Since my one-man show is so crazy busy these days, I have consented to publish this guest blog by Ellie Brown. Enjoy!
Despite their age, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s records have remained timeless and unwavering in music culture, hence their
status as classic albums. Unsurprisingly, even younger generations are drawn to these eras of music, which has
seen a resurgence of interest online. For instance, Cass Elliot’s 1969 song “Make Your Kind of Music” has made
waves over TikTok— driving curious young listeners back into the music of decades before. But besides the music,
their album covers have played an essential role in establishing the iconography and staying power of the works.
Many of the photographs used for these covers greatly influenced pop culture and the use of cameras for music in
general. Here are five examples of groundbreaking camera use in classic albums:
Abbey Road – The Beatles
It’s nearly impossible to look back at The Beatles’ illustrious career without remembering the famous Abbey
Road cover. The image of the four members crossing that titular street has become one of the most iconic albums
and photographs ever. The story behind the photo is just as interesting, filled with many anecdotes and a rich history.
They shot the cover outside EMI Studios—now renamed Abbey Road Studios—where the band spent most of their
The Fab Four only had a limited time to shoot the cover. Photographer Iain Macmillan had to wait for a policeman to
halt traffic so he could climb up a stepladder in the middle of the road with his Hasselblad camera. The band crossed
the road several times while Macmillan took shot after shot to get the perfect picture. Paul McCartney decided that
frame five out of their six shots was the best. More than 50 years later, the groundbreaking photograph still inspires
homages and brings people looking to recreate the image to Abbey Road.
Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
The Highway 61 Revisited album was a significant change for American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, who switched
from his signature acoustic sound to rock for the album. His top song, “Like a Rolling Stone,” particularly highlights
the loss of innocence and harsh reality— which is why it’s impossible not to notice Dylan’s glare on the cover album,
which, like his music, confronts the viewer. Dylan worked closely with photographer Daniel Kramer who relied on
Nikon’s 35mm Rangefinder to achieve the shot for the album’s cover artwork. Nikon models were a game-changer at
the time, although the brand has evolved since Kramer’s days.
Celebrity photographers like Matthew Jordan Smith now rely on advanced camera models to replicate their
rangefinder precursors with an extensive list of adjustable settings. These features are available on the mirrorless
cameras you can buy on Adorama. The Nikon models listed on the site have CMOS sensors, an impressive ISO
sensitivity range, and the EXPEED 6 Image Processing Engine for high processing speed and image quality. Still, the
35 mm Range Finder in Kramer’s hands created iconic imagery for Dylan’s career— allowing him to convey his
intended message against inequality and cultural corruption in Highway 61 Revisited.
Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most influential electric guitarists of all time, so it’s no surprise that even his album covers
would be just as prolific, artistic, and groundbreaking. Upon release in the UK in 1967, Are You Experienced spent 33
weeks on the charts and later reached number five on the US Billboard Charts.
There are two versions of the album cover, as Hendrix notably disliked the original UK cover. With the help of graphic
designer Karl Ferris, the band was captured in color using the newly-released Nikon commercial fisheye lenses,
which became essential to the Mod sub-culture in the ‘60s. This lens brought a unique perspective on the band’s
image; bandmates Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell peered at the viewer, while the icon Jimi Hendrix was at the
center and seemingly looking down on them— much like an idol with a higher position, perfectly encapsulating
Hendrix’s rising star. The artistic title also gave a psychedelic vibe, fitting the rising ‘60s pop artistic style.
Rumours – Fleetwood Mac
Fleetwood Mac’s music is timeless across multiple generations. Their 1977 album Rumours is their most successful
record and one of the best-selling albums ever. “Dreams,” “Go Your Own Way,” and “The Chain” are still well-loved
by today’s audiences. Besides the iconic music, their album cover is incredibly recognizable, drawing intrigue to this day.
Photographer Herbert Worthington frequently utilized a 35mm single-lens reflex camera and likely used it for the
album cover shoot. This type of camera incorporates a mirror and prism system that enables the photographer to
preview the exact image that will be captured through the lens. The props in the image also give a nod to the band’s
history. The wooden balls hanging between Mick Fleetwood’s legs were actually lavatory chains, which became the
band’s good luck talisman on the road. The Cheatsheet notes that the Rumours cover also seems to give off an
illusion. It’s often believed that Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood are holding hands, but he’s actually grasping a
crystal ball while she has both arms outstretched behind her. Though it’s a simple cover, Worthington’s masterful use
of the camera and love for photography has helped make it a stand-out image for decades.
This Year’s Model – Elvis Costello
Elvis Costello is widely renowned for his influence in the new wave and punk rock genres, with classics like “Pump It
Up” and “This Year’s Girl” under his belt. This Year’s Model was his second album, and while not his best-selling one,
it established his place in the industry. His work with his backing band, The Attractions, gives the album an iconic and
The cover of Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model cover has a more literal take on camera use, as it features the artist
with a Hasselblad camera, seemingly preparing to take a shot. He wears an emotionless expression, representing his
role as both observed and observing. Photographer Chris Gabrin intentionally provided Costello with the same
camera and tripod he used, giving a mirror effect during the shoot. The album also has multiple versions released in
different regions. These variants have Costello in a different pose or framing, but the most notable is the original UK
cover, featuring his sharp gaze and taller posture.
While these albums showcase some great camera use and iconic photos, they’re most notable for the music that has
established their classic status. If you want a great listening experience when listening to them, we recommend using
a turntable to play your music. Our post “Logo or not Logo” notes how these timeless devices are well-designed
based on math and science, so it’s worth setting up one in your listening room.
Written by: Ellie Brown