The Album Art That Inspired Me Most, Part I

Shepard Fairey is the official artist for the 52nd Annual GRAMMY Awards. He is likely the best known “street” artist in the United States. His most high-profile work emerged in 2008 when he created the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster that was officially adopted as part of the candidate’s presidential campaign strategy. He has always had a close relationship with music, and has designed album covers for artists including the Black Eyed Peas (Monkey Business), Led Zeppelin (Mothership), and the Smashing Pumpkins (Zeitgeist). Learn more about Fairey's GRAMMY art here.

There's no combination in the world like art and music. While art is my life, music has always been a driving force behind it. When I experience the two together, both done right, I feel more alive in those moments than any others. These are 10 of the albums, in no particular order, that have inspired me with their particular mix of visuals and sounds.

The Sex Pistols
Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols were the most important punk band in UK history and the most controversial band ever. Never Mind The Bollocks…is their only real studio album, but the music and the aesthetic completely changed the cultural landscape of the mid- to late '70s. Jamie Reid, the graphic designer behind the Pistols, pioneered the ransom-note lettering, and is single-handedly responsible for the overall look of punk graphics to this day.

Public Enemy
It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back

Public Enemy is my favorite hip-hop group of all time. Their leader, Chuck D, studied graphic design in college and came up with the concept for their logo, and I'm sure he had a hand in creating the image on the cover of this album. The photo, shot by legendary counterculture photographer Glen E. Friedman, perfectly captures the anger and frustration suggested by the title. In one of the rhymes, Flavor Flav says, "Who gives a f*** about a goddamn GRAMMY?"; I would have loved to have seen this sonic firestorm get one.

Talking Heads
More Songs About Buildings And Food

Talking Heads are another band that always had very original album art, often conceived by the band's creative force, David Byrne (who happens to be a dropout of my alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design). The special edition of their album Speaking In Tongues, with special translucent vinyl records designed by Robert Rauschenberg (one of my favorite artists), even won a Best Album Package GRAMMY. But as far as their covers go, More Songs About Buildings And Food, which features a grid assemblage of close-up Polaroid shots of the band members, is the best as far as I’m concerned.

Read Fairey's other installments:
Part two
Part three

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