While the 90’s were a great time for rock music, the creativity extended to other aspects of music as well, like music videos, which we recently discussed with director Mark Pellington, and album artwork. Below are the 10 greatest rock album covers of the 90’s, and some stories behind them.
10. Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)
The Siamese Dream cover is so iconic that Billy Corgan was able to make headline news a couple of years ago by claiming that then Smashing Pumpkins bassist Nicole Fiorentino was one of the girls on the cover. Fiorentino told AlternativeNation.net, “That was all started in the head of Billy Corgan. That was just a fun Twitter play that we had one day, and it blew up and was on the front page of Yahoo. I actually stayed off my computer for like three days because I had like Rolling Stone wanting to interview me. I was like (sarcastically) ‘I don’t want to be known for this lie, this is blasphemy!’ It’ll pass, like anything else, which it did. But, I still get asked it in interviews to this day.”
9. Pink Floyd – The Division Bell (1994)
The album itself is a snoozefest, especially compared to the Pink Floyd classics, but the cover is awesome. Storm Thorgerson put up two large metal heads in a field near Ely to create the cover. Keith Breeden designed the sculptures, which were constructed by John Robertson.
8. Alice In Chains – Dirt (1992)
Model/actress Mariah O’Brien is featured on the cover to Dirt. She wore a wig for the shoot, which she left in the dirt after she left the 8 hour shoot according to FeelNumb. O’Brien told Revolver in 2010, “Everyone always asks if that is Demri Parrott on the Dirt cover. I think Demri’s name might have been mentioned as a possible model once or twice, but it was never a serious consideration.”
7. Sublime – Sublime (1996)
Tattoo artist Opie Ortiz was responsible for the tattoo shown on the back of Bradley Nowell on Sublime’s iconic 1996 self-titled album.
6. Rage Against The Machine – The Battle of Los Angeles (1999)
Artist LA Street Phantom/Joey Krebs/Joel Jaramillo created the artwork for the cover of The Battle of Los Angeles, which was inspired by the lyrics and themes on the album.
5. Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)
Jeff Buckley’s lone complete album features a great reflective photo of the legendary singer.
4. Jane’s Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)
Perry Farrell’s artwork for Ritual de lo Habitual was a visualization of the song “Three Days,” which was inspired by a drug and sex filled weekend he had with Casey Niccoli and Xiola Blue.
3. Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
Probably the most famous cover on this list, Nevermind shows a three month old Spencer Elden in a pool chasing a dollar. Cobain originally wanted an image depicting an underwater birth, but that was too graphic an idea for Geffen Records to agree to.
2. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is arguably the most ambitious album of the 90’s, a sprawling double album, and the cover art is one of the most memorable the 90’s, later inspiring the “Tonight, Tonight” video which paid homage to the 1902 film A Trip To The Moon.
John Craig remembered creating the cover in an interview with NPR, “I believe they had contacted a photographer in France that they were interested in. He was going to come over here and they were going to build this Victorian set, almost like a stage. All the Pumpkins would be in costume, and it would be a pretty elaborately designed photograph for the cover — until he wanted $50,000, I guess. So he was out. By that time, Billy seemed happy with the booklet illustrations, so I said, “Why don’t you give me a shot at the cover?” We talked about it and he sent me some more faxes, and I looked through a lot of the period books I had and showed him some examples of other people’s paintings that related to the celestial idea he was looking for. He was really talking about a ship’s maiden — you know, the ones carved into the front of old ships.
1. Mad Season – Above (1995)
The late, great Layne Staley designed the cover art for Mad Season’s lone album. The art work was inspired by a photo of Layne and his girlfriend Demri Parrott. Especially knowing what tragically happened to Staley and Parrott (Parrott died in 1996, Staley in 2002), the album’s cover art is a beautiful depiction of star crossed lovers.