Ah, the acid-drenched, mellowed-out vibes of the 1970's... Rock music was finally becoming evil, denim jackets and moustaches were on the rise, and the flower-power hippie ethos of the 60's was slowly turning into muscle cars, loud guitars, and conversion vans with wizards painted on them. What a great time to be alive... Being a child of the 70's myself (born May 8th, 1979: that counts, right?), I feel more than qualified to present to you, my dear readers, with this, MY LIST OF TOP 5 CLASSIC ROCK ALBUM COVERS:
QUEEN - NEWS OF THE WORLD (1977)
This one makes the list for a couple different reasons. Firstly, its obscure origins: it is based on the cover of the October 1953 edition of Astounding Science Fiction. Being a sucker for out-of-date sci-fi, this alone scores huge points with me.
Secondly, look at the emotion on that giant robot's face. He feels super bad about a) killing that dude in 1953 and b) killing at least 3 members of Queen in 1977. Much like Lennie Small in John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice And Men', he is obviously a good-natured giant, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, accidentally causing great harm when his heart is full of naught but goodness.
Lastly, get a load of that inside cover! The giant robot has tasted human blood, and although he feels guilt for what he's done, he MUST KILL AGAIN! The artwork on this album is a study on the duality of man, the soul of the machine, and the homicidal impulses that lie dormant in all giant robots. A classic.
BLUE OYSTER CULT - CULTOSAURUS ERECTUS (1980)
Q: AAGGHHKK!!! What the fuck is that!?!
A: Have no fear, it is the kind and benevolent Cultosaurus Erectus, mascot of B.O.C.'s 1980 album of the same name. Though hideous at first glance, closer inspection reveals this fun-loving giant's true nature. As evidenced by this depiction, C. erectus has an affinity for bubblegum, and keeps a massive, sticky mouthful of it at all times. It's many stalk-like eyes and giant ear-holes help him in his hunt for chewing gum, leading him to far away lands such as the Arctic tundra (where this rare photo was snapped). Have no fear of this great beast, as his sole function in life is (to paraphrase Rowdy Roddy Piper in 'They Live') to "chew bubblegum and kick ass". Carry on, Cultosaurus!
RAINBOW - RISING (1976)
I found this particular record in a pawn shop in Eureka (for 50 cents!) at the tender young age of 17. Upon my first listen, I was instantly blown away by the epic riffs and tales of medieval wizardry contained therein. By the time I heard "Run With The Wolf" (to this day my favorite Rainbow song), I had to perform a drastic re-assessment of my previous assumptions about rainbows. I had always found rainbows a concept to be associated with sissy-dom, somewhere between unicorns and fairy-dust. Oh, how wrong I was! Rainbows were in fact epic, kick-ass, and TOTALLY RAD! I don't know for sure the story behind this piece of timeless art, but I'm sure it goes something like this:
A young Ronnie James Dio was perusing the booths at a sweet Renaissance Faire with his pal Ritchie Blackmore circa 1975, searching for groovy ceramic frogs to add to his ever-growing collection. Feeling a sudden need for somber introspection, Ronnie headed to a nearby cliff overlooking the ocean to reflect on life (Ronnie is pictured in the lower left corner of the album cover, donning a totally rad cape). Noticing a beatiful rainbow arcing above the mist-enshrouded sea, he produced a pipe and tobacco from a hidden pocket in his cape and began to puff stoically. Suddenly, the hand of Satan himself burst forth from the now-thrashing sea, rising from the waves to grasp the rainbow and pull it down to the briny deep. Seeing the young rocker upon the shore, Satan paused, and took a moment to address him. "DIO", he boomed majestically, "REMEMBER WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN HERE TODAY! ALWAYS BE AWESOME, ALWAYS ROCK SUPER HARD, AND NEVER FORGET, RAINBOWS ARE TOTALLY SWEET!!! RAINBOWS ARE TOTALLY SWEEEEEEEeeeeettt..." His soliloquy finished, Satan faded down into the ocean, pulling the rainbow with him. Dumbfounded, Dio ran back to the Ren Faire, sharing his experience with Blackmore. And the rest, as they say, is history.
KING CRIMSON - IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING (1969)
Another study in simplicity and awesomeness. This dude is obviously super freaked out about something, possibly the heaviness of King Crimson in the year 1969. Pre-dating even Sabbath, the King shoved their proggy proto-metal straight up the ass of the hippie world, probably causing quite a few flower children to run screaming from their record players with this exact expression on their face. And look at the size of the dude's nostrils! Dang! Again, extra points for the inside cover depicting the stoned, fanged, outer-space dude who hasn't yet had his poor little mind blown by the King's brutal shredding.
BLACK SABBATH - SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH (1973)
Whoa! What the Hell is going on here!?! Some dude, laid out on his bed, being strangled by some sort of malevolent serpent, as no less than 6 incubi and succubi look on in sadistic glee! A cryptic skull, hovering over the mysterious number 666, looks on, apparently bemused by the nefarious mayhem! Claws, Death, a sweet title logo, and more claws, these grasping at orbs of unidentified purpose! Whoa!
This piece just flat out RULES, making Sabbath's half-assed album covers (and half-assed music) on their next couple releases almost forgivable. Case in point:
What the Hell?
HONORABLE MENTION: SUPERTRAMP - BREAKFAST IN AMERICA (1979)
Not that cool, but a wonderful study in cocaine-addled rock star logic. Exactly what is going on here? Why are we seeing this image out of the window of an airplane? Who is that waitress? She's not hot enough to be on this album cover! Why are the buildings in the background made out of common restaurant supplies? Why, Supertramp, WHY?!?!