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Car-themed album cover art

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Hey Little Cobra was on the Billboard charts for 14 weeks in 1964 and the song peaked at number 4. Photos by author.

Cars have been sporadically used as the subjects of album cover art by artists in various music genres for more than half a century. It was arguably most popular in the 1960s when groups like The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, The Rip Chords and many more, recorded songs about hot rods, factory-built dragstrip terrors and specialty-built supercars and employed examples of them on their album covers.

According to my kids, the price hikes I see on the Internet and the fact that new albums and reissues of certain classic albums can be found in mall music stores, vinyl is enjoying a renaissance. Why some like the snaps, crackles and pops associated with vinyl I’m sure can be debated vigorously, but I’m not a fan of the sounds produced by dust and scratches accompanying the music. I do, however, appreciate what albums offered, but went missing with tapes, CDs and digital downloads.

Lost was having the art presented in a large format due to the album’s cover size, the sleeve art, and in some cases printed lyrics, posters and other promotional items. I know some CDs came with interesting booklets with lyrics included, but by-and-large I felt that though the tapes’ and CDs’ small sizes were a great  advantage for transporting them and for in-car use, it made them too small to convey the same impact with regard to their cover art.

If you’re into cars, vintage album covers that featured them can make stylish display items even if you don’t listen to the music because the vinyl inside maybe too beat up to do so. Despite the fact that vinyl may be “back,” there are still tons of albums out there that are very cheap to buy, especially if the record and cover aren’t perfect, or possibly even good.

Hot rod album art

It’s interesting to listen to The Rip Chords’ versions of some of the additional popular car songs on the album and then compare them to the recordings other artists of the era released of the same ones.

Case in point, my latest purchase—Hey Little Cobra and other Hot Rod Hits by The Rip Chords. Yes, the cover of this 1964 release is rough, and the masking tape with “25” on it is welded to it, probably from some 1970s garage sale. The vinyl? Not good. But does the cover look great on a shelf for display? I think so. And it cost me 69 cents, so I think I’ll be able to absorb the financial burden. Ten or twenty more car-imaged album covers and maybe I’ll fill a wall with them. Great…I just found something else to collect while I should be working on my cars.

Tell us about your favorite car-themed album covers. Did you once own them? Do you still have them? If so, you may want to dig them out for display.