As we’ve mentioned elsewhere in this blog, album covers can be works of art in their own right. But for every Dark Side of the Moon or Velvet Underground and Nico, there are covers that make you wonder what the artists and/or record companies were thinking. Here are five of the strangest covers ever to grace a release by a major recording artist.
Satan Is Real by the Louvin Brothers
Released in 1959, Satan Is Real reflects this influential country duo’s staunch Baptist faith and features some of their finest recordings. But as beautiful as the album’s music is, its cover looks like something out of a demented Looney Tunes cartoon.
Satan Is Real’s front cover shows the brothers dressed in white and singing amidst fire and brimstone as a cartoon Satan stands in the background. The image is so garish that even hard-core believers might chuckle.
Street Legal by Bob Dylan
The 1978 album’s cover photo of Bob Dylan standing on a street corner is pretty unremarkable. What earns Street Legal a spot on this list is this back cover, which features an image you’ll never erase from your brain once you see it.
What is the image, you ask? A high-contrast, black-and-white photo of Dylan wearing a gaudy, ready-for-Vegas jumpsuit. You see, Dylan had become enamored of Elvis Presley and Neil Diamond’s live shows and wanted to emulate them.
This resulted not only in ill-advised costume choices but in glossy, big-band versions of folk classics like “Blowin’ In the Wind.” That might qualify as the biggest left turn in a career filled with them.
Take Me Home by Cher
This 1979 album marked Cher’s short-lived foray into disco music, but its cover art looks like something from Heavy Metal or Conan the Barbarian.
The front cover for Take Me Home features a painting of Cher wearing a metal bikini that leaves very little to the imagination.
The Best of Swamp Dogg: 13 Prime Weiners, Everything On It! by Swamp Dogg
Jerry Williams Jr. aka Swamp Dogg has earned a substantial cult following for his eccentric, politically-charged fusion of rock and soul. His albums have had so many bizarre covers that Spin devoted a whole article to them in 2013.
Although it has some stiff competition, the top prize for weirdness goes to the cover for this 1982 best-of. It features Dogg tucked inside a giant hot dog bun and covered with mustard, onions and (gasp!) ketchup.
As if this weren’t strange enough, Dogg claimed that he had the image in mind before he knew the album’s title!
Appetite for Destruction by Guns N’ Roses
Guns N’ Roses’ 1987 debut was a huge hit, but its original cover art was so lurid and outlandish that several stores refused to stock it at first. Appetite for Destruction featured a painting by Underground artist Robert Williams of a grotesque, multi-limbed creature with knives for teeth that’s apparently about to destroy a robot that has just raped a woman.
As off-putting as this image was, it’s almost tasteful compared to lead singer Axl Rose’s initial concept. He wanted to use a photo of the space shuttle Challenger exploding as Appetite for Destruction’s cover, but Geffen refused.
Want to see more bizarre (or at least interesting) covers? Check 'em out when you buy vinyl records online at VLU!
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