LP cov­ers: Cool art and good for bed­room walls

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - INSIDE - Con­tact Shawn Ryan at mshawn­ryan@gmail.com.

Ever bought an al­bum just be­cause the cover was cool?

Strawbs’ 1977 al­bum, “Dead­lines,” shows a man float­ing up­side down in a phone booth filled with wa­ter in the mid­dle of the desert. Too cool not to buy, al­though the mu­sic isn’t all that mem­o­rable.

These days, down­loads are the rule, so the good- cover/ meh-mu­sic para­dox is not re­ally an is­sue. But with vinyl mak­ing some­thing of a come­back, per­haps the 12- by-12- inch sleeve will be­come rel­e­vant again, too.

It’s doubt­ful that any­one could tally up the num­ber of teenagers and col­lege-age stu­dents from 1970 to 1990 who dec­o­rated the walls of their bed­rooms or dorm rooms with al­bum cov­ers.

The 1970s had some of the best and most iconic cov­ers, which makes sense; it had some of the best and most iconic bands. The ’80s were no slouches when it came to bands and LP cov­ers, though. The ’90s had its share, al­though CDs had taken over by then and the roughly 6-inch by 5- inch case didn’t pro­vide the same artis­tic can­vas as an LP.

Hipg­no­sis may have been the best-known set of artists mak­ing al­bum cov­ers back in the day. Best- known be­cause, day in, day out, they were the best. Their work in­cluded Led Zep­pelin’s cov­ers from “Houses of the Holy” to “Coda,” Ge­n­e­sis’ “The Lamb Lies Down on Broad­way,” many cov­ers for UFO, Scor­pi­ons, Re­nais­sance and Peter Gabriel. The late Storm Thorg­er­son, co-founder of Hipg­no­sis, cre­ated all of Pink Floyd’s al­bum cov­ers from 1968 un­til 2007, in­clud­ing “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Wish You Were Here.”

Many of my fa­vorites are Hipg­no­sis work, but there are oth­ers, too.

UFO. “No Heavy Pet­ting.” Per­haps my fa­vorite cover of all and, yes, Hipg­no­sis. A woman fac­ing away, head slightly turned, a mon­key on her shoul­der and a cou­ple of clear, med­i­cal-look­ing tubes com­ing out Shawn Ryan

of her neck and into the mon­key’s chest. A tad weird, yes. A bit dis­turb­ing, oh heck yeah. And the al­bum it­self is pretty darned good, too.

Golden Ear­ring. “To the Hilt.” One mid­dle- age man, chains around him, ly­ing on the rail­road tracks on the cover. Un­der­wa­ter with a con­crete over­coat, sharks swim­ming around in an­other. Fall­ing from a build­ing on a third. Strik­ing.

Yes. “Tales from To­po­graphic Oceans.” A dou­ble-truck al­bum that, when opened, shows a scene of fish swim­ming through the air, an Aztec tem­ple far in the back and, if you look closely at the rocks in the cen­ter of the cover, the same or­ganic air­plane that was on the cover of “Frag­ile,” now cov­ered by plants.

Rain­bow. “Ris­ing.” A huge hand hold­ing a rain­bow is shov­ing it­self out of the sea, waves crash­ing around it. Im­pos­si­ble to deny the sheer oomph! of it.

Frank Zappa. “Weasels Ripped My Flesh.” Once you see it, you won’t for­get it. Whether that’s good or bad de­pends on you.

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