Around the world in 10 cult album covers
It is well known that music softens the mood. But it can also show itself to be disorienting and incite to travel. Some artists have drawn inspiration from places that have also been used to decorate the covers of their albums. So many records have contributed to the popularity of sites that are now forever part of the great history of music and pop culture in the broadest sense.
Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin – Giant’s Causeway (Bushmills, Northern Ireland)
Formidable volcanic formation on the coast of Northern Ireland, located a few kilometers from the small town of Bushmills in County Antrim, the Giant’s Causeway is a place of legend. A site shaped by Mother Nature, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, consisting of a spectacular succession of cooled lava prisms plunging into the cold sea opposite the Scottish coast.
Its name comes from a legend that states that once upon a time, two enemy giants, one Irish and the other Scottish, fought on a path shaped by rocks thrown by the Irish giant. Nevertheless, the latter, seeing that his adversary was much bigger, became afraid and took refuge in his house.
Followed closely by the Scottish giant, he then decided to disguise himself as a baby, with the complicity of his wife. And it is by seeing that the infant presented dimensions out of standards, thinking then that his father must be even more enormous, that the Scottish giant took fear and fled.
While today the legend is still told to visitors, the Giant’s Causeway is also known for being featured on the cover of Houses of the Holy, the fifth studio album by British band Led Zeppelin.
If at first, Jimmy Page, the guitar virtuoso of the combo proposes a creation of Storm Thogerson representing a tennis racket, the record company sees things differently. The group is not convinced.
So much so that the release of the album is considerably delayed. However, Jimmy Page does not win his case. A photo session is organized at the Chaussée des Géants. Stefan Gates and his sister Samantha, then children, pose on the volcanic prisms for a composition inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s Children of Icarus.
When it was released, House of the Holy was a success. Its cover, subject to much debate, was even nominated for a Grammy Award in 1974. And if it had to bow to the artwork of Tommy from The Who, it still remained in the legend.
Animals – Pink Floyd – Battersea Power Station (London, England)
When it opened in 1933, the coal-fired power station at Battersea was one of the largest in England. In 1935, it was equipped with the largest steam turbo-alternator in Europe.
Designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, who also worked on the Southwark Power Station, which has since been transformed into the Tate Modern, Battersea Power Station closed in 1983, ready to go down in history. A power plant that has since been completely renovated and now includes a luxury hotel, housing and a shopping center. The Battersea power station has also been featured in many films, from Children of Men to Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.
Pink Floyd has just finished recording Animals, its tenth studio album, when the collective Hipgnosis starts working on the cover. Partner of choice of the combo, Hipgnosis makes several proposals but none manages to seduce the musicians.
Finally, the perfect visual is found when Roger Waters imagines an amazing concept. As a neighbor of the Battersea Power Station, he asked the Australian artist Jeffrey Shaw to design a pig-shaped airship which he then hung on one of the power station’s chimneys. On December 2, 1976, the pig was set up, ready to be “shot” by eleven photographers and eight filmmakers. A sniper is also on duty to shoot the ball in case of trouble. Unfortunately, bad weather forced the team to postpone the shoot.
The next day, Pink Floyd’s manager organizes a new session but forgets to warn the sniper. The balloon soon broke loose and flew into the sky, heading for London Heathrow Airport. Several flights were cancelled for safety reasons before the balloon landed on a farm in Kent. Recovered, it takes its place and is the subject of a third and final session.
However, none of the pictures are suitable and the group chooses to use a picture of the Battersea Power Station on which the pig is simply embedded.
The pig having made its return on several occasions during the solo tours of Roger Waters, symbolizing his dislike for Donald Trump and more generally to express his political opinions unequivocally.
Inspired by George Orwall’s novel Animal Farm, the album Animals went four times platinum. It has sold 6,531,000 copies worldwide. His visuals are among the most iconic in rock. It was also used in the film Sons of Man, when Clive Owen heads to the power plant.
Hotel California – Eagles – Beverly Hills Hotel (Los Angeles, USA)
Like the Chateau Marmont, the Beverly Hills Hotel has hosted many stars since its opening on May 12, 1912. A true monument of Sunset Boulevard, near Rodeo Drive, designed by Elmer Grey, today owned by the Sultan of Brunei, this luxury establishment began to write its legend in the 1920s, during the golden age of silent movies, with stars like Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino. Closed during the Great Depression, it finally found favor with the crowned heads of the Hollywood bourgeoisie.
Marilyn Monroe, Yves Montand, Arthur Miller, Simone Signoret, John Wayne, Elizabeth Fonda and Henry Fonda frequent the rooms and bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as Jackie and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, Brad Pitt, Spike Lee, Cindy Crawford, James Caan or Robert De Niro and Robin Williams.
The Beverly Hills Hotel inspires Don Henley and Glenn Frey. For musicians, the establishment symbolizes celebrity life in Hollywood. Don Henley describes the hotel as “the center of everything Los Angeles stands for.” The song Hotel California symbolizes the end of innocence by telling the story of travelers stuck in a hotel from which it is impossible to escape.
A song that gave its name to the album whose cover is decorated with a photo of the hotel in question, at sunset. A creation of David Alexander and John Kosh that has undoubtedly contributed to the almost mystical popularity of the Beverly Hills Hotel for a record that has sold 32 million copies.
(What’s The Story) Morning Glory ? – Oasis – Berwick Street (London, England)
Developed between 1687 and 1703, Berwick Street grew around the Green Man public house at number 57 and an 18th century market that is among the oldest in London.
It is possible to find food as well as household items, jewelry and clothing. Known for its independent record shops, pubs and other typically British restaurants, Berwick Street is usually bustling from morning to night.
It is for this reason that Brian Cannon, the artistic director of Oasis, who was in charge at the time of the release of the album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory ?He decided to take the photograph for the cover of the record at 5 o’clock in the morning. The only way for him to capture the ideal light.
Representing two men, one from behind, Brian Cannon himself, and the other from the front, Sean Rowley, a famous DJ, the photograph also allows us to see Owen Morris, the producer of the record. This one masks besides the face with the master of Morning Glory.
Third best-selling album in UK music history, with 22 million copies sold, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory ? includes the hit Wonderwall but also Don’t Look Back in Anger, Roll With It, Some Might Say and Champagne Supernova.
Frank – Amy Winehouse – Princelet Street (London, England)
Amy Winehouse’s first studio album, Frank was first released on October 20, 2003. If the public does not pay much attention to her, the massive success of Back to Black, the second opus of the Camden singer offers her more exposure.
With 2,000,000 copies sold, Frank is also famous for its cover art by amateur photographer Charles Moriarty.
As Amy Winehouse has just finished recording Frank, the search for the perfect cover begins. Dissatisfied with the test photos, the artist met Charles Moriarty through a mutual friend. At the time, Amy Winehouse was rather shy and did not feel ready to pose in a studio in front of the photographer’s lens.
For her, the music should be enough on its own. Aware of this fact and not wanting to rush things, Charles Moriarty chose to meet the singer in order to get to know her better. In spite of everything, he never separates from his camera.
While on Princelet Street in Spitalfields, Amy Winehouse and Charles Moriarty came across a man walking his two Scottish terriers on a rainbow leash.
Seduced by the dogs, Amy Winehouse agrees to pose with them, thus giving birth to the famous cover of the album. Afterwards, the duo flew to New York where they captured the shots that will be included in the booklet.
Diesel and Dust – Midnight Oil – Burra (Australia)
Located 156 km north of Adelaide, on the Barrier Highway, Burra is a village historically known for its livestock. Mainly populated in the first place by miners eager to exploit the copper deposits, the town slowly declined before becoming an important tourist center. Around Burra there are several farms and other isolated buildings.
One of his buildings was used as an illustration for the album cover of Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil.
Considered the band’s masterpiece, Diesel and Dust contains the hit Beds are Burning. The cover, signed by the photographer Ken Duncan, with its small dilapidated house of the 1920s, became cult. Burra has become a rallying point for all Midnight Oil fans.
This plebiscite even encouraged a fundraising campaign to renovate the house when it was in danger of collapsing under the weight of the years. The artwork of Diesel and Dust was awarded the prize for the best cover at the ARIA Awards in 1988. Rolling Stones magazine named it one of the 100 best album covers of all time.
Use Your Illusion I & II – Guns N’ Roses – Vatican Museums (Rome, Italy)
The origins of the cover of the two Use Your Illusion albums go back to the 16th century. Pope Julius II then took office. Wishing to redecorate his apartments, he asked the painter Raphael to create a fresco. The latter set to work in 1508 and completed his work, entitled The School of Athens, in 1512. Representing the major figures of ancient thought, this painting is now on display in the Signature Chamber of the Vatican Museums.
These museums, twelve in number, are probably the best known in Rome, with five galleries and one thousand four hundred rooms. It is one of the largest art collections in the world. The Vatican Museums include the famous Sistine Chapel and its spectacular fresco by Michelangelo.
The covers of the two parts of Use Your Ilusion, one blue and the other orange-red, highlight the scribe, as well as the person on his right.
It is to Axl Rose that Guns N’ Roses owe this illustration. The latter having noticed the painting during a visit to the Vatican Museums. He then commissioned artist Mark Kostabi to slightly rework the painting to give it a more contemporary patina and thus more consistent with the rock and roll imagery of the band.
Porcupine – Echo & the Bunnymen – Gullfoss (Iceland)
Gullfoss is one of the most spectacular natural sites in Iceland. It is also part of the famous Golden Circle, where all of the country’s most beautiful places are gathered. In winter, the waterfalls take on a whole new dimension, devoured by ice and snow. A season that the musicians of the British band Echo and the Bunnymen have chosen to capture the visual that will adorn the cover of their third album, Porcupine.
A true critical and commercial success, Porcupine is part of the book Les 1001 albums qu’il faut avoir écoutés dans sa vie, by Robert Dimery. It contains the singles The Back of Love and The Cutter.
The Unforgettable Fire – U2 – Moydrum Castle (Republic of Ireland)
Devoured by vegetation, the castle of Moydrum was built in 1814. Designed by architect Richard Morrison, embracing the Renaissance style with Gothic accents, the castle was long owned by the Handcock family.
Having borne the brunt of the major tensions in the Republic of Ireland in the 1920s, Moydrum was burned to the ground by the IRA on the night of July 3, 1921. The latter represents a symbol of authority. Now “renovated” by nature, barely visible under a thick layer of leaves, Moydrum Castle is chosen by The Edge, the guitarist of U2.
For him, the building represents the end of an era. Captured by the famous photographer Anton Corbijn, the castle is featured on the cover as the band poses in front of its façade. Over the years, the artwork has never stopped annoying Bono. The latter has never adopted this visual where he appears, according to him inexplicably, the arm raised.
Unforgettable Fire and its numerous hits, including the stainless Pride (In the Name of Love), are all about Ireland’s heritage. A record representing a castle, recorded at Shane Castle and whose back cover is illustrated by Carrigogunnel Castle, a historical monument in County Limerick.
Lonerism – Tame Impala – Jardins du Luxembourg (Paris, France)
Created at the request of Marie de Médicis in 1612, the Luxembourg Gardens cover 23 hectares of the Luxembourg Palace. Crowned the most beautiful garden in Europe, this exceptional site is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris where it attracts both tourists and locals.
If the palace is its centerpiece, it also includes several monuments such as the Petit Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Museum, the orangery, the former Vendôme Hotel and the greenhouses, where more than 400 species of orchids flourish. Several times cited in the literature, in Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, Le diable au corps, by Raymond Radiguet, Sanctuary, by William Faulkner, or Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les Mots, used as a location in Les Trois Mousquetaires, Le Feu follet, À la merveille and Lupin, gardens have also inspired musicians.
The Luxembourg Gardens are featured on the cover of Lonerism, the fifth album by Australian band Tame Impala. The cover, rather original, represents more exactly one of the gates of the gardens.
Critically acclaimed, J Awards winner in 2012, Lonerism features the singles Elephant and Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.
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Cult! music: 100 mythical music places [French Edition]
Embark immediately on an exhilarating world tour with some of music’s most iconic bands and artists!
Head to Melbourne, Australia for a stroll along AC/DC Lane before crossing the iconic Abbey Road pedestrian crossing in the company of The Beatles. Visit Janis Joplin‘s home in San Francisco and find out how Johnny Cash ended up playing his greatest hits to a crowd of prisoners in San Quentin. Travel the winding roads of Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and stop in Japan to catch up with Deep Purple, Phil Collins and Daft Punk. Drive down the Tina Turner Highway before entering some of the most legendary studios in music history. Go back to the troubled origins of Billie Holiday and make a pact with Robert Johnson at the famous crossroads in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Embark immediately on an exhilarating world tour with some of music’s most iconic bands and artists! Relive the Jimi Hendrix concert on the Isle of Wight before paying tribute to Bob Marley in Jamaica.
Produced by a team of pop-culture specialists and enhanced by numerous anecdotes, Cult! musictells the secrets of the places that made the history of music.
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By Gilles Rolland
Passionné de cinéma, de rock and roll, de séries TV et de littérature. Rédacteur de presse et auteur des livres Le Heavy Metal au cinéma, Paroles de fans Guns N' Roses, Paroles de fans Rammstein et Welcome to my Jungle : 100 albums rock et autres anecdotes dépareillées. Adore également voyager à la recherche des lieux les plus emblématiques de la pop culture.