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 Foster.
"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 statements.
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 not.
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 well).
"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".
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