While many albums are revered for their amazing cover art, there has always been those bands who’ve gone a little further, those who've stretched the boundaries beyond mere two-dimensional visuals. As a nod to these outrageous innovators, Classic Rock brings you some of the most ludicrous yet brilliant examples of album packaging ever…
The fine art of ludicrous album packaging
11 examples of artfully ambitious sleeve design
Alice Cooper — School’s Out (1972)
Shock rock’s true progenitor wasn’t the only one conquering the world with his fifth studio album; its art was making an impression too. Designed by Craig Braun, the sleeve folded out to create to a school desk, while a pair of girl’s undies was wrapped salaciously around the vinyl inside. Unfortunately, production had to be recalled when it was discovered that the panties weren’t fire safe.
Flaming Lips — Gummy Song Skull/Fetus (2011)
Wayne Coyne’s love for wacky packaging saw his band launch this high-sugar oddity in 2011, which featured four songs on a USB stick embedded inside an edible brain and skull. For the more hardcore of collectors, there was also the option of 7 Skies H3, a 24-hour-long song packaged inside a real human skull. That one, a bargain at $5,000…
Jacques Dutronc — 1966-1976: les années Vogue (2004)
Purchasing an artist’s back catalogue can often require extra storage space in the home. Fortunately, this reissued collection of seven CDs from French singer/songwriter-cum-psychedelic rocker Dutronc came conveniently ‘implanted’ inside an (artificial) cactus pot, making it a tasteful addition for any rock fan with a conservatory.
Zoviet France — Popular Soviet Songs & Youth Music (1985)
No strangers to unconventional packaging, Newcastle experimentalists outdid both themselves and an entire industry with their sixth album. Costing a small fortune to produce, PSS&YM featured two music cassettes buried inside a sculpted, ceramic pot, which itself was adorned with wax-sealed, seabird feathers (supposedly radioactive) and a series of joke inserts in English, French and Spanish.
Jane’s Addiction — A Cabinet Of Curiosities (2009)
‘Curiously’ described by Perry Farrell as a “really nice, fetishy object”, this Gullermo del Torro-esque boxset has a wooden latched door that opens up to reveal four-discs (one a DVD) filled with demos, remixes, covers, live takes, music videos and a short-film, all lifted from 1986 – 1991. Tarot cards and mini dolls merely added to the package’s macabre vibe.
Spiritualized — Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space: Special Edition (1997)
While some may deliberate that Jason Pierce’s wall-of-noise supremos may not be the most exciting live act, there is nothing remotely boring about their album designs. A special edition of their landmark release featured 12 miniature CDs dressed up as pills in foil. It referenced Pierce’s statement at a meeting with designer Mark Farrow that “music is medicine for the soul.”
Man — Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day (1972)
Psychedelic pub-rock troupe Man received much acclaim for producing a gatefold that opened up into a giant, 2’ x 2’ cartoon map of their native Wales being gently levered away from the mainland, entertainingly highlighting the origins of many fellow Welsh bands (fortunately Stereophonics hadn’t yet been invented). That a Man family tree was also included allowed fans to wrap their head around the band’s evolving history.
Ghost — Phallos Mortuus Ritual Box Set (2013)
Limited to a run of 250 copies, Sweden’s pantomime ghouls offered every rock fan what they apparently wanted with these velvet-lined Bible box packages, each one filled with a divorce paper scroll, a bronze effect metal butt plug, and – best of all – a sculpted black silicone Papa Emeritus II dildo. Sadly, no actual music was included.
Vio-lence — Eternal Nightmare (1988)
Before reaching global acclaim with Machine Head, Robb Flynn’s most infamous release was a 10” promo with Bay Area thrashers Vio-lence, a so-called ‘vomit pack’ filled with a watery slop that resembled vegetable soup. Record store-owners peddling second-hand copies claim its sickly fluid has long since started to congeal.
Jethro Tull — Thick As A Brick (1972)
Dubbed by some as Jethro Tull’s first ‘prog’ album, the packaging for Thick As A Brick was certainly very progressive, a 12-page spoof newspaper The St. Cleve Chronicle filled with articles designed to riposte the stuffy, local papers of the time. It even included a review of the album, written by frontman Ian Anderson using a pseudonym. A similarly elaborate version was released in 2012 as part of a sequel, the cleverly-titled Thick As A Brick II.
The Residents — The $100,000 Ultimate Box Set (2012)
US avant-garde pop collective The Residents devised one of the most ‘exclusive’ box set collections in musical history when they celebrated their 40th anniversary by cramming original pressings of their entire back catalogue (some 100+ releases), plus iconic giant eyeball masks, inside ten 28-cubic-foot refrigerators, and putting them up for sale at $100,000 a piece.