UG's Top 10 Iconic Album Covers

You voted for your favorite iconic album covers. Here are the results, and as expected, it looks beautiful.

Ultimate Guitar

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.

211 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Root Beer
    I think this list is lacking some Tool - 10,000 Days and King Crimson - In the Court...
    "The image was a collaboration between artist Richard Wright and the band..."
    I'm sure you meant Storm Thorgeson and not Richard Wright... Anyway, a pretty good list, really. The only criticism is that it's just too short, there were so many iconic covers (some from bands that are featured on this list) left unmentioned.
    Katy Perry - Teenage Dream. You don't have to listen to the music to enjoy the album cover, which has Katy naked in pink clouds *drool* (ok, so I have a thing for Katy Perry)
    I never saw the Mastadon cover in my life... 47 years old, and not heavily into Metal... (that may be the problem), but regardless... NOT iconic that it's recognizable by the masses. This has NOTHING to do with what a person thinks is beautiful or awe inspiring, but ICONIC. Look up the definition, people!
    Mastodon? Really? Something 3 years old is "iconic". I don't think this cover is even so known. So many options like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, other Beattles, Queen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against The Machine, KISS, Sex Pistols, Motorhead, f*****g Sepultura,. But no...Mastodon.
    Agreed. It's especially a shame that Sepultura is so overlooked, as they have some of the coolest album covers ever.
    Eclectic Lizard
    I think MOP or DSOTM were iconic as soon as they were released
    I think a little bit about this and I can't agree. With a pass of time we can say that something became iconic, we can't say at the time of release that something is already because we don't know it yet. Those are the most iconic, known covers of this bands. You think about band and see it in head. But with Mastodon? Even newest cover will be propably more "iconic" than this here
    I would say the cover for Moving Pictures by rush is better than 2112. Good list though, One band with great album covers is Muse, I find, they are always very intriguing.
    For Dark Side, dont you mean Storm Thorgerson was the artist, not Rick Wright. Rick was the main bandmember that was collaborating on the album cover, not the artist
    This comment pop-up that takes up the bottom part of my screen it stupid. Is UG trying to lose site visitors? Because if this is the new norm, they may have lost one here.
    I really love Mastodon's Crack The Skye artwork but it's nowhere near iconic. Rage Against The Machine's self-titled debut should be there instead imo.
    You would think, right? How can an album from 5 years ago make the list over such an iconic, Pulitzer Prize winning photo?
    Are you shitting me that The Velvet Underground and Nico has been left off this list?
    Root Beer
    I don't know about the Mastodon one, I probably woulda replaced it with a Tool album, but I think everything else here deserves to be.
    Yeah, that Mastodon album isn't even the best artwork they've got. If it had to be one of theirs, I would have gone with Leviathan, myself, but Crack the Skye was mentioned first and that's what people jumped on.
    m4ss3 m/
    The Mastodon is very out of place. I have seen all the other covers beside the Mastodon one.
    I am a huge Mastodon and I love that cover, but there are a few older covers that would be more iconic such as In the Court of the Crimson King.
    The cover for Black Sabbath's first album is WAY WAY more sinister looking than anything after that tried harder, Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath is also a very iconic cover.
    I'm pretty sure Chris Dreja didn't take a photo of the Hindenburg crashing. He wasn't born yet. He did take the picture for the back cover. UG needs to read their wikipedia articles more carefully.
    Why the hell is mastadon on the list? theres so many more iconic album artworks out there!!!
    the thing behind the cover of 2112: well listen to the song. it represents the red star of the "Solar Federation". and the starman later became their official logo. just listen to the song, and the man's perspective and story, then the starman logo will make sense along with the cover if you just look at them.
    still wouldve liked to see Vulgar Display of Power on here, but pretty great list
    I've never seen the Mastodon cover in my life. Led Zeppelin 4's cover is pretty Iconic. Blood Sugar Sex Magik too. Idk, there are a lot I would have picked over at least the Mastodon album.
    I know I'll get downvoted to oblivion for this, but how did any of Iron Maiden's covers become popular? They just seem to be the pinnacle of 80s cheese...
    In the Court of the Crimson King should be #1. Interesting fact that the artist Barry Godber died shortly after of a heart attack at the age of 24. It was his only painting.
    One album cover that doesn't get the credit it deserves is Dookie from Green Day. It is such a fun and chaotic album cover with so much to look at. It doesn't belong on a top 10 list though. A top 50 maybe.
    I thought Nevermind would be number one! Although I guess you guys are right, Pink Floyd deserve the top spot.
    I think people need to remember this is most iconic album covers, not just your favorite or UG's favorite album covers. Actually some of these already on the list, while being great albums, aren't very iconic.
    The Mastodon one shouldn't be there, I'd have put a Black Sabbath cover or Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell there instead.
    Damaged Roses
    BS as usual. These lists should be called "Most liked album covers", because an icon is something very representative, wheter a genre, movement or whatever. Many UG readers just postulated covers because they liked them, without thinking on their repercussion in the music world.
    Would be cool if King Crimson's 'ITCotCK' was here. But Pink Floyd always gets the top spot when it comes to prog.
    Not sure if Crack the Skye and 2112 (at least not more than Moving Pictures) are that iconic, nice to see they made the list though. I'd say the covers for Black Sabbath's 'Paranoid' and 'Vol. 4' would have been pretty close contenders as well.
    never mind the bollocks - sex pistols ziggy stardust - david bowie bat out of hell - meatloaf thriller - michael jackson who's next - the who blondie - parallel lines the doors - the doors