I like the ease and portability of downloaded music, but I still like to browse through swap meets for old rock and roll vinyl LPs. I don’t buy them for the sound quality – I don’t even own a turntable anymore – I get them for the great artwork. In many cases, the 12” LP cardboard sleeves were canvases for some of the most provocative images of the 20th century.
I was reminded of this recently when I was sitting in a restaurant and the title track for Elton John’s 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy came on the sound system. Captain Fantastic was an autobiographical account of the lives of Elton (Captain Fantastic) and his lyricist Bernie Taupin (The Brown Dirty Cowboy). Its ten songs still sound great today, especially the rocker Gotta Get a Meal Ticket, which still kicks ass 35 years after its release. (Has it really been that long?!)
Captain Fantastic may not be my favorite Elton John album – that distinction goes to 1973’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – but it wins my personal award for Best Cover Art of All Time (with Yellow Brick Road following closely behind). Back in ’75, thirteen-year-old me used to stare for hours at artist Alan Aldridge’s Dali-esque images trying to make out what it all meant.
That’s something you just can’t do with a download.
Here are my Top 5 all-time favorite album covers:
- Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Elton John
- Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles
- (tie) Night at the Opera, Queen & Day at the Races, Queen
- (tie) Smell the Glove (The Black Album), Spinal Tap & The Beatles (The White Album), The Beatles
BTW, #5 is a joke. 😉
What are your favorites?