The Rolling Stones: great album cover, 50 years old today

The Rolling Stones, great album cover

The Rolling Stones LP, (c) The Decca Record Company Limited, London 1964

The Rolling Stones released their first UK album, also called The Rolling Stones, on 17 April 1964 – fifty years ago today,

Many good judges regard The Rolling Stones on the Decca label as the finest debut LP in all of rockpop. I tend to agree.

The Rolling Stones might consist of nearly all R&B/blues cover versions, but so what? In early 1964, the Rolling Stones were still an R&B/blues covers band.

But The Rolling Stones album also has Tell Me, the first Jagger-Richards composition released by the band. It’s a classic ballad, an under-rated pop standard. And the album’s raw production aesthetic is ideal for the material.

The Rolling Stones: great album cover

The Rolling Stones album cover, back (c) The Decca Record Company Limited, London, 1964

The Rolling Stones LP was recorded at Regent Sound Studios in Denmark St, London W1, in a space I used to frequent far too often after it had become Helter Skelter, the world-class rock music bookshop, sadly now defunct.

The album cover of The Rolling Stones LP matches the quality of the music: it’s one of the finest album covers ever created.

The absence from the front of the album cover of the band’s name and the album title – indeed, the absence of any text apart from the Decca logo – was a challenging, if commercially risky, move.

The simplicity of the front cover – the five Rolling Stones shot in muted colour against a black background, lit dimly from the right side – presented the band as slightly menacing, a bit dodgy, too hairy for the prevailing fashion.

Welcome to the anti-Beatles!

Maybe unwittingly, the positioning of Brian Jones and Mick Jagger in the album cover shot set them up as the band’s joint leaders, helped by three other blokes in the background. With hindsight, you can foresee trouble ahead.

Kudos to Nicholas Wright who designed the album cover and shot the photographs.

The photos above are of my cherished vinyl copy: The Rolling Stones album has never been released on CD, unless you count a recent Japanese import.

The nearest CD is the version of England’s Newest Hit Makers The Rolling Stones, released later, as a US LP. It bastardised the album cover art by adding text over the moody photograph and tampered with the track list, substituting Not Fade Away for I Need You Baby (Mona).

The Rolling Stones is one of my favourite pieces of rock art, certainly my preferred album cover.

What’s yours?

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