The 20 best album covers from the 70s

11. ELO: Out of the Blue (1977)

70s album covers Out of the Blue

Shusei Nagaoka created this album cover for Electric Light Orchestra

The Electric Light Orchestra are a group that grew into their skin, producing six albums before striking platinum with Out of the Blue. This is a sleeve that could only have been created in 1977, for ELO. Illustrated by Japanese album cover specialist Shusei Nagaoka, the airbrushed finish, sci-fi theme and glowing neon perfectly reflect ELO’s multi-layered, high sheen and sugary production.

12. Pink Floyd: Animals (1977)

70s album covers Animals

Hipgnosis created some incredible covers for Pink Floyd

British art design group Hipgnosis enjoyed a run of superlative covers for Pink Floyd, designing the prismatic Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here’s flaming handshake. Enjoying a symbiotic relationship with a band at its peak, the cover for Animals is one from a series of amazing designs from the days when pigs really could fly.

13. Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel 1 (1977)

70s album covers Peter Gabriel

Another Hipgnosis work, this cover used spot colour before Photoshop

Peter Gabriel produced four funky, angular albums between 1977 and 1982 sharing the same bare typography, the same eponymous title and similar, striking portraiture. Another Hipgnosis creation, the spot colour on Peter Gabriel 1 was achieved by layered exposure of monochrome and colour negatives. Photoshopping before Photoshop, in other words.

14. Sex Pistols: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (1977)

70s album covers Never Mind the Bollocks

Bold and brash, just like the Sex Pistols themselves

With Vivienne Westwood’s styling, Malcolm McLaren’s marketing and Jamie Reid’s graphic design, we often forget that The Pistols were essentially a 12-bar rock band with sweary lyrics. Their one and only studio album benefits from an album cover that captures the combination of brash, trash, outlaw chic that made them famous for 15 minutes and influential for much, much longer.

15. Kraftwerk: The Man Machine (1978)

70s album covers Man Machine

Futuristic art inspired by Russian designer El Lissitzky

Inspired by and adapted from the work of Russian designer El Lissitzky, The Man Machine sealed Kraftwerk’s image as android music makers. Melding the striking red and black of constructivist poster design with geometric typography, this was the first Kraftwerk cover to be as futuristic as the band themselves.

16. XTC: Go 2 (1978)

70s album covers Go to

A design to sell an album that ranted about designing to sell an album

It’s a paradox that in filling the cover of Go 2 with a Courier-set rant about record marketing, XTC produced the first truly original album cover of the post-punk era. A striking, typography-led design, it comes as no surprise that it was a double-bluff. The cover was crafted by Hipgnosis, making the transition from old school to new wave.

17. PiL: First Issue (1978)

70s album covers Public Image

The magazine-style cover for Public Image Ltd's first album

Public Image Ltd’s first album came just over a year after the Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks. Intended by designers Zebulon to mimic the look of glossy music magazines, the random use of song titles in place of headlines gives a fractured finish to the album cover that fits PiL’s discordant musical style perfectly.

18. The Clash: London Calling (1979)

70s album covers London Calling

London Calling drew on Elvis for rock 'n' roll inspiration

Famously aping Elvis Presley’s debut, London Calling’s second-hand typography and guitar smashing action reinvented rock and roll for the end of the '70s. Pennie Smith takes credit for the photography, but designer Ray Lowry created a work that was unlike anything in his canon. The combination captured The Clash as they briefly were and would never be again.

19. Wire: 154 (1979)

70s album covers Wire

A modernist cover that speaks volumes about the music inside

Art rock never went away. The experimental core of Kraftwerk, Can and Floyd was smelted by punk, and Wire came out the other side. 154 is a jarring, at times ethereal entry in their early catalogue, with a sleeve that recalls Joan Miro and other modernist painters. Again, this is an album cover without type that says everything you need to know about its content.

20. Joy Division: Unknown Pleasures (1979)

70s album covers Joy Division

Peter Saville’s cover just features one striking image

Almost 40 years after its debut, Peter Saville’s cover for Unknown Pleasures remains a T-shirt favourite for floppy-fringed hipster kids and their dads. The original album cover gave nothing away. There’s no band name or track listing, just this image, borrowed and inverted; the radio wave representation of a distant, pulsating star. Perfection.

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