Each day in February, I’ll set a timer for 20 minutes and write a “sketch” inspired by the prompt for the day.
Day 3: Sketch your favorite album art.
There’s a scene in Narcos: Mexico where two drug lords, cooped up together in a safe house, have just discovered the power of cocaine to inspire passionate debates about nonsense.
These are the early days of CDs. One guy turns the volume all the way up on the stereo while “Karma Chameleon” is playing and jumps up and down shouting “It doesn’t skip! It doesn’t Skip!” Meanwhile, his henchman holds up a record album cover and enthusiastically laments the end of the days when you would sit and admire the album artwork in its large format.
I’m old enough to remember album covers in miniature — on cassettes and CDs — but young enough that my first encounter with vinyl was during its recent revival. I like that skipping is a thing of the past and that we’ve gone from Walkmen to thousands of songs in your pocket to literally all the songs in your pocket. That said, sometimes I get nostalgic for times I barely remember when I see great album covers reduced to thumbnails.
These are some covers that stand out:
The Smiths — “Best of”
Best of albums usually don’t count. But when the artwork is a Dennis Hopper photo and the band is The Smiths (whose compilations were the product of the collision between contractual obligations and Morrissey being Morrisey.)
They killed it with all of their album covers. Another favorite of mine is playwright Sheilagh Delaney on the cover of Louder than Bombs.
Sonic Youth — “Goo”
My obsession with Raymond’s Pettibon’s cover art outlasted my interest in the album. I had the poster and the t-shirt.
The Velvet Underground & Nico — The “Banana Album”
Not just because it’s a Warhol… What I like about this album cover is the euphoric recall I get when I look at it and think of the first time I listened to the band that would change bands for me.
Stone Temple Pilots — “Thank You”
The woman on the inside of the liner notes, whose hand is holding the sunflower on the cover, had a profound impact on my 14-year-old imagination.