Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975)
Although the Kinks' theater rock phase brought out some of songwriter Ray Davies' worst habits, this was one of their better albums from that period. But man, that cover! With an illustration by T. Rex percussionist Mickey Finn, it seems calculated to put off even diehard fans. Fortunately, "Schoolboys" came near the end of the band's mid-'70s slump.
Yesterday and Today (1966)
Paul McCartney lobbied for the original cover of this album—by conceptual art photographer Robert Whitaker—maintaining that it was the Beatles' comment on the Vietnam War. But the image of the lovable moptops draped in meat and dolls' body parts didn't go over well, and Capital Records quickly reissued "Yesterday and Today" with an innocuous new cover. In 2013, a mint copy of the "butcher cover" album sold for $15,300 on eBay.
This is one of Neil Young's best albums, so it's sad to see it defiled by lame cover art. Drawn by Neil himself, the nonsensical doodle shows a bird flying a naked woman through … a desert? And out of the ground there's a hand flipping off the listener, which nicely sums up the spirit of the drawing. Still, "Zuma" includes "Cortez The Killer" and "Danger Bird," so you pretty much have to get it anyway.
An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down (1970)
The British cover of Rod Stewart's debut album was supposed to depict an elderly gentleman sweetly frolicking with his granddaughter, but the photo suggested a creepy old man chasing a little girl. It was later released in the U.S. with a more conventional cover and a new title, "The Rod Stewart Album."
Diamond Dogs (1974)
David Bowie built his career on chameleon-like transformations, but here's one it would have been wiser to skip. The original cover of "Diamond Dogs" showed Bowie as half man, half dog, complete with man-dog genitals. They were airbrushed out of future copies.
It’s Hard (1982)
The Who famously hoped they'd die before they got old. On the cover of "It's Hard"—their last studio album until 2006—they appear to be gloomily accepting that it ain't gonna happen. Another problem with the photo: If you show the band hanging out in an arcade, at least display the appropriate game!
The Miracle (1989)
You know what would most certainly not be a miracle? If all four members of Queen shared a face. Sure, the cover of "The Miracle" was state of the art circa 1989, using Quantel Paintbox image-manipulation technology (proto-Photoshop, let's call it) to combine the faces of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon and Roger Taylor. But what a result—that freaky row of eyes!
American Dream (1988)
It looks like Neil Young's "American Dream" was to not attend the photo session. Clearly photoshopped onto the album cover, he appears to be an outsider in his own band, which may not be far from the truth.
What can you say about the narcissistic cover of Prince's self-titled sophomore album? Oh right: "No. No, no, no, no, no, NOOOOOOOOOO!"
Love Beach (1978)
Progressive rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer released "Love Beach" mainly to fulfill their contract with Atlantic Records. Maybe they went for this cover hoping that disco fans would assume it was a Bee Gees album and buy it by mistake.
Keepin’ the Summer Alive (1980)
It's a telling cover: The Beach Boys would rather stay trapped in a glass cartoon prison of summer sunshine than face the reality of a new decade. One glance and you can tell that John Stamos, "Kokomo" and "Full House" guest appearances were right around the corner.
Dirty Work (1986)
This one isn't hideous—it's just depressing. In 1986, the Rolling Stones were in the middle of the worst stretch in the band's history, with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards bitterly feuding as Mick tested the waters of a solo career. Keith described the atmosphere as "World War III." Which explains why, on the cover of "Dirty Work," the Stones look like a group of dudes who just don't want to be there.
Victim of Love (1979)
This johnny-come-lately disco album features no songwriting or piano work by Elton John, who only sings,, but it does include an eight-minute version of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." Given the dull cover art, you're probably not surprised. It's a long way from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road."
Tonight You’re Mine (1980)
Eric Carmen is a songwriting master whose power-pop sound influenced countless other artists. However, this ...
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