SD had a good chat this week to Melbournebased artist and author Graeme Base, creator of books such as and who has realised a lifelong ambition by designing his first album cover, the lavish illustration on the front of the Cat Empire’s just released Base had ambitions as an album designer when he was at university in the 1970s but never got the chance until the Cat Empire asked him. It’s a wonderful piece of work featuring, for the first time in the band’s career, a cat, this one adorned with a crown plus the Cat Empire logo and surrounded by an assortment of musical instruments. What Base’s work brings to mind, however, is the fact the album cover could be under threat if the digital age renders the album itself a thing of the past. This is not a new theory. It has been discussed at length in the 10 years iTunes has existed; in fact, the death of the album was predicted a few hours after the explosion of Napster. Yet so far the album has survived, mainly because —digital downloads or streaming or not — no one can think of a better way for an artist to market a new product in a way that fits well with the other aspects of a music career, such as touring and being on the internet, the telly and the radio. Indeed there remains a proliferation of exciting artwork out there for the release of new material, all of it accessible on a much wider range of platforms than before there were platforms. Still, it’s hard to imagine that the digital image can have quite as much impact or cultural longevity as some of the iconic designs that featured on a 12-inch piece of vinyl back in the day. So, for no other reason than it could be fun, I’ve put together a list of my 10 favourite album covers, all of them from a long time ago.There’s no particular criteria attached to them. All of them hark back to an era when the album cover was much more of a cultural artefact than it is today. Some are artistic, certainly, but others strike a chord simply because of their place in the heart for a variety of reasons and not always because of the music contained within. If anyone out there has a favourite album cover and a good explanation of why they chose it, perhaps they could email me on the subject at the address below.
You can see an extended and illustrated version of the list, with a short explanation on each album cover, on our website at www.theaustralian.com.au/arts. Here it is: 1. (1979) — The Clash
Graeme Base’s Cat Empire creation