Home / News / Most iconic 70 album artworks of all-time revealed

Most iconic 70 album artworks of all-time revealed

Most iconic 70 album artworks of all-time revealed

Most iconic 70 album artworks of all-time revealed

An exhibition commemorating 70 years of iconic album artwork has been launched today (8th October 2018), as part of the UK’s first National Album Day celebrations.

The public exhibition has been launched at London’s Waterloo Station before it will be travelling to Manchester Piccadilly and Glasgow Central Station.

Spanning 7 decades of popular art, music and design, the exhibition marks the cultural milestone of the 70th anniversary of the album format. It shines a light on the most iconic album designs in popular culture and explores the fascinating history behind some of the most renowned designs of our time.

View the list of 70 album artworks here

Cast your vote NOW

In association with the Best Art Vinyl Awards, an expert panel of judges were enlisted to select the best album artwork to represent each year from 1949 – 2004. These contribute to the last 13 winners of the Best Art Vinyl Awards which has been running since 2005 and the result, in many ways, is a definitive retrospective of UK popular culture one 12 inch at a time.

The exhibition begins with work from 1949 with a design by Alex Steinweiss who is regarded as the world’s first sleeve designer. In this case, it is for one of the very first LP releases of music by Beethoven.  This marks the beginning of a visual journey which pays homage to classic album covers including the likes of Miles Davis ‘Bitches Brew’, Nick Drake ‘Pink Moon’, Grace Jones ‘Night Clubbing’ to more recent artistic designs including The Strokes ‘Is This It’ to Run the Jewels ‘Run the Jewels 3’.

Surprising highlights in the exhibition include The Beatles who are the only music artist to feature twice. One of the Beatles albums to make the list is ‘The White Album, whose minimalist thought provoking design brings in debate and questions on the importance of sleeve design well into 21st century.

Outside of these well-known names in music, there are also well-known names from the art world that have given so much of their time and talent to sleeve design. Most notably Sir Peter Blake for The Beatles Sgt Peppers, Banksy for Blur’s Think Tank and all the way back to the sixteenth century for Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose painting was used for the eponymous Fleet Foxes LP in 2008.

Alison Fielding, Head of Creative at Beggars Group discussed being a judge on the panel: This is a wonderful project to be involved in and very close to my heart, especially as I was researching some of the beautiful old vinyl sleeves. There was a real craft to them, hand drawn type, vibrant colours, collage (which would have all been hand done) and really out there photography. You can’t even begin to imagine how long these sleeves took to do.  It’s interesting to see how sleeves have evolved, but also how many contemporary sleeves borrow from the past and genres are constantly recycled. I love so many of the choices on the list, The Beastie Boys, Elvis, The Miracles, Miles Davis, The Pixies,  but for me the standout sleeves on the list are the Freddie Hubbard – Hub-Tones – any Blue note sleeve really does it for me – always has. Joy division – Unknown Pleasures  - of course, the sound of my youth and the The Royal Blood cover featuring Dan Hillier’s  work is gorgeous – I love his illustrations and bought a series of his  prints as a result of seeing this sleeve.”

The Locations

The general public will be able to visit the exhibition for free at the following Network Rail stations.

  • London Waterloo Station: 8th – 21st October
  • Manchester Piccadilly Station: 22nd October – 5th November
  • Glasgow Central Station: 6th November – 19th November

Andrew Heeps, founder of Best Art Vinyl, expands on the locations stating that “this is a very public exhibition honouring the visual expression and identity of the music contained within the album sleeve. It allows commuters and passers-by to experience the magic of cover art which they may already own or can afford to own themselves”.

The Judges

The list of artworks was chosen by a panel of highly respected music industry design experts:

  • Patrick Burgoyne – Editor, Creative Review
  • Novelist – Recording Artist
  • Matthew Cooper – Artwork Designer (Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Noel Gallagher)
  • Alison Fielding  - Head of Creative, Beggars Group 
  • Rob O’Connor  - Creative Director at Stylorouge
  • Simon Raymonde – Founder of Bella Union Records
  • Ashli Todd - Owner of Spillers Records, Cardiff, the oldest record shop in the world
  • Colleen Murphy - Founder, Classic Album Sundays
  • Andrew Heeps – Founder, Best Art Vinyl

The Vote

In a bid to find the nation’s favourite, the public will be invited to select 3 pieces of artwork from the 70 selected designs and can cast their votes at the Art Vinyl Website. This will determine the UK’s ultimate album cover which will be revealed at the end of November.

1940s / 1950s

1949       Beethoven - Symphony No.3 in E Flat Major opus 55 (Eroica)

1950       Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra - Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé

1951       Bernard Herrmann - The Day The Earth Stood Still

1952       Count Basie - Basie Rides Again!

1953       Duke Ellington - Ellington Uptown

1954       Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins

1955       Lightnin' Hopkins - Lightnin' and The Blues

1956       Elvis Presley - Elvis Presley

1957       Little Richard - Here's Little Richard

1958       Chuck Willis - Chuck Willis, The King of the Stroll

1959       Billy Mure - Supersonic Guitars Volume I


1960       Conjunto Primavera - Bailemos Twist Con Texaco

1961       Hi! We're The Miracles - The Miracles

1962       The Beach Boys - Surfin' Safari

1963       Freddie Hubbard - Hub-tones

1964       Donald Byrd - A New Perspective

1965       Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream & Other Delights

1966       13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators

1967       The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

1968       The Beatles - The White Album

1969       Scott Walker - Scott 3


1970       Miles Davis - Bitches Brew

1971       Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

1972       Nick Drake - Pink Moon

1973       Stevie Wonder - Innervisions

1974       Kraftwerk - Autobahn (UK Edition)

1975       Brian Eno - Another Green World

1976       Ramones - Ramones

1977       Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks

1978       Blondie - Parallel Lines

1979       Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures


1980       The Pop Group - For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder?

1981       Grace Jones - Nightclubbing

1982       Duran Duran - Rio

1983       Billy Bragg – Life’s a Riot with Spy vs Spy

1984       This Mortal Coil - It'll End in Tears

1985       Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds - The Firstborn is Dead

1986       Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill

1987       The Cure - Kiss me kiss me kiss me

1988       Pixies - Surfer Rosa

1989       The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses


1990       Sonic Youth - Goo

1991       Primal Scream - Screamadelica

1992       Tom Waits - Bone Machine

1993       Suede - Suede

1994       Oasis - Definitely Maybe

1995       Aphex Twin - I Care Because You Do

1996       DJ Shadow - Endtroducing

1997       Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen… We Are Floating in Space

1998       Massive Attack - Mezzanine

1999       The White Stripes - The White Stripes


2000       Goldfrapp- Felt Mountain

2001       The Strokes - Is this it (UK Edition)

2002       Lemon Jelly - Lost Horizons

2003       Blur - Think Tank

2004       Kanye West - The College Dropout

2005       Hard-Fi - Stars of CCTV

2006       Thom Yorke - The Eraser

2007       The Cribs - Men's Needs, Women's Need, Whatever

2008       Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

2009       Muse - The Resistance


2010       Klaxons - Surfing The Void

2011       Bright Eyes - The People's Key

2012       The Temper Trap - The Temper Trap

2013       White Lies - Big TV

2014       Royal Blood - Royal Blood

2015       David Gilmour - Rattle That Lock

2016       The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come To Expect

2017       Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 3

Most iconic 70 album artworks of all-time revealed