By Scott T. Sterling
Earlier this year, it was revealed that London’s iconic Battersea Power Station was set to be demolished to make room for a “mixed use facility” that will include luxury villas.
The news was most disconcerting to Pink Floyd fans, as the Power Station’s chimneys are prominently featured on the band’s 1977 album, Animals (pictured above) making it a rock ‘n’ roll tourist attraction for those fans to visit and photograph when in London (developers have promised to recreate the chimneys to maintain the iconic status).
Music fans are quick to lionize locations immortalized on the album covers of their favorite artists. What was once just another building can quickly become a revered shrine after such a featured appearance (see Solutions Audio-Video Repair in L.A., far more famous for being the site of Elliott Smith‘s Figure 8 album cover and an ad hoc memorial for the late singer).
Here’s a rundown of 10 such locations, ranging from high-end furniture stores to old-school record stores.
Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique
Long considered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rap trio’s masterpiece, the mystique of the 1989 release extends to its cover image of a NYC building situated on the corner of Ludlow and Rivingon, which was originally seen in an eight-fold wraparound photo on the initial first vinyl pressing. The space in that building once known as Lee’s Sportswear is now a gourmet sandwich shop called Wolfnights, the site of a recently completed Beastie Boys mural painted by Brooklyn artist Danielle Mastrion. The mural came after a failed petition to have the intersection renamed as “Beastie Boys Square.”
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
Long before Grammy wins and multi-platinum sales, UK folk-rockers Mumford & Sons chose a simple but elegant high-end furniture store on the fashionable King’s Road in London as the location of the band’s 2009 debut album cover. The band is seen posing in the front window of Pimpernel & Partners on the front of Sigh No More, which has become something of a destination spot for some of Mumford & Sons’ most dedicated fans. The store, however, takes a less favorable view on the notoriety. When reached by phone, an employee politely declined to answer any questions about the cover photo “because it’s not relevant to our business.” Still, a promotional poster for Sigh No More (at least when this fan made a pilgrimage there) has been prominently displayed on the shop’s wall.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
The legendary metal pioneers’ storied 1970 debut was perfectly packaged with the foreboding and downright scary image of a witchy-looking woman lurking in the woods front of an ominous house in the background. In reality, that structure is the Mapledurham Watermill, found on the beatific shores of the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Black Sabbath fans hoping to get up close and personal with the site can do so, but only on weekend afternoons and bank holidays between mid-April through September (and Sunday afternoons in October). Click here for prices and more details.
Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Often pointed to as the band’s magnum opus, the 2002 fourth full-length release from the Chicago-based band features one of its hometown’s most distinctive locations on the cover. The twin tower structure known as Marina City covers a city block in downtown Chicago, combining residential space with commercial properties (famous former residents include late folk legend John Denver). The striking cover image was the result of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and the band’s graphic designer, Lawrence Azerrad, spotting it in a pile of hundreds of shots by photographer Sam Jones, who would go on to direct a documentary about the album’s long and difficult gestation, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (via A.V. Club).
Blake Shelton – Bringing Back the Sunshine
Poised to be one of the biggest album releases of 2014 when it hits on Sept. 30, the ninth studio effort by the country superstar comes with a stark black and white image of a water tower found in Ada, Oklahoma, Shelton’s exceedingly tiny hometown with a population of just under 17,000 residents, per the 2012 census. According to an interview with Rolling Stone, the cover image came after much contemplation on how to present his latest collection of songs, which could be interpreted as a return to his roots: “As a country singer, I gotta get back to singing about getting drunk because there’s people out there – and I’ve been one of them – that have had their heart broken, or they’ve had a tough day at work, or they get stabbed in the back.”
Eminem – Recovery
The iconic rap hero has never made any bones about his immense hometown pride for Detroit, Michigan. For his 2010 full-length, Recovery, Eminem created an alternate cover with one the city’s most famous structures, the Renaissance Center, looming in the background. Located right on the Detroit River facing Windsor, Canada, the interconnected set of seven mixed-use buildings is owned by automaker General Motors, serving as its world headquarters. Home to such retailers as Pure Detroit and Ashley’s Flowers, the “Ren Cen” also houses the Detroit Marriot hotel for visitors wishing to spend some quality time inside the complex.
Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
For Zeppelin’s heralded 1975 double-album masterpiece, cover designer Peter Corriston found inspiration in his neighborhood of the East Village in New York — the building located at 96 and 98 St. Marks Place, near Avenue A, to be exact. ”I had come up a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out,” he told the New York Times in 2002. “The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes,” which we imagine provided listeners lots of visual entertainment while taking in songs like “Kashmir” and “In My Time of Dying.” Fans can see the building up close and personal as part of the “Rock Junket East Village Rock n Punk Tour.” Corriston would go on to use the same location as the setting for the Rolling Stones’ promo video to 1981 single, “Waiting On a Friend.”
DJ Shadow – Entroducing…
For the cover of his groundbreaking 1996 debut album, DJ Shadow paid tribute to Records, an old-school record store in his native Sacramento, CA. It’s the spot where he bought most of the vinyl sides that he sampled for the album, unearthing many gems from the store’s basement which he was finally able to access after five years of dedicated crate-digging as a customer (not to mention finding a mummified bat in a stack of vinyl). Fans looking for some of that same inspiration can visit the store located at 1618 Broadway from 10 a.m. -9 p.m. daily. Friday and Saturday nights it stays open for an extra hour until 10 p.m. Get a preview of what to expect in this illuminating clip from the 2001 movie Scratch where Shadow gives a brief tour of the store.
Given their longtime tag as one of the biggest bands in the world, it’s not surprising that their album covers reflect that sense of internationalism. For 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, Bono and crew set up shop in the departure terminal Roissy Hall 2F in Charles de Gaulle International Airport of Paris, France. The casual image was captured by photographer Anton Corbijn, who’s been shooting the band for decades. The terminal sign that pinpoints the airport location “F21-36” has been slightly altered on the cover to read “J33-3” as a reference to the Bible verse Jeremiah 33:3. “It was done like a piece of graffiti,” Bono told Rolling Stone in 2001. “It’s known as ‘God’s telephone number.’”
Rush – Moving Pictures
The Canadian classic rockers are famous for high concepts, and the cover for their 1981 hit parade (“Tom Sawyer,” “Limelight” and “YYZ” can all be found here) is no exception. “When [cover designer] Hugh Syme was developing the multitude of puns for the cover, he wanted the guys ‘moving pictures’ to have some ‘moving pictures’ to be moving past the people who were ‘moved’ by the ‘pictures’ — get it?,” drummer Neil Peart told a fan who asked about the significance of the image in the December 1985 edition of Rush’s Backstage Club newsletter. “So he asked us to think of some ideas for these pictures. The ‘man descending to hell’ is actually a woman — Joan of Arc — being burned at the stake and the card-playing dogs are there because it was a funny, silly idea — one of the most cliché pictures we could think of — a different kind of ‘moving picture.’” The triple entendre image was shot in front of the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto, which is easy to find for fans hoping to create their own version of the famous cover.