Saturday 3 November 2012

Andy Warhol - album covers

Andy Warhol (1928 - 1987) may be most famous for his large format silkscreens of celebrities  but some of the late artist's most popular work probably resides in your record collection. Warhol's iconic images grace no less than 50 album covers, ranging from obscure jazz and spoken-word titles to seminal pop albums by the Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones, Diana Ross, the Smiths and Aretha Franklin.

1949 Carlos Chavez "A Program of Mexican Music" 10" LP

This cover of a Carlos Chavez album, known as A Program of Mexican Music, is believed to be the first cover Warhol did 
( in 1949, aged about 21 ), presumably right after his move from Pittsburgh to New York. This early example of Warhol's blotted line technique was issued in a number of colour variations.

I could only find relatively low resolution copies of some of these covers, so they will appear quite small:

1950s Gershwin "Rhapsody in Blue" Grofé "Grand Canyon Suite" 12" LP

1951 The Nation's Nightmare

1952 Arthur Fiedler "Latin Rhythms by The Boston Pops"

1952 Night Beat 7" EP

1954 Arturo Toscanini "William Tell Overture" 10" LP

1954 Progressive Piano

1954 Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster

1955 Count Basie EP

1956 Artie Shaw "Both Feet in the Groove" EP

1956 Cool Gabriels LP

1956 Jan Smeterlin "Chopin Nocturnes" vol. 2

1956 Joe Newman "I'm Still Swinging" LP

While Warhol's quirky ink drawings started appearing on classical and world-music albums as early as 1949, it wasn't until he started getting commissioned jazz covers for Count Basie and Artie Shaw that his sly sensibility came to the surface. This one, for trumpet soloist Joe Newman, contains one of Warhol's earliest attempts at collage art, even if it was done simply to please the suits at RCA, who were used to seeing their musicians' pictures on album sleeves.

1956 Kenny Burrell "Blue Note 1543" Vol. 2

1957 Jay Jay Johnson, Kai Winding, Bennie Green "Trombone by Three" 12" LP

1957 Johnny Griffin "The Congregation"

1957 Moondog "The Story of Moondog"

1958 Kenny Burrell "Blue Lights" Vol. 1

With this two-volume Blue Note set by guitarist Kenny Burrell, Warhol finally broke away from simply drawing close-ups of musicians and their instruments and delivered a piece of art as evocative as the music inside. Among the curves and dips, it also revealed in his long-running fetish for high heels.

1963 Giant Size $1.57 Each album cover for "The Popular Image" exhibition
This album was released on the occasion of Popular Image Exhibition in the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, April - June 1963 and included interviews with the artists in the exhibition - Roy Lichtenstein, Jim Dine, George Brecht, Jasper Johns, John Wesley, and Robert Watts.

1967 The Velvet Underground and Nico

Warhol's biggest artistic statement in the music world echoed the Campbell's soup cans that made him famous. He once again takes an ordinary item from the grocery store and blows it up bigger than life with dramatic results. On first printings, fans who followed the instructions to "peel slowly and see" by removing the banana-skin sticker were rewarded with an image of the fruit inside. Better still, while the cover prominently featured Warhol's name, there was no mention of the band anywhere, which could explain why, before it became recognised as such a coveted piece of rock history, the album sold just 5,000 copies.

1967 The Velvet Underground and Nico
1971 The Rolling Stones "Sticky Fingers"

Probably Warhol's most problematic album cover, in that 1: Each copy contained an actual zipper attached to the front that basically killed any other record that touched it in the record store racks; and 2: The crotch area featured is especially well defined, causing several store owners to refuse to carry the album. Never mind the underwear shot inside. Either way, combined with the raunchy music it helped the Stones reinvent their image from hapless Altamont burnouts to sexually charged rock demigods.

1976 Paul Anka "The Painter"

1977 The Rolling Stones "Love You Live"

1980 Walter Steding and The Dragon People "The Joke" 12" LP

1981 Liza Minnelli "Live at Carnegie Hall"

1982 Billy Squier "Emotions in Motion"

1982 Diana Ross "Silk Electric"
Even though he made her get dressed up in head-to-toe gold lame for the Polaroid session at his New York studio, the Factory, Warhol ended up using a close-up of Ross' face for the final product. More important, it was produced in the style that would define the covers of Warhol's “Interview” magazine and most of his subsequent work through the '80s with the high-contrast silk-screen images, vivid background colours and signature bright red lips. 

1982 Peer Rabin "Querelle" 12" LP film soundtrack
Querelle is a 1982 film starring Brad Davis and directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, adapted from French author Jean Genet’s 1947 novel “Querelle de Brest.” It marked Fassbinder's final film as a writer/director; it was posthumously released just months after the director died of a drug overdose in June 1982.

1983 Miguel Bose "Made in Spain"

1983 Soul Vacation "Rats And Star"

1983 The Rolling Stones "Emotional Tattoo" LP

1984 Ratfab 7" EP

1985 Velvet Underground "Screentest, Falling in Love with the Falling Spikes"

1986 Aretha Franklin "Aretha"

1986 Debbie Harry "Rockbird"

1986 John Lennon "Menlove Ave."

The following two record sleeves feature Warhol's art but were released nine years after his death:

1996 Paul Anka "Amigos"

1996 Paul Anka "The Painter"


  1. Marvelous exposition you promote through this place, especialy for me, Jazz lover. I never noticed Warhol as cover author on these records.Wonderful works & Davis Stone Martin also!
    Thank you for this oportunity to enjoy cover art.

  2. Thank you.
    I'm from Boston like Billy Squire. I just completed an onlline course on thr Modern Art of Warhol

  3. What about the Smith's ?? Defo in his top 25


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