The 70s! What a time to be alive, especially for music lovers. From David Bowie to Bruce Springsteen, Black Sabbath to Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin to Pink Floyd, it was an era dominated by some of the greatest bands and artists in musical history.
It seemed like incredible new albums were coming out every single week throughout the 70s, helping to define the decade’s identity and ensure that the wonders of 70s spirit would never be forgotten.
As well as boasting some awesome songs, the albums of the 70s have also gone down in history for their amazing artwork. From colorful hippie scenes to punk rock poses, here are 70 of the most memorable album covers the decade had to offer.
1) The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
Not just one of the best album covers of the 70s, but one of the greatest albums of all time, this prog rock masterpiece came out in March of 1973 and took the world by storm! The design for the cover was inspired by a photograph of a beam of light projecting through a glass prism.
2) Some Girls by The Rolling Stones
The only Rolling Stones album to be nominated for an Album of the Year Grammy, Some Girls is known as one of the band’s best achievements and also stands out for its amazing and controversial artwork.
The colorful scene featured an array of celebrity faces, and many of the stars actually pursued legal action against the band, forcing them to re-issue the cover with a new design that removed most of the celebrity faces.
3) Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf
Does this one even need an explanation? We’ve got a long-haired dude bursting out of the ground in the middle of a cemetery on a motorcycle, with a giant bat in the background! It’s one of the most badass album covers ever made.
4) Blue Oyster Cult by Blue Oyster Cult
The self-titled debutalbum from Blue Oyster Cult came with some super songs like ‘Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll’, as well as a stunning, psychedelic cover. It shows a maze-like, sci-fi scene with the band’s logo floating in the center.
5) Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division
Proving that stark lines and simple, black and white images can convey so much, Joy Division chose this as the cover for their first studio album. It was designed by Peter Saville and based on an image of radio waves. You can still see plenty of young kids and old rockers sporting T-shirts with this classic picture on the front.
6) Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy by Elton Jogn
For this cover, Elton John chose a comic book style scene, showing himself in the role of ‘Captain Fantastic’ as he seems to be flying on a piano, with a range of Jim Henson-style magical creatures all around. The album even came with a poster of the cover, which could be found hanging in many teenagers’ bedrooms during the 70s and 80s.
7) McCartney by Paul McCartney
As one of the greatest singers and songwriters of all time, Paul McCartney wanted something special for his first solo album after the end of The Beatles. It shows a bowl of red liquid with little cherries dotted around. It’s a simple and stark image, but it was one that caught the eye of countless people in record shops around the world.
8) Who’s Next by The Who
The cover art for Who’s Next from The Who turned more than a few heads and raised plenty of eyebrows upon the album’s release. It features a photograph depicting the four bandmates seemingly having just urinated on a concrete slab.
Believe it or not, this rude image was inspired by the classic sci-fi movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and only one of the band member’s (Pete Townshend) actually urinated on the structure in question. Buckets of water were used for the others.
9) Plastic Ono Band by Yoko Ono and John Lennon
An experimental, avant-garde album that helped to show there was life for Lennon beyond the Beatles, this album also gave us a tender glimpse at the love between the British singer and Yoko Ono right on the cover.
10) Breakfast in America by Supertramp
Here’s one you might remember spinning around the old record player in your family home. The sixth studio album from Supertramp, Breakfast in America features a funny cover scene with actress Kate Murtagh posing like the Statue of Libert, holding up some orange juice in front of a breakfast-themed NYC cityscape.
11) One Nation Under a Groove by Funkadelic
Album covers don’t come any funkier than this! Funkadelic’s ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ shows a bunch of colorful heroes planting an R&B flag, and it was the sort of album people loved to display at the front of their record collections back in the 70s as it was always guaranteed to catch the eye of guests and trigger a fun musical discussion.
12) Weasels Ripped My Flesh by The Mothers of Invention
This one is pretty painful to look at, quite literally showing a weasel tearing at a smiling man’s face and drawing blood as it digs its teeth and claws into its skin, but there’s something magnetic about the retro comic advert style used in the design.
13) Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos
Best known for the song ‘Layla’, this album is also famous for its lovely cover artwork. It was painted by Frandsen-De Schomberg, and Eric Clapton loved the picture so much he didn’t want any text over it with the album title or band name.
14) Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin IV is best-known for being one of the band’s greatest albums of all time and featuring what is arguably Led Zep’s best ever song: Stairway to Heaven.
It’s also renowned for its unique cover art. It’s shows a 19th century oil painting bought by Robert Plant and hung up on the wall of an old home. It was one of the most unique covers of the decade and always seemed to stand out in record shops and collections.
15) Loaded by The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground’s fourth album gives us a fun look at 70s culture, from the font used for the band’s name and album title to the hippie-style pink clouds emanating from the subway stairs.
16) Q. Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! by Devo
As well as an amazing title, this album also came with a killer cover. Illustrated by Joe Heiner, it was inspired by an image of pro golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez, but the band weren’t allowed to simply use Rodriguez’s face.
So they decided to get creative! They morphed together the faces of several American presidents, like JFK and Richard Nixon, adding in the Rodriguez image too. Funnily enough, Rodriguez heard about the album and gave the band permission to use his image, but by that point, production had already started.
17) Permissive Polyphonics by Enoch Light and the Light Brigade
Big band maestro Enoch Light gave us a modernist style artwork with the Permissive Polyphonics album, with squares and rectangles of bright, bold colors assembled around the text. It’s the sort of album 70s people loved to show off to prove how arty they were.
18) Let It Be by The Beatles
A simple album cover in so many ways, but with such significance behind it, Let It Be was the final studio album recorded by The Beatles. It shows the four band members each in their own little frames, perhaps foreshadowing the unique solo careers and journeys they would each go on to follow after the album was released.
19) More Songs About Buildings and Food by Talking Heads
Talking Heads’ singer David Byrne was the one to think up the idea for this album cover, with artist Jimmy De Sana being tasked with bringing that vision to life. It’s a mosaic made up of more than 500 Polaroid photographs, creating an overall image of the band members standing in place on a red background.
20) Boston by Boston
It’s the album that gave us one of the 70s most seminal hits, ‘More Than A Feeling’, and it also features a cover that kids of the 70s used to love to stare at. Three different artists worked on the cover, which features guitar-shaped spaceships sucking up cities from exploding planets.
21) Ramones by The Ramones
When delivering a debut album, bands have to think about every single aspect in order to stand out and be successful. Maybe this is why so many debut albums feature on this list with truly iconic artwork we can never forget!
The Ramones immediately introduced themselves to the world with this unforgettable black and white photograph, showing the band members casually leaning against a wall with leather jackets, long hair, and not a care in the world. They managed to portray their punk attitude in just a single snapshot, paving the way for an entire movement.
22) Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are no strangers to innuendo, always walking along the tightrope of controversy with their lyrics and band-related imagery, including this iconic album cover. Designed by none other than Andy Warhol himself, the photograph was taken by Billy Name, showing a male crotch in blue jeans with an actual zipper stuck on top.
Many people assumed that the man in the photo must be Mick Jagger, but the identity of the photo’s subject remains a mystery! Warhol photographed several men and never revealed which one he chose as the final image.
23) Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath
With this album, Black Sabbath basically invented heavy metal, showing a darker and more gothic side to traditional rock and roll, with lyrics discussing the devil and shadowy, nightmarish figures. The cover is fittingly eerie, showing a woman dressed in black standing in front of an old building.
24) The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars by David Bowie
David Bowie gave us a range of iconic album covers, and Ziggy Stardust was one of the best. The cover photo was taken in London and the ‘K. West’ sign was just a coincidence, but many fans of the album developed all kinds of theories about what it might mean, with many suggesting it was a kind of code for the word ‘Quest’.
25) Point of Know Return by Kansas
If you want fantastic cover art from your rock and roll bands, just look at Kansas. They always seem to put extra effort into their album images, and Point of Know Return is one of the best examples of this. It shows an old ship seemingly sailing right to the edge of the world or the titular ‘point of no return’, with a huge dragon circling around the outside edges.
26) Burnin’ by Bob Marley and the Wailers
Here’s a stunning example of a band making use of wordplay in their album art! Bob Marley and The Wailers gave us a breathtaking introduction to reggae beats with Burnin’, and they actually burned their own likenesses into a piece of wood to make the cover too.
27) 154 by Wire
154 is an arty album in many ways, including the cover. Drawn in a modernist style, with bold colors, forms, and shapes, it either drew you in or pushed you away, depending on your taste.
28) Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges
Iggy Pop is one of the baddest singers in the punk world and this amazing photograph perfectly captured the titular ‘raw power’ of his style, presence, and charisma.
29) Houses of the Holy by Led Zeppelin
Houses of the Holy gave us such Led Zeppelin classics as ‘The Rain Song’ and ‘No Quarter’, as well as a cover that boggled the mind. It was a collage of several photos taken at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, and the photoshoot lasted ten days in total.
30) Yessongs by Yes
Prog rock legends Yes worked together with their favorite artist, Roger Dean, to make this amazing cover. Dean called it one of the most ‘elaborate and complex’ things he’d ever worked on, and the fantasy painting on this album ties in with other Dean images from other Yes albums to create a kind of otherworldly narrative.
31) Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John
Generally regarded as Elton John’s best ever album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road also has one of his best ever covers. Like many Elton John album covers, this one is colorful and emotional, catching the eye and saying so much.
32) Hotel California by The Eagles
Hotel California is one of the most mysterious songs in the history of rock and roll, and the Eagles wanted a fittingly mysterious album cover to match. It shows a slightly vague and shadowy hotel, bathed in the glow of sunset.
The hotel in question was actually The Beverly Hills Hotel, but two other hotels were photographed in preparation for the album’s release, with the band having the final say on which photo to use.
33) Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
Another brilliant album cover from David Bowie, this one followed right on from Ziggy Stardust. Really, it’s quite a simple cover, featuring a photo of Bowie with a lightning bolt painted across his face, but it’s one of the most enduring and iconic images in the musical world.
34) Van Halen by Van Halen
The debut album from Van Halen was big, bombastic, and hugely successful, setting the band off on the path to stardom. It also came with a fittingly thrilling cover, showing the band members playing their instruments with passion and fire.
35) Jailbreak by Thin Lizzy
Jailbreak gave us two of Thin Lizzy’s best songs in the form of the titular track and ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’. It also gave us this super cool and perfectly 70s cover showing the band seeming to escape from a fiery scene on a TV monitor while an evil figure observes. When you open up the cover, you then discover a second image, showing the band members running from some kind of alien attack.
36) Maggot Brain by Funkadelic
Whether you enjoyed their music or not, Funkadelic were one of those bands who always seemed to attract your attention back in the 70s with their innovative and surprising album covers. This one was definitely a head-turner, showing a screaming woman’s face on the front and a skull on the back.
37) Animals by Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd were always so good at creating iconic images that really stuck with music fans, with The Wall being the best example. Animals was another amazing album from the band, with the cover showing an inflatable pig floating over a power station.
Roger Waters came up with the idea and a massive pig balloon called Algie was made for the cover shoot. Famously, it ended up floating away and panicking a lot of people when it appeared over a major London airport.
38) Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols by the Sex Pistols
There aren’t many bands who have left such a mark on the musical world despite having such a short career as the Sex Pistols. They only made this one album, but it helped to trigger the creation of the entire punk genre. The obscene text, bright colors, and newspaper-style fonts told you all you needed to know about the band right from the start.
39) Steal Your Face by The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead were one of the best bands of the 70s in the eyes of many rock and roll lovers. They always seemed to be touring, recording, and giving the fans what they wanted.
This album cover has gone down in history, with the lightning bolt skull symbol becoming synonymous with the band and still being seen on T-shirts, stickers, patches, and more all over the globe.