Untold Stories Behind Some Of Music’s Most Popular Albums
In a musical album, there’s a story behind every song, title, and the artwork that adorns the front. While listeners attach their own meaning to everything, the real stories are known only those by those who created it. Whether it’s the ambiguous artwork on the front or the name of the album itself, there’s a purpose for everything that often goes unknown to even the most die-hard fans. Learn about some of the stories and unknown facts behind some of music’s most iconic albums that tend to go unnoticed.
Read on to see why you’re lucky if you have an original copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico.
Nirvana’s Nevermind Artwork Has Deep Symbolism
Photo Credits: DGC / Nirvana
There’s a much deeper meaning behind the album cover art for Nirvana’s 1991 album Nevermind. While most people can recognize the album instantly, some people just see a naked baby in a pool and not much else. The baby is four-month-old Spencer Elden who “tried out” for the gig at a public pool in Pasadena, California and has been forever immortalized in all of his glory at a young age.
However, Kurt Cobain was the one to come up with the designed for the album cover with the help of designer Robert Fisher. Fisher explains that he assumes “that the naked baby symbolized Kurt’s own innocence, the water an alien environment, and the hook and dollar bill his creative life entering into the corporate world of rock music.”
The Original Velvet Underground & Nico Release Had A Hidden Suprise
Photo Credits: Verve/The Velvet Underground
Although not known to everyone, the original release of 1967 The Velvet Underground & Nico featured the iconic banana designed by Andy Warhol as well as a surprise. While the banana already had intentional phallic imagery, Warhol took it one step further with the first set of the released records. At the top of the banana, he put the invitation “Peel slowly and see.”
The iconic yellow banana was a sticker that revealed a pink-colored fruit beneath the original silk screen design. Lead singer Lou Reed commented on the album cover, saying “The banana actually made it into an erotic art show.” The peelable banana was eventually discontinued because they were too much effort to make, with the originals being worth over $500 each.
You won’t believe the story behind the Byrd’s (Untitled) record.
There’s A Reason Why The Cover Of Rubber Soul Looks Distorted
Photo Credits: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
In 1965, The Beatles released their album Rubber Soul. The record demonstrated a much more psychedelic feel. The slightly distorted and warped angle of the album cover was unintentional, but the band ended up loving it. When the photographer Robert Freeman was showing the group the slides, he was projecting the photo onto a piece of cardboard to reveal how it would look on an album sleeve.
When the cardboard slipped a little, it elongated the image, which is the style they decided to go with. Furthermore, Charles Front added the lettering which if help up to a mirror reads “Road Abbey.” Of the album, George Harrison said, that “We lost the ‘little innocents’ tag, the naiveté, and Rubber Soul was the first one where we were fully fledged potheads.”
Michael Jackson’s Thriller Wasn’t The Original Name For The Album
Photo Credits: Epic – CBS/Michael Jackson
Released on November 30, 1982, Thriller has become one of the most popular albums of all time. Could you imagine living in a world when the album wasn’t called Thriller? Well, the album was almost called Midnight Man. The task of naming the album was given to songwriter and musical arranger Rod Temperton. After coming up with over 300 possible manes for the title, he finally settled on Midnight Man.
Then, the next morning, he woke up with the word “Thriller” in his head. He claims that “Something in my head just said, this is the title […] You could visualize it on the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as ‘Thriller.’
The Byrds’ Album (Untitled) Was A Corporate Mix-Up
Photo Credits: Columbia/The Byrds
In the summer of 1970, the rock and roll ensemble the Byrds had enough material for a double album. However, when figuring out a name for the record, all of their ideas were either too weak or confusing. The group had still not decided on a name for the album by the time producer Terry Melcher sent the session documentation to Columbia Records. In the space on the document for the album’s title, he wrote (Untitled) because the record was yet to have a name.
Columbia assumed that was the name they had given it, as a way of being as abstract and hip as possible and made it the official name of the album. By the time the Byrds realized the mistake, the album was already pressed and ready to go with the title of (Untitled). Luckily, it all worked out, and the fans either didn’t think anything of it.
You’ll never guess how KISS tricked their listeners on their album Alive!
“Light My Fire” On The Doors Wasn’t Written By Jim Morrison
Photo Credits: Elektra/The Doors
As it turns out, the Doors’ arguably most famous song “Light My Fire” wasn’t written by Jim Morrison but by the band’s guitarist Robby Krieger. Not only was the song a massive success, but it was also Krieger’s first attempt at writing music ever. Morrison told him to write something because he felt that he was doing all of the work.
When Krieger asked what he should write about, Morrison responded by saying that he should “write about something universal. Write about something that will last, not just about today.” Kriger then decided that he should either write about earth, wind, fire, or water. He settled on fire citing his favorite Rolling Stones song “Playing With Fire” as inspiration.
Licensed To III Commented On The Correlation Between Airplane Crashes And Musicians
Photo Credits: Def Jam – Columbia/Beastie Boys
Unfortunately, it’s true that fatal plane crashes and rock and roll go hand in hand. Timeless musicians such as Buddy Holly, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and numerous members from Lynard Skynard all met their deaths in aerial crashes. The Beastie Boys took note of this and referenced it on the cover of their 1986 album Licensed to III, which features the intact tail of an airplane on the front with the plane crashing on the back.
Their producer Rick Ruben commented that “the Beastie Boys were just a bunch of little guys and I wanted us to have a Beastie Boys’ jet. I wanted to embrace and somehow distinguish, in a sarcastic way, the larger-than-life rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, the excesses and the destruction.”
KISS’ Alive Wasn’t Really A Live Album
Photo Credits: Casablanca/KISS
When KISS set out to make their first live album, Alive! in 1975, they ran into some issues. They realized that they were going to have to make some changes to their performance if they wanted to make a live album that anyone would consider listening to. Gene Simmons told VH1 that “in those days, I’d be taken over – I’d be possessed, and I’d make tonnes of mistakes on my bass.
I remember talking backstage with the guys, and everybody agreed that we would jump around less – that we would try to hit the notes more.” Even by changing their original style, they still went into the studio to fix any problems that they had made on stage. So, it appears that their album Alive! wasn’t as live as the band claimed it to be.
Salt And Pepper Packets Inspired The Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Photo Credits: Parlophone – Capitol/The Beatles
By 1966, the Beatles had grown tired of being the Beatles. They were looking to transform their image as well as their music. While on a plane returning from vacation in Kenya, McCartney took note of the salt and pepper packets labeled “S” and “P.” McCartney and their manager Mal Evans began to play around with the words and made the joke that “Sergent Pepper” sounded a lot like “salt and pepper.”
It wasn’t long before McCartney was convinced that Sgt. Pepper would be the new alter-ego for the band’s upcoming album. He later added “Lonely Hearts Club Band” because he thought it was ironic that a Lonely Hearts Club would have a band.
Beck’s Odelay Artwork Is Just As Random As People Think
Photo Credits: DGC/Beck
For many, Beck’s artwork for his album Odelay is nothing short of random, which is exactly what Beck was going for. The flying object is a breed of dog known as a Komondor. He first discovered the Komondor breed while looking through a vintage book of dog breeds. Art director Rober Fisher got into contact with the photographer that took the picture, who turned out to live minutes from the office.
On Beck’s thought process, Fisher said “Beck felt that it was kind of ambiguous, unrelated to the music, and was chosen almost at random. The viewer could read into the cover whatever they wanted. Odelay also sounded a bit like a dog command.”