The Worst Album Covers Of The 1980s

Is there some sort of secret visual formula for successful albums, a design format that almost forces people to part with their moolah, encouraging buyers of all generations, all social demographics?

Can a terrible album have brilliant artwork? Can a brilliant album have terrible artwork (how about the Love And Money entry below? Ed…)?

So many questions, so little time. Someone somewhere must have researched which colours and designs have proved the most successful in terms of sales.

But hell, it’s hard to believe that any of the below would have been cooked up in any kind of corporate brainstorming or focus-group session.

Here’s a motley selection of the 1980s’ most ill-advised album covers, in no particular order. Some are crushingly sexist, some boring, some ugly, some shocking, some just plain weird. And OK, a few are so bad they’re almost good…

18. Wishbone Ash: Raw To The Bone (1985)

17. Ratt: Out Of The Cellar (1984)

16. Poison: Open Up And Say…Ahh! (1984)

15. Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (1983)

14. Paul McCartney: McCartney II (1980)

13. Millie Jackson: Back To The S**t! (1985)

12. The Go-Betweens: 16 Lovers Lane (1988)

11. Ted Nugent: Scream Dream (1980)

10. Everything But The Girl: Eden (1984)

9. Loverboy: Get Lucky (1981)

8. OMD: Architecture & Morality (1981)

7. Snatch: If The Party’s In Your Mouth, We’re Comin’ (1985)

6. Jeff Beck: There And Back (1980)

5. Scorpions: Animal Magnetism (1980)

4. David Hasselhoff: Night Rocker (1985)

3. Love And Money: Strange Kind Of Love (1988)

2. The The: Infected (1985)

1. Dexys Midnight Runners: Don’t Stand Me Down (1985)

Can’t see your worst album cover of the ’80s? If so, pile in below…

27 thoughts on “The Worst Album Covers Of The 1980s

  1. Great list, but i will respectfully disagree on three of them. I actually love the Loverboy, Ratt and Poison one as I think those are brilliant. The Scorpions I like as well, but not as much. The rest are really crappy. Great idea for a post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh that’s harsh on Dexys….I’ve always quite liked it! The sleeve for its sole single, This Is What She’s Like, might have been a better cover for the album. Likewise, the Love & Money one is a surprise to see on this list…is it just too dull, or creepy?

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    • Dexys look like a miserable bunch of accountants! I guess that’s kind of the point… The Love And Money inclusion is maybe a bit harsh but it just seems such a dunderheadedly literal reading of the album title. And a bit dull/unflattering. James Grant told me that it was based on a famous old photo. He also said they had months of meetings discussing the details of the shoot! Amazing the amount of money sloshing around the business at the end of the ’80s…

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  3. Protest! Call the Ref! Some of those are outstanding.

    The Dexy’s is hilarious.

    The Jeff Beck simple and clever (mimicking the stencils used on amps and other road gear).

    OMD is brilliant – do you have the die-cut cover?

    Eurythmics doesn’t quite work, but there is a lovely clean Georg Jensen aesthetic there I like.

    Snatch is… a low point in Western civilisation.

    I demand a recount!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As much as one’s love for everythig 80s, the roots go back in time to the late 60s and 70s. A favourite is Wishbone Ash with their iconic ‘Argus’ cover – shot in the south of France and featuring a helmut left over from Ken Russell’s ‘The Devils’ film. Then, later, we had the great cover for ‘There’s the Rub’ and even ‘New England’. But in 1985 they unleashed ‘Raw To The Bone’ with its absolue shocker of a cover.

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  5. I disagree on the “The The” cover…however, this might be b/c I think that Matt Johnson ist one of the (if not THE) most under-estimated musicians ever, His lyrics still are spot-on today. And the songs still rock the house.

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      • It´s not about the album arts alone. When I heard “The The” for the first time, I was really shocked how damn great his music was. I think Matt Johnson really deserves a lot more attention. Songs like “Uncertain smile” with the great piano solo by Jools Holland (yes, THAT Jools Holland) or “Giant” with a minute-long percussion solo, which was a dancefloor smasher in the small clubs at that time just deserve more attention. And all of his albums are gems, just listen to them. “Mind Bomb” e.g. is a real masterpiece.
        All in all I am happy and sad that M.J. never got that attention. His music is great, but OTOH it is nice to have him as “my personal discovery” that most people do not know about.

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  6. Funny thing about this is that i found your website while doing a search for articles about Love and Money. Read your interview with James Grant then poked around and found this article. Nobody can never say you aren’t honest. LOL.

    I don’t know. I like the Millie Jackson cover. Kind of a bold approach for a mainstream R&B artist.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Actually I think some of these covers are great: Eurythmics, OMD, Everything But The Girl, Love & Money, Dexys…
    There was a geometrical / minimalist design trend in the 80’s which you seem to be completely ignorant about. You could have filled your list with Iron Maiden cover art (plus Millie Jackson!)
    But don’t get me wrong: some of my favourite 80’s albums have awful covers IMHO: Dexys’ Too-Rye-Ay, Level 42’s The Pursuit of Accidents, Hue & Cry’s Seduced and Abandoned…
    As for Dexys looking like “accountants”… again you’ve completely missed the point. This was Dexys’ Ivy League phase. They wore Brooks Brothers and updated the classic American style of prep schools and universities from the late 50’s and early 60’s. Again this just shows your lack of knowledge.
    What a disappointing website. Despite being named after a brilliant song by one of my favourite groups ever I’m sad to see it’s filled with mediocrity.

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  8. “What a disappointing website. Despite being named after a brilliant song by one of my favourite groups ever I’m sad to see it’s filled with mediocrity.”

    Alex, please give a link to your own pristine website…

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