Amazing Album Cover Locations You Can Visit Today
While scrolling through your iTunes playlist or thumbing through your old pile of vinyl records, what if you discovered a destination you'd never considered before?
Through the years, music megastars like The Who, Simon & Garfunkel and Carly Simon have used famous locations as the backdrop for their iconic album covers. And the cool part is, you can visit these places in real life.
We've pulled together a list of classic album covers featuring locations and historical monuments worth adding to your bucket list.
As you work through this guide, feel free to pump up the jams.
U2: “The Unforgettable Fire,” 1984
U2's fourth album, "The Unforgettable Fire," yielded the song "Pride (In the Name of Love)," an homage to the late Martin Luther King Jr. and the band’s first Top Forty hit single in the United States.
When it came time to choose the album cover art, Bono and the band decided on a photo of the ruined Moydrum Castle in Westmeath, a county about an hour’s drive west of Dublin. The castle was set on fire in 1921 during The Irish War of Independence, a conflict between the Irish Republican Army and British Forces, making it a relevant choice for the album name.
(The title was actually a reference, though, to "The Unforgettable Fire," an art exhibit about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.)
Visiting the Moydrum Castle
Today, the ruined castle stands abandoned in Westmeath, taken over by nature. Enclosed behind a wire fence, it can only be viewed from the perimeter, but is worth seeing even from a distance.
Want to continue your U2-inspired journey? Stop by the nearby visitor-friendly Slane Castle, where U2 recorded "The Unforgettable Fire.”
Carly Simon: "Anticipation," 1971
Despite chronic stage fright, Carly Simon evolved into an internationally recognized singer, songwriter and composer. In 1971, she released her second album, "Anticipation," a work that helped her win a Grammy for Best New Artist that year.
Simon's cover photo, taken in front of the gate to Queen Mary's Garden in Regent's Park, London, is as effortlessly cool as the singer herself. “Rolling Stone Magazine” described her posture on the cover as "leonine and regal in her characteristic, spread-out stance, looking tall and powerful in her well-heeled boots and diaphanous dress — the epitome of what some people like to think of as the New Woman."
Visiting Queen Mary's Garden
While you most likely won't find Simon standing in the same spot today, a stroll through Queen Mary's Garden is a must-do while in London.
Opened in 1932 and named after the wife of King George V, Queen Mary's Garden is home to 12,000 rose varieties, making it London's largest collection. Additionally, the garden boasts begonias, delphiniums, refreshment kiosks, a restaurant, and plenty of places to sit and admire the blooms. The best time to visit is the first two weeks in June, when the weather is perfect and the foliage is at its most vibrant.
John Denver: “Rocky Mountain High,” 1972
Born in 1943, John Denver's pop-folk singer/songwriter style shot him to stardom in the 1970s. His fourth album, "Rocky Mountain High," was released in 1972 and eventually went platinum.
The album cover features a slim Denver, dressed in a green and black flannel shirt, standing on a mound of rocks at the Slaughterhouse Falls section of the Roaring Fork River in Aspen, Colorado.
Visiting Slaughterhouse Falls
According to whitewater-rafting diehards, Slaughterhouse, or Slaughter as it's locally known, offers the best rafting in all of Colorado.
Located a quick five-minute drive from downtown Aspen, Slaughterhouse Falls rafting experiences are available through various tour companies. However, it's essential to understand the risks involved, as well as the skill required to ensure a successful experience. High water levels not only make for a bumpy ride, but can also complicate rescue efforts.
If you have doubts, turn your car around and spend the day in downtown Aspen. Or replicate the iconic John Denver album cover by simply taking a photo of the falls, without braving the mighty rapids.
The Clash: “Black Market Clash,” 1980
Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and Joe Strummer are the four core members of the British punk band, The Clash. With a lengthy career that reached success in both the U.K. and the U.S., The Clash is remembered for their angst-ridden, rebellious rock songs, with lyrics that often addressed the political and social issues of the time.
In 1981, along with their album "Sandinista!" The Clash released an EP, an extended-play record that doesn't technically qualify as a whole album, called "Black Market Clash." (In 1980, it was expanded and repackaged as "Super Black Market Clash.")
The EP's cover photo was taken during The Notting Hill Carnival Riot in 1976, a racially charged event that took place near Portobello Road in Notting Hill, a neighborhood in London. The man in the photo facing the wall of police is Don Lets, the band's videographer.
Visiting Portobello Road
Today, Portobello Road in Notting Hill hosts the world's largest antique market. Against the background of the neighborhood's famous pastel-painted houses, you'll find stalls and shops selling food, clothing, collectibles, bric-a-brac and furniture. The Portobello Road market is open every day except Sunday, and Saturdays see the largest crowds.
The Beach Boys: “Surfin Safari,” 1962
"Surfin Safari" was the Beach Boys’ debut album, marking a new style of music that would prove extremely influential in the industry.
It was member Dennis Wilson, an avid surfer, who convinced the group to focus their songwriting efforts on the characteristic surfing and hot-rod lifestyle of California. Needless to say, the idea paid off; with the release of "Surfin Safari" the Beach Boys scored their first hits, "Surfin Safari" and "409."
To emphasize their surfer-boy image, the album's cover shot was taken in Malibu, California at Paradise Cove.
Visiting Paradise Cove
Located about an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles, Paradise Cove is a public beach stacked with sand and sun. But for a while, believe it or not, it didn’t have surfing.
The family that owns the beach and its restaurant, the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, once banned all surfing. But in 2014, with help from the California Coastal Commission, the ban was lifted and the surfers returned.
Simon & Garfunkel’s “Greatest Hits,” 1972
In 1972, Simon & Garfunkel released an album comprised of original studio and previously unreleased live recordings that encompassed such classics as "The Boxer," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
On the album's back cover, the duo is shown sitting on the east side of the reservoir in Manhattan's Central Park, around 92nd street.
The image suggests friction for sound reason: The compilation actually came out two years after the duo's fraught breakup.
Visiting the Reservoir
Named after Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1994, the reservoir is 40 feet deep, contains a billion gallons of water and offers a 1.58-mile track around its outer perimeter, perfect for a walk or a run (just ask former President Bill Clinton or pop diva Madonna). Additionally, whether you walk or run, the reservoir offers up panoramic views of Manhattan’s picturesque west side.
When the Simon & Garunkel photo was taken, the reservoir was surrounded by a chain-link fence that New Yorkers had long viewed as an eyesore. In 2003, that fence was replaced with a much classier steel fence featuring cast-iron ornamentation.
Tame Impala: “Lonerism,” 2012
Kevin Parker is the lone soldier behind the band Tame Impala. Interestingly, Parker refers to himself as a band as opposed to a solo artist because he thought doing so would make him appear more interesting. Apparently, the trick has worked out well for him. In 2019, Parker brought his psychedelic pop sound to Coachella, earning a spot between Ariana Grande and Childish Gambino.
One of the albums that helped shape Parker's success was his second, "Lonerism," released in 2012. The cover image was taken outside the gate of the Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Gardens, in Paris.
Visiting the Luxembourg Gardens
As the largest park in Paris, Luxembourg Gardens is an ideal place for tourists, especially those with little ones in tow. Within the gardens sits the regal Luxembourg Palace, the seat of the French Parliament. Although the palace is open to the public, it's closed during parliamentary meetings.
But don't worry: There's still plenty to explore here, including a geometric forest, apple orchards, beekeeping apiaries, and green spaces full of roses and orchids, plus over 106 monuments and plenty of outdoor games and rides to pass the time.
Peter, Paul and Mary: “Peter, Paul and Mary,” 1962
When the band Peter, Paul and May arrived at The Bitter End, one of New York City's oldest music clubs, in 1962 for their debut album photo shoot, they had no idea they would go on to win five Grammys and become one of the most successful folk-rock groups of the 1960s.
But, they did. And today you can visit The Bitter End and see where it all began.
Visiting The Bitter End
Since 1961, The Bitter End, located in Greenwich Village, has hosted myriad legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Neil Diamond and even Lady Gaga.
Open seven days a week, the club (and bar) features live music every night. On Mondays and alternating Sundays, it hosts public jam sessions, and on Saturday afternoons you can catch aspiring musicians lining up to perform at its acoustic open mic.
Harold Land: “Harold in the Land of Jazz,” 1958
“The Guardian” once described tenor saxophonist Harold Land's music as "intelligent and poised," an apt description for a jazz-world legend whose legacy has endured long past his passing in 2001.
Land’s professional career took root in 1958 when he released "Harold in the Land of Jazz," his acclaimed debut album. Dressed in a crisp black suit, with his saxophone in hand, Land is pictured on the album's cover standing beneath the Watts Towers in Los Angeles.
Visiting the Watts Towers
The Watts Towers is the brainchild of Simon Rodia, an Italian immigrant who arrived in the United States around 1894. His artwork comprises 17 towering steel sculptures covered in a colorful mosaic of tiles, shells and rocks.
Separate from the Tower is an arts center that hosts educational programs and music festivals. At the time of this writing, that center is closed for renovations, but free, guided tours around the perimeter of the Watts Towers sculptures remain available throughout the week.
The Who: “The Who Sings My Generation,” 1965
When The Who's debut album was initially released in the U.K. in 1965, its cover featured the band's original members Peter Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle and Keith Moon gazing up at the camera.
However, when the album was released in the U.S. in 1966, it was given a new cover image, showing the group standing in front of the U.K.'s iconic clock tower, Big Ben. The band likely wanted to emphasize their British roots for a U.S. audience.
Visiting Big Ben
Fun fact: The tower so many identify as Big Ben is actually called the Elizabeth Tower, the name it was given in 2012 in honor of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Big Ben is just the name of the bell inside the tower.
While it's possible for tourists to visit the adjoining Houses of Parliament, getting inside the tower is not an option, unless you are a U.K. citizen.
You can, however, stand outside the tower to take in its majesty. For the best views, check it out at night, when all four sides of the clock's face are lit up.
Peter Tosh: “Buk-In-Hamm-Palace,” 1979
About a 20-minute walk from Big Ben sits the majestic Buckingham Palace, which is where the Jamaica-born reggae music master Peter Tosh posed for the cover of his 1979 album, "Buk-In-Hamm-Palace."
Before he went solo in 1976, Tosh was one of the founding members of the band The Wailing Wailers, which included reggae powerhouses Bob Marley, Bunny Livingston and Junior Braithwaite.
Visiting Buckingham Palace
Along with Big Ben, Buckingham Palace is one of those London landmarks that’s recognized around the world. Only instead of housing a bell, the palace is home to Britain's Queen Elizabeth.
Outside Buckingham Palace, you can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony and marvel at the gold-topped Queen Victoria Memorial. Fancy a look inside? Buy tickets to tour The State Rooms. Just make sure you coordinate your visit, as the palace is only open to visitors for 10 weeks between July and September.
Freddie McGregor: “Big Ship,” 1982
Since the 1960s, Freddie McGregor has staked his claim in the world of reggae music. To date, he's released over 30 albums, including "Big Ship.”
Photographer Tim O'Sullivan was the man responsible for the album's cover shot, which features McGregor running on the Cutty Sark, the historic sailing ship docked in Greenwich, a borough in London.
In an interview with Alex Bartsch, author of the book "Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London,” O'Sullivan recalled the day of the shoot with McGregor, "Freddie was just running all over the place. He loved the ship. It was actually open to the public, but there was no one on there, it was deserted."
Visiting the Cutty Sark
There’s loads to do and see both on and off the decks of the Cutty Sark. On board, you can take in the ship's history via an audio tour, meet the Cutty Sark crew and even jump behind the ship's wheel.
Off the boat, you can check out the National Maritime Museum and marvel at the U.K.'s Sistine Chapel: the Painted Hall inside the Old Royal Naval College.
Before you leave Greenwich, make sure you visit the Prime Meridian, the reference point for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) at the Royal Observatory.
Rudimental: “Home,” 2013
In 1985, street artist Ray Walker painted the Peace Carnival Mural on Dalston Lane in Hackney, a borough in East London. And in 2013, the British electro-pop band Rudimental featured the mural on the cover of their debut album, "Home." The band has since earned platinum sales in countries around the world.
Visiting the Peace Carnival Mural
A trip out to Hackney (accessible by public transportation) to visit the Peace Carnival Mural will take you back to the 1980s, when the United States and the Soviet Union were in the midst of the Cold War and nuclear arms race.
Inspired by the 1983 Hackney Peace Carnival, the painting is meant to make a statement from the perspective of anti-war protestors to the men in power. According to the London Mural Preservation Society, "The mural has a political message; it shows the unity of the carnival folk against 'The Bomb' Nuclear War.”
Willie Colón: “Cosa Nuestro,” 1970
The Bronx-born trombonist, composer and activist Willie Colón weaved his Puerto Rican heritage and his love for salsa into every line of music he composed. In 1967, when he was 17 years old, Colón recorded his first album, “El Malo,” which sold over 300,000 copies.
A short three years later, he released "Cosa Nuestra," featuring Héctor Lavoe, a well- known salsa singer from Puerto Rico. The cover for "Cosa Nuestra" provocatively shows Colón standing over a dead body about to be tossed to sea. It was taken at the base of New York's beloved Brooklyn Bridge, along the East River on the Manhattan side.
Visiting the Brooklyn Bridge
Whether on a bike or by foot, the Brooklyn Bridge has provided a safe and scenic passage for tourists and locals traveling between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan for over 130 years.
Hoofing it, you can cross the bridge in 30 minutes, but at a slower pace it can take up to an hour. If you end up on the Brooklyn side of the bridge, spend some time exploring Brooklyn's DUMBO, a neighborhood famous for its cobblestone streets, cafes, restaurants and high-end boutiques.