Billy Joel to Beastie Boys: 9 New York album covers
With New York's stature as one of the most iconic cities in the world, it's no surprise that the Big Apple has served as the backdrop for many an album cover. For adventurists and music buffs alike, searching out those locations can be a fun addition to a wider music landmark tour of NYC. To point you in the right direction, we've collected nine classic album covers shot in, to quote former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, "the Capital of the World" — from Steely Dan and LL Cool J to Led Zeppelin, Vampire Weekend and Billy Joel.
Kiss, Dressed To Kill
Kiss turned to their New York hometown for the cover of their third album, 1975's Dressed To Kill. Though the combination of suits and their theatrical makeup seems incongruous, the band settled on this sharp-dressed shot, taken by photographer Bob Gruen, at the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue. Despite the low budget and borrowed suits (courtesy of their manager, Bill Aucoin), many Kiss fans have made a NYC pilgrimage to recreate this classic album cover.
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti
One of the most notable New York covers of all time, the cover shot for Led Zeppelin's 1975 double-album, Physical Graffiti, was taken at St. Mark's Place between First Avenue and Avenue A. The building still stands today, and those with a sharp eye will realize album designer Peter Corriston had to cut the top floor of the building out of the photo in order to fit the square album cover.
Bob Dylan, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
For Dylan, 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan marked him as an incomparable songwriter with tracks such as "Blowin' In The Wind," "Masters Of War" and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." The album cover for this work is also a classic. Photographed by Don Hunstein, the image shows Dylan and then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo cozying up for a winter stroll down Jones Street and West Fourth Street. (Cinema fans will recall that Cameron Crowe worked in multiple nods to this album cover in his 2001 film, Vanilla Sky, starring Tom Cruise.)
Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique
Following up their hit debut album, Licensed To Ill, was a tall order for the Beastie Boys. Enter their sophomore effort, 1989's Paul's Boutique. The cover art, captured by Jeremy Shatan, looks down Ludlow Street from a vantage point at 99 Rivington Street where a sports storefront was garnished with a Paul's Boutique sign for the photograph. Up until 2007, a Paul's Boutique restaurant occupied this place in honor of the album's title.
LL Cool J, Bigger & Deffer (BAD)
LL Cool J took it back to Queens-based Andrew Jackson High School — incidentally, the school he dropped out of after releasing his successful debut single "I Need A Beat" at the age of 14 — for the cover of one of his best-selling albums, 1987's Bigger & Deffer (BAD). The back cover of the album was taken in his grandmother's basement where he was living at the time of the shoot. Glen E. Friedman served as photographer for both images.
Billy Joel, Turnstiles
A longtime resident of New York, Joel tapped the downtown Manhattan Astor Place subway station for the cover art for 1976's Turnstiles. The neighborhood is familiar to diehard Joel fans, as it is located near local clubs such as the Bottom Line where Joel played in his early days. Joel has said each character in the photo, shot by Jerry Abramowitz, represents a song on the album. Bonus fact: He used the same neighborhood to film the music video for 1986's "A Matter Of Trust."
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City
Encapsulating a stark look back at a smog-covered New York City skyline, Vampire Weekend used an image by New York Times photographer Neal Boenzi for their sophomore album, Modern Vampires Of The City. The photo was taken from the top of the Empire State Building in 1966 during a smog epidemic. "The image looks old, but also seems like it might be a rendering of some kind of future," band member Rostam Batmanglij told Pitchfork.
Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic
As New York natives, Steely Dan sought to capture the essence of their hometown for their third album, 1974's Pretzel Logic, so they went straight to the hot dog and pretzel vendors that litter street corners. Taken by photographer Raeanne Rubenstein, the album's cover was shot on the Central Park side of East 79th and Fifth Avenue. The vendor featured declined to sign a release, but the record label discovered he was operating without a license, so they took the shot anyway, gambling that the vendor wouldn't sue.
Neil Young, After The Gold Rush
Arguably Young's most iconic album cover, the artwork for 1970's After The Gold Rush was part of a spontaneous photo shoot by a young Joel Bernstein. Graham Nash was on hand as well, but he was cropped out of the final cover. The dark image was set in the West Village at the intersection of Sullivan and West Third Street outside New York University School of Law.