I miss album covers. For that matter, I miss paperback art as well. The fifties, damned for so many things, were a heyday for the paperback industry and a heyday for artists who could conceptualize a story on a book jacket. Of course, there were the bodice ripping covers, muscular men and swooning or terrified women in various stages of passion or predation, expressionistic covers, geometric in pattern and somehow modern and futuristic. I loved them and still do, but it is the LP covers, or the loss of them, that I mourn.
I am sure that each of us can recall a favorite album cover and it is my hunch that some of those covers will linger in our memories long after we can recall any specific tune from the record. Yes, often they went hand in hand: the Mamas and Papas in the tub; CS&N on the front porch couch, Santana’s lion cover, Abbey Road, Sgt. Pepper, Nevermind….and of course there were an endless stream of pretentious band shots, but few are memorable…moody posing mostly. Yet, I can lug out an old box of LPs and the thumbing through the covers can take me back almost as well as the tunes therein. These images were part of our lives…but no longer. Now we download tunes without image, or we try to pretend that CD art will suffice, but it does not come close.
I am sure that these gigs were a great loss for the art world, as they were a genre unto themselves. Now I suppose the visually creative drift into web design. Oh, well; so everything changes. And I suppose that album art is a small thing to lose, perhaps next to the innocence of the industry itself, if it ever had it in the first place. Don’t even get me started on liner notes. No feeling replicates that of unwrapping a new LP, sliding it from its sleeve, slipping it on the turntable, and settling in to hear the cuts while reading the inside of the cover. Somehow, a download is not quite the same.