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Rolling Stone’s 200 Greatest Australian Albums of All Time: The Arty-Facts

Rolling Stone Australia counted down their list of the 200 Greatest Australian Albums of All Time last month, but what about the artwork that adorns these beloved records?

Album artwork from Rolling Stone’s 200 Greatest Australian Albums of All Time

Albums by the likes of Dirty Three, Cold Chisel, and Private Function hold interesting facts when it comes to their associated artwork.

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When Rolling Stone Australia announced our list of the 200 Greatest Australian Albums of All Time in early December, it stirred great debate about the records that made their way into the list. Countless questions about whether one album deserved to be placed above another ensured, while just as many questions were matched with memories of hearing these records for the first time.

But what about the artwork that adorned these famed albums? In many cases, that’s just as iconic as the music they represent. After all, who can forget the exceptional minimalism of AC/DC’s Back in Black, the Australian vibe of You Am I’s Hourly, Daily, or the striking pose on Kylie Minogue’s Fever?

As part of our countdown in the latest issue of Rolling Stone Australia, we also included a small list of arty-facts, which, in addition to being far more interesting than that laboured pun, go deeper on a small selection of the album covers that made it into the list.

Find all these artwork-related facts below, and if you’re keen to see the full list of albums that made the final list, or the equally-large list of honourable mentions, you can do so by clicking their respective links.

If you’re eager to get your hands on the latest issue of Rolling Stone Australia to see the full 200 list, then now is the time to sign up for a subscription. Serving as a must-have addition to any self-respecting music fan’s collection, a cherished gift, or even some timely self-isolation reading, folks can subscribe to the quarterly magazine now.

Whether you’re just a fan of music, you’re a supporter of the local music scene, or you enjoy the thrill of print and long form journalism, then Rolling Stone Australia is exactly what you need. Click on the link below for more information regarding our subscription service.


4. Cold Chisel – ‘East’

Released in 1980, the pub-rock icons’ artwork drew inspiration from almost 200 years earlier, recreating Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting, The Death of Marat, complete with Jimmy Barnes wearing a Japanese headband which he later found out he was wearing upside down.

14. Regurgitator – ‘Unit’

The ARIA Award-winning geometric design for Unit was a novel yet simplistic one, with the group’s name, title, and an age restriction warning adorning the front via a sticker, leaving the listener able to change the cover art to one of the other shapes in the booklet if they so pleased.

34. Dirty Three – ‘Ocean Songs’

How do you ensure one of the most gorgeous instrumental records has a striking visual component? For Dirty Three, it was by keeping with newfound tradition, and allowing the stunning artwork of pianist and violinist Warren Ellis to adorn the cover.

41. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – ‘Primary Colours’

While the most recognisable version of the album’s artwork is one that features striking red artwork, vinyl copies of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s 2008 record were issued in the full set of primary colours—red, yellow, and blue. Later reissues went the opposite way, with black and white versions instead.

56. Grinspoon – ‘New Detention’

Originally released in a slipcase with a crosshair aimed upon a school desk, the cover was later changed to an image of the band. Not due to complaints of promoting violence, but rather due to an apparent copyright and licensing snafu.

64. Tame Impala – ‘Innerspeaker’

Working with Aussie artist Leif Podhajsky, Kevin Parker ensured the first Tame Impala album would be one to remember, with its cover—an image of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the US–altered using the Droste effect to look as though it continues into itself infinitely.

74. TISM – ‘Machiavelli and The Four Seasons’

Featuring a cover that repurposed the artwork for The Hollywood Argyles’ 1960 debut, copies of TISM’s 1995 breakthrough record didn’t feature their name, leading to stickers being affixed to the front assuring buyers that “this is actually a TISM album”.

91. Gotye – ‘Making Mirrors’

Though Gotye searched far and wide for the samples on his third album, he didn’t have to look far for its artwork, with the cover originally a painting created by his father in the Eighties, and edited and manipulated for its inclusion on the record. 

188. Private Function – ‘St. Anger’

Fittingly, Private Function’s debut featured artwork that parodied Metallica’s 2003 album of the same name. Unfortunately, Spotify flagged the cover for violating copyright, leading to a change for digital platforms. As a result, the group responded by supplying new artwork, this time parodying Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ instead.

198. Lime Cordiale – ’14 Steps to A Better You’

Their artwork has long been as vital to their work as the music itself, so for their 2020 album, Lime Cordiale ensured that another lino-cut by Louis Liembach would take pride of place as the cover for their chart-topping record.