A New Approach:
10 Of The Best Classic Albums with Novelty Packaging
As new musical styled developed and cultural approaching too, the music industry gave their top acts the freedom of creativity not just in the musical field but also on album packaging. A trend that reached it’s full potential by the 1970’s, having started in the late 1960’s. We look back at some of the best novelty packaging on albums, with a list of 10 famous ones that became iconic not just for their music only but also due to the unique cover art and packaging on this list.
“Sticky Fingers” – The Rolling Stones, 1971
Andy Warhol designed this art piece for the masses, not being a stranger to Rock albums design and creation by 1971, the cover and packaging of “Sticky Fingers” became extremely iconic and popular. The album features a big plan photography of Joe Dalessandro’s crotch dressed in very tight jeans, and in the back his tight backside. A real zipper was included in the photograph of his crotch, which you could also unzip. The cover was closed but you could open it and find Dalessandro’s white underwear photo, signed by Andy Warhol. After the first pressings this packaging was discontinued due to the cost of it and also for damaging often other copies of the records when being boxed for distribution. In 2014 The Stones reissue the album with a limited edition of the Zipper.
Designer: Andy Warhol
Label: Rolling Stones Records
“Their Satanic Majesties Request” – The Rolling Stones, 1967
This was the first of a series of novelty and concept album covers and packaging made by The Rolling Stones. The original pressings were released with a lenticular picture (3D) of the band on the front cover, photographed by Michael Cooper , reflecting that way the Psychedelic spirit of the times. When turned into a different direction, the band also would look in opposite ways. The art work on the whole album, specially the gatefold was also a beautiful piece of art, a montage of several famous paintings and drawings as well as a maze game. The record sleeve was designed with red and white wisps printed on a Psychedelic pattern by Tony Meeuwissen, similar to the white and blue wisps on the front cover, the back cover also featured a painting by Tony Meeuwissen representing the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Air. This packaging with the lenticular photo was discontinued soon after the first pressings due to the high costs involving the manufacturing of it. Some years later, the master materials that were used to the original packaging were destroyed, making it now impossible to replicate it.
Designer: Michael Cooper and Tony Meeuwissen,
“L.A Woman” – The Doors, 1971
The last Doors studio album together with Jim Morrison and their first featuring a novelty packaging. The album coverburgundy-colored, curved-corner cardboard cutout sleeve, framing a clear embossed cellophane insert, glued in from behind. there’s a photo of the band in yellow and black, on what apparent looks to be a normal photo of the band, while is actually a montage of individual portraits of the members, printed on clear film. The yellow background is the yellow inner sleeve that features a picture of a woman crucified in a Los Angeles electrical post. When removed, there’s only the cellophane dark print with the images remaining. According to Jac Holzman, chief executive officer of Elektra Records: “I wasn’t sure there would be another album ever, so I had Bill Harvey create a collector’s cover. The Doors’ faces were printed on clear film. The backing color of the inner sleeve could be changed and would affect the mood of the package. The name of the band is embossed with bold letters spelling just Doors instead of “The Doors” like usually was done.
Designer: Wendell Hamick and Bill Harvey
Label: Elektra Records
“The Beatles” – The Beatles, 1968
This was the first Beatles album on their own label, Apple. The whole Apple designed was thought to be minimalist, and their debut album on it made that statement clear. After having full control on album designs such as “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”, which featured a lot of color and content to it, they went in a total different direction with “The Beatles”, commonly known as “White Album”. The cover, completely white in the front and in the back, being the only reference to the bands name an almost invisible, embossed lettering saying “The BEATLES” and with a stamped catalog number in small black numbers, that varies in every copy. The gatefold also in white, features 4 individual black and white pictures of the members of the band and the track list carefully put together with no mention of order and Side. The records were placed inside the cover through the top and not side as usually they are on gatefold double albums, and housed inside custom black inner sleeves that show’s the Apple labels on each side of the sleeve, a full apple on Side 1 and a half apple on side 2. A giant poster that contains a montage of several different photos of the members of the band all glued together on one side of the poster, and the lyrics to the songs on the other side. In addition to all this, 4 glossy photograph prints of the bands members individual portraits were also placed inside the package. The whole minimalist and individual design of this album reflects the band’s state of mind back then, for many this album is considered like a collection of solo songs of each member put together. It was designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton in collaboration with Paul McCartney, that helped assembling the photo montage in the poster together. The 4 portraits were taken by John Kelly. A complete set of the original release of this album is highly collectible and sought after. In some cases, such as when Ringo Starr sold his stellar copy of it in 2015, reached the value of $790.000. The album knew several different reissues throughout the years featuring poster and photographs, but only one replicated exactly the original pressing, in 2015 by having it stamped and numbered and featuring all extras.
Designer: Richard Hamilton
“School’s Out” – Alice Cooper, 1972
Alice Cooper’s 3rd album, “School’s Out” was also their second featuring a novelty packaging (the previous one “Killer” featured a calendar of Alice Cooper). The cover is made to be look like a school desk, with the name of the album and members of the band carved into the “wood”, when opened, it shapes like a school desk. But it’s what was featured inside that really caught the eye on the packaging of the album, the record was wrapped around a pair of female underwear, this was put inside every copy of the album when it was first released, definitively something that had never been done before. During the tour to promote the album sometimes a “shower” of underwear was dropped in the crowd. Aside of the underwear was also a school’s report card that featured the names of the songs. The original releases complete with the underwear are highly collectible nowadays, and when in good condition it can reach a quite satisfactory value. It was never reissued in it’s original packaging and it was discontinued soon after it’s release due to the panties being proved flammable.
Designer: Craig Braun
“Physical Graffiti” – Led Zeppelin, 1975
The album’s intricate die-cut sleeve design depicts a photograph of a New York City brownstone tenement block, through whose windows various cultural icons could be interchangeably viewed. Album designer Peter Corriston says about it: “”We walked around the city for a few weeks looking for the right building. I had come up [with] a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes.” The original photograph of the building underwent a number of tweaks to arrive at the final image. The fifth floor of the building had to be cropped out to fit the square album cover format. The buildings to the left and right were also changed to match the style of the double front. Tiles were added on the roof section along with more faces. Part of the top right railing balcony was left out for a whole window frame to be visible. The front cover is a daytime shot, while the back cover was taken at night. Eschewing the usual gatefold design in favour of a special die-cut cover, the original album jacket included four covers made up of two inners (for each disc), a middle insert cover and an outer cover. The middle insert cover is white and details all the album track listings and recording information. The outer cover has die-cut windows on the building, so when the middle cover is wrapped around the inner covers and slid into the outer cover, the title of the album is shown on the front cover, spelling out the name “Physical Graffiti” Images in the windows touched upon a set of American icons and a range of Hollywood ephemera. Pictures of W.C. Fields and Buzz Aldrin alternated with the snapshots of Led Zeppelin. Photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald and Marcel Duchamp are also featured. The album was also the first to be released under Led Zeppelin’s own label, Swan Song. It was reissued in 2015 replicating the original packaging.
*Compiled under a Wikipedia source
Designer: Peter Corriston
Label: Swan Song
“The Velvet Underground & Nico” – The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967
The first Rock album cover designed by Andy Warhol, made for his proteges The Velvet Underground and supposedly an album produced by Warhol too, this iconic cover was one of the first of it’s kind on novelty concept. It’s often said that who owns an original first pressing of it, untouchable, owns a Warhol piece of art. The white cover featuring simply a banana, the signature of Andy Warhol and the words “Peel slowly and see”, the banana was a sticker, that when unpeeled showed it in a different color, pink. The album sold poorly and many of the few that bought it didn’t really resisted the temptation of taking out the sticker. Though it has been reissued with it’s original packaging, today it’s the original copies that remain unpeeled that are highly collectible and increasing continuously in value. Just like a Warhol painting.
Designer: Andy Warhol
“Led Zeppelin III” – Led Zeppelin, 1970
“Led Zeppelin III” was packaged in a gatefold sleeve with an innovative cover, designed by Zacron, a multi-media artist whom Jimmy Page had met in 1963 whilst Zacron was a student at Kingston College of Art.He had recently resigned a lectureship at Leeds Polytechnic to found Zacron Studios, and in 1970 Page contacted him and asked him to design the third album’s cover. The cover and interior gatefold art consisted of a surreal collection of seemingly random images on a white background, many of them connected thematically with flight or aviation (as in “Zeppelin”). Behind the front cover was a rotatable laminated card disc, or volvelle, covered with more images, including photos of the band members, which showed through holes in the cover. Moving an image into place behind one hole would usually bring one or two others into place behind other holes. This could not be replicated on a conventional cassette or CD cover, but there have been Japanese and British CDs packaged in miniature versions of the original sleeve. The idea of including a volvelle, based on crop rotation charts, was initially Page’s concept.However, the result was a meeting of minds as Zacron had been working on rotating graphics from 1965. Zacron felt that by not including text on the front of the cover, the art would endure. In an article featured in the December 2007 issue of Classic Rock magazine, Zacron claimed that upon his completion of the artwork, Page telephoned him while he was in New York to express his satisfaction with the results, saying “I think it is fantastic”. However, in a 1998 interview Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine, he described the results as a disappointment: “I thought it looked very teeny-bopperish. But we were on top of a deadline, so of course there was no way to make any radical changes to it. There were some silly bits—little chunks of corn and nonsense like that.” The album was reissued in 2014 replicating the same artwork with the volvelle.
*Compiled under a Wikipedia source
“Black Moses” – Isaac Hayes, 1971
The album’s title derives from Stax executive Dino Woodward’s nickname for Hayes, which he bestowed upon the musician after comparing the effects of his music on black audiences to the leadership of the biblical figure Moses. The then deeply Christian Hayes shied away from the nickname, finding it “sacrilegious”, although journalist Chester Higgins popularized the “Black Moses” nickname in an article he wrote on Hayes for Jet. Hayes came to see “Black Moses” as a symbol of black pride: “Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses; he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery now can be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility” Larry Shaw, head of marketing and publicity at Stax, came up with the idea to name Hayes’ LP Black Moses.He also devised, with the assistance of Bar-Kays member Ron Gordon, the gatefold album cover design which unfolded into a poster-sized image of Hayes, in the main cover side dressed in biblical-inspired attire as “Black Moses” and in the back cover unfolded into Hayes bare-chest highly sensual image. It became an iconic piece of art cover and was Hayes only novelty cover.
Design: Ron Gordon and Larry Shaw
“In Search Of Space” – Hawkwind, 1971
Space Rock band Hawkwind always liked to play with design and novelty on their albums, but the 1971 “In Search Of Space” was their best achievement on what concerns novelty packaging. The album unfolds into a spaceship and features a log book. The band had started working with a wider range of artists, many of whom were contributing to the underground press. Graphic artist Barney Bubbles titled the album and designed the cover and with space-age poet Robert Calvert produced the accompanying 24-page The Hawkwind Log with photos by Phil Franks.
The front cover is a die-cut interlocking foldout. The back cover has a shot of a naked Stacia on stage under strobe lights and the phrase “TECHNICIÄNS ÖF SPÅCE SHIP EÅRTH THIS IS YÖÜR CÄPTÅIN SPEÄKING YÖÜR ØÅPTÅIN IS DEA̋D” which some people[who?] assert is a demonstration of the heavy metal umlaut. The inside panel features individual portraits of the band. Inside the foldout sleeve are various pictures of Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies playing together underneath the Westway in London.
There is no overall concept or theme to the songs on the album; the ideas that would culminate in the Space Ritual show are merely contained within the album package, principally The Hawkwind Log. It opens with:
“The spacecraft Hawkwind was found by Captain RN Calvert of the Société Astronomæ (an international guild of creative artists dedicated in eternity to the discovery and demonstration of extra-terrestrial intelligence) on 8 July 1971 in the vicinity of Mare Librium near the South Pole. The discovery of the Hawkwind has led to more wild speculation than any of the mysteries of space that we have so far encountered. The facts surrounding the discovery of this drifting two-dimensional spaceship have been so distorted by guesswork and rumour that any further attempts at assessment would only increase the density of the fog.”
Within, the journal entries are from various times and places, including a return to a burnt out Earth in November 1987. Themes explored include astrology and astronomy, ecology, science, occultism and mysticism, religion and philosophy. Some pieces would later be reused, such as the entries “0207 hrs 15 April 1572, Praesepe cluster” and “Countdown to Lift Off” which appeared on Space Ritual as “The Awakening” and “Ten Seconds of Forever” respectively, and Black Elk’s “Offering of the Pipe” Hetchetu Aloh chant was later used on “Black Elk Speaks” from Space Bandits. One of the last entries, 1027 hrs. 5 May 1971, Ladbroke Grove, explains:
“Space/time supply indicators near to zero. Our thoughts are losing depth, soon they will fold into each other, into flatness, into nothing but surface. Our ship will fold like a cardboard file and the noises of our minds compress into a disc of shining black, spinning in eternity…”
*Compiled under a Wikipedia source
Desgin: Barney Bubbles, Robert Calvert and Phil Franks
Label: United Artists
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