermind became a surprise success in late 1991, largely due to the popularity of its first single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. By January 1992 it had replaced Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts. The album has been certified ten times platinum (that means 10 million copies shipped) by the Recording Industry Association of America. Nevermind was responsible for bringing alternative rock to a large mainstream audience, and would subsequently be regarded by critics as one of the best rock albums of all time.

Pearl Jam: VS

Pearl Jam VS

Vs. is the second studio album by Pearl Jam, released on October 19, 1993 through Epic Records. Upon its release, Vs. set the record for most copies sold in a week, a record that has since been broken. Vs. occupied the number one spot on the Billboard 200 for five weeks, the longest duration for a Pearl Jam album and has been certified seven times platinum by the RIAA in the United States. The black and white picture on the album’s front cover is of a sheep from a farm in Hamilton, Montana.

Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd Dark Side off the Moon

The Dark Side of the Moon is a concept album by the English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, released in March 1973. It is the band’s most commercially successful release, is often considered to be their magnum opus and is frequently ranked by music critics as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time. Tracks include “Speak to Me”, “Money”, “Time”, “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Breath”. The prism design was inspired by a photograph that Storm Thorgeson (designer of all their album artworks) had seen in a brainstorming session. The Dark Side of the Moon became one of the best selling albums of all time being in the top 25 in the US, while in the UK it is the sixth best-selling album of all time. On 4 June 1998 the RIAA certified the album 15x platinum, denoting sales of fifteen million in the United States alone. Industry sources suggest that worldwide sales of the album total about forty million. Between 8,000–9,000 copies are sold each week, three decades after its initial release. According to the Wall Street Journal, although the album was released in 1973, it has sold 7.7 million copies since 1991 in the USA alone and continues to log 9,600 sales per week domestically. To this day, it occupies a prominent spot on Billboard’s Pop Catalogue Charts.

R.E.M: Automatic for the People

REM Automatic for the People

Automatic for the People is the eighth album by the American alternative rock band R.E.M., released in 1992 on Warner Bros. Records. The front cover of the album shows a greyed-out photograph of a Miami motel sign placed over an embossed image, which is also included inside the album’s booklet distorted on a white background. Automatic for the People yielded six singles over the course of 1992 and 1993: “Drive”, “Man on the Moon”, “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”, “Everybody Hurts”, “Nightswimming”, and “Find the River”. The album has been certified platinum four times in the United States, six times in the United Kingdom and three times in Australia. The album was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1993.

The Beatles: The Beatles AKA The White Album

The Beatles The White Album

The Beatles is the ninth official U.K. album and the fifteenth U.S. album by The Beatles, a double album released in 1968. It is more commonly known as The White Album as it has no text other than the band’s name on its plain white sleeve. The album was the first The Beatles undertook following the death of their manager Brian Epstein. In 1997, The Beatles was named the 10th greatest album of all time in a ‘Music of the Millennium’ poll conducted by HMV. The album was a major commercial success, spending a total of eight weeks at #1 in the UK and nine weeks at #1 in the United States. Total US sales are estimated at over 9.5 million copies. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, The Beatles is the tenth-best-selling album of all time in the United States. Small fact: Eric Claptop played the lead guitar on the song “While my Guitar Gently Weeps” for the Beatles.

U2: The Joshua Tree

U2 The Joshua Tree

The Joshua Tree is the fifth studio album by Irish rock band U2, released 9 March 1987 on Island Records. The Joshua Tree depicts the band’s fascination with America, but also its discontent with the foreign policy of the United States. This album increased the band’s stature “from heroes to superstars,” according to Rolling Stone. The album produced several hit singles, including “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “With or Without You”, and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, all of which remain radio staples. The Joshua Tree won Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Album of the Year in Grammy Awards of 1988. In 2003, the album was ranked number 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. The album is one of the world’s best-selling albums of all-time, having sold over 25 million copies. In 2007, a remastered version of the album was released to mark the 20th anniversary of its original release. The album cover photo was taken by Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn in December 1986. Corbijn later recounted the photo shoot in Death Valley, California; “This is the most serious set of shots I have taken of U2 and they became my most well-known photographs at the time. It was taken with a panoramic camera to take more of the landscapes in which was the main idea of the shoot: man and environment, the Irish in America.”

More Album Covers

Being limited to a list of only twelve, there were some that came REALLY close. If you think we missed the mark then tell us what you think below…


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Dale Imerman is an opinionated marketer, writer and connector of people. When he's not on a quest for autonomy you can find him helping businesses integrate their marketing and technology effectively. He's also a fan of great food, travelling and the finer things in life.

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11 responses to Twelve of the Most Memorable Album Covers Ever

  1. All of these are insanely memorable, there’s no doubt about that! Live – Throwing Copper, what a classic!

  2. Offspring – Smash should be in this list!

  3. Ah forgot about Live Throwing Copper, was just checking my CD rack and I’ve still got it! Awesome, awesome album.

  4. @flikdabean that was also a great album. The cover has that shocking red and yellow skeleton on it. Not something I would want to remember at night!

    @ChrisM Dude, there are some dodgy covers there, how’s the “guitar erection” and the chick on the toilet!!! LMFAO!

    @Sean Eveyrone should have that album stashed away somewhere!

    If I were stranded on an island and could only take 1 of these, I would go Pink Floyd all the way – it’s timeless!

  5. Another couple i could think of would be Korn : Follow The Leader and NOFX : Heavy Petting Zoo..

  6. Good list!

  7. Great list! With 8 covers at its core which hold no grounds for debate, but a couple of which I believe to be somewhat debatable. But I am not this blogs masterdebater, that’s Dales job. All that rigorous masterdebating he does all day…

    And as we’re all making our own recommendations here, i’d like to have seen ‘Dire Straits – Brothers in arms’ on the list.

  8. Hey Matt, Dire Straits would be a great album to add to the list! Perhaps I should do a second round?

  9. You rule for making all of these album covers 420×420 pixels! Don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I had to bring it up :)

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    [...] pioneered by the band. Sound effects including helicopters, the famous chiming clocks and gongs of Dark Side Of The Moon and many more, were whirled around massive arenas and stadiums using banks of loudspeakers [...]

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