In the 1980s, the music scene was changing at a breakneck pace, and artists who first became famous in the 60s were finding it difficult to stay relevant (and therefore rich). Many long-established artists tried changing things musically, often by embracing the use of synthesisers and electronic drum machines. Worse still, they also tried to improve their “branding” by changing their dress sense and visual aesthetics. This led to some unintentionally hilarious record covers. The slideshow below has ten album covers that show older artists trying, and failing, to look cool in the 80s. Click to activate…
It’s amazing that the Rolling Stones lasted through the decade with artwork like this. You can imagine how hard the photographer had to work to get them to pose for this pic. The whole band looks confused, but drummer Charlie Watts looks like he has died of embarrassment. See also their Undercover album, for more badness from the period.
In the late 60s and early 70s, Aretha Franklin had an almost unbroken string of great albums. By 1980, she had parted ways with Atlantic records, the label that made her famous, and signed to Arista. The new label clearly had no idea of how to market her, leading to awful covers like this one. Is she supposed to look like a Playboy bunny?
A short sleeved shirt? Mirrored shades? The 80s really was the decade that fashion forget about whilst on a cocaine bender. Despite the awful cover, this is supposed to be one of George Harrison’s better albums, featuring songs like “Got My Mind Set on You” and “When We Was Fab”.
…Harrison’s former bass player didn’t fare much bette. I wonder if Paul McCartney’s confused expression comes from the fact he has no idea why he’s wearing such a terrible shirt. This album, Give My Regards to Broad Street, is the soundtrack to Macca’s self-indulgent and bewildering film of the same name.
This was an odd time for Bob Dylan; he became a fervent born-again Christian (despite being raised Jewish), and then sort of forgot all about that. That may look like an eighties perm, but Dylan’s hair has been that way forever. He always was a trailblazer. Speaking of blazers: that’s a doozy he’s sporting there.
Although this is the Diana Ross album with the worst cover, every single one of her 80s records has dreadful artwork. Seriously, I went through them all on Wikipedia and checked. Her former Supremes bandmates, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, were probably shaking their heads in dismay at the desperation of it.
With their punchy guitar riffs and satirical songs, The Kinks were a big influence on the punk scene (whether punks would care to admit it or not). However, this Never Mind the Bollocks-inspired album cover from 1983 looked like a bunch of oldies jumping on the punk bandwagon.
Neil Young proves that you don’t need to include a photo of yourself to still have your album look dated. Apparently, Young was influenced by bands such as Kraftwerk when he made this synthpop-style album, so I can only imagine that the music is as bad as the cover.
After leaving Led Zeppelin, Robert Plant spun his golden mane into a mullet and dabbled in the wearing of silver trousers. He also wrote a song called “Big Log”, so he was possibly out of his mind. Incidentally, Phil Collins played drums on this album, which only increases its 80s-ness.
Frank Zappa was a leading light of the avant-garde rock scene. He was a consummate non-conformist and musical progressive. But judging by this cover, you might mistake him for someone about to attend his country club’s annual fundraiser. Don’t let the pic fool you, though: this is a highly satirical album which takes shots at the establishment figures of the day. Yes, this is the one album I’ve actually heard!