It's easy to forget this in the digital age, but once upon a time the only way you could decide on records to buy in a shop was whether you thought the art looked cool. The funny thing is, it seemed to work.
Great art should speak volumes about the music inside. More people will see the art that hear the music, and in many cases it's the only opportunity to sell the music to a new potential fan.
Sometimes artwork transcends its role to help sell units, and becomes an icon of not only the album and artist, but of an entire genre.
On Wednesday thousands of you voted on your favorite album covers. We've stacked up the results, and can now present to you the 10 most iconic covers of all time, as voted for by readers of UG.
10. Led Zeppelin "Led Zeppelin"
The image of the burning Hindenburg airship is a nod to the band name, which was allegedly an joke by members of The Who who said that the sound of Jimmy Page's new band "would probably go down like a lead zeppelin."
The photo was taken by Page's former bandmate Chris Dreja, and in 2001 Rolling Stone succinctly wrote: "The image did a pretty good job of encapsulating the music inside: sex, catastrophe and things blowing up."
09. Guns N' Roses "Appetite for Destruction"
We all know and love the iconic artwork to this album, but did you know the original cover (below) was banned?
This is the original cover by artist Robert Williams that many record stores refused to stock - possibly because it features a robot rapist. Yuck.
08. Iron Maiden "The Number Of The Beast"
This was one of many classic Maiden covers painted by Derek Riggs through the 80s and 90s. It was originally painted for the song "Purgatory" but they decided it was too good and saved it for this album instead.
Some fans might remember a light blue sky in the background; this was a mistake at the printers, and was later corrected for a repressing in 1998.
07. Mastodon "Crack The Skye"
This cover apparently ties in the with concept of the album, but to be honest I'm not sure what that is. Is the concept about two dude being in awe at a bear? Is it about salvia trips? Anyway, it's another gorgeous cover from artist Paul Romano who did this and every previous album cover for the band.
06. Clash "London Calling"
The image of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass in New York in 1979 is one of the most iconic and memorable of all time. But did you know the design and style was based on Elvis Presley's debut release?
Here's the Elvis cover it was based on:
05. Rush "2112"
This 1976 album was the fourth studio release by the renown prog rock band. It was a breakthrough record for the group whose previous releases were seen at the time as commercial failures. Strangely, it's hard to find info on this cover. Can any fans enlighten us in the comments?
04. Metallica "Master Of Puppets"
Artist Don Brautigam painted this classic cover. It went on auction in 2008 and sold for $35,000, which sounds pretty cheap for such a relic in the history of metal. It was bassist Cliff Burton's last album with the band before his tragic and untimely death.
03. The Beatles "Abbey Road"
The concept to this classic cover was conceived by Paul McCartney and taken outside their recording studio in 1969. Photographer Iain Macmilan was given 10 minutes to take the shot from a stepladder while a policeman did his best to hold up the traffic.
You can even see a live feed of the real Abbey Road crossing on the Abbey Road Studios website, which constantly has tourists emulating the Fab Four.
02. Nirvana "Nevermind"
Kurt Cobain had the idea for this cover while watching a program about water births with Dave Grohl. The label tried to find footage of underwater births but they were too graphic to use as an album cover, so a photographer took a photo of a friend's son.
The baby on the cover was Spencer Elden, who is now in his 20s and recently emulated the photo on the album's 20th anniversary (see below).
01. Pink Floyd "Dark Side Of The Moon"
Pink Floyd deserve this one. The image was a collaboration between artist Richard Wright and the band, and was designed to compliment the vinyl release with the beams of light continuing throughout the gatefold. It's a beautiful image which has has a far-reaching impact on culture, just as any great art should aspire to.
That's the end of our roundup of the most iconic artwork.
Which was your personal favorite? What else would you add to the list? Remember to hit 'like' in the top right to share the article to your friends.