Music and style go together like Kim and Kanye – that is to say, hand-in-hand and equal parts outlandish and genius. Real, hold-them-in-your-hand album covers used to be the main way for bands to get their personal style across to their listeners and, even now the industry's been eaten (or, at least, nibbled) by streaming, they're still a strong statement of an artist's vibe. Check out some of our favourites below, from the classics to the young pretenders.
Most stylish album covers
By Sarah Kershaw, 15 February 2016
The Beatles, Abbey Road
Otherwise known as ‘the one where every visitor to London tries to copy the Beatles and fails to look as cool’. An ode to the sartorial power of wearing one colour head to toe, it’s also a demonstration of the band’s commercial power: Apple Records’ creative director Kosh, who conceived the cover, said, ‘We didn’t need to write the band’s name on the cover. They were the most famous band in the world.’ Props to Paul McCartney for managing to rock a grey Tommy Nutter suit with bare feet and George Harrison for outstanding contributions to double denim.
A$AP Rocky, At Long Last A$AP
Lord Pretty Flacko’s second offering’s cover is as uncompromising and in your face as its track list. With A$AP sporting a psychedelic birthmark (a tribute to late cohort A$AP Yams) and staring straight out at us, his famous grills are covered with more hardware in the form of massive knuckle-duster-type rings. As Rocky succinctly said in reference to the album, ‘It’s lit.’
David Bowie, Aladdin Sane
Ahh, the late, inimitably great David Bowie, and the album cover that launched a thousand fancy dress costumes. Recorded between legs of Bowie’s Ziggy tour in 1973, the album cemented his status as a bona fide rock star. Aladdin Sane’s lightning bolt make-up is supposed to represent ‘duality of mind’ but we think it just looks very cool. Gender and genre-defying musicianship never looked so good.
Dizzee Rascal, Boy In Da Corner
Imagine being an 18-year-old wunderkind from Bow, with a string of school expulsions behind you and a dream of bring a top grime MC. Then imagine all that coming true, putting a Mercury Prize and a stack of critical acclaim under your belt. You’d probably stare out from a corner, dressed in a black tracksuit, Nikes and leather gloves, being Jus’ A Rascal and looking untouchably cool, too. 13 years later, Dizzee’s debut still makes ‘greatest album’ lists and the black tracksuit, as evidenced by Skepta and the BBK crew, is still the look du jour for London grime stars.
NWA, Straight Outta Compton
Equal parts intimidating and brilliant, the cover of what was to be the first gangsta rap record puts the listener on the floor, Eazy-E’s gun in your face, the six members of NWA ready to metaphorically slay you with their lyrics. Unrelenting stares aside, the group’s ’fits look as cool now as they did in 1988, with baseball caps, acid-wash denim, gold chains and varsity tees drawing the eye (not to mention Dre’s windbreaker – your dad might wear one, but it still looks awesome).
Oasis, Definitely Maybe
We bet when guitarist Bonehead did the plastering in the living room of his Didsbury terrace, he never imagined it would Live Forever as one of the most enduring images in Brit music history. Photographer Michael Spencer Jones has said he posed Liam like an Egyptian mummy to fill the space left by the wide-angle lens at the front of the photo, but a cooler sarcophagus we never did see. We could look at the details in this image for hours – Burt Bacharach! Liam’s coach jacket! The Cigarettes & Alcohol in the bottom left corner! (the ‘red wine’ is actually Ribena, FYI – rock ’n’ roll) – but it’s best enjoyed as a whole with a background accompaniment of Slide Away.
The Ramones, Ramones
Four self-styled ‘brothers’, wearing ripped skinnies, kicks, leather jackets and long hair at a time when wide flares, even wider lapels and cheeky grins were all the rage – the Ramones were always going to be cool. The stark black and white image has influenced more rock bands than we can count over the years and still looks as fresh today as when it was taken. Word of advice – Tommy’s exposed midriff may look punk as hell, but longline is easier to pull off.
Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.F.C
Well, Wiz undoubtedly wears cool pants. This 2012 effort may not have been his best received critically, but it’s hard to argue with a man so self-assured he can deck himself out in a fur coat (which had better be faux, Wiz), ‘naughty’ medallions and stripy leather trews, and literally seat himself on a throne. That’s some serious confidence right there.