It was the subject of a lawsuit after the cover star said the photo shoot caused him ‘extreme and permanent emotional distress’.
But that hasn’t stopped Nirvana’s Nevermind being voted the most iconic album cover of all time.
The 1991 album, featuring the striking image of a naked baby boy swimming underwater with a US dollar bill on a fish hook, won 44 per cent of the votes in a survey.
The idea for the image is said to have been conceived by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain while watching a television show on water births.
The baby, Spencer Elden, now 32, sued the group in 2021, alleging the photo was sexual exploitation which caused him ‘extreme and permanent emotional distress’. The band rejected the claims and a judge in California dismissed the case.
Nirvana’s Nevermind has been voted the most iconic album cover of all time. The 1991 album, featuring the striking image of a naked baby boy swimming underwater with a US dollar bill on a fish hook, won 44 per cent of the votes
Dave Grohl, Kurt Cobain, and Krist Novoselic from Nirvana. Their breakthrough album Nevermind knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller off the top spot of the Billboard 200
Second on the list was Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon (36 per cent), which celebrates 50 years since its release this year.
The iconic cover, produced by design agency duo Hipgnosis, focuses on a prism reflecting beams of light into deep space.
The meaning behind it has sparked much debate among fans, with some suggesting it is a symbol of personal and psychological darkness, while others think it represents intellectual thought and ambition.
But Storm Thorgerson, who was part of Hipgnosis, revealed in 2013 that Pink Floyd’s on-stage light show inspired it, while co-designer Aubrey Powell claimed it resulted from a prism on top of sheet music.
David Bowie comes third in the poll with his 1973 album Aladdin Sane (34 per cent). The cover features Bowie with his eyes closed, made up with a deathly looking pallor and a red-and-blue lightning bolt across his face.
The brief was simple, Bowie wanted a flash: something reminiscent of the Taking Care of Business logo used by Elvis since his return to gigging in 1969. The shot, taken by Brian Duffy, has become iconic in the world of music, fashion and art appearing on clothes, walls, in galleries and even homeware.
In fourth place is The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (27 per cent) which was released in 1967.
Originally conceived by Paul McCartney, the final design was staged by British pop artist Peter Blake and his then-wife Jann Haworth and is a dazzling display of modern art that defines its era.
Second on the list was Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, which celebrates 50 years since its release this year. The meaning behind the artwork has sparked much debate among fans, with some suggesting it is a symbol of personal and psychological darkness
David Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane came third. The cover features Bowie with his eyes closed, made up with a deathly-looking pallor and a red-and-blue lightning bolt across his face
The Beatles’ St Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came fourth on the list. The final design was staged by British pop artist Peter Blake and his then-wife Jann Haworth and is a dazzling display of modern art that defines its era
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, released in 1977, completed the top five most iconic album covers list. It has gone on to sell more than 40 million copies worldwide. The cover art sees singer Stevie Nicks holding hands with drummer Mick Fleetwood
Amy Winehouse’s 2006 release Back in Black was her second and last album. The singer- songwriter died in 2011. The photo was taken by Mischa Richter who explained in an article in The Guardian and said ‘I feel privileged to have created the cover for this great album’
Beyonce’s I Am… Sasha Fierce also made the top 30. The album was released in 2008 and references her alter-ego ‘Sasha Fierce’ which the former Destiny’s Child star said she ‘created [as it] kind of protects me and who I really am’
Gorillaz’s Demon Days reached number one in the UK album chart in 2005. It features top hits ‘Feel Good Inc’, ‘Dare’, and ‘Kids With Guns’
The Rolling Stones released Sticky Fingers in 1971. It was Mick Jagger and co’s ninth British album. Andy Warhol came up with the idea for the artwork
Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy took 10 per cent of the vote. The 1973 album reached the top spot in the albums chart
Prince’s Purple Rain album cover sees the iconic singer-songwriter astride a purple 1981 Hondamatic motorcycle
The artwork, one of the most expensive ever created at the time, cost almost £3,000 – more than £50,000 in today’s money – and sees the band appearing at the front in costume as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They are surrounded by 58 influential people.
At a glance – the top 5 1. Nevermind by Nirvana
2. Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd
3. Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
4. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
5. Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Completing the top five most iconic album covers of all time is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (23 per cent) which was released in 1977.
Other covers in the top 30 include Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black (21 per cent), Beyonce’s I Am… Sasha Fierce (18 per cent), Gorillaz’ Demon Days (18 per cent), the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers (11 per cent), Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy (10 per cent) and Prince’s Purple Rain (14 per cent).
The survey found that more than half of those polled say a good album cover is art, while 45 per cent agree it can define and represent an era.
Harriet Scott from research agency Perspectus Global, which commissioned the survey of 2,000 people, said: ‘Music is so much more than just the music. Of course, having a great sound is an essential element, but cover art is an important part of creating that buzz and excitement.
‘Even though the way we listen to music has changed over the years, the impact of cover art hasn’t diminished. In fact, it is as important as ever, drawing our attention and defining how we look at and interpret a particular album.’