Under the covers... Aladdin Sane Bowie's Covers

Bowie's Covers

The sleeves of David Bowie's albums certainly played an indispensable role in reflecting his chameleonic approach to his art. After a couple of rather more conventional covers, it was the 1971 UK sleeve of The Man Who Sold The World (1970) that really turned heads, with our androgynous hero(ine) resplendent in a Michael Fish-designed dress as he presented himself as if the subject of a pre-Raphaelite painting. It replaced the frankly somewhat incongruous original image, a pop art illustration of a cowboy walking past a lunatic asylum, which adorned the US version of the album, but whose appeal quickly waned on Bowie.


1971's Hunky Dory saw the great man adopt a similarly classic pose as he channelled a Marlene Dietrich look from a photobook he took to Brian Ward's photo session. But after that the characters took centre stage, most iconically in The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, wherein the bewitching protagonist posed in a Soho doorway lit up with a hint of the other-worldly glow surrounding Bowie's most famous alter-ego.


For the follow-up to Aladdin Sane, 1973's Pin-Ups LP of cover songs, Bowie commandeered a shot of himself in Paris with supermodel Twiggy, taken by her manager Justin de Villeneuve and originally intended for use in Vogue magazine until Bowie got his hands on it. Arguably the last of this visual era for Bowie was the Guy Peellaert illustration of Diamond Dogs, which saw him surrounded by curious man-dog creatures.


A more urbane look was adopted for 1975's Young Americans, reflecting the album's slicker, more soulful sound, but with the use of stills from his appearance in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth, the images for Station To Station (1976) and Low (1977) immortalised Bowie as the Thin White Duke. The follow-up, "Heroes" (1977) brought the Berlin period to a close with a cover whose image, snapped by Masayoshi Sukita, was later reprised for Bowie's penultimate studio release The Next Day (2013).


We could mention other covers, such as the faintly satanic image adorning 2002's Heathen or the Gilbert & George-style look of Tonight (1984), but ultimately they would never be able to approach Aladdin Sane and its 1970s contemporaries for images that defined one of music's true originals.