Album covers are as important to the art of an album as the music. But they have a unique role in the art; they're like an opening statement. Some of the seven album covers highlighted below are disturbing, while others have disturbing hidden details.
Your first impression of a piece of music is often visual, not music! They're a sign of what's to come. When the music deals with extreme, disturbing, or dark stuff, the cover has to be equally extreme, disturbing, or dark. And sometimes, they go too far.
Goo - Sonic Youth
Raymond Pettibon almost single-handedly created the look and aesthetic of American punk in the 80s with his illustrated album covers for bands such as Black Flag and the Minutemen. But with his cover of Sonic Youth’s 1990 album Goo, he created something iconic, one of those images that you know, even if you’re not particularly familiar with its source. Two figures rendered in black ink, with their dark sunglasses and mod haircuts, exude a level of cool that couldn’t possibly come from real people. There’s an accompanying text that reads, “I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Within a week, we killed my parents and hit the road” in that unmistakable comic book typeface, assuring you that theirs is a story too gritty, debauched, and glamorous to have originated from anywhere but a pulpy comic book.
But they were real people.
Pettibon did not know at the time who the couple in the reference photo he used were. They were Maureen and David Smith, the sister and brother-in-law of Myra Hindley. Hindley, with her Husband Ian Brady, murdered five children in Manchester, England, in the mid-sixties, a crime which remains infamous in England to this day. The paparazzi snapped Maureen and David on their way to give evidence at Hindley and Brady’s trial. David Smith was a witness to one of the murders and helped to dispose of the body. However, he also reported the crime to the police and is credited with stopping Hindley and Brady's murder spree.