Album image via Amazon
Album image via Amazon

The Stories Behind 8 Photographs That Were Reused For Album Covers

Album image via Amazon
Album image via Amazon

The art on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut album is unmistakable: it's the iconic photograph taken May 6, 1937 of the Hindenburg bursting into flames while trying to dock in New Jersey. The following eight examples are from artists who followed Led Zeppelin's lead and reused preexisting, unrelated photos for album covers.

1. BECK // ODELAY (1996)

Photo credit: Joan Ludwig // Album image via Amazon

It might take a few glances to determine what exactly is leaping over a barricade on the cover of Beck’s hit-spewing second major-label album. That mop-like creature is a Komondor, a Hungarian breed of herding dog known for its white corded coat. Beck was apparently searching for a cover idea when his girlfriend, singer Leigh Limon, came across the image in a book about dog breeds. According to the book 100 Greatest Album Covers, Odelay’s co-art director Robert Fisher contacted the photographer, Joan Ludwig, who is well known for her images of show dogs. Fisher visited Ludwig at her Los Angeles home and the two searched through a garage’s worth of boxes of dog photos to find the original transparency of the leaping Komondor. It never turned up, so Fisher scanned the image from the book, which “did give the cover a certain look that I liked.”

2. TOM WAITS // RAIN DOGS (1985)

Photo credit: Anders Petersen // Album image via Amazon

In the late ’60s, Swede Anders Petersen spent three years photographing regulars at Café Lehmitz, a bar in Hamburg, Germany, that was frequented by prostitutes, drug addicts, and working-class locals. It’s easy to see a similarity between those outsiders and the ones described in Tom Waits’s music. Waits selected an image from Petersen’s book Café Lehmitz as the cover of his Rain Dogs. “I said yes when the record company asked, because I like Tom's music,” Petersen told The Guardian. The woman was a charismatic regular named Lilly and the bare-chested man is Rose, one of her many suitors.

3. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE // RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE (1992)

Photo credit: Malcolm Browne // Album image via Amazon

To the teens and 20-somethings who bought Rage against the Machine’s complacency-shattering debut album, the cover image of a serene-looking man engulfed in flames probably looked like the work of some hip graphic artist. Or they may have recognized it as a famous news photo, one not altered (beyond cropping) for RATM’s self-titled debut. On June 11, 1963, Thích Quảng Đức, a monk, immolated himself in Saigon as part of protests against Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem’s discrimination against Buddhists. Associated Press Bureau Chief Malcolm Browne captured the disturbing and powerful image. Though several newspapers declined to run it, Browne still won the World Press’ Best News Picture of the Year award. Decades later, the band licensed it, putting the monk’s last act onto the bedroom walls and t-shirt drawers of kids a half a world away.

4. VAMPIRE WEEKEND // CONTRA (2010)

Photo credit: Tod Barry (disputed) // Album image via Amazon

Rostam Batmanglij, multi-instrumentalist for New York City indie band Vampire Weekend, came across this vintage Polaroid of a blond model in a polo shirt. “We had a lot of discussions trying to figure out how old this person was when the picture was taken,” lead singer Ezra Koenig told Pitchfork. “She could be 15 or 27. The ambiguity of her age and expression made me feel like she was on the cusp of something, which really matches the vibe of the new album.” They tracked down photographer Tod Barry, who says he took it at a casting call for a TV ad in 1983.

By the time of the album’s release, the model, Ann Kirsten Kennis, had retired to Fairfield, Connecticut. One day, her daughter showed her the album cover on the website of Barnes and Noble. After Contra went to number one in several countries, Kennis saw her face from 30 years ago staring back from The New York Times, at the Gap, and on New York City street corners. She sued the photographer, band, and label. Barry claimed he had a release for the photo, but Kennis said he wasn’t even the photographer and her mother probably took the shot. Kennis and the band settled out of court.

5. PLACEBO // PLACEBO (1996)

Photo credit: Saul Fletcher // Album image via Amazon

Placebo’s self-titled debut went to number five on the British charts. The cover image of a boy in a red jumper pulling his cheeks downward is from Saul Fletcher, a London-based photographer. Fletcher took it at the funeral of his cousin Duane Fox, who died of muscular dystrophy. The boy is Duane’s 12-year-old brother Justin. Unlike Kennis, Justin Fox got a heads-up that he’d be on an album cover. But when Placebo charted, he claimed he was teased mercilessly. “Nobody [at school] wanted me on their side or anything like that,” he told The Times. “Even the teachers used to pull me aside and ask me about this CD cover.”

6. THE ROOTS // THINGS FALL APART (1999)

Photo credit: Corbis // Album image via Amazon

The Philadelphia organic hip-hop group’s breakthrough album was originally released with five variant covers, each with a historical photo representing a different societal ill. Most editions of the album feature a ’60s-era image of police chasing two African-American teenagers in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Seeing real fear in the woman's face is very affecting,” art director Kenny Gravillis told Complex. “It feels unflinching and aggressive in its commentary on society. I remember going to Tower Records and seeing it huge; it was just so impactful.” The label obtained the photo from Corbis, a licensing storehouse for photographs. The identity of the photograph is lost to history.

7. ANTONY AND THE JOHNSONS // I AM A BIRD NOW (2005)

Photo credit: Peter Hujar // Album image via Amazon

For her Mercury Prize-winning second album, baroque pop singer Antony Hegarty licensed Peter Hujar’s famous photo "Candy Darling on Her Deathbed." Darling was a Warhol “Superstar” and died from lymphoma at the age of 29. Darling, like Hegarty, was a transgender woman, an issue addressed throughout I Am a Bird Now. Hegarty had been a fan of Hujar’s work for several years. She told Politico, “The relationship between light and darkness is something I've been thinking about for a long time starting with my observations of the photography of Peter Hujar.”

8. DINOSAUR JR // GREEN MIND (1991)

Photo credit: Joe Szabo // Album image via Amazon

The photo of a smoking girl from Dinosaur Jr.’s fourth album was taken by Joe Szabo, a former teacher at Malverne High School in Long Island, who specializes in candids of teens. The image is entitled "Priscilla," but Szabo doesn’t know her name or much about her. “The girl in the photo is a mystery and will ever remain so,” he explained about probably the most famous picture from his 1978 book Almost Grown. “One day as I was photographing at Jones Beach I saw ‘Priscilla’ in front of me and my immediate reaction was to make a photo(s) before the moment changed. I took a few photos, looked down to rewind the film, and put in another roll. When I looked up she was gone!”

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Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
The Covers of Jack Kerouac's Classic Titles Are Getting a Makeover
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press
Tom Etherington, Penguin Press

Readers have been enjoying classic Jack Kerouac books like The Dharma Bums and On the Road for decades, but starting this August the novels will have a new look. Several abstract covers have been unveiled as part of Penguin’s "Great Kerouac" series, according to design website It’s Nice That.

The vibrant covers, designed by Tom Etherington of Penguin Press, feature the works of abstract expressionist painter Franz Kline. The artwork is intended to capture “the experience of reading Kerouac” rather than illustrating a particular scene or character, Etherington told It’s Nice That. Indeed, abstract styles of artwork seem a fitting match for Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose”—a writing style that was influenced by improvisational jazz music.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of The Dharma Bums, which was published just one year after On the Road. The Great Kerouac series will be available for purchase on August 2.

[h/t It's Nice That]

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John MacDougall, Getty Images
Stolpersteine: One Artist's International Memorial to the Holocaust
John MacDougall, Getty Images
John MacDougall, Getty Images

The most startling memorial to victims of the Holocaust may also be the easiest to miss. Embedded in the sidewalks of more than 20 countries, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine—German for “stumbling stones”—mark the spots where victims last resided before they were forced to leave their homes. The modest, nearly 4-by-4-inch brass blocks, each the size of a single cobblestone, are planted outside the doorways of row houses, bakeries, and coffee houses. Each tells a simple yet chilling story: A person lived here. This is what happened to them.

Here lived Hugo Lippers
Born 1878
Arrested 11/9/1938 — Altstrelitzer prison
Deported 1942 Auschwitz
Murdered

The project is the brainchild of the German artist Gunter Demnig, who first had the idea in the early 1990s as he studied the Nazis' deportation of Sinti and Roma people. His first installations were guerrilla artwork: According to Reuters, Demnig laid his first 41 blocks in Berlin without official approval. The city, however, soon endorsed the idea and granted him permission to install more. Today, Berlin has more than 5000.

Demnig lays a Stolpersteine.
Artist Gunter Demnig lays a Stolpersteine outside a residence in Hamburg, Germany in 2012.
Patrick Lux, Getty Images

The Stolpersteine are unique in their individuality. Too often, the millions of Holocaust victims are spoken of as a nameless mass. And while the powerful memorials and museums in places such as Berlin and Washington, D.C. are an antidote to that, the Stolpersteine are special—they are decentralized, integrated into everyday life. You can walk down a sidewalk, look down, and suddenly find yourself standing where a person's life changed. History becomes unavoidably present.

That's because, unlike gravestones, the stumbling stones mark an important date between a person’s birth and death: the day that person was forced to abandon his or her home. As a result, not every stumbling stone is dedicated to a person who was murdered. Some plaques commemorate people who fled Europe and survived. Others honor people who were deported but managed to escape. The plaques aim to memorialize the moment a person’s life was irrevocably changed—no matter how it ended.

The ordinariness of the surrounding landscape—a buzzing cafe, a quaint bookstore, a tree-lined street—only heightens that effect. As David Crew writes for Not Even Past, “[Demnig] thought the stones would encourage ordinary citizens to realize that Nazi persecution and terror had begun on their very doorsteps."

A man in a shop holding a hammer making a Stolpersteine.
Artisan Michael Friedrichs-Friedlaender hammers inscriptions into the brass plaques at the Stolpersteine manufacturing studio in Berlin.
Sean Gallup, Getty Images

While Demnig installs every single Stolpersteine himself, he does not work alone. His project, which stretches from Germany to Brazil, relies on the research of hundreds of outside volunteers. Their efforts have not only helped Demnig create a striking memorial, but have also helped historians better document the lives of individuals who will never be forgotten.

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