Flashback to seventh grade – when I first owned an Abbey Road t-shirt. Like any other 13-year-old girl who thought she had an elevated taste in music, I loved The Beatles, and what better way to demonstrate that love than to parade around with an album cover on my front?
I wore it for almost five years before my mother (who I”m sure decided her daughter didn”t need to be parading around in a stained t-shirt any longer) tossed it out.
Regardless, I”d already built an impressive collection of album-adorned clothing – Pink Floyd”s “The Dark Side of the Moon” on one shirt, Kiss” “Destroyer” on another, to name a few. I agonized over merchandise websites and bookmarked shirts displaying The Killers” “Hot Fuss” and Paramore”s “brand new eyes.”
I made album art a part of my identity, and while not everyone goes so far, it is worthwhile to note how these images contribute to the ways we view music, and pay tribute to that influence.
Everyone knows the saying, “Don”t judge a book by its cover.” That doesn”t mean everyone heeds that advice – it”s human nature. Aesthetics matter. Yet, as with books, bad album covers don”t mean bad music.
Does that stop me from hitting the occasional “skip” while on Spotify or Pandora radio when a cover doesn”t suit my fancy? Sadly no, but this is just a testament to album art”s impact on a person”s initial response to a band and its music. Still, who”d have known Lorde”s album “Pure Heroine” would be so complex based on its black and white bore of a cover? Who”d have assumed The Strokes” easy-going indie rock style based on the original cover of their debut album, “Is This It” – a woman, naked from the waist down, wearing a single glove? While album art does not directly reflect the music in most cases, it creates an impression.
Second, album art is a creative outlet for fans. We couldn”t walk around with signs around our necks that say, “I listen to such-and-such band and that”s a part of my identity.” So instead we adorn album art on our clothes, hang it on our walls and make it our cover photos on Facebook. Nirvana”s “Nevermind” is a declaration of grunge. Anything Beyonce says “diva,” and that is often the intended message (myself included). Album art becomes iconic because it become a device of reflection – no other facet of the music industry acts the same.
And finally, album art isn”t just random – it meant something to the artists, and speaks to who they were as musicians at the time of the album”s release. Knowing the meaning is worthwhile in order to grasp the entire experience of an album.
“Abbey Road,” recorded in 1969 near the end of The Beatles” career as a group, was scheduled for release on a Wednesday. On Tuesday the band had yet to decide on a cover.
On a whim, the band chose to cross the street outside their studio for a photo. Completely spontaneous and somehow perfect, the band”s recording labels” art director John Kosh received the photo and approved it as the album”s cover – ultimately deciding to leave off the band and albums” names.
“I thought, well, this is the biggest band in the world,” Kosh told Rockcellar Magazine. “Why would you need to do that?”
This speaks to the power one image has garnered. No name indicating the band and yet “Abbey Road” adorns walls and merchandise across the world – almost 50 years later.
Album art reflects the growth and intentions of bands across all genres, and serves as an integral facet of the pop culture images that define generations. It”s worth paying attention.