Album Covers as Works of Art Featuring Bicycles, Surfboards, and Footballers

Album Covers as Works of Art Featuring Bicycles, Surfboards, and Footballers

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Surfing, cycling, boxers, swimming pools, or famous footballers. Although at first glance, depicting an athlete on the cover of music albums may seem like an exception, we can find athletes or musicians engaging in a particular sport, as well as depictions of sports venues or various equipment on music albums. Moreover, one music genre, surf rock, even incorporates sports into its name...

The band Beach Boys is a quintessential representative of the musical style dubbed surf rock. This genre originated in sunny California in the mid-twentieth century, combining elements of rock and roll with the lifestyle of surfers, but also influenced by the culture of Mexican immigrants. Musically, it emphasizes guitar compositions, which, influenced by Hispanic culture, lean towards an acoustic sound, along with intricately harmonized vocals. It adopts the lifestyle, positive mood, distinctive fashion, and, not least, the visual aesthetics (including the surfboard itself) from the surfing milieu.

With Surfing on the Beach and in the Waves

Surfing itself is prominently featured, for example, on the cover of the album "Surfin' Safari" by the aforementioned Beach Boys. On the cover of this 1962 record, whose titular song was something of an anthem for California surfers at the time, the band members are photographed arriving at the beach with a surfboard in an open car. Just a year later, the album "Surfer Girl" was released, featuring the band members strolling along the beach with surfboards in hand. From the same year comes the album "Surfin' U.S.A.," which, in contrast, depicts a surfer enjoying a ride on a wave. On the cover of the 1965 album "Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)," the band members are portrayed as sailors, further intertwining water sports throughout the band's body of work.

Beach Boys: "Surfin' Safari"

Among other representatives of surf rock, whose albums certainly don't lack depictions of this sport, one can mention bands like The Sentinals, with their specific use of Latino rhythms, and their album "Big Surf," or "Surfers’ Choice" by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones from 1962. In both cases, the album covers feature photographs of band members with surfboards. Conversely, the stylized, vividly colorful depiction of surfers adorns "The Endless Summer," the soundtrack to the film of the same name, by The Sandals.

Cycling Appears on Album Covers Across Genres

From the Beatles to Queen, from the White Stripes to Kraftwerk, bicycles have appeared in various forms and situations on the covers of albums by many famous bands. The cover of the single "Tour de France" by the German electronic band Kraftwerk depicts cyclists on racing bikes. The visual shows the band on road bikes with the colors of the French flag in the background. The design is based on an image that appeared on a Hungarian postage stamp from 1953, which was part of a sports set issued to celebrate the opening of the Népstadion in Budapest. This depiction was also included in the 1984 film "Breakin'," also known as "Breakdance." Although the song "Tour de France" briefly appeared in the film, Kraftwerk did not allow the song to be part of the movie soundtrack. Instead, a cover version of the song was created by the group 10 Speed.

Kraftwerk: Tour de France

"Bicycle Race" is a song by the band Queen, accompanied by several controversial cycling visuals upon its release. The pair of songs "Fat Bottom Girls" and "Bicycle Race," which reference each other, were released on both sides of a single. This single was issued with the legendary image of a departing cyclist, originally nude, later clad only in the lower part of a swimsuit after American censorship intervened. At the time, the band was recording the album in France and allegedly found inspiration for the cycling-themed lyrics from the Tour de France race. It is even said that the lyrics of "Fat Bottom Girls" were Brian May's response to Freddie Mercury's fondness for larger men; reportedly, the song was originally titled "Fat Bottomed Boys," and women were included in response to "Bicycle Race."

These songs became part of the album "Jazz," featuring small illustrations of cyclists on the bottom side of the cover. However, much more attention was drawn to the inserted poster, depicting the start of a cycling race involving only nude women. The release of the album was accompanied by a bizarre marketing campaign, in which sixty-five nude women raced bicycles around the circuit of Wimbledon Stadium.

Queen: Bicycle Race

The Beatles also had themselves photographed on a bike ride for the cover of their EP "I’m Looking Through You." A somewhat morbid photo of a cyclist with a dead raccoon adorns the single "The Denial Twist/Shelter Of Your Arms" by the American rock duo The White Stripes. Additionally, one of the members of Creedence Clearwater Revival is depicted sitting on a bike directly in the rehearsal room on the cover of the album "Cosmo’s Factory."

The Beatles: I’m Looking Through You

The White Stripes: The Denial Twist/Shelter Of Your Arms

Lady with a Racket and Bat

For the cover of their album titled "23," the New York art rock trio Blonde Redhead chose a highly stylized historical tennis player. With two pairs of legs, one standing and the other spread for action, this elegant lady with a wooden racket in hand captivates the viewer at first glance. The music server Pitchfork selected this album as one of the fifty best shoegaze albums of all time.

Blonde Redhead: 23

Alvin Rey: Ping Pong!

Photographs of ping-pong players in the unmistakable style of the 1960s appeared on the cover of the album "Ping Pong!" by American jazz guitarist Alvin Rey and his orchestra. The entire cover is appropriately dynamic due to the abundance of ping-pong balls surrounding the ladies, each holding paddles in both hands.

Footballers and Hockey Players Hidden on Album Covers

A drawing of footballers adorns, for example, the debut album of the British pop-rock band Ace, titled "Five-A-Side," released in 1974. The football theme was also touched upon by Oasis, whose album "Definitely Maybe" featured posters of Rodney Marsh from Manchester City and George Best from United, both from the same city, as part of the room decor. Among the personalities depicted on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles, one can also find English footballer Albert Stubbins.

Ace: Five-A-Side

Oasis: Deffinitely Maybe

A black and white photograph of hockey players adorns the album "Old Tyme Hardcore" by the Boston hardcore band Slapshot. In fact, the band's name itself has to do with hockey; a slapshot is a fast shot from a distance, commonly used among hockey players.

Slapshot: Old Tyme Hardcore

The members of the British rock band The Who presented themselves as American football players on the cover of the album "Odds & Sods." Released in 1974, this album, which compiled previously unreleased tracks by The Who, was curated by the band's bassist, John Entwistle. On the album cover, the band members are depicted wearing sports helmets with letters marked on them, collectively spelling out the word ROCK.

The Who: Odds & Sods

When it comes to bands that have a sports discipline directly in their name, we certainly can't overlook the British band Boxer. Right on their debut album "Below the Belt," a boxing glove is prominently featured. The cover, which sparked significant controversy, was created by photographer Alex Henderson and graphic designer Richard Evans, depicting a nude model with a male arm sporting a boxing glove positioned between her legs.

Boxer: Below the Belt

Water, Pools, and Swimming: Recurring Motifs, Not Always About the Sport Itself

A sought-after location for fans of the band Blur became the pool photographed for their new album "The Ballad Of Darren." The outdoor pool in the seaside town of Gourock is among the oldest in Scotland. The cover is dominated by a photo of an abandoned sports facility, its vivid blue color sharply contrasting with the misty mountains in the background. Taken in 2004 by British photographer Martin Parr, the image depicts a man swimming alone in the pool.
Blur: The Ballad Of Darren

When we expand our scope to pools in general, we can mention albums like "Californication" by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and from there, it's just a short step to the iconic swimming baby on the cover of Nirvana's album "Nevermind." However, we might be straying a bit too far from sports at that point...

We reached out to artist Ivana Zuskinova, who created a special playlist for this article. In her work, she has long been exploring leisure time concerning music and poetry and regularly contributes her visual poems to the printed magazine Sport in Art. The author is a graduate of the Intermedia Studio II at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under the guidance of Dušan Zahoranský and Pavla Sceranková."

>>> PLAYLIST <<<



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Published 18.04.2024

Kateřina Hubertová je redaktorka, blogerka, PRistka a psavec různých textů o tom, co ji baví a zajímá. Mezi její témata patří cestování, kterému věnuje svůj blog Kachna se kochá, památky, architektura, divadlo a výtvarné umění, o kterém má příležitost psát právě v magazínu Sport in Art. Jejím cílem je tato někdy trochu složitá témata podat tak, aby to byla hlavně zábava, ať už jde o historickou bojovku, procházku po Praze nebo povídání o málo známém umělci.

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