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Cover Story #9: Take a Walk on the Domesticated Side - The Ruff Guide to Dogs on Album Covers

To celebrate the arrival of our latest Pickled Priest office dog (Fezz), we make a futile attempt at ranking our 25 favorite album covers featuring dogs. Only a few rules: 1) Records should be reasonably modern, 2) No animal cruelty (including dog racing), and 3) No fucking cats.


Didn't qualify under Rule #1, but still an all-time favorite!


HONORABLE MENTION



RICK SPRINGFIELD | Working Class Dog

While we profess to live under a “Music & Humor” mantra, we’re not pushovers for anything that attempts to offer both at once. Such is the case with Rick Springfield’s Working Class Dog album cover, which, for better or worse, is the image conjured by most when album covers with dogs are discussed. While I've never been a fan of dressing up dogs in costumes, the adorable Ronnie Springfield is not to blame. He didn’t dress himself, after all. He even seems to be having a good time cosplaying an accountant in the photo. I wouldn't have put the picture of Rick in his breast pocket, but I assume that was just a way to pacify his record label since Rick was a heartthrob soap opera star on General Hospital at the time and sex always sells. Long story short, the record was a huge hit thanks to massive hit single "Jessie's Girl" (I still know every word) and with cash in hand, the budget for his next album cover upgraded Ronnie to a silk shirt, a bottle of champagne, and a couple of poodle hookers. Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet wasn't nearly as successful and we never heard from Ronnie again.



NELSON | Because They Can

You now know how we feel about dogs in costumes, but what about dogs in wigs? The answer is conditional, of course. While I have no time for Nelson's music, I have to admit this cover, featuring William Wegman's world famous Weimaraners dressed as Ricky Nelson's blonde-coiffed twin sons Matthew and Gunnar, is a nice bit of self-deprecation from these platinum schmucks, who are clearly better suited for the cover of a romance novel than a rock & roll record.

After the rain....hairdryers I assume?


IAN DURY & THE BLOCKHEADS | Mr. Love Pants

Here’s a perfect example of an inarguably dumb and hopelessly low-budget album cover completely redeemed by a stellar album title. The whole album cover is a Photoshopped nightmare until you realize that this jaunty beach boxer with the high-waisted swimsuit goes by the name of Mr. Love Pants. After that, all is forgiven.



NORAH JONES | The Fall

There have gotta be some outtakes with "Big" Ben* wearing the top hat, right? This is a charming cover and all, but those exist, I’m sure of it. What self-respecting photographer would let such an obvious opportunity pass? Oh, how I’d love to see him doffing his top hat with one of his giant oven-mitt-sized paws. We’ve always had a thing for Norah Jones, but this time all I can think about is rolling around on that rug with this giant St. Bernard.


*Docked several points since Ben isn't even her dog, just a model on assignment.



THE JUDY BATS | Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow

This one is all about composition and I'll take it from the outside in. Burnt edge, reminiscent of a 19th century daguerreotype photograph; nice touch. Rural location inferred, but intentionally washed-out in order to enhance the main focus, a red Chevy pickup with a handsome black lab in the bed, presumably named SHAX, as indicated by the truck's vanity plates. That would be a great name for a backcountry lab, so I'm going to assume that's the case. Don't tell me otherwise. Collectively, a simple but winning image, even if I'm not 100% sold on the scripted band name, the excessively long title (mixing CAPS and script no less), or the redundancy of the word "Shacks" in the title. Still, we are partial to black labs, especially thick ones, so the Judybats, despite not being a favored band of mine, remain on the honorable mention list.



DINOSAUR JR | Whatever's Cool With Me

I have a friend who was given the nickname "Das Blocherhoffer" in college because he had such a giant blockhead. That the name doesn't really translate to "Blockhead" (or anything for that matter ) in German is irrelevant, the intent was obvious. To comically highlight a disproportionately-sized noggin. Which is why I like this sad-sack bulldog from this perfectly-titled Dino Jr record. If you can resist the desire to cradle this massive head chunk, I don't want to know ya.




PICKLED PRIEST'S 25 FAVORITE ALBUM COVERS

FEATURING DOGS

(Albums, EPs, Singles allowed)



25c MELVINS | Everybody Loves Sausages

25b MELVINS | Nude With Boots

25a MELVINS | Houdini



The unpredictable Melvins do have one consistent thread across their albums and that's their love of dogs. They’ve got at least three dog covers in total, all worth mentioning on this list, so I’m Costco-ing them into a three-pack to conserve space. First up, whimsy—a sausage dog absconding with a stolen string of sausage links. Which came first, I ask, the image or the title? Second, we’ve got a cute white chihuahua popping against a blood-red background seemingly staring at the band’s name above him. This dog must surely be deaf by now, I assume. Last but not least is Houdini, complete with a bold and colorful cover by legendary rock and roll poster artist Frank Kozik. While not in love with Kozik’s style in general, we do love the old-school children’s book feel of this drawing, complete with two-headed dog in the middle providing endless hours of enjoyment, able to lick both kids’ faces simultaneously. This would make a good tattoo.



24 SCREECHING WEASEL | Bark Like a Dog

There’s a whole lotta screechin’ goin’ on here. Chicago’s revered pop-punk legends Screeching Weasel tapped into that classic comic book vibe for the cover of Bark Like a Dog and here we get bursts of vibrant color along with the world’s sexiest and most menacing dog walker in the bargain. She’s the eye of the storm here, cool and calm while everyone else, including her five chihuahuas, seems to be in full freakout mode. Credit Hollywood storyboard artist Benton Jew for capturing the canine chaos.



23 THE BONZO DOG BAND | The Doughnut in Granny's Greenhouse

Dogs don’t give a shit if you and your friends dress up like a bunch of Renaissance Fair lunatics on acid. As long as you feed them, treat them well, let them outside, and toss them a ball now and then, they’ll gladly tolerate your wacky friends, even the dude who showed up for the cover shoot dressed like Satan’s war turtle. It doesn’t matter to dogs. They love unconditionally, quirks be damned. This has gotta be better than lying on some old bag's couch all day watching game shows.



22 VAN MORRISON | Veedon Fleece

Then again, maybe the wolfhounds from the previous entry got a little tired of the wild shenanigans in the Bonzo Dog Band camp and took refuge in the Irish countryside with Van Morrison during the recording of his Veedon Fleece album back in the early 70s. Van, to this day, has a bit of a reputation as an asshole, so I can imagine dogs were the perfect companions for him at the time. A couple of furry cohorts willing to tolerate his volatile mood swings and respond to his every petulant demand. The cover has a hazy watercolor feel, which makes the whole pastoral scene very appealing to the eye and conducive to giant dogs with long legs dying for a long run on Van’s remote estate.



21 CAT STEVENS | "I Love My Dog" / "Matthew and Son" (single)

I love my dog as much as I love you

But you may fade, my dog will always come through


A singer named Cat writing a song about how much he loves his dog, how ironic. I admit there’s nothing really special beyond the sentiment here and the quickly-snapped photo of Yussef and his mutt hanging out in a toxic waste dump isn't spectacular, but that’s the beauty of dogs in a nutshell. They make everything better and every setting more tolerable because they’re hanging out with you and you with them. That’s what friends are for.



20 THE REPLACEMENTS | All Shook Down

If ever a band embodied the smelly, dirty, broken-spirited essence of the stray dog it’s the Replacements. But I’ve never met a stray dog, no matter how unrefined, uncared for, or broken that didn’t also have a desire to love and be loved back. So yes, the Mats may have looked, behaved, and sounded like these ragged, wet dogs on the cover of All Shook Down, but their songs were much deeper than they appeared on the surface. There was a real heart under their scraggly exterior. Which is why this cover is both sad and hopeful simultaneously. Maybe these wet dogs are moments away from rescue, a warm bath, a hearty meal, and a new family. Perhaps for a family needing a big-hearted replacement for a lost friend. We can only hope.


19 DIRK HAMILTON | You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, but the dog looks more than pleased to be in on Dirk’s stupid ruse and that’s what sells it for me. The dog looks like he’s absolutely dying for you to choose him and I predict he gets chosen most of the time and he knows it. I’d rather bark with him than sing with Dirk Hamilton any day. No brainer. Why they have to stand behind a door in the middle of a room to accomplish this is anyone’s guess, but as long as this good boy has that grin on his face, I’m all in.



18 BECK | Odelay

The peculiar breed known as the Komondor (Hungarian sheepdog) featured on the cover of Beck's career-making masterpiece, Odelay, was a straight rip from a 1977 issue of the American Kennel Gazette (see below). The original is much darker overall and the shading does the distinct corded coat of the breed no favors. This is a breed of dog to marvel at for long periods of time. Even for an Atheist like me, this is a valid argument for the creation storyline. No way this can be attributed to evolution, right? That would seem like a lot of trouble to go through just to mop up a spill on aisle five. So it had to be created in a late-night brainstorming session, perhaps the same evening marijuana was invented. Kudos to the design team that brightened this up much like art restorers meticulously clean up old paintings coated with dust and smoke accumulated over decades of neglect. All gussied up, it now looks completely fake, like some wisenheimer slapped it together for laughs. But, alas, we now know for a fact it's a real dog captured in action by dog photographer Joan Ludwig. What a claim to fame this photo, and now a famous album cover, must be for Joanie.

Edwin Moses eat your heart out


17 KATE BUSH | Hounds of Love

This is the complete package, from title to photograph. And it's an iconic album to boot. Here, Kate seems to be saying "Don't you dare interrupt this moment for me" to her brother John, the cover's photographer. If you've read anything about the shoot for Hounds of Love, getting her friend's Weimaraners, Bonnie and Clyde, to play along wasn't easy. They were restless and excited pretty much the whole day. Once they finally settled down, the usable shots started flowing. In this one, the dogs finally fell asleep after their exhausting day and Kate seems to be at peace, too. If you've ever had the full trust of a dog or dogs, you know how spiritually calming it is when they get this comfortable in your presence. That said, the outtakes from this shoot (a few included below) show the different directions this cover could have gone, each conveying a slightly different feeling.

Mirth
Too close for comfort
Resignation (with helpers)

All of these could've worked, but I do kinda wish the last shot had won out in the end. It captures the essence of dogs in one click of the shutter: goofy, loving, awkward, amusing, space-invading, beautiful, pliable, trusting, and giving all at once. In the end, the final cover was captivating in its own way, although I do wish the photo took some of the real estate afforded the thick white border. The cover also shoots for a dreamy haze, which is fair enough, but I would've loved a slightly less washed-out image. I want to see this image in full-size in rich color, not diminished and faded.



16 THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE | Love Will Keep Us Together

16 THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE | Come in From the Rain

You just know there were many people in the late-1970s who named their dogs Captain and Tennille after this then dynamic duo. They were huge stars for a while after Toni hooked up with straight man "Captain" Daryl Dragon and they dominated AM radio in 1975 with their titular #1 hit (and ubiquitous karaoke classic) "Love Will Keep Us Together." As luck would have it, they were also both huge dog lovers, to the point where the couple featured their adorable English bulldogs, Roderick and Elizabeth, on the cover of their smash hit album. That Toni is the only one here who seems to be enjoying the photoshoot is beside the point. That almost makes it even more endearing. It also marks one of the most pronounced canine album covers in music history, with a comical amount of space taken over by Rod & Liz's absolutely gigantic blockheads. Not satisfied, the dynamic duo returned just two years later for another album cover, the follow up Come in From the Rain, but this time they napped through the photo shoot, cozied up in front of a raging fire, snoozing without a care in the world. Legends both.




15 CROSBY, STILLS, NASH & YOUNG | Déjà Vu

This photo looks like the cover of one of those old-timey photo albums you might find at a antique shop or flea market, interesting for its age and historically significant even if nobody knows anything about those in the picture. But here we do know the cast of characters and two-thirds of them are legendary. In fact, even the "other" two guys, Dallas and Greg, get name-checked right there on the cover! So, it’s a little insulting that the dog, posing perfectly still front-and-center, eyes on the cameraman like a good boy, is the only one left uncredited. Does anyone not realize how hard it is to get a dog to pose like this? If I was the cover designer I would’ve put his name along the bottom edge (right below his feet) in gold leaf like everyone else. It’s only fair to give full credit where credit is due, especially for being a significant part of this monumental moment in music history.



14 JAMES TAYLOR | One Man Dog

This album reminds me of Loudon Wainwright III’s classic song “One Man Guy,” about the nature of Loudon’s creative existence, which was then a solitary act, private in creation and solo in performance. No middlemen, straight from the tap. James Taylor, another troubadour, has routinely operated in a similar way, his unadorned songs beautifully written and simply performed, often with just stool, guitar, and microphone. Taylor was way more social than Loudon, often tapping his huge Rolodex of notable friends when in the recording studio, but he’s always come off to me as an introvert at heart. In fact, in his early years, he presented as something of a traveling salesman or birthday party magician, never making long-term contact, overdressed and sporting a comically wide tie (to his defense: typical of the era). And that’s how he appears here, despite the fact he’s about to head out on a teetering rowboat for some one-on-one quality time with his dog. Why the formality Jimmy? This is one instance where the codependence between man and dog is downright charming and heartwarmingly endearing. On a technical note, this photo of Taylor and his dog David was taken by Carly Simon’s brother Peter when they were hanging at Taylor’s cabin.



13 NEIL YOUNG WITH CRAZY HORSE | Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Everybody with a passing interest in rock and roll has seen this cover, featuring Neil and his dog Winni (short for Winnipeg) hanging out together in Topanga Canyon just outside of L.A. I’ve found that a familiar visual like this can sometimes lose its impact over time if you don’t stop every once in a while to revisit it and this cover is case in point. While I’ve always been drawn to the “pixelated” image on the cover, taken by renowned rock & roll photographer Frank Bez (aka “The Man Who Shot Johnny Cash,” his go-to photog in the 60s), I didn’t come to appreciate it fully until years after first exposure. The intentionally grainy image looks more like a pointillist painting than a photo and that gives it a more timeless quality in my opinion. The cover wasn’t Bez’s first foray into this approach and one look at the Byrds’ classic 1967 LP Younger Than Yesterday is proof. The image on that album provided just the right hazy image for the psychedelic age, but this time, the subject matter fit the style even better. If this was in fact a painting, I’d have it on my wall. Even if I didn’t know it was Neil Young it's just a man and his dog, out in nature, experiencing life together, taking a short rest before the last leg of a long hike back home.



12 BUTTHOLE SURFERS | Locust Abortion Technician

This painting, entitled "Fido and the Clowns," is by Brooklyn artist Arthur Sarnoff, most known for his work in advertising and for illustrations for such tame women's magazines as Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Women's Home Companion, Cosmo, and McCall's, to name but a few. He also painted a portrait of JFK once. His most known work is "Jack the Ripper" (see below) a painting of dogs shooting pool (a la the famed "Dogs Playing Poker" by C.M. Coolidge). Oh, and naturally, he's responsible for the album cover for the Butthole Surfers' 1987 album, Locust Abortion Technician—a natural career progression if there ever was one! Art was seemingly obsessed with both dogs and clowns throughout his life, and this image combines each on a cover that shouldn't be frightening at all in theory, but on a Butthole Surfers album becomes downright terrifying in a serial killer kind of way.

Dog Rule #1: Never bet against a dog in a vest.


11 THE BEAUTIFUL SOUTH | Miaow

This painting turned album cover is by an amazing German artist named Michael Sowa. I strongly recommend checking out his work. While I love his four German shepherds in a rowboat cover for the Beautiful South's 1994 LP, ironically titled Miaow, there are many more amazing works left in his portfolio that would make fabulous album covers. I love how his paintings feel aged and traditional but then add a dose of surrealism into the mix to achieve an attractive visual with a slightly skewed point-of-view.


Note: The original cover is shown below, but had to be recalled after RCA got ahold of it, clearly a trademark infringement ("His master's voice"). I've also added a few of my non-canine favorites from Michael's portfolio below. Marvelous stuff!





Dog in cone: canine nightmare #121



10 THE YOUNG FRESH FELLOWS | Totally Lost

There’s nothing quite as joyful as a dog swimming in a lake or pond, head above water, four propellers working overtime under the surface. It’s a hard visual to fully absorb, what with so much left to the imagination (unless the water is crystal clear of course, which is not the case near me). Most album covers feature a single dog posing with a human or humans, but here we see what appears to be a bunch of dogs swimming at the same time in the same location. Until, of course, we realize that this is one dog, seemingly painted in time-lapse, trying to find his person or the shore or both. The title hints that the dog is hopelessly lost, which takes some of the cuteness from the image, but we can only hope for a positive resolution. The artwork, capturing the frantic search, brings a sense of motion to the whole affair, tracking all the twists and turns of a dog searching for something in a few economical brush strokes.



09 JOHN MCLAUGHLIN | Thieves and Poets

First off, I’m jealous of John’s two-level office space. It has the unmistakable feel of a creative sanctuary, a place that can stimulate the imagination and ease the mind. It’s proven that surrounding yourself with things that make you happy (albums, photos, nicknacks, turntable, books, etc) can encourage creativity and this space oozes that concept from every nook and cranny. I could turn this place into a Pickled Priest wonderland, that’s for sure. Of course, the locale also screams for the presence of a dog—no creative oasis can be complete without one. Here we see John's pooch Skip on his favorite chair (per an interview with McLaughlin). Like John, there is no ultimate calm for me unless my dog is also present to act as a spiritual ballast for the whole setup. My dog sits on a chair in my office, too. While I only listen and write about music, John’s dog seems to be actively engaged in critiquing his. In this photo by Thomas Dorn (a prolific album cover photographer), we see what appears to be an adverse critical reaction to the playback of some new creation from the master guitarist. John seems amused by it as well, even noting in a magazine interview that Skip is not at all into jazz fusion, the genre in which McLaughlin specializes. Despite that, if you look closely, there’s much love and amusement in John’s eyes. You can just tell that this is a relationship developed over time. The kind of understanding that relegates John to the floor and Skip to his favorite spot to chill until dinner. The way it should be.



08 IRON AND WINE | The Shepherd's Dog

With visible brushstrokes, strikingly rich colors, and just enough physical detail to bring the image vibrantly to life, there’s something almost haunting about the pit bull terrier featured on the cover of Iron and Wine’s classic LP, The Shepherd’s Dog. The vacant, beady eyes could indicate blindness perhaps; the mouth, gaping and imposing, could intimidate the uninitiated although, as a blind pit bull companion myself, we know the breed to be loving, joyful, sweet, and appreciative (and, in my case, a love muffin). The painting was done by none other than the man behind Iron and Wine himself, Sam Beam. Which adds up. Nothing Sam touches provides much more than a rough sketch of an idea, with much of the detail left to the imagination of the listener. You sense something going on, but it’s not entirely clear what to make of it. But this time, we know it's a dog, thankfully. A shepherd's dog.  



07 PIXIES | "Here Comes Your Man" (single)

A simple photo of a dog is always a fine album cover in my book, but I am generally asking for more than that on this list, especially since I’m ranking my personal favorites. This image, however, taken from Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man” single, is a notable exception. I’m simply drawn to this dog for some reason. There is something stately, regal even, about the bull terrier pictured. His name was Spike, fittingly, and he was a family member of the photographer’s friends, not specifically shot with the intent of being on an album cover, or in this case, the cover of Pixies most popular single ever. Spike’s family brought him to the studio of resident Pixies photographer Simon Larbalestier, who alongside legendary designer Vaughan Oliver, was responsible for all of the band’s dark cover imagery (Come On Pilgrim, Surfer Rosa, Doolittle, Bossanova...) during their time on 4AD. Spike wore two different collars depending on the day, so the family brought both just in case. Unbeknownst to them, Simon put both collars around Spike’s neck and the effect is stunning, giving him an even more powerful profile in the process. It doesn’t hurt that he’s simply a handsome boy modeling school graduate with a perfectly oblong snout, of course. He’s a dog you can’t stop looking at and there’s no way you’re keeping your hands off him when he comes over for a visit. A full body shot for your enjoyment follows.



06 THE JESUS LIZARD | Down

06 THE JESUS LIZARD | "Puss" & NIRVANA | "Oh, The Guilt" (split single)


These two covers were both done by Twickenham, England artist Malcolm Bucknall, the first called “Falling Dog” and the second titled “Old Indian and White Poodle.” Bucknall created a third cover for the Jesus Lizard’s Liar album, but that one featured cats, clearly out of scope here. Both of these are not your usual dog cover art fare, which is why I like them. The artist offers no explanation for a dog falling from the sky, seemingly into a vast ocean, so we’re left to ponder its meaning, something generally not encouraged with anything Jesus Lizard adjacent. The dog, aware of his fate, looks like a young child just tossed into the deep end of a pool by his sadistic father, aware of his fate and without any means to prevent it. It’s not necessarily a scary image, per se, but it does carry with it a certain unease. In the second case, I’m drawn more to the composition than to the actual dog itself, which is one of my least favorite breeds of dogs, the poodle. Don’t get me wrong, I love all dogs, but poodles are last in my overall rankings. Don’t know why, perhaps it’s because they are favored by the pampered, pretentious, and particular. Nonetheless, this poodle has hands, which makes the image even more unsettling. I’m not a big fan of giving dogs human traits, but the whole scene works mainly because it makes no visual or intellectual sense.



05 ALLIV SOBOL | Toz

Beyond just loving album covers in general, one of the main reasons I do album art posts is to discover new artists, graphic designers, photographers, and other creative minds. A recent discovery is dog-loving Russian painter Igor Skaletsky (now based in Israel). Had I not decided to do a dog-themed post, I never would have discovered his remarkable talents and I certainly would've missed out on the catalog of Russian house music label Nervmusic Records, a label that specializes in minimalist techno (not a tragic loss), and the work of Ricardo Villalobos (here operating with his last name spelled backward by syllable). The cover for his 2014 album, Toz, is typical of Skaletsky's work. On the surface, the work is visually attractive, with rich details and warm textures. Underneath his work, however, exists a sense of absurdity and artifice, if you will. I admit it took me awhile to notice the woman walking with her dog has no legs. It’s the kind of subtle optical manipulation in which Skaletsky specializes. His work is rarely predictable and that’s a quality I value more than almost any other. I strongly encourage you to check out his other amazing work, but I’ve added a few favorite examples below, which only scratches the bizarre surface. I think you’ll agree, the guy is an amazing artist—one I am thrilled to have finally uncovered.




04 THURSTON MOORE | The Best Day

The power of simplicity. This picture of Thurston’s mom Eleanor, taken way back in 1940, proves the old adage that the more things change the more they stay the same. People love their dogs and always have. There are few things more heartwarming than allowing a dog to run wild and free at the beach. The joy of watching a dog frolicking in the surf is one of the simple pleasures of life. This photo captures that feeling, with a dog and his best friend pausing momentarily to capture the moment for posterity. The Best Day indeed.



03 BILLIE HOLIDAY | God Bless the Child: Best of Billie Holiday

Billie had generational talents and chronic troubles in equal doses, the former bringing her great fame, the latter tragically ending her life far too soon at age 44 (cirrhosis of the liver). Her full story, an epic by any standards, has been told many times by better writers, so I’ll leave it there. Her love of dogs has also been written about often*, particularly her deep love for her beloved boxer, Mister, who was often seen hanging with her backstage, protecting her from unwanted guests (see additional photo below). One thing you’ll notice immediately is that Mister clearly brought out the best in her, likely supplying the unconditional and non-judgmental love she craved throughout her life but didn’t always receive. You cannot look at these photos and argue against the power of that bond between woman and dog and the mutual benefits on offer to both sides of the equation.   

 

*A children’s book, Mister & Lady Day” told the heartwarming story of their relationship. Among other revelations, she knitted sweaters for him, cooked him special meals, and cremated him in her mink coat when he eventually passed.

 

**While Mister is the most famous of her dogs, I do not mean to slight Pepe, her chihuahua, or her countless other dogs (beagle, mutt, poodle, Great Dane, terrier, etc.)



Mr. Mister

02 ALICE IN CHAINS | Alice in Chains

This is the second time Alice in Chains has made it into a Pickled Priest list (the first being our 50 Best Band Names list). Not bad. Perhaps their music will make an appearance someday…but don’t bet on it. At the very least, I applaud them for celebrating the brave and resilient three-legged dog with such a striking, impactful album cover. I hope it has decreased the adoption time for these physically maligned, but fully lovable pups. Appropriately, this cover was for their third album and was inspired by a “Tripod” that used to stalk drummer Sean Kinney during his childhood paper route. Photographer Rocky Schenck put out a call for people with three-legged dogs to meet at a park and be photographed for a potential album cover appearance, but before he could finish the job, a fax came in that was undeniably the cover on first review. The photo, with just the perfect amount of graininess, had just the right combination of world-weariness and pathos that the band was looking for, but also a “Whaddaya think, wanna take me home?” gaze that immediately made you want to baby him forever. The album has been released in many different versions over the years (white, purple), but I really think the yellow tint brings out the subtle shading and nuance of the dog’s face, legs, and body. It’s a cover you can’t stop looking at. In fact, I’ve never skipped past this album in a record store without pulling it out for a few moments to admire the sweet boy staring back at me from the front cover.



01 JOHNNY CASH | American Recordings

I consider this one of the best album covers of all-time, so it makes sense it would rank high on our top dog album covers list as well. Let’s face it, few artists have the dominating presence of a Johnny Cash on their best days and here the Man in Black stands confident in a long, black coat, as powerful and ominous as ever at the age of 61, just a few months away from his triumphant Rick Rubin-led resurgence in the mid-90s. He absolutely commands the frame, undaunted by heavy cloud cover with his iconic last name hovering overhead in thick, satisfying block letters. There’s a big reason this Andy Earl photograph is one of the most well-known photographs of the country music giant. It’s that rare perfect combination of setting* and subject coming together and seems to boldly announce, “I’m back!” to those not paying attention. Like he ever left. Oh, the dogs. The dogs, one black with white accents, the other the reverse, stand next to him as if they have no other choice. Like they are drawn to him somehow, at his beck and call. Lore has it that their presence wasn’t orchestrated, and they just ran up to him and sat near his feet of their own free will. And I choose to believe that version of events. Johnny Cash was blessed with a natural animal magnetism, so why should we doubt that some free roaming dogs** sensed his presence nearby and ran to visit with him? Little did they know at the time that they were the final piece of the puzzle for an iconic photograph that will be referenced and reprinted for eternity. The ultimate dog album cover.

 

*Interestingly, for an album titled American Recordings, this cover was actually shot while Cash was visiting Australia.  

 

** Johnny, always quick with a Biblical reference, referred to the dogs as “Hell” and “Redemption.” Which could've been a tough conversation if dogs could understand such things. (Why am I Hell?!) It’s safe to assume the black dog is the former, of course, and I assume Johnny identified with him somewhat. On the right, heaven, of course. Where redemption leads to eternal life. It makes almost too much sense for a man who was notoriously living in that grey area in the middle for much of his life. That only deepens the impact of the cover for me.


_________________________


There will not be a cat version of this post. Repeat. No cats.


Cheers,


The Priest and Fezz

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