The Twenty-Five Worst Album Covers of All Time

Rob O'Connor
List of the Day - Archives

Inspired by the ugliness of the new Jane's Addiction album, The Great Escape Artist, we here at List Of The Day (ok, just me and a bunch of friends with great suggestions) compiled a bunch of lists of album covers that are, in the technical sense, awful.

The list below is one where real record companies were involved and artists who sold actual records were aware that the albums would go into the stores looking like this.

Fact is, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of terrible album covers. A web-search suggests that 90 percent of them come from religious artists who believe that competent artwork is akin to committing the sin of vanity.

Enjoy these album covers that dare you to enjoy the music held within its confines.

25) Uriah Heep - High and Mighty: You want to know where Spinal Tap got most of their inspiration? Fly the friendly construction-paper-sky with this cheaped-out album cover. The problem with so many bad album covers is that you're never sure how you're supposed to feel about them. Are we scared? Are we exhilarated? Do we care?

24) Leonard Cohen - The Future: Late-period Cohen albums are already pretty hilarious for their shopping-mall-like productions. Come see the organ that plays itself! But this looks like something concocted by someone's struggling high school art student. Kid, save your money. Skip art school. Learn a trade or become a secretary.

23) Village People - Renaissance: It wasn't like their other albums were classic, and if this new look had taken off, surely we would be remembering it with fondness instead of with crass horror.

22) Bruce Springsteen - Lucky Town: Forget for a moment that this is even someone you've heard of. Now think about buying this record. You wouldn't do it, would you? It features the same lame typeface as the other Bruce album released that day, Human Touch. And for anyone thinking this looked hip back in the 1990s, no, it looked terrible the day it came out.

21) Bob Dylan - Saved: What is it about religious piety that skewers the senses so definitively?

20) Rush - Power Windows: A shirtless young boy who looks like Howard Jones is caught trying to use his television remote control to close a window. A window, it should be noted, that has no discernible "power." It's just an old house window. Somebody get this kid a more comfortable chair!

19) The Who - Endless Wire: From the band that never could say goodbye comes Endless Wire, the album where the final two surviving members issue an album cover that looks like a chintzy screensaver for a long-defunct computer company. This was their idea of modern?

18) The Kinks - Word of Mouth: The 1980s gave groups from the 1960s some pretty weird ideas of what would be cool for their audience. Actually, I have to assume that by this point, no one in the band even looked at the artwork until it was too late. At which point, they figured it didn't really matter.

17) Rolling Stones - Dirty Work: The Keith Richards autobiography Life teaches us that if the band had been left up to Keith, they would've been finished by 1972 and dead broke. It was left up to Mick Jagger to keep the band current. He succeeded with "Miss You" and he bombed with this Miami Vice-styled cover shot. The dark red cellophane was a nice touch.

16) Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy: Black Sabbath's seventh studio album is their first to present the band not as the lords of darkness but as part of the blighted software company that the Who went on to use for their Endless Wire album. Hipgnosis, who had done such a fine job with Pink Floyd that I wouldn't be surprised if I heard the Floyd paid for this in order to sink their competition, designed the art. As it stands, Pink Floyd had no known involvement. This is all on Black Sabbath.

15) Guns N' Roses - "The Spaghetti Incident?": Yes, the title alludes to a food fight between Axl Rose and departed drummer Steven Adler, but to the rest of us it just looks like some bargain-basement, generic-brand canned spaghetti with bland typeface set over it. When a band is in decline, it shows everywhere.

14) The Black Crowes - Amorica: Doesn't this look like one of those doo-rags that the guy from the "Real Housewives Of New Jersey" wears on his head?

13) Wilco - A.M.: If anyone wonders why Wilco didn't catch on the first time around, it likely has something to do with an album cover that looks like it was made in graphic arts class by a student who received a final grade of "C-." Look at this album cover and tell me you want to hear this band.

12) Cheap Trick - Woke Up With A Monster: Why is it when bands are really struggling to maintain any semblance of relevancy they make album covers that undermine that effort? This might be a great album, but no one with any sense is going to tell anyone else they bought it.

11) Van Halen - Balance: This album is made worse by the promise that Sammy Hagar is singing on the CD inside. Perhaps, the intention was to scare away those of us who hadn't already been put off by their dumb and dumber album titles.

10) The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour: Sentimentality makes it hard to realize just how terrible this album cover is. It appeals to small children, but weren't the Beatles trying to get away from the teeny-bopper crowd? The U.S. version adds "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" to an album that already had "I Am The Walrus." No need to turn it into a joke. The film is terrible but the album isn't. But you don't know that by looking at it.

9) Radiohead - Pablo Honey: The idea that these guys are now taken very seriously seems a joke if you remember what people thought of them when their debut album was first released. They were considered a lamer "grunge" band than Bush! Think about it: Thom Yorke more of a copycat than Gavin Rossdale!

8) Prince - Lovesexy: Do the little girls understand what the men don't know or can we all agree this cover is a gross-out?

7) Europe - The Final Countdown: All of their album covers were miserable. But people really bought this thing. Now maybe your nostalgia for the 1980s should stop.

6) Jerry Garcia - Garcia: I swear to you a friend of mine gave me a Creedence Clearwater Revival record in this album jacket with the word "Creedence" written on a piece of tape across the cover and for over 10 years I never felt the urge to figure out whose album cover this actually was. I assumed it was some no name artist no one cared about. I know the Grateful Dead can be a bit, shall we say, inscrutable, but this looks like a confused magazine ad for something that's yet to be invented.

5) Bonnie Raitt - Home Plate: You're always asking for trouble when you start making sports references. I remember discussing jazz albums with a friend and we realized that if a man is sitting on the curb in a burned-out city on the cover it's going to be a far better record than one of a man smiling with a trumpet in his hand. Take that to the bank.

4) Weezer - Raditude: These guys sell records. Or used to. They don't have to settle for what would be a vaguely cute Facebook profile pic. Maybe they really admire a band like Uriah Heep more than I realized.

3) ELP - Love Beach: Look at three progressive rock guys trying to get down with the Yacht Rock set! I'm assuming they did so because they were tired of touring and looking out at all the guys in the audience. But do ladies really love cheeseballs?

2) Cher - Take Me Home: I remember seeing this album in the local department store and not once did I ever consider owning it. The cover did me a favor, I suppose. But it begs the question: Who looks at this and thinks, "This album must be great"?

1) Orleans - Waking and Dreaming: Awake or in dreams, in neither do I wish to be surrounded by naked hippies. If anything can make you pro-nukes, it's this kind of "fantasy." Are these guys at least on the way to the shower?


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