Early '60s album covers
by Pat Jacobs
Early '60s album covers were pretty much a
straightforward thing; you either had the singer or
group in a nice pose, or sometimes dancing.
Several of the early Motown albums often featured a
picture or illustration conveying the title track, not an actual
picture of the group or singer. I understand that this
was deliberately done by Berry Gordy in order to gain
mainstream appeal for his acts", recalled Pamela
"You would also see lovely female models dressed
nicely or romantic couples on the covers of most of
the 'beautiful music' albums. And sometimes you would
come across one where the female model was in a rather
provocative or 'racy' pose, shall we say, for the
'lounge music' albums."
"I remember the album cover for the 'Love Me Or Leave
Me' soundtrack that my mom had. Doris Day was dressed
in a shimmering blue gown, her hair in a poodle cut, I
think. The dress had a side slit, which showed off
Day's legs (The woman had nice gams). She looked
beautiful!" I liked the Frank Sinatra covers my mom
had as well; He always looked so cool."
"My aunt had a couple of Chubby Checker albums; He
always seemed to be in a dancing pose. My aunt also
had The Marvelettes' 'Please Mr. Postman' (a mailbox
on the cover) and The Miracles' 'Mickey's Monkey' (a
giant gorilla or ape on the cover) LPs, both Motown
acts. Now buying LPs was a rare occurrence for her;
most teens at this time were into the singles only,
and my aunt was no exception. She had TONS of them".
"You see, most rock and roll albums at that time were
basically 'filler' material. Out of 10-12 songs, you
would get one or two big hits; the rest would be the
B-sides and anything else that could be slapped on,
whether the singer or group could really sing the song
or not. A rock and roll album wasn't taken seriously
then", Foster said. " 'Good music' was Frank Sinatra,
Johnny Mathis, or Nat King Cole and more care was
taken in regards to song selection and arrangements
for these type of artists (I also happen to like
Sinatra, Mathis, Cole, and others like them. I grew up
listening to both 'good music' AND 'rock and roll. ) "
And then...1964 happened...and The Beatles. The album
cover would never be the same. Even from their early
ones ("Meet The Beatles", "A Hard Day's Night",
"Beatles For Sale", and "Help!") the art design was
very unique and eye-catching. But in my humble
opinion, "Rubber Soul" was the first Beatle album
cover that was a total art form, still visually
striking today (Actually, most of their albums were
and remain so). "Revolver" (This was designed by the
group's old friend from the Hamburg days, Klaus
Voorman) and "The Beatles (White Album)" were other
landmarks. The "Yellow Submarine" and "Abbey Road"
covers were very good too (I also loved the design of
the two Anthology covers that were created much later.
It told the group's story and history beautifully!)
But "the one that changed everything" was the concept
album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It's the
most famous album cover of this decade and possibly in
rock history. There simply wasn't anything like it
before (It spawned several imitations, most notably
"We're Only In It For The Money" by Frank Zappa and
The Mothers Of Invention-intended as a parody of Sgt.
Pepper-but this cover's also outstanding!).
Sgt. Pepper's cover was shot at Chelsea Manor Studios,
Flood Street, in London on Thursday, March 30th, 1967.
Its "guests" included: Mae West, Lenny Bruce, W.C.
Fields, Edgar Allen Poe, Fred Astaire, Huntz Hall (The
Bowery Boys), Bob Dylan, Aldous Huxley, Dylan Thomas,
Dion (di Mucci), Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Laurel
and Hardy, Karl Marx, H.G. Wells, Stuart Sutcliffe,
Marlon Brando, Oscar Wilde, Tom Mix, Tyrone Power, Dr.
David Livingstone, Johnny Weismueller, Stephen Crane,
George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll, Lawrence Of
Arabia, Sonny Listen, Shirley Temple, Albert Einstein,
Marlene Dietrich, and the early Beatles, among others.
In 1967, for the first time, albums began to outsell
singles. 61 LPs (long playing records) accounted for
over $1 million in sales. By 1968, 75 LPs went over $1
million in sales. Albums were now viewed as artistic
And of course, there were covers that had to be pulled
and/or redesigned due to their controversial matter
(Hey, this is rock and roll, isn't it?).
The Beatles' original cover of "Yesterday ,,, And Today"
(1966) featured the group in butcher smocks or
jackets, with strips of raw meat and dolls' heads and
bodies strewn between and around them. Was this
supposed to symbolize something? I don't know. Perhaps
the group was just being anti-establishment. Perhaps
But nobody got it (maybe the cover designer and group
did); DJs and record promoters began complaining and
the album was pulled temporarily (Some people were
able to buy the original before this happened) and
re-emerged with a new cover. This time the group posed
in regular clothes, with an open truck; John's sitting
on the trunk's top, George and Ringo are standing in
back of it, and Paul's sitting or kneeling inside the
trunk. That's it.
This controversy may have been only in the States.
Two years later (1968), John Lennon and Yoko Ono
created an even bigger flap by their album cover. Why?
"Unfinished Music: Two Virgins" featured the duo stark
naked. Totally. Full frontal nudity on the cover, full
butt nudity on the back. Never before in the annals of
rock and roll had so much been revealed to so many.
Some stores wouldn't carry this album; some places
did, but it was wrapped in brown paper (and I don't
know if this was just in the States or elsewhere as
"Electric Ladyland" by Jimi Hendrix (1968) also
featured nudity. On the original cover, there were
various naked ladies strewn about against a black
background. (I understand there was a mixup concerning
the artwork for this album. I honestly don't know if
the "nudie girls" theme was the INTENDED cover.)
Other notable album covers were:
"The Who Sell Out" and "Tommy"-The Who, "People",
"Color Me Barbra", My Name Is Barbra", My Name Is
Barbra, Two", and "A Happening In Central Park"-Barbra
Streisand, "Cheap Thrills"-Big Brother and The Holding
Company, "Gettin' Ready", "The Temptations Sing
Smokey", and "I Wish It Would Rain"-The Temptations,
"Bo Diddley Is A Gunslinger", "Bo Diddley Is A
Lumberjack" and "Surfin' With Bo Diddley", "Bringing
It All Back Home"-Bob Dylan, "Whipped Cream and Other
Delights"-Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, "Supremes
A Go-Go", "I Hear A Symphony", and "Diana Ross and The
Supremes' Greatest Hits", "West Side Story"
soundtrack, "The First Family"-Vaughn Meader, "Boots",
"Sugar", "How Does That Grab You?", and "Nancy In
London"-Nancy Sinatra, "Blooming Hits"-Paul Mauriat,
"Time/Peace-Greatest Hits"-The Rascals, "Keep On
Pushing"-The Impressions, "King and Queen"-Otis
Redding and Carla Thomas, "Switched-On Bach"-Walter
Carlos and Benjamin Workman, "The Ice Man Cometh" and
"Ice On Ice"-Jerry Butler, "Who's Afraid of Virginia
Woolf"-Jimmy Smith, "Going To A Go-Go"-The Miracles,
"Ole' " and "Heavenly"-Johnny Mathis, most of Frank
Sinatra' s 1950s and '60s album covers, such as "In
The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning", My Son, The
Folksinger, "My Son, The Celebrity", and "My Son, The
Nut"-Allan Sherman, "Led Zeppelin 1", "Music From Big
Pink"-The Band, "Beggars Banquet", "Let It Bleed",
"Aftermath", "December's Children (And Everybody's)",
and "Their Satanic Majesties Request"-The Rolling
Stones, "Live At The Apollo"-James Brown, "From Elvis
In Memphis", and "Surfin' Safari".
more articles by Pat Jacobs
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