Skip to main content

The fine art of ludicrous album packaging

While many albums are revered for their amazing cover art, there has always been those bands who’ve gone a little further, those who've stretched the boundaries beyond mere two-dimensional visuals. As a nod to these outrageous innovators, Classic Rock brings you some of the most ludicrous yet brilliant examples of album packaging ever…

Alice Cooper — School’s Out (1972)

Shock rock’s true progenitor wasn’t the only one conquering the world with his fifth studio album; its art was making an impression too. Designed by Craig Braun, the sleeve folded out to create to a school desk, while a pair of girl’s undies was wrapped salaciously around the vinyl inside. Unfortunately, production had to be recalled when it was discovered that the panties weren’t fire safe.

Flaming Lips — Gummy Song Skull/Fetus (2011)

Wayne Coyne’s love for wacky packaging saw his band launch this high-sugar oddity in 2011, which featured four songs on a USB stick embedded inside an edible brain and skull. For the more hardcore of collectors, there was also the option of 7 Skies H3, a 24-hour-long song packaged inside a real human skull. That one, a bargain at $5,000…

Jacques Dutronc — 1966-1976: les années Vogue (2004)

Purchasing an artist’s back catalogue can often require extra storage space in the home. Fortunately, this reissued collection of seven CDs from French singer/songwriter-cum-psychedelic rocker Dutronc came conveniently ‘implanted’ inside an (artificial) cactus pot, making it a tasteful addition for any rock fan with a conservatory.

No strangers to unconventional packaging, Newcastle experimentalists outdid both themselves and an entire industry with their sixth album. Costing a small fortune to produce, PSS&YM featured two music cassettes buried inside a sculpted, ceramic pot, which itself was adorned with wax-sealed, seabird feathers (supposedly radioactive) and a series of joke inserts in English, French and Spanish.

Jane’s Addiction — A Cabinet Of Curiosities (2009)

‘Curiously’ described by Perry Farrell as a “really nice, fetishy object”, this Gullermo del Torro-esque boxset has a wooden latched door that opens up to reveal four-discs (one a DVD) filled with demos, remixes, covers, live takes, music videos and a short-film, all lifted from 1986 – 1991. Tarot cards and mini dolls merely added to the package’s macabre vibe.

Spiritualized — Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space: Special Edition (1997)

While some may deliberate that Jason Pierce’s wall-of-noise supremos may not be the most exciting live act, there is nothing remotely boring about their album designs. A special edition of their landmark release featured 12 miniature CDs dressed up as pills in foil. It referenced Pierce’s statement at a meeting with designer Mark Farrow that “music is medicine for the soul.”

Man — Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day (1972)

Psychedelic pub-rock troupe Man received much acclaim for producing a gatefold that opened up into a giant, 2’ x 2’ cartoon map of their native Wales being gently levered away from the mainland, entertainingly highlighting the origins of many fellow Welsh bands (fortunately Stereophonics hadn’t yet been invented). That a Man family tree was also included allowed fans to wrap their head around the band’s evolving history.

Ghost — Phallos Mortuus Ritual Box Set (2013)

Limited to a run of 250 copies, Sweden’s pantomime ghouls offered every rock fan what they apparently wanted with these velvet-lined Bible box packages, each one filled with a divorce paper scroll, a bronze effect metal butt plug, and – best of all – a sculpted black silicone Papa Emeritus II dildo. Sadly, no actual music was included.

Vio-lence — Eternal Nightmare (1988)

Before reaching global acclaim with Machine Head, Robb Flynn’s most infamous release was a 10” promo with Bay Area thrashers Vio-lence, a so-called ‘vomit pack’ filled with a watery slop that resembled vegetable soup. Record store-owners peddling second-hand copies claim its sickly fluid has long since started to congeal.

Jethro Tull — Thick As A Brick (1972)

Dubbed by some as Jethro Tull’s first ‘prog’ album, the packaging for Thick As A Brick was certainly very progressive, a 12-page spoof newspaper The St. Cleve Chronicle filled with articles designed to riposte the stuffy, local papers of the time. It even included a review of the album, written by frontman Ian Anderson using a pseudonym. A similarly elaborate version was released in 2012 as part of a sequel, the cleverly-titled Thick As A Brick II.

The Residents — The $100,000 Ultimate Box Set (2012)