Tag Archives: album covers

Top Rolling Stones album covers: official bootlegs

Rolling Stones album covers rank among the strongest images in rock art.

You even find high quality album cover artwork among the lesser-known Rolling Stones “official bootlegs”.

The Rolling Stones Archive of officially authorised live sets has a couple of inspired covers. My favourite is the album cover for Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981).

Rolling Stones official bootleg 1981

Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981), Rolling Stones Archive

Hampton Coliseum (Live 1981) competes with better-known mass market releases such as The Rolling Stones or Out Of Our Heads (UK) for the accolade of top Rolling Stones album cover.

The Brussels Affair ’73 has long been a favourite bootleg recording among Rolling Stones aficionados.  The official release, the cleaned-up 2011 version, mixing both the fabled shows at la Forêt Nationale, also has a striking cover, though some might balk at its adolescent smuttiness.

Rolling Stones official bootleg, 1973

The Brussels Affair ’73, Rolling Stones Archive

The album covers of the other releases in the series – LA Friday (Live 1975), Live At The Tokyo Dome (1990), and Light The Fire (Toronto Phoenix Club, 2005) – are noteworthy, but lack the impact of the Hampton and Brussels albums.

You can download all these albums – and their fine album cover artwork – at low cost, from the Rolling Stones Archive

Top Rolling Stones album covers: the next three

The top three Rolling Stones album covers – The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup and Out Of Our Heads (UK version), reviewed here last week – packaged great music. The albums are as pleasing to listen to as the album covers are to gaze upon. By contrast, the next best three Rolling Stones album covers – Between the Buttons, It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll and Dirty Work – contain weak albums.

Top Rolling Stones album covers #4 Between The Buttons

Between The Buttons, Rolling Stones, photograph by Gered Mankowitz

Top Rolling Stones album covers: Between The Buttons, ABKCO 2002 CD version, photograph by Gered Mankowitz

Gered Mankowitz’s cover photograph of Between The Buttons magically captures a bleary-eyed dawn on Primrose Hill, north London. It must have been one hell of a night before. If only Between The Buttons sounded as good as it looks. Only one track, Back Street Girl, ever gets an airing on my iPod.

Top Rolling Stones album covers #5 It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

It's Only Rock 'N' Roll, Guy Peelaert cover

Top Rolling Stones album covers: It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, The Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones Records, 1974, cover art by Guy Peelaert

Guy Peelaert’s witty album cover for It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll also portrays excess. In this case, the excess in Heaven supposedly inhabited by the male rock star, with its unlimited “chicks for free”. Peelaert sets the Rolling Stones in a cod-Classical tableau, worshipped by countless garlanded women, all clearly interested. Unfortunately, with Jimmy Miller having vacated the producer’s chair, the music on It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is inconsistent, relying on a handful of strong tracks, notably Time Waits for No One, Till the Next Goodbye and Fingerprint File.

Top Rolling Stones album covers #6 Dirty Work

Dirty Work album cover

Top Rolling Stones album covers: Dirty Work, Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones Records, 1986, photograph by Annie Leibovitz

With photography by the celebrated Annie Leibovitz, the album cover of Dirty Work contrasts starkly with the album’s music. The weakest album in the Stones catalogue – only One Hit (To The Body) ever gets a hearing here – Dirty Work has one of the most striking covers.

The Rolling Stones were middle-aged by 1986 and struggling to remain relevant. While the music on Dirty Work didn’t manage to roll back the years, the colourful album cover succeeded: “we are forward-looking and youthful, even if no longer young”. A bold idea, and outstanding execution. Just look at those primary colours and smile! To be continued: more top Rolling Stones album covers to follow here on ROCK | ART | EDITIONS. What are your top three Rolling Stones album covers?

The A-Z of Rolling Stones art: B is for… Beggars Banquet

Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones, released in 1968, needed to hit the spot quickly, after the twin disappointments of Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request.

The choice of cover art for Beggars Banquet reportedly caused a stand-off between the Rolling Stones and Decca and London, their record labels, thus delaying the album’s release for several months.

The Rolling Stones apparently offered Decca and London an album cover featuring graffiti scrawled on a toilet wall, shot by Barry Feinstein in a garage workshop in Hollywood. The record labels rejected it.

Beggars Banquet - original version of album cover for

Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones, Decca 1968, original “RSVP” cover

The album was eventually released with a cover unlikely to offend, the “RSVP” cover, which bore a striking resemblance to the Beatles’ White Album.

Beggars Banquet was packaged in this way until 1986, when LP reissues and CD launches reverted to the previously rejected toilet graffiti art as the album cover. The 2002 remastered ABKCO CD retained the toilet graffiti cover.

Beggars Banquet cover art - toilet graffiti

Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones, here in the ABKCO 2002 remastered CD version

The inside of the 2002 cover has photographs by Michael Joseph documenting a “banquet” of “beggars”, staged in a venue rented for the shoot in Hampstead, north London.

Rolling Stones fans and collectors have long argued over which Beggars Banquet album cover they prefer. My view is that the conflict with Decca and London probably had deeper roots – it was really about artistic freedom, not just the right to employ a challenging, technically excellent, but essentially juvenile photograph.

With hindsight, it’s also clear that the Rolling Stones and Decca/London missed a golden opportunity. They should have compromised by using photographs from the Michael Joseph shoot for the Beggars Banquet album cover: his images are among the strongest, most beguiling, in the vast Rolling Stones photo archive.

Rolling Stones album covers: the top three

Rolling Stones album covers tell you that they understand the power of images and have consistently wrapped their recordings in high quality sleeves.

Over a dozen Rolling Stones LPs were released with outstanding cover art. Not really surprising, given that they often commissioned top celeb/show biz photographers, such as David Bailey and Gered Mankowitz.

My top three Rolling Stones album covers are:
* The Rolling Stones,
* Goats Head Soup, and
* Out Of Our Heads (original, UK version).

Top three Rolling Stones album covers #1 The Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones album covers: the first LP

The Rolling Stones LP, Decca, 1964

The telling cover photograph of The Rolling Stones, the band’s first album, was shot by Nicholas Wright.

The defiant young Stones, their faces subtly lit and coloured, and highlighted by the shot’s dark background, suggest they could be an important, maybe challenging, new musical force.

The absence of graphics – no LP title, no indication of artists – suggest that the Rolling Stones knew that their music would do the talking.

(Scroll down to my 28 April post for more on the cover art of The Rolling Stones LP.)

Top three Rolling Stones album covers #2 Goats Head Soup

Rolling Stones album covers: Goats Head Soup, by David Bailey

Goats Head Soup, 1973

Goats Head Soup has a striking yellow portrait of Mick Jagger wearing the hat of a Victorian “lady”, complete with protective veil. Inside, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Mick Taylor get a similar treatment, while on the back cover Keith Richards appears to be in the process of removing his feminine headgear.

Inside, there’s a head of an unhappy looking goat, bubbling away in a cooking pot.

What does it all mean? Androgyny? Voodoo? Black magic? David Bailey probably knows – he did the photo shoot and the album cover design.

Top three Rolling Stones album covers #3 Out Of Our Heads (UK)

Rolling Stones album covers: Out Of Our Heads (UK version)

Out Of Our Heads, 1965/2002

The cover of Out Of Our Heads (UK), shot by Gered Mankowitz, is probably the best photograph of the early Rolling Stones. I’ve long wondered what prop Mankowitz used to frame the band so well. (The Out Of Our Heads photograph above is the 2002 ABKCO CD release, complete with unnecessary added graphics – “uk”.)

The Rolling Stones, Goats Head Soup, and Out Of Our Heads (original, UK version) are my top three Rolling Stones album covers.

What are yours? Please Leave a reply – link at top of post.

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?