Prince - Lovesexy
Do the little girls understand what the men don't know, or can we all agree this cover is a gross-out?
Paisley Park Records and Warner Bros.
Orleans - Waking and Dreaming
Awake or in dreams, in neither do I wish to be surrounded by naked hippies. If anything can make you pro-nukes, it's this kind of "fantasy." Are these guys at least on the way to the shower?
Bob Dylan - Saved
What is it about religious piety that skewers the senses so definitively?
ELP - Love Beach
Look at three progressive rock guys trying to get down with the Yacht Rock set! We’re assuming they did so because they were tired of touring and looking out at all the guys in the audience. But do ladies really love cheeseballs?
Village People - Renaissance
It wasn't like their other albums were classic, and if this new look had taken off, surely we would be remembering it with fondness instead of with crass horror.
RCA and Casablanca Records
Radiohead - Pablo Honey
The idea that these guys are now taken very seriously seems a joke if you remember what people thought of them when their debut album was first released. They were considered a lamer "grunge" band than Candlebox! They get respect now, but their terrible album art is still "Creep"-y.
Parlophone Records and Capitol Records
Bonnie Raitt - Home Plate
You're always asking for trouble when you start making sports references. We remember discussing jazz albums with some friends and we realized that if a man is sitting on the curb in a burned-out city on the cover, it's going to be a far better record than one of a man smiling with a trumpet in his hand. Take that to the bank.
Cher - Take Me Home
We remember seeing this album in the local department store and not once did we ever consider owning it. The cover did me a favor, we suppose. But it begs the question: Who looks at this and thinks, "This album must be great"?
Weezer - Raditude
These guys sell records. Or used to. They don't have to settle for what would be a vaguely cute Facebook profile pic. Maybe they really admire a band like Uriah Heep more than we realized.
DGC, Interscope and Geffen Records
Europe - The Final Countdown
All of their album covers were miserable. But people really bought this thing. Now maybe your nostalgia for the 1980s should stop.
Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy
Black Sabbath's seventh studio album is their first to present the band not as the lords of darkness but as part of the blighted software company that the Who went on to use for their Endless Wire album. Hipgnosis, who had done such a fine job with Pink Floyd that I wouldn't be surprised if I heard the Floyd paid for this in order to sink their competition, designed the art. As it stands, Pink Floyd had no known involvement. This is all on Black Sabbath.
Guns N' Roses - "The Spaghetti Incident?"
Yes, the title alludes to a food fight between Axl Rose and departed drummer Steven Adler, but to the rest of us it just looks like some bargain-basement, generic-brand canned spaghetti with bland typeface set over it.
Wilco - A.M.
If anyone wonders why Wilco didn't catch on the first time around, it likely has something to do with an album cover that looks like it was made in graphic arts class by a student who received a final grade of "C-." Look at this album cover and tell me you want to hear this band.
Sire and Reprise Records
Jerry Garcia - Garcia
We swear to you, a friend of mine gave me a Creedence Clearwater Revival record in this album jacket with the word "Creedence" written on a piece of tape across the cover, and for over 10 years we never felt the urge to figure out whose album cover this actually was. We assumed it was some no-name artist no one cared about. We know the Grateful Dead can be a bit, shall we say, inscrutable, but this looks like a confused magazine ad for something that's yet to be invented.
Cheap Trick - Woke Up With a Monster
Why is it when bands are really struggling to maintain any semblance of relevance, they make album covers that undermine that effort? This might be a great album, but no one with any sense is going to tell anyone else they bought it.
The Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
The Keith Richards autobiography Life teaches us that if the band had been left up to Keith, they would've been finished by 1972 and dead broke. It was left up to Mick Jagger to keep the band current. He succeeded with "Miss You" and he bombed with this Miami Vice-styled cover shot. The dark red cellophane was a nice touch.
Rolling Stones and Columbia Records
The Kinks - Word of Mouth
The 1980s gave groups from the 1960s some pretty weird ideas of what would be cool for their audience. Actually, I have to assume that by this point, no one in the band even looked at the artwork until it was too late. At which point, they figured it didn't really matter.
Bruce Springsteen - Lucky Town
Forget for a moment that this is even someone you've heard of. Now think about buying this record. You wouldn't do it, would you? It features the same lame typeface as the other Bruce album released that day, Human Touch. And for anyone thinking this looked hip back in the 1990s, no, it looked terrible the day it came out.
Leonard Cohen - The Future
Late-period Cohen albums are already pretty hilarious for their shopping-mall-like productions. Come see the organ that plays itself! But this looks like something concocted by someone's struggling high school art student. Kid, save your money. Skip art school. Learn a trade or become a secretary.
Uriah Heep - High and Mighty
You want to know where Spinal Tap got most of their inspiration? Fly the friendly construction-paper-sky with this cheaped-out album cover. The problem with so many bad album covers is that you're never sure how you're supposed to feel about them. Are we scared? Are we exhilarated? Do we care?
Bronze Records and Warner Bros.
Van Halen - Balance
This album is made worse by the promise that Sammy Hagar is singing on the CD inside. Perhaps the intention was to scare away those of us who hadn't already been put off by their dumb and dumber album titles.
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
Sentimentality makes it hard to realize just how awful this album cover is. It appeals to small children, but weren't the Beatles trying to get away from the teeny-bopper crowd? The U.S. version adds "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" to an album that already had "I Am the Walrus." No need to turn it into a joke. The film is terrible, but the album isn't. But you don't know that by looking at it.
Parlophone and Capitol Records
Rush - Power Windows
A shirtless young boy who looks like Howard Jones is caught trying to use his television remote control to close a window. A window, it should be noted, that has no discernible "power." It's just an old house window. Somebody get this kid a more comfortable chair!
Anthem, Atlantic, Epic, Sony, Mercury and Vertigo Record Labels.
The Who - Endless Wire
From the band that never could say goodbye comes Endless Wire, the album where the final two surviving members issue an album cover that looks like a chintzy screensaver for a long-defunct computer company. This was their idea of modern?
Polydore and Universal Republic Records
The Black Crowes - Amorica
Doesn't this look like one of those doo-rags that the guy from the Real Housewives of New Jersey wears on his head? The uncensored version of this cover shows otherwise.