It wasn’t that long before the total dominance of the iPod and MP3’s that vinyl was king. Right up until the mid 80’s, before CD’s became popular, the 12 inch vinyl disc, or “LP” as it was often called, was the way most music was manufactured, distributed, and sold around the world.
Along with the 12 inch vinyl LP, the album cover for these behemoth discs offered a large swath of printable area for both artistic expression and branding power. Some examples of this branding power, such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, or the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, are so iconic and so compelling that even people who were not born when these albums were released will immediately recognize the band and the brand behind the images.
The very best examples of these iconic covers had artistic merit, and communicated some ideas about the music contained inside. They also were a big reason why these LP’s became best sellers.
So what can we say about the album covers that were not so iconic? Perhaps they are iconic in their own brand of sheer “badness”?
You be the judge. Here are the 10 Worst Album Cover Designs of All Time, in no particular order:
10. Saveta Jovanovi? – Lažno Je, Lažno, Sve Što Je Tvoje
Yugoslavia’s Saveta Jovanovi? was a style maven of the late 60’s and early 70’s. I can’t decide what is the worst thing about this album cover: the clash between her dress and the chair’s upholstery, the awkward position of her left hand, the horrible hairdo, or the super hairy legs. I’m going to go with the super hairy legs. That’s my final answer.
9. The Minister’s Quartet – Let Me Touch Him
In the wake of the Jerry Sandusky trial, and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia case, it’s a very good thing that The Ministers Quartet didn’t just release this album. The picture is OK, and if you simply looked at the title on its own merits, that’s not too terrible, either. But taken as a whole, Let Me Touch Him is just damn creepy, if you ask me. Perhaps this explains why I didn’t want to go to church when I was a boy.
8. John Bult – Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday
In an effort to show everyone that images of suggested pedophilia are not limited to the man-boy variety, we have Julie’s Sixteenth Birthday, the seminal work by Louisiana’s John Bult. Either the man in this image is Julie’s father telling her she can’t have her driver’s license, or he’s her second cousin informing her that she has now reached the age on consent, and it’s time for them to finally get hitched up legal-like. I really hope it’s about her driver’s license.
7. Clifton Chenier – I’m Here
Next we have yet another Louisiana musician, Zydeco legend Clifton Chenier. It really seems like Louisiana has a strong tradition of horrible album covers, doesn’t it? Chenier’s 1982 album I’m Here was released at the peak of his popularity. Unfortunately, he died a few years later at age 62. Doctors have been saying for years that poor oral hygiene is a health hazard. Maybe the full title to this album should have been I’m Here…to See the Periodontist.
6. The Frivolous Five – Sour Cream & Other Delights
In 1965, Herb Alpert released Whipped Cream & Other Delights featuring a fetching young lady covered in whipped cream on the cover. Thinking this was a good idea, in 1966 The Frivolous Five took the concept to a new low with Sour Cream & Other Delights. Reportedly the album received more criticism for the musical ineptitude inside the cover than it did for the cover itself. I also feel terrible for the person who had the slather these ladies with sour cream. But I think I feel even worse for the person who had to clean up after the photo shoot.
5. Heino – Liebe Mutter
The German-born Heinz Georg Kramm, better known as Heino, is known for his platinum hair, his booming bass vocals, and his ever-present glasses, due to severe exophthalmoses-a rare condition which causes the eyes to bulge out of their sockets. His music has been described as “Skiffle on acid”, whatever that sounds like. It’s hard to comprehend that this guy has sold over 50 million records. I wonder how many of those record buyers contracted exophthalmoses themselves after realizing they had wasted their money on this album?
4. Bruno Maltise – Heaven’s Hitman
Bruno Maltise is a Chicago-based Christian musician, so he probably does know something about hit men. I’m really hoping the man in this picture is some sort of hit man, because if it is a picture of Bruno himself, I don’t think many people would go to see his concerts, and there would certainly be very few groupies around to hang out with him after the show. The image on the cover of this album is very memorable, no matter who it is.
3. The Faith Tones – Jesus Use Me
I have some serious concerns about the Faith Tones. The hairdos are horrible, no doubt. But if you look past the hair, and take a close look at them, there is something very disturbing. Imagine each of them with a crew cut, and it becomes abundantly clear that they look like dudes. And they are not very handsome dudes, either. Then there is the title Jesus Use Me. I think that is just wrong.
2. Mike Crain – God’s Power
It really does seem like Louisiana and Religion have cornered the market for terrible album cover design. Karate-chopping Baptist minister Mike Crain continues this disturbing trend with God’s Power. With his wife singing, and accompanied by piano, Crain used to travel the country performing acts of daring-do such as breaking 10 inches of concrete block with his head. It was reported that he would sometimes perform his act in front of as many as 5000 people. I wonder how many of those people had tried to break concrete with their heads before attending his concerts?
1. Davy Graham – Hat
Believe it or not, Englishman Davy Graham was considered one of the most influential folk musicians of all time. His finger-picking guitar style inspired Paul Simon, Jimmy Page, and a host of other more famous musicians. In 1969, Graham released Hat. Unfortunately for Graham, record buyers had difficulty seeing past the huge sombrero on the cover, and the LP sold poorly. Graham went into seclusion for the next several years while his hat was used to provide shelter for a large group of homeless boys.
In many ways, we are blessed that the CD and MP3 came along, and dramatically reduced the amount of printable real estate that 12 inch record covers once had.