Queen 7″ vinyl singles in Portugal: the variations of iconography


The Queen discography in Portugal includes not less than 27 different records in the 7” vinyl format. And at least 2 records from Angola must be added to this list, therefore the variety is quite complex especially regarding the years between 1973 and 1980, when unique picture sleeve covers were published in these countries only. The Angola editions were pressed until 1975, year in which the country gained the independence from Portugal. Not all the singles from Queen discography have been published in Portugal, but for all the known editions a short description will focus on the picture sleeve details giving the details of each edition, including the catalogue number. Track list in Portuguese and Angolan editions are always identical to the UK pressing.

In the first part of Queen discography, it must be remarked that each country used to have and releases a unique picture sleeve edition for the songs that were intended to be published as singles; so a lot of different picture sleeves (each with its own different layout) can be found for a single song. All Queen singles in Portugal have been published under EMI label as it happened in UK.

Another detail that can be tracked is the evolution of the Queen logo during the years: the different variations appear in the picture sleeves and they help to identify immediately the exact period of the discography analysed; the look and the style of the members go in the same direction.

Some of these items are really difficult to find nowadays, so they are very sought after by worldwide collectors. Especially the singles from Portugal and Angola, due to the fact they had – at least in the first years – unique picture sleeves and that they were pressed in very small quantities.

Therefore, this analysis will focus on the 7” format, showing the peculiarity of each edition and showing them in chronological order. For each Portuguese or Angolan pressing, the picture sleeve will be compared to the standard UK edition in order to underline differences and similarities, and this will show why the Portuguese market is so important in an iconographic point of view.

The analysis of the 7” picture sleeves

The first Queen single ever published, Keep Yourself Alive, is one of the rarest Portuguese picture sleeves (Figure 1) and its peculiarity is given by the fact that it has a photographic picture sleeve, whilst the original UK edition (Figure 2) was published in a standard EMI red sleeve. That happened because it was the band first release, but the Portuguese offices decided anyway to give the new artist a great opportunity using a picture taken at Freddie Mercury’s flat in London.

Figure 1
Figure 1 – Keep Yourself Alive / Son and Daughter – EMI 006-94681 PORTUGAL (1973)
Figure 2
Figure 2 – Keep Yourself Alive / Son and Daughter – EMI 2036 UK (1973) ~ No PS

Again, for the Seven Seas Of Rhye single, Portugal used a picture sleeve (Figure 3) and the UK edition used a standard EMI sleeve (Figure 4). The picture used in this case was taken from the inner sleeve of the LP “QUEEN II”, album in which the song originally appeared. The first edition of the Queen logo is here printed in a big format and it already shows its regality and pompousness.

Figure 3
Figure 3 – Seven Seas Of Rhye / See What A Fool I’ve Been – EMI 8E 006-95 241 PORTUGAL (1974)
Figure 4
Figure 4 – Seven Seas Of Rhye / See What A Fool I’ve Been – EMI 2121 UK (1974) ~ No PS

The Angolan edition for this single has the same sleeve of the Portuguese edition: only the back is different for the details regarding the factory where the single was actually pressed.

The single Killer Queen, taken from the LP “SHEER HEART ATTACK”, was published in several countries of the world. In UK the original edition was again a standard red EMI sleeve (Figure 6), whilst in Portugal the same picture of the first single Keep Yourself Alive was used but with a “cut and copy” graphic montage in order to make it look different from the original artwork (Figure 5). In order to promote the single on the front sleeve it is stated that the song was in the first position in the charts in London, and this means that the Portuguese edition was printed later than the UK one.

Figure 5
Figure 5 – Killer Queen / Flick of The Wrist – EMI 8E 006-96060 MG – Portugal (1974)
Figure 6
Figure 6 – Killer Queen / Flick of The Wrist – EMI 8E 006-96060 MG – Portugal (1974)

Again, the Angolan edition had the same sleeve of the Portuguese edition, and in the back, there were minor differences. Both editions share the same catalogue number as it always happens in Angola.

The picture sleeve for Now I’m Here (Figure 7) features a monochromatic picture taken during a live show and it is one of the best single cover from Portugal thanks to this peculiarity, since picture was unpublished. The standard UK edition is very simple and without a picture sleeve (Figure 8).

Figure 7
Figure 7 – Now I’m Here / Lily Of The Valley – EMI 8E-006 96255 PORTUGAL (1974)
Figure 8
Figure 8 – Now I’m Here / Lily Of The Valley – EMI 2256 UK (1974) ~ No PS

With Bohemian Rhapsody even in UK the record company decided to use a picture sleeve for the first time in Queen discography (Figure 10), and the inspiration was a studio picture. In Portugal the choice was more ambitious, since a caricature was used to promote the single (Figure 9).

Figure 9
Figure 9 – Bohemian Rhapsody / I’m In Love With My Car – EMI 8E 006-97140 PORTUGAL (1975)
Figure 10
Figure 10 – Bohemian Rhapsody / I’m In Love With My Car – EMI 2375 UK (1975)

For the following single Somebody To Love, published in 1976, in Portugal the picture sleeve (Figure 11) used the same picture of some years before for Seven Seas Of Rhye but this time in full colours and adding some writings for the title and the group name, using a unique and unpublished logo. The UK single sleeve (Figure 12) is totally different, since we have this time a caricature and the name of the group doesn’t even appear at least in this edition, whereas other countries have it.

Figure 11
Figure 11 – Somebody To Love / White Man – EMI 8E 006-98428 PORTUGAL (1976)
Figure 12
Figure 12 – Somebody To Love / White Man – EMI 2565 UK (1976)

From the single Queen’s first E.P. on published in 1977 (Figure 14), UK and Portuguese edition are almost identical and differ only for some tiny details, especially writings added in the Portuguese edition (Figure 13). Queen’s first E.P. is one of these early examples, in which the Portuguese edition adds to the original layout (a picture taken during a live show) the albums from which the songs are taken, and a big stamp to commemorate the 100 years since the phonograph was invented.

Figure 13
Figure 13 – Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy / Death On Two Legs / Tenement Funster / White Queen – EMI 8E 016-99082 PORTUGAL (1977) ~ Also known as “Queen first E.P.”
Figure 14
Figure 14 – Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy / Death On Two Legs / Tenement Funster / White Queen – EMI 2623 UK (1977) ~ Also known as “Queen first E.P.”

The same rule is then applied again in the We Are The Champions single: the robot taken from the cover of the LP “NEWS OF THE WORLD” is inspired from the standard UK edition (Figure 16) and the details of the album are added (Figure 15). The original drawings for the LP and the single are from the American artist Frank Kelly Freas and they were first used in a comic book from 1953 (Astounding Science Fiction): Queen found this kind of graphic very interesting and so they contacted the artist to redraw and adapt the science fiction subject for their album.

Figure 15
Figure 15 – We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You – EMI 8E 006-60045 PORTUGAL (1977)
Figure 16
Figure 16 – We Are The Champions / We Will Rock You – EMI 2708 UK (1977)

The crowd escaping from the robot is the theme chosen for the picture sleeve of Spread Your Wings from 1977: the image appears in the inner sleeve of the “NEWS OF THE WORLD” LP. For the very first time the UK (Figure 18) and Portuguese (Figure 17) editions are identical in every detail.

Figure 17
Figure 17 – Spread Your Wings / Sheer Heart Attack – EMI 8E006-60476 PORTUGAL (1977)
Figure 18
Figure 18 – Spread Your Wings / Sheer Heart Attack – EMI 2757 UK (1977)

The following single, Bicycle Race, published in 1978, has a picture with a girl riding a bike on the cover and this image recalls songs’ titles of both sides od the vinyl edition. The pants on the girl’s image are added on the sleeve layout since she was originally naked, and this would have created some censorship problems. The editions for UK (Figure 20) and Portugal (Figure 19) markets are identical.

Figure 19
Figure 19 – Bicycle Race / Fat Bottomed Girls – EMI 8E 006-61846 PORTUGAL (1978)
Figure 20
Figure 20 – Bicycle Race / Fat Bottomed Girls – EMI 2870 UK (1978)

Again, for the Don’t Stop Me Now single the two editions (Figure 21 and Figure 22) share the same picture sleeve, an image taken during a live show from the “Live Killers” tour. The only difference can be found in the type of paper used, since the Portuguese one is thinner.

Figure 21
Figure 21 – Don’t Stop Me Now / In Only Seven Days – EMI 8E 006 62276 PORTUGAL (1978)
Figure 22
Figure 22 – Don’t Stop Me Now / In Only Seven Days – EMI 2910 UK (1978)

The single Crazy Little Thing Called Love, identical to the UK edition (Figure 24), has been published in two versions (Figure 23). The only difference amongst them is the colour of the word “Live” on the back referred to the B side, probably due to a different printing factory. The change of style of the group (hairstyle and clothes) denotes both a new musical language with less studio overdubs and a fashion update after the glam influences of the previous years.

Figure 23
Figure 23 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love / We Will Rock You (live) – EMI 8E 006-63317 PORTUGAL (1979) ~ Back with “Live” in red
Figure 24 – Crazy Little Thing Called Love / We Will Rock You (live) – EMI 5001 UK (1979)

In 1980 the single Save Me has been published using a studio picture for the sleeves of both countries. The Portugal edition (Figure 25) differs from the standard UK (Figure 26) because the paper used was thinner and textured. The new Queen logo appears on the top in yellow.

Figure 25
Figure 25 – Save Me / Let Me Entertain You (live) – EMI 11C 006-63566 PORTUGAL (1980)
Figure 26
Figure 26 – Save Me / Let Me Entertain You (live) – EMI 5022 UK (1980)

The Portuguese picture sleeve for Another One Bites The Dust (Figure 27) is very interesting for several reasons: first of all its layout is totally different from the UK edition (Figure 28), and the only point in common is the name of the group printed with the same font.

Figure 27
Figure 27 – Another One Bites The Dust / Dragon Attack – EMI 11C 006-64060 PORTUGAL (1980)
Figure 28
Figure 28 – Another One Bites The Dust / Dragon Attack – EMI 5102 UK (1980)

Therefore, the picture sleeve has some interesting elements: the position of the four group components recalls a similar concept used in Portugal in the same year by the ABBA with the song The Winner Takes It All (Figure 29). But whilst the ABBA sleeve reflects order and symmetry (like group identity and audience target), the Queen one recalls more irreverence and freedom.

Figure 29
Figure 29 – ABBA – The Winner Takes It All / Elaine – POLYDOR 2001981 PORTUGAL (1980)

And there is more: each Queen component holds a sleeve in his hand with another member of the group pictured. This internal recursion recalls the famous PINK FLOYD sleeve for the LP “UMMAGUMMA” published in 1969 (Figure 30). The original image for the Queen picture sleeve – but without the recursion element – can be found on the inner sleeve of “THE GAME” LP.

Figure 30
Figure 30 – PINK FLOYD – “Ummagumma” UK (1969)

The Play The Game single has the same picture sleeves both in Portugal (Figure 31) and UK (Figure 32) and it is taken from a studio session. The new look of the Queen members is clearly showed, and this recalls the new musical context with the use of the synthesizer from this album on.

Figure 31
Figure 31 – Play The Game / A Human Body – EMI 11C 006 63890 PORTUGAL (1980)
Figure 32
Figure 32- Play The Game / A Human Body – EMI 5076 UK (1980)

For the “Flash Gordon” original soundtrack Queen published the song Flash in 1980. The simple layout is identical in UK (Figure 34) and Portugal (Figure 33) and in many other countries where the lilac-blue colour is predominant. In Japanese and US editions yellow is instead the main colour and that recalls the original layout of the LP from which the songs are taken.

Figure 33
Figure 33 – Flash / Football Fight – EMI 11C 008 64205 PORTUGAL (1980) ~ Code on vinyl label 11C 006 64205
Figure 34
Figure 34 – Flash / Football Fight – EMI 5126 UK (1980)

A simple and plain black layout is used to promote the Under Pressure single in 1981, in collaboration with David Bowie. The UK (Figure 36) and Portugal editions (Figure 35) have the same picture sleeve and track list. It is one of the simpler picture sleeves in Queen discography.

Figure 35
Figure 35 – Under Pressure / Soul Brother – EMI 11C 008-64626 PORTUGAL (1981)
Figure 36
Figure 36 – Under Pressure / Soul Brother – EMI 5250 UK (1981)

Two naked bodies are on the front cover of the single Body Language published in 1982. This cover has been censored in some countries, but Portugal (Figure 37) and UK (Figure 38) share the same concept. It is important to underline that the title of the song is missing, since the picture sleeve itself becomes the title with its clear sexual message. The arrows on the bodies of the models will be used again later in Freddie Mercury’s clothes during live shows.

Queenvinyls 744
Figure 37 – Body Language / Life Is Real – EMI 11C 008-064788 PORTUGAL (1982)
Figure 38 – Body Language / Life Is Real – EMI 5293 UK (1982)

From 1984 on, with the publication of the Radio Ga Ga single, the record company EMI decided that almost all countries in the world should use the same picture sleeve in order to save money and to give a coherent image of the group. In this example Portugal (Figure 39) and UK (Figure 40) share the same picture sleeve with a picture of the band from a studio session with a new logo.

Figure 39
Figure 39 – Radio Ga Ga / I Go Crazy – EMI 1655327 PORTUGAL (1984)
Figure 40 – Radio Ga Ga / I Go Crazy – EMI QUEEN1 UK (1984)

The I Want To Break Free single was published in UK and USA in several editions (Figure 42), one picture sleeve for each member of the group with the images taken from “THE WORKS” LP. But in Portugal (Figure 41) only Roger Taylor version was used, probably because in that years he was the most famous member in that country or in order to have less complexity in the market.

Figure 41
Figure 41 – I Want To Break Free / Machines (or ‘Back To Humans’) – EMI 2001177 PORTUGAL (1984) ~ Roger on cover. Gold letters
Figure 42
Figure 42 – I Want To Break Free / Machines (or ‘Back To Humans’) – EMI QUEEN2 UK (1984) ~ Freddie, Brian, Roger and John on cover. Gold letters

The video for the song It’s A Hard Life was a baroque masterpiece: the cover for the single captures this “operatic-style” feeling in an essential picture where it’s possible to examine all the details of the pompous costumes. The single’s cover features an unusual “skull and bones”-themed guitar too. The Portuguese edition (Figure 43) is identical to the UK one (Figure 44) in every detail.

Figure 43
Figure 43 – It’s A Hard Life / Is this The World We Created…? – EMI 2002157 PORTUGAL (1984)
Figure 44
Figure 44 – It’s A Hard Life / Is this The World We Created…? – EMI QUEEN3 UK (1984)

Thank God It’s Christmas is a song written by guitarist May and drummer Taylor. Released on 26 November 1984, the picture sleeve shows a picture collage from the 1984 tour. The UK edition (Figure 46) was used as a model for all the other releases including Portugal (Figure 45).

Figure 45
Figure 45 – Thank God It’s Christmas / Man On The Prowl / Keep Passing The Open Windows – EMI 2004347 PORTUGAL (1984)
Figure 46
Figure 46 – Thank God It’s Christmas / Man On The Prowl / Keep Passing The Open Windows – EMI QUEEN5 UK (1984)

The single One Vision features a picture sleeve cover where the members of the band are photographed during the photo session for the Live Aid concert in 1985. Portuguese edition (Figure 47) is once again identical to the UK standard edition (Figure 48). The Queen logo is printed in red at the top of the picture cover.

Figure 47
Figure 47 – One Vision / Blurred Vision – EMI 2008867 PORTUGAL (1985)
Figure 48
Figure 48 – One Vision / Blurred Vision – EMI QUEEN6 UK (1985)

A picture taken during the Friends Will Be Friends video shoot is used for the picture sleeve of the vinyl cover. The UK edition (Figure 50) was used as a standard layout model for all other editions including the Portuguese one (Figure 49). The Queen logo changes again and this version will be used until 1989, when it will be redesigned for “THE MIRACLE” LP.

Figure 49
Figure 49 – Friends Will Be Friends / Seven Seas Of Rhye – EMI 2013087 PORTUGAL (1986)
Figure 50
Figure 50 – Friends Will Be Friends / Seven Seas Of Rhye – EMI QUEEN8 UK (1986)

The second original soundtrack written by Queen was for the movie “Highlander” in 1986. The cover of the single A Kind Of Magic portrays one of the main character of the movie, the villain Kurgan, played by Clancy Brown. The Portuguese edition (Figure 51) is as identical to the UK one (but in France there is a variation with the actor Christopher Lambert) (Figure 52).

Figure 51
Figure 51 – A Kind Of Magic / A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling – EMI 2011167 PORTUGAL (1986)
Figure 52
Figure 52 – A Kind Of Magic / A Dozen Red Roses For My Darling – EMI QUEEN7 UK (1986)

I Want It All, a single published in 1989 and taken from the LP “THE MIRACLE”, has a simple picture cover with all the members of the group dressed in black on a white background: the image recalls the rediscovered cooperation and inspiration inside the group. The new Queen logo appears on the top. Portugal edition (Figure 53) is identical to the UK one (Figure 54).

Figure 53
Figure 53 – I Want It All / Hang On In There – PARLOPHONE 2033607 PORTUGAL (1989)
Figure 54
Figure 54 – I Want It All / Hang On In There – PARLOPHONE QUEEN10 UK (1989)

The Breakthru single features on the cover the details of the eyes taken directly from the album “THE MIRACLE”. The standard UK cover (Figure 56) has been the model for the Portuguese edition too (Figure 55). This has been the last 7” vinyl single published in Portugal, since no songs were chosen for this format for the following album “INNUENDO” in 1991. This was determined by the rise of the CD as a new format and the consequent abandonment of vinyl as a means of sound diffusion and promotion.

Figure 55
Figure 55 – Breakthru / Stealin’ – PARLOPHONE 2034217 PORTUGAL (1989)
Queenvinyls 936
 Figure 56 – Breakthru / Stealin’ – PARLOPHONE QUEEN11 UK (1989)

The several singles published in Portugal (and Angola) are really important, as it has been shown, from an iconographic point of view since these picture sleeves were not only intended as a marketing tool, but they were first of all conceived following different approaches: some of these were artistic and some of them shaped from other media (as videoclip), but always original.

The LP album covers and all the objects related to advertises or similar could be described and retraced as “Music Iconology” because in most cases they actually depict the musicians (actually the members of the band in that case) in studio photos or during live performances, or even with the logo of the group, so this is the very first point to be underlined: before the videoclips era (that started early in the 80’s with MTV) the image on album covers was at that time – together with the tour posters and other advertises – the only way musicians had to be shown and the only way to promote a song or an album. In this sense album covers are really a new media and they merge and integrate with music to become a new way of art and communication as it never happened before in musical history.

Various rock groups (and not only: even musicians belonging to other genres such as jazz or blues and so on) developed this new kind of communication, and fans were always ready to welcome this new “portable” art. Many LP covers are real artworks and sometimes well known artist were involved in the graphical concept, as Andy Warhol with the famous banana for “THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO” cover. Early copies of this album invited the owner to “Peel slowly and see”; peeling back the banana skin revealed a flesh-colored banana underneath. A special machine was needed to manufacture these covers (one of the causes of the album’s delayed release), but MGM paid for costs figuring that any ties to Warhol would boost sales of the album. Most reissued vinyl editions of the album do not feature the peel-off sticker; the original copies of the album with the peel-sticker feature are now rare collector’s items.

So it was not only a printed cover but a brand new media that never appeared before in this context, and the market was now ready to accept vinyls’ sales in such big quantities as musical environment neve knew before.

The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

The movie La Strada directed by Federico Fellini in 1954 inspired the album cover for The Doors LP “STRANGE DAYS” (1967): the bizzarre figures in the front of vinyl edition were surreal; the photo was taken in a New York street, and according to Jim Morrison there was even an artistic touch similar to Dalì works. The members of the group (and the title itself) could be seen instead only as a small poster hanged in the wall on both sides (front and back in a simmetric way) almost hidden at first sight, in a manner very far from the usual covers of the time, especially for a Californian group.

This cover to be understood must be seen in its entirety (in the CD format many of these features are lost), and it is one of the first to track a common path with the cinema world: the strange characters from the circus world are in both cases out of reality and try to share their human nature in an open street facing the reality in a strange way, as the the title of the album itself suggests.

The Doors – Strange Days (1967). Front and back cover


Federico Fellini – Frame from the movie “La Strada” (1954)

Other artist worked in similar directions: the works by the graphic designer Storm Thorgerson (who created the surreal elements in Pink Floyd’s covers through their rich discography) are full of interest. The “UMMAGUMMA” (1969) artwork shows the members of the band, with a picture hanging on the wall showing the same scene, except that the band members have switched positions. The picture on the wall also includes the picture on the wall, creating a recursion effect, with each recursion showing band members exchanging positions. After four variations of the scene, the final picture within picture is the cover of the previous Pink Floyd album, “A SAURCEFUL OF SECRETS”. The latter, however, is absent from the CD release; instead, the recursion effect is seemingly ad infinitum and it is known as the Droste effect.

A small picture of the LP with the original soundtrack from the movie “Gigi” is near the main chair, and so a link between two different media (album cover and movie) can be tracked even in this example.

Pink Floyd – Ummagumma (1969)


gigi 1958
“Gigi” movie poster (1958)

Similar surreal covers (often with the presence of animals) can be found in Genesis album covers drawn by the British painter and graphic artist Paul Whitehead. The “FOXTROT” album is full of hidden trasures and meanings:

Genesis - Foxtrot-Front 1972
Genesis – Foxtrot (1972)

And it could be understood with all the quotes, from the Bible (the four horsemen recall the ones from the Apocalypse), to the English society (with the fox hunting), and to enviromental themes (the fishes and the dolphins escape from pollution) only when fully open:

Genesis – Foxtrot (1972). Front and back cover

The artist Georhe Underwood had a part in the completion of the creation of some of the most complex and well known LP covers of the 70’s, helped by the format of the vinyl LP album that let the artists to create real artwork thanks to its big (but still portabile and accessible) size. These are some of them, for T.REX and Gentle Giant:

trex 1968
T. Rex – My People Were Fair and Had Sky in Their Hair… But Now They’re Content to Wear Stars on Their Brows (1968)


Gentle 1970
Gentle Giant – Gentle Giant (1970)

In 1969 the LP “IN THE COURT OF CRIMSON KING” was published. Barry Godber, painted the album cover and died in February 1970 of a heart attack, shortly after the album’s release. It was his only painting, and is now owned by Robert Fripp. Fripp had this to say about Godber:

Peter brought this painting in and the band loved it. I recently recovered the original from EG’s offices because they kept it exposed to bright light, at the risk of ruining it, so I ended up removing it. The face on the outside is the Schizoid Man, and on the inside it’s the Crimson King. If you cover the smiling face, the eyes reveal an incredible sadness. What can one add? It reflects the music.

King Crimson – In the court of the crimson king (1969). Front cover (Schizoid Man)


King Crimson – In the court of the crimson king (1969). Inlay (Crimson King)

Many Beatles albums have particular cover, and one of the most famous is the one for “SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND” from 1967. The Grammy Award-winning album packaging was art-directed by Robert Fraser, designed by Peter Blake and Jann Haworth, his wife and artistic partner, and photographed by Michael Cooper. It featured a colourful collage of life-sized cardboard models of famous people on the front of the album cover and the lyrics printed in full on the back cover, the first time this had been done on a rock LP. In the guise of the Sgt. Pepper band, the Beatles were dressed in custom-made military-style outfits made of satin dyed in day-glo colours. The suits were designed by Manuel Cuevas. Among the insignia on their uniforms are: MBE medals on McCartney’s and Harrison’s jackets, the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom on Lennon’s right sleeve and an Ontario Provincial Police flash on McCartney’s sleeve.
The collage depicted around 60 famous people, including writers, musicians, film stars, and (at Harrison’s request) a number of Indian gurus. The final grouping included Marlene Dietrich, Carl Gustav Jung, W.C. Fields, Diana Dors, Bob Dylan, Issy Bonn, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sigmund Freud, Aleister Crowley, T. E. Lawrence, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Karl Marx, Sir Robert Peel, Oscar Wilde, H. G. Wells, Marlon Brando, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and Lenny Bruce. Also included was the image of the original Beatles’ bassist, the late Stuart Sutcliffe. Pete Best said in a later NPR interview that Lennon borrowed family medals from his (Best’s) mother Mona for the shoot, on condition that he did not lose them. Adolf Hitler and Jesus Christ were requested by Lennon, but ultimately they were left out.

Again a variety of different media form different fields (movie stars, musicians, writers, politician ad so on) are here put together to achieve a unique effect, in some way baroque since an horror vacui is one of the most predominat feature of the cover itself.

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Front
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Front cover


The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Back cover

Another contact with movie themes and artists can be found in Emerson, Lake & Plamer LP “BRAIN SALAD SURGERY” (1973): the album cover features a distinctive monochromatic biomechanical artwork by Swiss surreal painter H. R. Giger (who will later create and draw xenomorfs creatures in Ridley Scott “Alien” in 1979), integrating an industrial mechanism with a human skull and the new ELP logo created by Giger himself. The lower part of the skull’s face is covered by a circular “screen”, which shows the mouth and lower face in its flesh-covered state. In the original LP release, the front cover was split in half down the centre, except for the circular screen section (which was attached to the right half).

Opening the halves revealed a painting of the complete face: a human female (modelled after Giger’s then-wife Li Tobler), with “alien” hair and multiple scars, including the infinity symbol and a scar from a frontal lobotomy, recalling in that way the LP title. The two images of the woman are very similar, but the outer image (in the circle) contains what appears to be the top of a phallus below her chin, arising from the “ELP” column below. Both paintings were created in pure shades of grey airbrush, to appear metallic and mechanical. On later vinyl printings (and most CD releases), the front cover is a single piece, and the alternate (“face”) view is used on the back cover, and again the original artistic effect is lost in new media as it often happens when LP covers are reduced to CD format.

The mid-’70s were full of attempts to shock the public.

Emerson says of the band’s choice of artist.

You’d do it on the stage, in artwork, and do it in your music; try to push the limits. We chose this artwork because it pushed album cover art to its extreme.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery (1973). Front cover


Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Brain Salad Surgery (1973). Inlay cover

The oil on canvas paintings by René Magritte painted between 1949 and 1954 called “The empire of Light” were the main influence for the artowrk of the cover of the 1974 LP “Late for the sky” by Jackson Browne. The original paradoxical image of a nighttime street, lit only by a single street light, beneath a daytime sky was recreated in the front cover indeed with the addiction of a car.

René Magritte – The Empire of Light, II (1950). MOMA, New York


Jackson Browne
Jackson Browne – Late for the sky (1974)

An oil painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) intitled “Veronica Veronese” was used to promote the single “More Than This” by Roxy Music in 1982. The original artwork is a work of musical iconography thanks to its subject and the presence of a violin (the theme is the artistic soul in the act of creation) and it appears on the cover album untouched, preserving its style and classicity. Other works from this pre-Raphaelite artist appear on the covers of classical music albums.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti -Veronica Veronese (1872). Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware


Roxy Music – More Than This (1982)

In the Van Halen album intitled “1984” the iconic cover was created by graphic artist Margo Nahas. It was not specifically commissioned; Nahas had been asked to create a cover that featured four chrome women dancing, but declined. Her husband brought her portfolio to the band anyway, and from that material they chose the painting of a cherub stealing cigarettes that was ultimately used. The model was Carter Helm, who was the child of one of Nahas’ best friends, who she photographed holding a candy cigarette. It is evident that a Raffaello paint was used to compose the image.

Van Halen – 1984 (1984)


Raffaello – Angels from the Madonna Sistina (1513-1514). Dresda, Gemäldegalerie

Kurt Cobain for the Nirvana’s album “IN UTERO” (1994) was helped by the art director Robert Fisher, who created the enigmatic cover from an original idea of the singer. Most of the ideas for the artwork for the album and related singles came in fact from Cobain, and this cover is an image of a transparent anatomical manikin, with angel wings superimposed. Cobain created the collage on the back cover, which he described as “Sex and woman and In Utero and vaginas and birth and death”, that consists of model fetuses and body parts lying in a bed of orchids and lilies, such as a modern Ophelia. The standing position recalls even an ancient Greek statue.

Nirvana – In Utero (1994)

One year later (but the main spread of this kind of covers can be found in the 70’s, the golden age of vinyl and therefore of the big format), The Smashing Pumpkins published a cover rich of deep meanings and details, inspired by several elements for the double album “MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS”. The background is taken from the classical movies (such as the Méliés ones),  the femal body is inspired from Raffaello’s “Santa Caterina di Alessandria” and the face from Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s “Fidelity” artwork.

The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness (1995)


George Méliès – Frame from “Voyage dans la lune” (1902)


Raffaello – Santa Caterina di Alessandria (~1508). London, National Gallery


Jean-Baptiste Greuze – Fidelity (1789). Wallace Collection

The work “La liberté guidant le peuple” by Eugène Delacroix inspired the cover for the album cover “VIVA LA VIDA OR DEATH AND ALL HIS FRIENDS” by Coldplay in 2008. In this example the original drawing is almost untouched and was slightly altered for the cover by using a white paint brush to draw “VIVA LA VIDA”. But the new format losts the original proportion and so the pyramidal composition is stretched and becomes more chaotic.

Eugène Delacroix – La liberté guidant le peuple (1830). Louvre Museum, Lens


Coldplay – Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (2008)

So different media are involved in musical industry, especially in Queen context, and many influences can be traced as well starting from stars of the movies such as Marlene Dietrich. Her position with cross arms will be later imitated by Mercury:

Marlene Dietrich (1932) and Freddie Mercury (1974)

Even classical ballet had a deep impact on Freddie Mercury’s stage movements and garments, especially in the 70’s.

Freddie Mercury attends a ballet class in Covent Garden (London, 3rd October 1979)

Album covers are the media used in the 70’s to spread and share an image of the musical performer, as in the past centuries it has been with paintings or engravings. Of course there is as well a commercial side in that years, but this won’t change the approach since the studies are focalized on the links between image and music.


In this point of view (that it is far from a “classical” approach, but new fileds must be investigated as well, since the methodology could migrate and could be applied with some small adjustments in different fileds of study) “musical iconography” has to deal with all the different approaches that merge together music and image, and this is why in these articles have been analyzed both videoclips and the costumes used during live shows, since in these examples it has been possible to draw back a line of mutual interest and influences from different worlds.

Freddie Mercury in black and white Arlequin dress (1976)

The approach is to give an overlook to the variety of that album covers (for singles and LPs as well) and to show their richness from an iconographic point of view with all the influences. At the same time it will be possible to show a development of the album covers themselves, since in a few years they will decline as well because of the spread of the new media: the small format CD that shares with covers only some aspects, and the videoclips with the MTV generation that increased the relationship with movie directors on the other side.

© Nicola Bizzo


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