Though most of us base our album choices on the music contained within the grooves, there’s something to be said for a really cool album cover, particularly when it’s a cover that has a unique gimmick that adds to the whole experience. Though gimmicky covers have always been around, the 1970’s was the golden age of album cover gimmicks, with almost all major artists at least dipping their toes into the pool.
Probably the coolest cover gimmick was on “Sticky Fingers”, the 1971 release from the Rolling Stones. The iconic cover, designed by Andy Warhol and centered directly on the clothed crotch of a man, featured an actual working zipper on the fly of the jeans. Though moving it up and down was terribly fun, due to a design flaw, doing so could hopelessly scratch the vinyl record within, leading many purchasers to desperately lunge for their record cleaner.
The Rolling Stones’ “Some Girls” featured a number of die cut heads that were different on each side of the sleeve, as well as colors that changed from copy to copy, allowing for covers that varied wildly from one to the next. Controversy came when a number of celebrities whose faces were featured on the sleeve, including Farrah Fawcett, Liza Minelli, Raquel Welch, and Lucille Ball, threatened to sue for the unauthorized use of their likenesses, resulting in multiple alterations to future pressings.
Another really cool gimmick album cover was the initial version of Bob Marley’s “Catch A Fire” in 1973. Made to look like a flip top lighter, the album opened on a hinge, revealing the LP beneath. If it didn’t protect the vinyl as well as a regular cover might have, it wasn’t nearly as damaging as a zipper, and the few extra fingerprints that might have resulted were nothing that any good quality record cleaners couldn’t fix.