Paul Woodley's Design Blog
Graphic/web design, art, visual culture and other bits and bobs…

TOP 10 – 70s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN May 28, 2013

So I was listening to Cream the other day and it instantly got me thinking, how could I have not done a album artwork design blog yet? Especially from the classic era of 70s album artwork design… Madness!!

Classic rock has always been there for me, my parents (especially my mum) loved a bit of 70’s rock – Zeppelin, Sabbath, The Beatles, The Who, Moody Blues, Pink Floyd and I had many times growing up with their vinyl collection looming over me. Although I wasn’t trusted enough to actually put the albums on (I might’ve scratched them after all, mind you I ignored that and now I’ve got all their vinyl – BOOM), there was nothing like actually looking at those classic rock artwork designs on that big, 12 inch sleeve format.

After the legendary Storm Thorgerson died last month and this week saw the sad passing of The Doors’ founding member Ray Manzarek, I thought it’d be fun to get a collection of my favourite artwork designs from the ‘age of the album’ in the 1970’s…. Oh, by the way, I haven’t listened to some of these albums, it’s more about the artwork itself… So, here’s my 10…

Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells... 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Mike Oldfield – “Tubular Bells”. This is one of the first full albums I remember listening to with my mate Kev. I’m not a massive fan of prog rock but this cover, alongside Dark Side of the Moon, really stands out from that genre. Mysterious and leaves you asking questions – just right for an extended instrumental piece.

Steely Dan - Aja - 70's ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Steely Dan – “Aja”. One I’ve not listened to… But I love this, it makes me wanna explore the image and subconsciously, the music.  It’s pretty much a great example of successful graphic design in that way!

Nick Drake -

Nick Drake – “Best Of”. I believe that this is for a best of compilation of cult legend Nick Drake (I might be wrong there though) and I love the way it evokes the loneliness he injected into his music. Plus, it reminds me of a great photo by Henri Cartier Bresson. I saw a blog a few months back that featured a whole host of alternative shots and it was fascinating to see, all the people off to work, completely ignoring Drake… Shame I can’t find it now though! Damn it.

Joe Jackson - Look Sharp - TOP 10 – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Joe Jackson – “Look Sharp!”. Absolutely love this design, it could be from any period, it looks as ‘sharp‘ now as it no doubt did in 1979…

Kraftwerk - Man Machine - TOP 10 – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Kraftwerk – “Man Machine”. Evoking the angular design of Bauhaus, it looks timeless yet still contemporary, I really love this.


Ashra – “Correlation”. I don’t quite know how to feel about this image with it’s vomit/phallic suggestions. However, I do like the typography and the colour palette. Do I like it? I’m unsure, it’s kinda odd. Should have I included it? Dunno.

The Clash - TOP 10 – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

The Clash – “London Calling”. I love everything about this design. The photograph is so brilliant, the design could’ve just been that but adding the corner hugging, Elvis Prestley copying type completes the artwork perfectly. Aligning the punk movement with the rebellious energy of early rock n roll, this cover is a stone cold classic.

Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings And Food  – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Talking Heads — “More Songs About Buildings And Food”. Another album I’ve not heard but I’m pretty sure I’d like. This artwork reminds me of one of my favourite Hockney pieces – the photo-montage of the desert road

Neil Young - On The Beach - TOP 10 – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Neil Young – “On The Beach”. Not too keen on the type choice at the top but this image and the colour palette choice – really awesome. There’s something really quite sad about the whole thing.

Suicide - Suicide - TOP 10 – 70’s ALBUM ARTWORK DESIGN

Suicide – “Suicide”. Yeah, well, some album covers leave you wondering whether it’s artwork reflects the type of music contained within. This cover could not be more apt for the nightmarish (but sonically interesting) sounds on this LP. Although it has that kind of obviousness about it, I think the choice of white as a background for the broken type and bloody graphic raises more questions about the subject matter of the music than answers.

Check out my Pinterest board ‘Album Artwork’ where all the above covers appear, as well as a selection of other beaut’s…

PS, I know I’ve missed out some classics but I felt it good to shine a light on less well known gems too! :)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: