Music isn't just about the music. Of course, the music is the most essential part, but you can't ignore the role of cover art in making an album one of the best of all time. This got OnBuy’s music team thinking: which albums have the most iconic cover art in history?
To find out, OnBuy surveyed 4,528 Brits and asked them to pick their favourite cover from 100 of the most iconic albums. We then identified the top ten favourite album covers of all time by grouping the votes and ranking them from highest to lowest. We also sought to find out how many Brits have actually listened to the albums.
Which album covers are the most iconic?
1. ‘Abbey Road’ - The Beatles
Our survey reveals that ‘Abbey Road’ by The Beatles has the most iconic album cover of all time, with the fab four strolling across a zebra crossing - a famous piece of pop culture imagery. 95% of the respondents picked it as their favourite but surprisingly, overall, only 51% had listened to the 1969 masterpiece.
2. ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ - Pink Floyd
In second place is Pink Floyd’s classic album ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, with the iconic prism cover, refracting light into six of the seven colours of the spectrum (apart from indigo), gaining 87% of the vote. Despite being in second place, 63% of Brits have listened to this album.
3. ‘Aladdin Sane’ - David Bowie
David Bowie’s lightning bolt face came in third place, with ‘Aladdin Sane’ getting 85% of the final vote. Despite the rock chameleon touching the lives of many with his musical talents, only 37% of respondents had listened to the album, making Aladdin Sane one of the least listened to albums of the top 10. But this could be down to his other albums being more popular musically, like ‘Heroes’ or ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
4. ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ - The Beatles
The Beatles feature again in the top 10, with ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ claiming fourth place. 79% thought this was the most iconic album cover and just over half said they had listened to the classic psychedelic record (57%).
5. ‘Nevermind’ - Nirvana
In fifth place is ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana with 59% of Brits selecting it as their favourite cover art. The breakthrough grunge album was released in 1991 and the image of a baby swimming underwater has had a place in pop culture ever since. This album had a listen rate of 59%, which suggests all those Nirvana t-shirts you see may not be donned by hardcore Nirvana fans after all...
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6. ‘The Velvet Underground’ - The Velvet Underground
In sixth place is a slightly unexpected result: the self-titled album by The Velvet Underground and Nico. While not widely listened to (24%), the striking bright yellow banana cover has clearly caught the eyes of Brits as 64% voted it as their favourite album cover, placing it in sixth.
7. ‘Rumours’ - Fleetwood Mac
In seventh place is Fleetwood Mac’s seminal album ‘Rumours’, which was released in 1977. The album cover, showing Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks dressed up, is a favourite for 59% of Brits surveyed. The album art clearly wasn’t as popular as the music on the album, as it received the highest listen rate among Brits, with 69% sharing that they had listened to it before. This is hardly surprising when the album’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ has a staggering 131 million views on YouTube!
8. ‘The Joshua Tree’ - U2
‘The Joshua Tree’ by Irish band U2 is in eighth place with 54% selecting the album cover as their all-time favourite, featuring the backdrop of the American national park. With classic tracks like ‘With or Without You’ and ‘Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’, it’s no surprise it has a high listen rate with 68% of respondents saying they had listened to this album.
9. ‘Elvis Presley’ - Elvis Presley
The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, finds himself in ninth place with his self-titled debut album, ‘Elvis Presley’. The album cover, starring a portrait of Elvis himself singing and playing guitar, was picked as a favourite for 46% of Brits. Despite his popularity, just 38% of the respondents admitted they had listened to his album!
10. ‘Born in the USA’ - Bruce Springsteen
In last place was the cover of ‘Born in the USA’ by Bruce Springsteen. The 1984 record cover, featuring Springsteen in a white tee and jeans combo, was a favourite for 37% of Brits according to our study. Almost a quarter (23%) of Brits surveyed said that they had listened to this album, which is surprising when considering the title track has an incredible 47 million views on YouTube.
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