If you ask most record collectors why they buy vinyl, they’d probably give two reasons. First, vinyl sounds better than CDs or digital files do. Second, they like having the album covers.
Album covers can be works of art unto themselves. Sgt. Pepper, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Sketches of Spain, Born to Run, Nevermind—as soon as you say their names, the album cover flashes through your mind.
However, certain record covers stand in a category all their own. Their designers put an extra little bit of creativity into them, making the albums genuine collector’s items. Here are some of the most unique and striking album covers ever designed.
The Velvet Underground and Nico by the Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground and Nico sold poorly when it came out in 1967, but it’s recognized today as one of the greatest and most influential rock records of all time. Over the years, the album’s Andy Warhol-designed cover has become as iconic as its songs.
Early copies of the album feature a sticker of a bright yellow banana peel on the front. When you peel it away, you can see a picture of pink banana underneath it.
Making these covers took a lot of time and money. Those expenses may not have paid off immediately, but its inventive cover art makes an original copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico quite valuable today.
The Andromeda Strain soundtrack by Gil Mellé
The soundtrack to the 1971 sci-fi film The Andromeda Strain is special for a few reasons. First of all, it’s one of the first scores for a major Hollywood film composed entirely of electronic music. Second, the record itself is shaped like a hexagon instead of the standard circle. Not only that, its silver-foil, hexagon-shaped packaging folds out like a metal flower bud.
If you can’t get your hands on an original copy of this, you might be able to buy one of the limited-edition reissues that came out on Record Store Day 2017.
Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones
Sticky Fingers came out when The Rolling Stones were peaking as one of the greatest rock and roll bands in the world. It followed 1969’s Let It Bleed and preceded 1972’s Exile on Main St.
Not only does Sticky Fingers feature the hit songs “Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses,” it also has one of the most imitated covers in rock history: a black-and-white crotch shot of an unknown guy wearing jeans (Andy Warhol came up with this idea too). When the album came out in 1971, the jeans had an actual zipper and flaps. You could pull the zipper down, open the flaps and see a picture of cotton briefs underneath.
The zipper actually created problems with initial pressings of Sticky Fingers: Retailers complained that it damaged the record.
Metal Box by Public Image Ltd.
Released in late 1979, Public Image Ltd.’s second album is arguably the best post-Sex Pistols music that John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) has ever made. Its packaging is as distinctive as its experimental, dub-influenced music.
The record originally came out as three 12” singles in a 16mm metal film canister (hence the title Metal Box).
Blackstar by David Bowie
Released two days before David Bowie’s death in January 2016, Blackstar immediately earned praise as a powerful final statement from the beloved rock star. In the months after it came out, people uncovered a variety of surprises hidden in the album and its packaging. These included a sleeve that glows blue when you place it under a blacklight and a gatefold that shows a field of stars after you expose it to sunlight.
Leave it to the Starman to blow fans’ minds from beyond the grave.
And now that it's so easy to buy vinyl records online, check out our selection of awesome albums and cool record covers to boot!
Share this post