Top Five Album Covers: Rough Trade

The guys at Rough Trade give us their top five album covers. Ever.

OK, so it’s true, Nick Hornby did kinda get it right with ‘High Fidelity’: we really do like compiling lists. Find your way into the back room at Rough Trade West, or get behind the counter at Rough Trade East and eventually, somebody will just ‘put it out there’.

‘Top 5 most hated frontmen, go.’
‘Top 5 bassists you’d have sex with. Male ones only.’


It’s what we do for fun. But when it comes to getting asked, in all seriousness, to put down on paper a list for somebody, well that takes time. So here you go, DIY-ers; we’ve poured our heart and soul into these lists, and we sure as hell hope you get it.

Sean Forbes




1. Notsensibles - Instant Classic (1980)
The best album cover ever - just look and laugh. it’s all about the detail and the comedy.

2. Scissor Sisters - Night Work (2010)
It says everything and more.

3. Rudimentary Peni - Death Church (1983)
Twisted, detailed, other worldly and intense.

4. Discharge - Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing (1982)
War is oblivion and the ghost of mankind.

5. Various - Fuck Emi (1989)
Bums, anarchy and comedy = my life.

Simon Russell




1. Malcolm Maclaren – Duck Rock (1983)
Culture, noise and art mashed beautifully.

2. Bikini Kill – Reject All American (1996)
Ultimate dynamix is achieved by the discrepancy between sound on the record and art on the sleeve.

3. Grace Jones – Nightclubbing (1981)
Grace’s smouldering noir-bisexuality captured by Jean Paul Goude.

4. Les Georges Leningrad – Sur Les Traces De Black Eskimo (2004)
Strip-cartoon convulsion from the, now sadly defunkt, new wave of no-wave.

5. Negativland – Helter Stupid (1989)
Classic montage from the cool rulers of cut-up.

Kyle Lonsdale




Let me start by saying that the five albums that follow are genuinely the first five I thought of. The reason for this is twofold: firstly, to make my choices any other way would be to give in to what would look good in a magazine, rather than give an honest opinion. Secondly, I don’t have time for the first. Remember that scene in ‘High Fidelity’ where Rob is asked to give his top five albums of all time and spends the next day poring over his answers, considering every record in his collection? That would be me.

In which case:

1. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (1970)
In 1970, America was deemed too easily offended for the full gatefold version of this glorious sleeve. Which is to say, no inverted cross, but also that it would be impossible to take in the full beauty of the original image (short of peeling apart the cover). Sad times in the USA, and a reason to get an import.

2. Cheryl Dilcher - Butterfly (1973)
As far as novelty sleeves go, this takes the biscuit tin. Pop the mask out and Dilcher it up or simply revel in what the space reveals… Special mention to the dancing kitten.

3. Rachel’s - Handwriting (1995)
DIY labels: think you put a lot of effort into your handmade sleeves? That’s nice. Rachel’s printed theirs with their own blood.

4. The Pentangle - The Pentangle (1968)
You could be forgiven for thinking that you were getting something decidedly more tough than blues-infused reworkings of 16th century ballads with this cover - more punk rock than folk rock - but for me, that’s what makes it. It’s a sleeve that defies genre with it’s simple silhouetted brilliance.

5. Dave Evans - The Words In Between (1971)
Whichever way you look at it, it’s just Dave’s face. Dave’s big, smiling face. And that makes me happy.

Chris Summers




1. Beastie Boys - Licence To Ill (1986)

2. Prince & The Revolution - Purple Rain (1984)

3. Nirvana - Bleach (1989)

4. Beastie Boys - Paul’s Boutique (1989)

5. Kraftwerk - The Man Machine (1978)


Lucy Tesco




1. Prince – When Doves Cry (1984)
Of course, putting one’s face on one’s record sleeve is not an innovative artistic move as far as sleeve work goes, but who cares? I’d take Prince’s wonderful face any day.

2. Wat Tyler- Sexless (1993)
Flicking through the booklet form artwork of this release, things just get better and better. The cherry on top has got to be the rumours of Madge getting pissed at them mocking ‘Sex’. I don’t think Wat Tyler is even on her shit’s radar.

3. Bangers & Cash – Spank Rock & Benny Blanco are… (2007)
This was only released as a cd. The five tracks all came out on 12”, each providing an alternatively coarse and colourful sleeve, but this one takes the crown. Cl-arse.

4. The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers (1971)
Andy Warhol’s touch of putting a real-life zipper on a real life record sleeve sent the sexy factor of Sticky Fingers from… well from 10 to 11!

5. Minor Threat – Minor Threat (1981)
Nearly thirty years old and still important… The sleeve is just so familiar, you feel you know the dude; face down, probably pre-vom, surely post-mosh. Everybody knows that guy.