Casting influences that span generations and genres, the best 70s album covers not only define a decade in which notions of what was possible – or even permissible – were being challenged, they have transcended the music within, becoming works of art in their own right.
10: The Slits: ‘Cut’ (1979)
Upon Cut’s release in the late 70s, its album cover outraged (mostly male) record shop owners, critics and label heads, confronting expectations not only of female musicians, but of women as a whole. The iconic photograph was, in true punk spirit, borne of spontaneity, taken during a break in recording when The Slits (Ari Up, Viv Albertine and Tessa Pollit) disrobed, fashioned loincloths from an old sheet and played in the mud outside the studio. The group’s subversion of the male gaze represents an important shift for women in music, unapologetically celebrating and owning their identities despite rampant and, at times, aggressive sexism within the industry.
9: Roxy Music: ‘Roxy Music’ (1972)
For Bryan Ferry glamour offered a ticket out of the mundanity of his working-class upbringing in 50s County Durham. Cornish model Kari-Ann Muller provided the glitz Ferry had been after for Roxy Music’s debut album, evoking Marilyn Monroe-era pin-up fantasies combined with exaggerated, glam-inspired 70s fashion (big blue eyeshadow definitely had its moment). Muller was paid a mere £20 for the photo shoot, which, now that it stands among the best 70s album covers, seems unimaginable today.
8: ABBA: ‘Voulez-Vous’ (1979)
Is there anything more 70s than ABBA? Most of their artworks could be in the running for a spot in this list of the best 70s album covers, but Voulez-Vous’ artwork has everything we have come to love about the Europop group: fabulous hairstyles, period graphics and the wardrobes associated with disco’s guilty pleasures. In a photo taken at a popular Stockholm nightclub, the Swedish quartet don their finest for an album containing dancefloor-fillers including Does Your Mother Know and If It Wasn’t For The Nights.
7: Fleetwood Mac: ‘Rumours’ (1977)
The album cover for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours captures the tumultuous spirit of the band (and the world around them) in the 70s: drummer Mick Fleetwood and singer Stevie Nicks’ intertwined poses convey the interpersonal relationships and drama that fed into the album’s songs. The crystal ball in the photo is the same one featured on the artwork for their 1975 self-titled album (the first one from the Buckingham-Nicks iteration of the band), highlighting – like other acts from the era – Fleetwood Mac’s interest in all things mystical.
6: Pink Floyd: ‘The Dark Side Of The Moon’ (1973)
Almost inescapable, The Dark Side Of The Moon album cover has become such an iconic image you’ll find it on merchandise from mugs and keyrings at record shops, to knock-off T-shirts at market stalls. Cementing its status as one of the best 70s album covers is the fact that, by combining intense, mind-blowing music with an illustration of what happens when white light passes through a prism, Pink Floyd somehow had the power to entirely recontextualise a scientific diagram, giving fans plenty of room to interpret, explore and discuss its true meaning. Designed by leading 70s graphic designers Hipgnosis, The Dark Side Of The Moon imagery encapsulates an incredibly creative period during which musicians were seemingly able to create alternative realities for fans to get lost in.
5: Eagles: ‘Hotel California’ (1976)
The 70s had musicians and fans alike dreaming about Los Angeles. From the relaxed, easy-going community of bohemians in Laurel Canyon to the excesses and seedy underworld of the Sunset Strip, the City Of Angels never looked so good to the rain-drenched masses in Old Blighty. Eagles’ Hotel California celebrates the Golden State and its sunny cities in a picturesque postcard of an album cover.
4: Miles Davis: ‘Bitches Brew’ (1970)
While the Mati Klarwien-designed Bitches Brew’s artwork hasn’t become a cultural shorthand in the way some of the best 70s albums covers have, the intense imagery and references to the elements evoke both the hedonism of the decade to come and a leftover hippie desire to reconnect with the planet.
3: Gloria Gaynor: ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ (1975)
It’s disco, baby! The warm-toned, close-up action shot of Gaynor singing, lips millimetres from the mic, transports you to the beginnings of the genre – all sweltering, passionate dances and blurry spotlights. Fittingly-titled, Never Can Say Goodbye was largely responsible for introducing disco music to the public.
2: Sex Pistols: ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols’ (1977)
One of the most recognisable album covers of all time (even at a distance or in low lighting), Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols is a great example of the DIY aesthetic that went hand-in-hand with the late 70s punk scene, pervading not only album covers, but clothes, posters, fanzines and approaches to the music business itself.
1: David Bowie: ‘Aladdin Sane’ (1973)
The ultimate representation of glam-rock androgyny. Captured by photographer Brian Duffy, Bowie’s iconic pose ensured that Aladdin Sane’s artwork would become not only one of the best David Bowie album covers but one of the best 70s album covers of all time. Spanning decades, nationalities, genders, generations and genres, its impact is immeasurable – much like that of Bowie himself.
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