In the 1960s, vinyl album covers became a form of art. The photographer, art design, graphics and theme could elevate the album to new heights. Or, it could represent a missed opportunity, a mistake, failed message.
Here are 10 albums from the decade that in my mind are remembered for one or more bad reasons. I am not dismissing the quality of the music, some of these albums are very good. Again, these are just my opinions.
Beach Boys: Pet Sounds (1966). A classic album? Absolutely. A pop symphony. Brian Wilson at the top of his game. Incredible musical performances by members of the Wrecking Crew. The album art – ouch. A total missed opportunity to make a comparable message to the amazing music. The cover photo seems to convey it’s a children’s record. Disappointing.
Rolling Stones: Beggars Banquet (1968). Rejected cover, for obvious reasons. Replaced by a white cover with the band name and album title in cursive, like an invitation. Subsequent reissues used the bathroom photo. I didn’t find the bathroom photo to be offensive, just not appropriate for a band wanting to appeal to a mass audience. The replacement cover art was better, just not particularly original. Inside, the music is fine, but I’ve never warmed to it.
Blind Faith: Blind Faith (1969). The only album by this supergroup. The original album cover was of a young, topless girl holding a toy airplane. I’m not sure why this was selected. Of course it could not be released in the U.S. or other countries so a goofy photo of the band was picked instead. The cover art looks cheap and uninspiring. Neither cover concept works. A missed opportunity and terrible result. A very good musical album which makes this more the pity.
Freddie and the Dreamers: Freddie and the Dreamers (1963). I am not a fan of this British band, I just saw nothing special about them. The cover photo is dreadful, almost nightmarish. Yikes. RIP Freddie Garrity.
Jefferson Airplane: Crown of Creation (1968). The Airplane was always up to make a statement or support a cause. Designed by John Van Hamersveld, who also did Magical Mystery Tour, Exile on Main Street and many other album covers, the photo of an atom bomb mushroom cloud, with members of the band in the cloud, is a non-starter for me. At the time that might have been daring and dramatic, but it leaves me thinking…what’s the point? Yes, nuclear weapons are insane, but what does this add the discussion? Nothing. It is crass and opportunistic. The music inside is an 8 out of 10.
Willie Nelson: Good Times (1968) Poor Willie Nelson, this bad. Willie spun his wheels in the Nashville country music machine during the 1960s. He played their game and he regretted it. He was a round peg in their square system. This cover is the nadir of his decade. What the hell? Thankfully, Willie broke away and became an outlaw.
Tom Jones: A-Tom-ic Jones (1966). Clever. Not really. Released in the U.S., the label used a different cover. Mass destruction does not sell. The material on the inside was poor, which is why “Thunderball” and “Promise Her Anything” were added.
Elvis Presley: Potluck (1962). What the hell is wrong with Elvis’s head? I’ve seen a similar photo on another album. Didn’t anyone look at his photo before it was slapped onto the cover? Okay, the album title sucks. Leftovers? No, this was a legit album, but look at the bargain bin design. This is without creativity or effort. For someone of Elvis’s stature, this cover is insulting. In the early 1960s, album art was incidental to the music inside, but this art gets an F.
The Mamas and the Papas: Deliver (1967). The third album by the group. The album photo is off-putting. Drinking water from a pool? It’s not hip, sexy or even earthy. It’s unattractive. The music inside was a mixture. “Dedicated to the One I Love” is the best.
The Who: The Who Sell Out (1967). Blasphemy! This album is a classic. Parody of selling out to commercial interests with real and fake commercials. There are a few really good song on the album including “I Can See For Miles.” The album concept was silly and the photos ridiculous. Who cares?