In a world of brittle CDs and anonymous digital downloads, it is easy to forget the cultural immensity that was the LP, and indeed the iconic LP album cover.
Although not exactly synonymous with our contemporary minimalistic products of plastic convenience, LPs distil a precious, tactile experience; a perfect confluence of musical and visual brilliance which can’t help but deliver a nostalgic pang to even the stoniest of digital hearts.
A turntable is one of those undeniably irresistible objects, an eternal fetish of all true music lovers, if a little inconvenient as a portable music device down the gym. But who would exchange that initial booming scratch of the needle, the unique warmth of a real record, for bulging washboard abs anyway? Not I, but I digress.
In honour of all things analogue, this is a celebration of just some of the most striking LP covers that have become just as famous and desirable as the music that they represent. From their humble origins as mere protective sleeves, album covers quickly became a powerful symbol of an artist’s musical aspirations and evolved into important visual and cultural artefacts in their own right.
Think Andy Warhol’s wonderful big yellow banana print on The Velvet’s brilliant debut album ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ which invited you to ‘Peel slowly and see’ to reveal a naked pink banana beneath. I’m not even going to comment on the symbolism.
And who can deny the iconic power of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ LP designed by the illustrious Storm Thorgeson; the striking image of a light-refracting prism that embodies so much of that album’s undeniable class and musical experimentation. With such unbeatable artwork, and a beautiful collection of all-inclusive posters and stickers, that LP simply could not fail.
From the iconic to the darkly surreal, The Rolling Stones’ famously uncanny ‘Let it Bleed’ LP displays a brilliantly bizarre sculpture of a clock, a pizza, a tyre and a sickly neon cake in an improbably droll balancing act. Not many people are aware of the fantastic fact that Delia Smith actually made that cake. Rock and Roll.
And what would rock and roll be without a bit of rebellion? And what says rebellion and disorder better than smashing a guitar live on stage, as on The Clash’s exultant ‘London Calling’ LP cover, or the iconic flaming Zeppelin going down in smoke on Led Zeppelin’s debut album? What larks. And how on earth would we be able to mock the dubious style of those hysterical has-beens without proper glossy 12” documentary evidence? (I strongly urge you all to check out Devastatin’ Dave, ‘The Turntable Slave’).
The golden age, when album artwork was inseparable from the music itself, was the time when music was truly at its most complete and sensual; so ditch those MP3s, befriend an elderly relative in possession of a gramophone and treat yourself to some real aural nourishment, whilst laughing at some obscenely outdated facial hair.