The internet just cannot stop eulogizing, analyzing, and generally fetishizing album covers. Arguably one of the great art forms of the previous century, LP sleeves are the subject of a thoughtful, well-edited video essay entitled “How The Beatles Changed Album Covers” by YouTuber Nerdwriter1, whose screen name seems rather like a self-fulfilling prophecy. In addition to videos about everything from Louis CK to Game Of Thrones, Nerdwriter1 has an entire series of educational clips about art and art history. “How The Beatles Changed Album Covers,” appropriately, is as much about art—specifically, consumer art—as it is about music. One of the main themes of the video is that the album cover’s true importance is as a tangible object, something which fans can collect and hold onto, even though music itself is both invisible and intangible. The essayist gives viewers a thumbnail history of LP covers, including a nod to graphic designer Alex Steinweiss, who was a pioneer in the use of album covers as a means of artistic expression, beginning in the late 1930s.
Nerdwriter1 cleverly and succinctly demonstrates how The Beatles’ innovative album covers document the band’s extraordinary evolution during the 1960s, from the friendly, smiling Mop Tops of Please Please Me, which the essayist describes as a “personality cover,” to the dour-looking fouresome depicted on Beatles For Sale. Even the title of the latter album indicates how keenly aware the Fabs were of their own status as commodities to be bought and sold. As the group’s music became more ambitious and experimental, so did its covers, such as those for Rubber Soul and Revolver. The main focus, however, of “How The Beatles Changed Album Covers” is 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its Peter Blake-designed sleeve, which Nerdwriter1 describes as “the Holy Grail of album covers.” With its wild juxtaposition of gurus, movie stars, singers, philosophers, and other notables, the Sgt. Pepper’s cover “signal[s] the breakdown and mixing of high and low culture,” a phenomenon which The Beatles themselves embodied more than any other band of the era.