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Do judge an album by its cover

Three iconic album covers that have stood the test of time.
Photo courtesy of DGC Records/Warner Records/Parlophone

The saying is that you should never judge a book by its cover. That remains true for album covers because they’re not always an indicator of the music underneath; however, these few albums stood the test of time not only for possessing great music within but the covers also became emblematic tokens of contemporary pop culture over the decades since their release. 

Nevermind (1991) – Nirvana

Perhaps one of the most iconic album covers, or at least the most controversial, Nirvana’s  Nevermind cover poses as the birth of the visual for lead singer Kurt Cobain’s incessant infatuation with anything that has to do with the body like bodily functions, parts, fluids, etc., quite literally. Viewers are met with a nude then-four-month-old (now 28 year old Spencer Elden) chasing after a dollar underwater. Many believed that the cover was a metaphor for innocent bands chasing after a dollar early in their career but despite the presumptions, it was the manifestation of Cobain’s interest in underwater birth. Nevermind, while certainly controversial because of the blunt nature of the cover, is still one of the best albums released by the Grunge group over the course of their career and also retains some of the group’s most well-known songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Come As You Are.”

Purple Rain (1984) – Prince

Possibly the most 80s-esque covers on this list, it’s no surprise that Purple Rain was Prince’s first number one album despite it being his sixth full-length release. Epitomizing the 1980s aesthetic, Purple Rain was released in 1984 and features a crooked smirk Prince atop a purple motorcycle whilst surrounded by purple fog and a wet ground to signify previous downpour. The iconic photo is encased by a frame of floral print right off of grandma’s old couch, making it one of the more 80s-looking features of the cover outside of Prince’s very on-trend outfit and hairstyle. The iconic 80s display also gave listeners some of Prince’s most popular hits like “When Doves Cry.” 

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – The Beatles

Despite being known for quirky album covers, especially later in their careers when drugs were involved, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was photographed/designed by artist Peter Blake and his wife Jann Haworth and features important cultural figures and moments from each of The Fab Four’s lives. The album displays 58 people surrounding the Liverpool quartet like they’re wax figures, Bob Dylan, Marilyn Monroe, Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Temple, and more. Sgt. Pepper’s introduced listeners to a new era in Beatles music and gave fans hits like “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” while also marking the beginning of the end for one of the most iconic bands of all time. 

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