From John Lennon to The Rolling Stones: 20 iconic album covers created by Andy Warhol
“The idea is not to live forever, it is to create something that will.” – Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol, the artist, film director, and producer who acted as a pioneering figure of the pop art movement, always knew that the act of creating was something he was born to do.
His life’s mission, to birth differing forms of visual art, spilt onto canvas, film, sculpture, photography and, on many occasions the covers of music albums representing now-iconic artists.
In the late 1950s, as the record industry began to expand at an extraordinary rate, Warhol was hired by both Columbia and RCA Records on a freelance basis to create album covers and promotional content and, from there, carried the skill throughout his career.
When Warhol arrived in New York he met with his schoolmate George Klauber who was, at the time, working for a creative agency run by Will Burtin. Klauber did Warhol a favour and introduced him to Burtin and the opportunity to work with Columbia’s, and later RCA’s, art director Robert M. Jones.
Robert M. Jones remembered it fondly and suggested that the commissions may have been his first: “I gave him three little spots to do for the corners of the standard albums. He needed money. I never kept any records but I know that these little spots must have been amongst the first things he did, certainly in the first three to six months he was here. I gave him three different ones to do, at $50 apiece. And two days later he came back with a stack of drawings like that to satisfy the three drawings we needed.”
Here, we delve into some of Warhol’s most iconic album cover creations:
Carlos Chávez A Program of Mexican Music – (1949)
Widely regarded as the first-ever album cover designed by Warhol who, at the time of creating it, was aged 21.
Carlos Chávez, the Mexican composer, conductor and music theorist required a record sleeve for A Program of Mexican Music and Warhol delivered a modest result with a brief glimpse into his illustration future.
Gioachino Rossini William Tell Overture; Semiramide Overture – (1953)
A bold and striking design, this cover foreshadows the strong point of view Warhol would take up in the sixties. Taking on Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra, Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, he uses the symbol of the apple to tell the whole story.
Count Basie Count Basie – (1955)
Next up was the self-titled record of jazz pianist Count Basie which featured a stunning portrait fo the man himself. The musician’s face only enhanced by the block type.
Thelonious Monk Monk – (1956)
Warhol added what would become his signature flair to the legendary jazz pianist’s 1956 release Monk which comprised some of his most sensational recordings between 1953-1954 for the Prestige label.
Kenny Burrell Blue Lights, Volume 1 – (1958)
Blue Lights is another album to be graced by Warhol’s work as the record from American jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell recorded in 1958 and released on the Blue Note label as two 12 inch LPs entitled Volume 1 and Volume 2.
Tennessee Williams Reading From the Glass Menagerie, The Yellow Book and Five Poems – (1960)
The next record Warhol took on was something a little different and a stretch from his previous work in jazz. This LP would be a spoken word piece from none other than the legendary writer, Tennessee Williams. The artist would continue to pay homage to the writer throughout his career.
John Wallowitch This Is John Wallowitch – (1964)
Prolific American songwriter and cabaret performer John Wallowitch’s debut LP’s cover artwork was designed by Warhol, who was a close associate of the obscure singer’s esteemed photographer brother Edward Wallowitch who the artist was also romantically linked to for a brief period of time.
The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico – (1967)
If there’s one iconic album artwork that almost everyone will know is and Andy Warhol piece it’s this one. The 1966 self-titled album from Factory superstars.
Not only was the banana’s striking image a tongue in cheek one, it was also an interactive piece and featured a peelable skin to reveal a blushing pink fruit.
The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers – (1971)
Following on from his famous work with The Velvet Underground, Warhol took four years before creating another album cover it had to be something special to lure him back in and it doesn’t get more special than The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers LP.
The suggestive image was conceived by Warhol with the photography and upon hearing the artist’s direction for the cover Jagger apparently instantly became infused with the zipper idea that the pioneering artist concocted.
The Rolling Stones Brown Sugar / Bitch / Let It Rock – (1971)
Warhol was also behind the artwork for the lead EP from The Stones’ Sticky Fingers record which continued with the sexually evocative theme from the album cover that he created.
John Cale The Academy in Peril – (1972)
His next venture would see him reunite with The Velvet Underground’s John Cale on his 1972 masterpiece The Academy in Peril which was the second solo record by the Camarthen native with Warhol reverting back to a more signature aesthetic than with his work with The Rolling Stones.
Paul Anka The Painter – (1976)
The New Yorker then took four years off working on record covers before producing this portrait of Paul Anka for the Canadian singer-songwriter’s 1976 effort The Painter.
The Rolling Stones Love You Live – (1977)
Continuing his relationship with The Rolling Stones, Warhol returned to working with the group and designed the artwork for their 1977 live double album Love You Live.
However; much to the artist’s dismay, Jagger had taken the decision to add hand-written titles to the cover art which angered Warhol and signalled the end of their working relationship.
Liza Minnelli At Carnegie Hall – (1981)
Long-time close friend Liza Minnelli was his next project when he produced the artwork for her live album at New York’s Carnegie Hall for and the entertainer is reported to have 22 pieces of art depicting her that she cherishes which Warhol created for which is worth a staggering $40million.
Billy Squier Emotions in Motion – (1982)
Billy Squier can count himself among the plethora of stars to have been given his very own Warhol portrait. The album was a second consecutive top 5 entry into the charts and featured the hit song ‘Everybody Wants You’.
Diana Ross Silk Electric – (1982)
Ms Ross makes up one of the more iconic images from this collection as Warhol perfectly cpatures Ross’ iconography. The album contains the standout single ‘Muscles’ and was a moderate success across the globe. It may not be Diana Ross’ crowning glory but we imagine an image of the album cover hangs somehwere near her mantle.
Peer Raben Querelle – Ein Pakt Mit Dem Teufel – (1982)
The soundtrack to 1982 film Querelle which sees a young sailor meet a murdered (and his supposed brother) in a French bordello, works as another advertisement for Andy Warhol’s keen eye. We’re sure the great novelist Jean Genet would approve.
Rats & Star Soul Vacation – (1983)
A funk and soul record ready to be rediscovered by the masses, Rats & Star are the kinf of obscure artist who Warhol would have loved. As well as having an eye-pleasing name, the group also provided all kinds of nonsense on Soul Vacation.
John Lennon Menlove Ave – (1986)
The second posthumous release of Lennon’s music, Menlove Ave is adorned with a poignant portrait of the Beatle. Warhol and Lennon enjoy an exploratory friendship and creative working relationship. They found solace and inspiration in one another and this artwork remains a clear depiction of Lennon’s otherworldly abilities.
Aretha Franklin Aretha – (1986)
Having already [produced a whopping thirty studio albums by the time she releases 1986’s Aretha this album cover had to be really special. Luckily, Warhol was on hand with his timeless style. It wasn’t only Franklin’s thirty-first studio LP but was also her third with the title Aretha.