Sex Sells #18: 120 Cheesecake Album Covers

Way back when, I published a post on the topic of cheesecake album covers and, well, I figured it was worth covering again. The recent Rolling Stone magazine cover featuring Lady Gaga in a bra and panties proves (as if we need proof) the adage that ‘sex sells’ is alive and well.

Interestingly enough, most of the records that employed the ‘sex sells’ approach in the 60s and 70s were NOT pop and rock artists, but rather easy listening LPs and compilation LPs. Why would that be?

I think reason number one is that rock musicians felt they were “above it” – the use of sex to sell their art was tacky; the music should stand alone, and shouldn’t need a woman on the cover to sell it. And, truth be told, it probably wouldn’t have. A Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Zeppelin or Floyd album isn’t going to move off the shelves any quicker with a hot chick on the sleeve.

You can look at it in terms of brand loyalty: kids will buy the newest Who or Skynyrd album regardless of how it’s packaged. In contrast, the newest Enoch Light instrumental LP is going to need some extra help. Thus, the cheesecake album cover was born.

It’s not that the covers were polishing a turd; many of these albums were quite good. But, let’s face it, the new trumpet album by Al Hurt isn’t exactly Dark Side of the Moon. Your options are either (1) pray to God that there’s a surprise hit on this album a la Paul Mauriat’s “Love Is Blue” or (2) slap a chick in go-go boots and a miniskirt on the cover. Either way will work.

In the case of compilation albums, you have two basic choices of what to put on your cover: (1) a cheap design with a small mosaic depicting the various artists featured on the album, or (2) a smoking hot babe. K-Tel chose the former, and Top of the Pops (and hundreds of imitators) did the latter to great success.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, it’s amazing how strange niches in retro culture have exploded thanks to blogs. I can remember back around 2005 looking on the Internet with a friend in search of bad album covers to laugh at (yes, we were that bored). There were a couple of places with a handful, bizarrerecords.com comes to mind. But, overall, to find a site devoted to records at all, bad, good or otherwise, was a challenge.

Not so today. I stand in amazement at all the old album covers that are being posted on blogs around the world. Hell, there’s even a one devoted to bizarre Argentinean records! A guy like me is like a kid in a candy store, and bit overwhelmed with it all.

I decided to put together another slideshow of some great cheesecake album covers from yesteryear, and chose mostly albums that I think aren’t familiar to everyone. So, without further explanation, enjoy the show!

Don’t forget to hit the icon on the lower right to expand to full screen (hit escape to return to Retrospace).


  1. AnonymousJuly 18, 2010

    At the Hard Rock Cafe in Cleveland, I once sat under Lita Ford's underwear (in a frame, of course.)

  2. That sure looks like Barbara Feldon on that Polka A-Go-Go cover.

  3. I did a double take when I saw "Cum On Feel the Noize" on the same album as "Dueling Banjos," "Love Train," and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon." I had no idea that the famous Quiet Riot track was a cover!

    Gilligan, you are providing me a pop culture education.

  4. What is interesting is that you see the same type of covers in old Salsa or "merengue" album covers in latin music.

  5. Okay. For people who don't know me, I'm on a mission from god to be the official idiot--thus saving anyone else from looking like an idiot....These Top of the Pops LPs are instrumental covers, in the style we used to call--back in the day--"easy listening" (or "elevator music" when we felt less charitable)? Excuse me for asking, but--for the love of the god in whom I don't believe--who on earth would want an easy listening instrumental of "I Hate Mondays"? And as a previous poster pointed out, the audience for this kind of music (besides the Otis Elevator people), they're going to grab the album, squealing "Cum on Feel the Noize! I thought the Pops would NEVER do this one! And look! Puppy Love! I've GOT to have this record!"

    But I just love the naked family in the movie theater. Don't get me wrong, I think the picture is completely creepy--but it's a wonderful illustration at the impossibility of defining "indecent" and "obscene" as you get closer & closer to the lines. And using it to sell a record? "What the heck is this? Never heard of them....Wait a minute! There's a naked family on the cover! I'm gonna buy TWO copies!"

    Apropos of nothing, don Gilligan, but do you remember posting some time ago a VERY hot album cover, staring Irish McCalla, titled something horrid like "Music for Big Dame Hunters"? Believe it or don't, you can buy mp3s of the tunes on that album at Amazon. Sadly, the Irish McCalla dust jacket appears lost in the internet archives of history.....

  6. sorry bill-the top of the pops albums are not instrumental versions they are recorded by session men check out this site for info http://www.freewebs.com/toppopper/