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.
Ghost In The Machine
I love the phrase "ghost in the machine," which was originally coined in the mid-20th century as a metaphor for the human brain. This cover art is a perfect literal interpretation of the phrase, and it fits perfectly with the opening track, "Spirits In The Material World." The three figures depicted are, of course, the three band members (Stewart Copeland, Sting and Andy Summers) rendered in the style of what was then cutting-edge digital technology. The artwork was designed by Mick Haggerty, who also did the cover for the Jimi Hendrix compilation Kiss The Sky, another classic design that falls just outside my top 10. Incidentally, out of the Police's last four studio albums, Ghost In The Machine was the only one that didn’t win a GRAMMY.
This cover embodies what I like about punk rock — rawness and attitude over technique. The torn edges of the cover photo — which, like the band, was influenced by the Sex Pistols — mixed with Kate Simon's gritty photo of the band standing in an alley looking like street thugs is the essence of '77 punk.
Bad Brains are a highly influential, all-black punk/hardcore/reggae band from Washington, D.C. When they hit the scene in the late '70s, they and their fans developed a reputation for extremely aggressive live shows and, because of that, many music venues in D.C. decided to ban them. The ban had a profound effect on Bad Brains, as it inspired their move to New York City, their song "Banned In D.C.," and this album cover. I think the art is a great example of their unique style, which combines belligerent hardcore and peaceful reggae (they are Rastafarians), and the DIY look and feel of early punk rock.