With nos­tal­gia, I remem­ber those times when mp3 did not yet exist, stream­ing ser­vices were not invent­ed, and all music was played from CDs. You bought a new release from your favorite artist, walked home and eager­ly looked at the cov­er, spread, inserts and all the con­tents before turn­ing it on.

Giv­en the lack of pho­to­shop and dig­i­tal capa­bil­i­ties, cre­at­ing images on the cov­ers was tru­ly an art back then. Some­thing more than just pho­tos. Some­times, with a whole sto­ry around. Below I have col­lect­ed as many as six such sto­ries!

1. The Bea­t­les — Sgt. Pep­per’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band (1967)

One of The Bea­t­les’ cra­zi­est albums also came with the most expen­sive cov­er to pro­duce (approx­i­mate­ly £3,000 com­pared to the aver­age cost for the time of £50 per cov­er). And in 1968, the Liv­er­pool group received a Gram­my stat­uette for this cov­er as the best graph­ic work.

It’s all about the image itself: the image con­tains a col­lage of 71 char­ac­ters, not includ­ing the musi­cians them­selves. Dressed in col­or­ful uni­forms, John, Paul, George and Ringo stand sur­round­ed by many faces who, accord­ing to the idea, came to be pho­tographed after the con­cert. Each of the four intro­duced their char­ac­ters, which they would like to immor­tal­ize in this pic­ture. As a result, dozens of peo­ple from Edgar Allan Poe to Bob Dylan, Aldous Hux­ley, Karl Marx and Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe graced the cov­er. More­over, not all appli­cants ini­tial­ly want­ed to be on this cov­er (we are talk­ing about stars who lived in the same time peri­od), and some even asked for pay­ment. So the cost of pro­duc­ing art con­tin­ued to rise.

Not only celebri­ties and his­tor­i­cal fig­ures are present in this crazy col­lage. So, 4th from the right in the very top row is a girl from a paint­ing by Alber­to Var­gas. Anoth­er one, by George Pit­ti, is locat­ed clos­er to the low­er left edge of the cov­er. Also on dis­play are two human man­nequins air­brushed for Gand­hi’s con­cerns, wax fig­ures of the Bea­t­les them­selves, two rag dolls, and a stat­ue from Lennon’s house.

On the back of the sleeve, for the first time in the his­to­ry of record­ing, the lyrics of the album’s songs were placed.

The design­er who cre­at­ed this mir­a­cle received a high hon­or: in June 2002, 70-year-old Peter Blake was knight­ed by Her Majesty.

2.Pink Floyd — Wish you were here (1975)

The first part of the con­cept idea of ​​the British band. The next album, Ani­mals, will be just as con­cep­tu­al. Not least thanks to the art on the cov­er.

Absence as a state per­me­ates the entire track­list. This was guid­ed by Storm Thorg­er­son, one of the founders of the design stu­dio Hipg­no­sis, and a long­time friend of the British team. Storm began with hints, the usu­al sym­bols of absence: foot­prints, shad­ows, imprints, reflec­tions. One of the first ideas to visu­al­ize the image was a love rela­tion­ship. A man hugs a girl, but in the mir­ror we see only one of them. She may have left him long ago, but he still loves her. Or maybe alien­ation has come into the rela­tion­ship, the girl’s thoughts are some­where far away, and every­thing is going to break. But the idea seemed too obvi­ous.

Then Storm thought about a post­card sent from a won­der­ful place and writ­ten on it: sor­ry, you’re not here. Accord­ing to the design­er, peo­ple, using this phrase as a duty phrase, often mean the exact oppo­site. Through this prism, “sor­ry, you’re not here” takes on a rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent mean­ing — an emp­ty sign of atten­tion. And this caused an asso­ci­a­tion with anoth­er mean­ing­less ges­ture — a hand­shake.

On the cov­er of the album, two men in busi­ness suits, almost indis­tin­guish­able from each oth­er, shake hands. One of them is on fire, and the oth­er is calm and even smiles slight­ly, as if every­thing is in order. It is gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that a busi­ness­man, engulfed in fire, went bank­rupt and lost mon­ey. But for Pink Floyd, it would be too easy.

Prob­a­bly, the sec­ond man hides his feel­ings and from the impos­si­bil­i­ty or fear of show­ing them, emo­tion­al­ly burns out from the inside. Unre­quit­ed love, unhap­py mar­riage, incur­able fear, self-doubt, exter­nal pres­sure — any­thing that poi­sons life and makes it unhap­py. And we return to the cross-cut­ting theme of the album — alien­ation. An emp­ty hand­shake with no hon­esty.

There is anoth­er art on the back of the sleeve with the record — a man in a busi­ness suit stand­ing in the mid­dle of the desert is hand­ing us a new­ly bought record. At his feet is a suit­case plas­tered with stick­ers from the released Pink Floyd albums. But it is worth tak­ing a clos­er look and it becomes clear that this is just a face­less sil­hou­ette. Again the theme of empti­ness and alien­ation.

3. Pink Floyd — Animals (1977)

Ani­mals was writ­ten almost in par­al­lel with the pre­vi­ous Wish you were here and con­cep­tu­al­ly devel­ops the ideas of the musi­cians. The main con­cept of the album is the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of soci­ety through the prism of ani­mals (we should assume that “Ani­mal Farm” was on the album’s mood­board). The songs in the track­list of the disc are also referred to as spe­cif­ic ani­mals: Pigs, dogs, sheep.

The idea for the disc design belongs to bass play­er Roger Waters. He drove by Lon­don’s Bat­tersea pow­er sta­tion every day and offered to shoot her on the cov­er. With only one caveat: a pig must fly between the pipes of the pow­er plant, refer­ring to the con­cept of the record.

The huge bal­loon was ordered from an air­ship fac­to­ry, and film­ing took place two days in a row. As a result, on the first day there was not enough heli­um to lift it, and on the sec­ond, clos­er to the apogee, the pig sim­ply broke away from the cables and began to fly away rapid­ly. After a lot of relo­ca­tions, the con­nec­tion of air­craft and one sur­prised pilot of the air­craft, the bal­loon land­ed in Kent, from where it was returned to the group for a fee. For­tu­nate­ly, at the moment of the pic­ture every­thing worked out, and now it is one of the most famous musi­cal cov­ers of world clas­sics.

4. Anthony and the Johnsons – I am a Bird Now (2005)

This is the sec­ond stu­dio album by the non-triv­ial band Antho­ny and John­sons, in order to under­stand the sig­nif­i­cance of the cov­er, you need to know the con­text. The 1974 pho­to­graph shows Can­dy Dar­ling, one of the stars of the Andy Warhol Fac­to­ry, on her deathbed sur­round­ed by white ros­es. The pho­to was tak­en by Peter Huj­jar, anoth­er star of the time, who was on friend­ly terms with Warhol, was friends with the head of Vogue Diana Vree­land, shot Bur­roughs and Susan Son­tag.

The melan­choly image com­ple­ments the band’s front­man’s haunt­ing vocals and ties togeth­er all the pieces of this sto­ry revolv­ing around the New York of those years. This is a kind of trib­ute to the mem­o­ry of many peo­ple and a visu­al med­i­ta­tion on the theme of death: in addi­tion to Can­dy her­self in the pic­ture, the pho­to refers to the afore­men­tioned Warhol and Hujar, who died of AIDS, David Vounarow­icz and Kei­th Har­ing, and in gen­er­al the mood pre­vail­ing among artists of that time. AIDS and hard drugs then claimed many lives.

Even with­out know­ing these details, it is worth pay­ing trib­ute to the aes­thet­ic per­cep­tion of Huj­jar’s image: an even bal­ance of light and shad­ows, the body is locat­ed along the axes, the light gen­tly fad­ing into noir, the play of dark col­ors in the fore­ground and white, like spots of light, in the back­ground.

One such per­son is Peter Hujar, who was diag­nosed with severe AIDS on Jan­u­ary 3, 1987. Hujar was an old friend of Warhol’s and appeared in sev­er­al of his Screen Tests, as well as in The Thir­teen Most Hand­some Boys. He him­self was an extreme­ly gift­ed pho­tog­ra­ph­er. Work­ing only in black and white and flex­i­bly switch­ing between land­scape, por­trait, nude, ani­mals and ruins, he gave his images a depth, a for­mal flaw­less­ness that few peo­ple man­age to achieve.

Olivia Lange, Lone­ly City

5. Led Zeppelin – In Through the out door (1979)

A gem of cov­er art and a con­cept of unsur­passed lev­els: it seems that no one has ever tried to repeat such a visu­al game.

Sev­en songs, six cov­ers, five year old son, four band mem­bers, three weeks of work, two words “Dear John…” and one cen­tral fig­ure depict­ed from dif­fer­ent angles. Pas­tel, cig­ar wrap­per paper, sepia.

Led Zep­pelin cre­at­ed some­thing tru­ly extra­or­di­nary from a visu­al point of view, and it hap­pened almost half a cen­tu­ry ago. In through the out door was released with six dif­fer­ent cov­er options at once! Giv­en the time, in 79 albums were released only on vinyl, which was sealed in craft wrap­ping paper. Thus, the buy­er could not know which of the art would be on the card­board cov­er of the record.

Each of the six is ​​one of the six peo­ple in the bar look­ing at the sev­enth, John. This is the man who was dumped by the girl, and he is try­ing to wash down the grief in the bar from the pic­ture. On the front side of the cov­er, a per­spec­tive is tak­en on the main char­ac­ter through the eyes of one of the 6 present, and on the oth­er side there is a pic­ture in the cen­ter of which is the per­son whose eyes we looked at John him­self.

As was often the case in ana­log times, var­i­ous post­cards, addi­tion­al mate­ri­als, stick­ers, etc. were put inside the enve­lope. Inside In Through the out door was an enve­lope made of thin, almost cig­ar paper with a black-and-white image on the theme of the bar: a smol­der­ing cig­ar, a half-emp­ty glass, a lighter. But if this paper is slight­ly wet­ted, then the objects in the image become paint­ed in bright shades.

6. Pink Floyd — Delicate Sound of Thunder (1988)

This is not a hit parade of the best Pink Floyd albums, but this group has con­sis­tent­ly pro­duced mas­ter­pieces of art­work.

By the time this album was record­ed, Roger Waters had already left the band, and the band’s times were not the best. How­ev­er, even in its decline, Pink Floyd man­aged to cre­ate and imple­ment an idea that is not infe­ri­or to past visu­al suc­cess­es. The author of the cov­er was Storm Thorg­er­son, the per­ma­nent ide­o­log­i­cal inspir­er of the British team.

The pho­to shows two men: one sur­round­ed by a flock of birds in the back­ground, the sec­ond in the front in a suit cov­ered with light bulbs. Thorg­er­son embod­ied the two com­po­nents of Pink Floyd con­certs in this image:

Since it was a live album, I want­ed the cov­er to reflect the specifics of Pink Floyd that make their con­certs spe­cial: it’s like a union of light and sound.

So, a flock of birds that flap their wings refers to sound, and the light bulbs on the suit are a sym­bol of light. In an inter­view, Tor­gen­son recalls that the inspi­ra­tion for such images was part­ly the work of the sor­re­al­ist artists Fur Break­fast by Maret Oppen­heim and Dis­turb­ing Dreams by Sal­vador Dalí.

Adding to the incred­i­ble­ness of the album is the fact that Del­i­cate Sound of Thun­der was the first rock album to be played in space. Sovi­et cos­mo­nauts took her with them to Soyuz TM‑7. Fir­ma Melodiya released this record, and it became the first offi­cial­ly released Pink Floyd record in the USSR.