Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: A Handful of SF Inspired Album Covers

space-art

(Jean-Auguste Ringard’s cover for the 1979 album Trip in the Center of Head by Space Art)

Due to a continuous and growing state of panic as election day (November 8th) approaches in the US, I have postponed completing my review of M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) (the first volume of the Viriconium sequence) in order to do something fun and lighthearted. Harrison’s entropic visions of decay and despair are not sitting well as the xenophobic orange monster looms spewing sexism and unbridled hate…. My The Pastel City review will appear after the election.

Instead, I want all my wonderful readers to pick their favorite SF-esque album cover from any era and think about love for your fellow humans.  I look forward to seeing what you all come up with!

Over the past few days on twitter (@SFRuminations) I have tweeted a range of album covers.  By far my favorite is the uncredited cover for the 1979 album Trip in the Center of Head by the French electronic duo Space Art (the music itself does not inspire….).  I am unsure why I am so transfixed by the cover, the worn metal, the faded interior painting of some other world.  The other three overtly SF covers below are fun but definitely not my style.

I have a penchant for diagrams and deconstructed bodies—hence  I couldn’t help but include the two non-SF album covers for the german experimental band Din A Testbild.

Enjoy!  Let me know what SF-esque album covers make you warm and happy inside!

For more adventures in SF art consult the INDEX

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(Jean-Auguste Ringard’s cover for the 1977 album Onyx by Space Art)

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(Dwain Zerio’s cover for the 1977 album Visitor by Automatic Man)

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(Claus Cordes’ cover for the 1982 album Triptychon by Din A Testbild)

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(Claus Cordes’ cover for the 1980 album Programm 1 by Din A Testbild)

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(Edgar and Monique Froese’s cover for the 1971 album Alpha Centauri by Tangerine Dream)

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(Bob Eastman’s cover for the 1977 album First Attack! They’ll Never Take Us Alive by Hot Flash)

46 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: A Handful of SF Inspired Album Covers”

  1. Some favourites of mine:

    ‘Interface’ by Heldon (French prog having a large SF influence, as you can tell by the name

    …and Hawkwind’s classic ‘Warrior On The Edge Of Time’, featuring lyrics and readings by Michael Moorcock

    1. Thanks Jonathan! I have been exploring a lot of interesting bands via youtube and French prog is definitely one of those areas I’ve been listening to… Cool cover! Is Heldon as a band any good?

      As for Hawkwind, definitely a fan of both the art and the music — especially Quark, Strangeness, and Charm (1977)

      1. Quark, Strangeness and Charm is a classic for sure, can’t go wrong with the Calvert years in particular. I’ve always liked the cover for ‘Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music’, with its pulp magazine mock-up. The Heldon stuff is worth checking out, particularly the albums ‘Interface’ and ‘Stand By’, which fall somewhere in between King Crimson, Magma and early Tangerine Dream.

    1. Do you have any favorite SF-esque album covers through? Not necessarily the ones from my list…. I included only a few of those that came to mind to see what others come up with.

      1. Not offhand,but I know Roger Dean did a lot of science fiction inspired album covers in the 1970s.

        Hawkwind as you obviously know,have a very deep heritage in science fiction.Michael Moorcock no less,performed with them in the 1970s.I think their “Silver Machine” song was inspired by his stuff.

          1. I never bought that many records,and none with his artwork on,so I can’t.What I really know about him is from articles.He did illustrate book covers.I will say he did extremly fine work.Perhaps somebody else visiting your blog will know far better than me.Sorry.

  2. Someone already beat me to the punch with Heldon’s Interface – one of my favourite albums/ album cover. Jonathan’s right that Interface & Stand By are their best but they’re all very good. Magma are simply stunning and still amazing live (seen em three times in the last year). Kohntarkosz is probably my favourite of theirs. Vanderbilt created a whole concept/ my this and constructed a language to sing about it! Loads of other good French obscurities beyond that too.

    1. Iain, thanks for the comment!

      I am a fan of invented languages so maybe I’ll try that one. I tend to listen to early work first and I don’t know where that lies in their chronology. But yes, the French prog/experimental back catalog is extensive and fascinating. My knowledge comes exclusively from various youtube explorations while writing my dissertation…

      [here is one of the images Iain posted in his tweet about a recent Frech prog compilation — artist Druillet]

  3. Hi Joachim

    I did not collect a lot of albums, of the covers you showed I have to say that I liked the Bob Eastman cover for First Attack best, it reminded of the black light posters of my misspent youth.

    All the best.
    Guy

    1. Hello Guy, all my knowledge comes from exploring the many full albums uploaded on youtube. I find that music in languages other than English + various other experimental music works while I write my dissertation.

      Black light posters? (I mean, I understand what that could mean, but, they were a thing?)

  4. I’ve long had a soft spot for The Soft Machine’s first album cover

    But as to the “content”, it’s was with their second album that they achieved musical grandeur under the heady influence of Alfred Jarry and pataphysics.
    Looking forward to the M John H review. One of my all time faves!

    1. I must confess, I found The Committed Men (1971) a stronger novel. In part, due to my extreme apathy (verging on active dislike) for sword and sorcery type SF/fantasy. I wanted Harrison to fool with the genre more… Like he does regarding space opera with The Centauri Device. I will have more cohesive thoughts when I post my review.

      You probably saw the review of The Committed Men —> https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/book-review-the-committed-men-m-john-harrison-1971/#comments

      Yes! The Soft Machine is a great band — and, you’re definitely right, way better starting with the second album. Stunning cover though, my style through and through.

      1. I need to reread The Committed Men, it’s been a long time and I vaguely remember it fondly. I remember thing that the roaming “situationalists” (sic.) was a cool testament to the time it was written in and Harrison’s obvious left wing sympathies.
        I am with you on being apathetic (though sometimes actively hostile) to sword and sorcery SFF. Though even here some notable exceptions (eg. the incomparable Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories). But the Pastel City, what can I say? It’s brevity and execution are near perfection. Who else would make his hero a self professed better poet than a swordsman?

  5. Hi

    I’m still exploring the Magma catalogue but Kohntarkosz and its predecessor Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh are generally considered to be their best – I think they’re maybe 3rd and 4th in the discography . BTW my previous comment should have said Vander not Vanderbilt!

    Great performance here: https://youtu.be/vBh6MAQQTwk

  6. I always smile when I see the Robert Rodriguez cover for Meco’s Star Wars Galactic Funk. A feel-good cover for a feel-good album I think. I just found out that Rodriguez is the artist responsible for the painting of the man on the Quaker cereals boxes. Will be thinking of Galactic funk when eating my next bowl of porridge 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comment! And yeah, the cover exudes unabashed pulp fun. I am slightly confused, if this was a Star Wars product, why do they not depict characters from Star Wars to try to sell it? I find the entire thing rather odd.

      And thank you, this was exactly the type of silly I needed to see with the looming election scenario I laid out in my post — haha

      1. I think it was a rights issue – Meco Monardo (Galactic composer) was able to get rights to cover the music of John Williams (original soundtrack composer) but not image rights of characters belonging to George Lucas or 20th Century Fox… that’s my guess, and if Im wrong I’m just gonna smile like the Quaker box man and say ok it wasn’t a rights issue it was a rolled oats issue 🙂

      1. “The album cover was revealed in late June [2010]; designed by artist Dan McPharlin, it is said to pay homage to the authors that inspired the album’s lyrics” – wikipedia

        Actually, check out that wiki page. Because the SF story behind the lyrics is quite cool, and I wasn’t entirely aware that it was a full blown concept album (I’ve ended up only listening to three songs consistently). I love the cover because it really does evoke that old-school SF/Fantasy vibe, which is exactly the kind of cheese the lyrics kind of go for.

  7. Sun-Ra had some pretty good album covers, that could be expected since he was on a mission of peace from Saturn. I think the best one being for his ‘Monorails and Satellites’ from 1966.

    For my own personal favorite, I would suggest the album covers for the New Zealand noise rock – shoe gaze band – Bailter Space. Sci-Fi focused, with titles that include; Solar 3, Strobosphere, Vortura, and their best album and best cover being Robot World from 1993:

    and here’s one from the more recent ‘Trinine’ from 2013

    Also, Richard Powers provided the cover art for the debut album of spacey surf rock band Man…Or Astroman?

  8. Lusk was formed by ex-/members of Tool, Failure, and Medicine. I discovered this album around the same time I was reading P.K. Dick and after reading Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and Dick’s Martian Time Slip, I could swear some of the lyrics were references to these books, if not to many other SF books. I highly recommend seeking this album out, if only to see the artwork which received a Grammy nomination!

    Also, the first song ‘Backworlds’ had a video made for it which re-enacts the “bomb incident” from Iain Banks’ novel ‘The Wasp Factory’.

    I love this album. Love it, love it, love it!

      1. His work, and imitations of his work, used to be seen everywhere. Together with Seymour Chwast and Edward Sorel, he founded Push Pin Studios, which was THE leading American design studio of the 1960s-70s.

  9. One of the great Hip Hop albums of our time…

    “The album’s story casts Del in the role of Deltron Zero, a disillusioned mech soldier and interplanetary computer prodigy rebelling against a 31st-century New World Order. In a world where evil oligarchs suppress both human rights and hip-hop, Del fights rap battles against a series of foes, becoming Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion. To celebrate, Del takes a trip back to Earth for a vacation, but is ambushed by his enemies and has his memory wiped, plunging the world back into darkness” – wikipedia

    Oh! Very cool. I just checked the image credits. It’s a yellow tint of Trylon and Perisphere from 1939’s World Fair. Retro-futuristic – spot on!

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