The worst album art in the world!
12 dreadful record covers cracking life’s mystery to reenact at Christmas
From some eggs hatch ugly ducklings and so it is with record covers, but gathered together by the world’s worst album art collector – Steve Goldman – they can be seen as the swans that they truly are
“Some people spend fortunes collecting fine art, but no one collects dreadful LP covers,” explains Steve Goldman.
And that is why one man from Huddersfield has made it his mission to collect hideous works and share them with the world. On a quest to unearth “unintentionally funny” albums, Steve has collected 500 of the worst record covers ever made. And we thank him for it. Because, let’s face it, we could all do with a laugh. This time of year is all about bad taste, but these are so bad, they’re good.
But what moved him to do this?
“About 40 years ago I bought an album from 1979 called Roadstar by Peter Rabbit because it had such a strange album cover. Somehow, I lost it over the years and had never been able to find another copy,” says Steve. But that was until someone told him about Discogs, a website where you can pick up old and obscure vinyl records. Its free online database is a joy for collectors, sellers and music geeks around the world.
“To my delight, I found it there. I searched for a couple of other albums I knew of and I was off… I remember the moment I said to my kids, ‘I’m going to start collecting dreadful album covers. That was five years ago.”
Five years well-spent has found Steve rummaging in charity shops, car boot sales and the internet looking for records to make up his unique collection, spending between 5p and £50 on treasured pieces.
“To get in my collection, the album covers have to be unintentionally funny. I want records where the designers have tried to do something that’s gone horribly wrong. It can’t just be a performer in bad clothes or with an ugly face – though there are a couple that have got in that were irresistible. And it all has to be good clean family fun. I don’t collect any album covers that are gory, violent, sexist, homophobic or racist.”
Steve, who suffered a stroke two years ago, has staged various events in aid of Different Strokes, a charity helping younger stroke survivors and their families. His collection has also featured on Have I Got News For You and been reenacted by delighted (and probably not very sober) crowds at Shambala Festival in the summer.
As this time of year is all about bad taste, we asked Steve to pick a dozen covers from his personal collection for Season 02 of TOPIA, which is themed (albeit sometimes quite loosely) on the humble egg – and the idea of cracking life’s mystery. Over to Steve to explain his eggs-istencial pickings…
Amadeo – Moving like a Superstar (1977)
“In many creation myths, the Earth begins as an egg. Sometimes it just mysteriously appears. Sometimes it’s created by a celestial being or laid by a creature of some sort. In 1977’s Moving Like a Superstar, 70s’ pop icon Amadeo lays the egg. But where did self-professed ‘dance theatre Yogi’ Amadéo Barrios come from? Short answer: the Philippines.
Cirkus One – Plus (1995)
“A pair of hands pull on some beer pumps operating a vagina-shaped opening in our planet. From which emerges a fully grown, nude hairy chested chap, his umbilical cord attached. Well, what would you expect from the cream of alternative UK prog rock? Cirkus One might cover serious subjects such as gender identity and infertility but this Plus is pure Spinal Tap cheese. You’re very welcome!
Barry Mcguire – Cosmic Cowboy (1978)
“Who fancies some Jesus Rock this Christmas? Yes, it’s a genre. Cosmic Cowboy has been called “one of the strangest records on Spotify” – and with reason. Stylishly clad in denim and a waistcoat, somewhere above the earth but below a galaxy, is former fisherman, Barry. The Hollywood Jesus Rocker opens his shirt to reveal, erm, a shining thing that could be an egg. Or is it the sun? Barry definitely feels he played an important role in our early history.
Jayson Hoover – Jayson Hoover (1974)
“Jayson Hoover’s self-titled LP features the reconstruction of the Garden of Eden: Eve is represented by a nude mannequin; the Tree Of Life, by a bare, white, plastic tree; and the evil serpent is just a few feet of paper. The Canadian soul vocalist from Vancouver sits in the middle, looking like he knows the cheapness of it all. So what’s life like on this big old planet anyway? And how do we make sense of it?
Dean Reed – A Jeho Svět (1976)
“Roger Moore look-a-like Dean Reed shows us a way to try and crack life’s mystery: walk around a woody glade and imagine yourself inside a tree, look lovingly at that tree and see a giant version of your head. Breathe. From the Spaghetti Western actor was unfathomably big in the Eastern Bloc. Yes, he was the best selling Western artist in Communist countries in the 1970s, selling millions of records – and even earning the nickname ‘The Red Elvis’.
Crosby Stills and Nash – Live It Up (1990)
“Astronauts describe having deeply spiritual experiences when they view the earth from space. How do you top an experience like that? By going to the moon, erecting some giant hot dogs on sticks and then climbing up them to get a better view of course. Catchy, mindless and not one for vegans.
Kjell Krage –VInd I Seglen (1977)
“We’re all just being blown around in a big ocean. We think we’re making choices but actually we’re being blown around by forces bigger than we control. Meanwhile, Swedish singer Kjell Krage, like a sea god, smiles benevolently upon us from the horizon. You wouldn’t want to make him angry.
Sandwich – Kookie (1971)
“Don’t tell me you have never had the feeling that you are just the egg on top of the ham in some celestial being’s sandwich. What are we even doing here? German 70s’ band Sandwich treated the world to their own brand of “bubblegum pop” in 1971 before becoming Bläck Fööss and teaming up with trucker and musician King Size Dick (yes really). But that’s another story.
Banco – Canto di primavera (1979)
“Like an Athena poster, Banco’s charismatic frontman Francesco Di Giacomo poses with a naked baby, looking like an ‘new man’ of the 80s. We don’t know whose the baby is, probably just another victim of prog rock. Weird fact for you: Banco’s full name is Banco del Mutuo Soccorso – which, translated means ‘Bank of Mutual Relief’. Who wouldn’t like one of those right now?!
Drake – Certified Lover Boy (2021)
“It hasn’t gone unnoticed that there are not many women on this page. That’s rock n’roll all over. Here though, from Drake are 12 of ‘em. Hats off to the superstar for not spending unnecessary amounts of money on his graphics on his sixth album cover. Or did he? It might look like you could make a dozen pregnant women emojis using a Nintendo DS, but it turns out that a Damien Hirst painting is behind the bizarre cover. How do you like your eggs? Fertilised.
Vietnam Chain – Before I Go (1989)
“The Grim Reaper is here! There’s a bishop, a goth girl and, though the end is nigh, our nearly dead bloke – who looks like Terry Hall or Rik Mayall, you choose – seems to be showing the assembled audience that he can still manage an erection. Before he goes. And if you want to know what it sounds like, it’s as haunting as it looks like it might be.
Yello – Solid Pleasure (1981)
“What kind of egg do you imagine this alien-frog baby came out of? Only Yello, the best band ever from Switzerland, know. And what do you imagine this album sounds like? Well, it’s a mashup of post-punk spunk, samba, polka, soundtracks and marching bands, of course. Which is how I imagine TOPIA sounds too.
Want more from Season 02 of TOPIA?
What’s so good about this?
The art of the album cover will never die. And thankfully nether will bad taste. Check out Steve Goldman’s truly, joyfully dreadful album art on @worstrecordcovers – and look out for the book in 2023.
Meet the writer
Richard Byrne is a writer, educator and psychogeographer who wants to share the best stories that no one else is looking for. When he’s working you might find him @p_diversity. When he’s not working, he could be exploring the underworld with his kids on Minecraft or hanging out in Stardew Valley. Richard regularly spends an hour or two walking a very short distance while following psychogeographic instructions. He occasionally has euphoric experiences while walking and is trying to figure out how to have them more often.