From the strange to the hilarious to the outright wrong...

17:20 8th July 2008

We've already shown you the best, the worst and the most controversial album covers of all time, now it's time for Gigwise to unveil the Weirdest! Here are 50 of the most strange, ridiculous or just plain grotesque album covers that we've ever set our eyes on. Some of you may find a few of them slightly disturbing – you have been warned!

  • 50. Wire: 'Take a Terrifying Trip to the Past!' - A bootleg release from a show at the Palais des Artes, Montreaux in 1979, we only wish that Wire's official albums had covers as disturbing and gloriously weird as this. A sleeve that's nothing short of genius... whoever made it.

  • 49. Ben Arthur: 'Edible Darling' – Like something lifted straight from the Little Shop of Horrors, folk singer Ben Arthur's cover is basically a grinning tomato complete with dazzling white teeth. An impressively weird image, we're damn certain that the tomato in question has had his teeth bleached.

  • 48. The Doors: 'Strange Days' – Photographer Joel Brodsky originally wanted Jim Morrison and the band on the cover, but the frontman refused. Instead, Brodsky opted to do something completely different and drafted in an acrobat, two dwarves, a strongman, a juggler and a trumpet player for this highly curious image captured in a New York street.

  • 47. The Flaming Lips: 'Oh My Gawd' – A collage of seemingly unconnected photographs and cartoons that centres on two giant skulls, the artwork to 1987's 'Oh My Gawd' may be nonsensical, but it's also extremely likeable. Just like The Flaming Lips themselves really.

  • 46. Picastro: 'Whore Luck' – A simple pencil drawing, on first glance it looks as though the cover the Canadian band's 2007 album is just a couple kissing. On closer impression though, their faces are disturbingly merged into one indistinguishable mess. At the centre it almost resembles female genitalia. Very weird.

  • 45. The Cranberries: 'Bury The Hatchet' - Voted one of the worst albums of all time by a rival publication, we'd hasten to disagree with them; but it's surely one of the weirdest. Designer Storm Thorgerson depicted a massive floating eye looking down upon a naked figure cowering in the desert. It's just as striking as it is strange. A shame the music is completely forgettable though.

  • 44. Penguin Café Orchestra: 'Signs of Life' – As their name suggests, this vast musical collective are obsessed with the flightless birds. So much so, that all of their album sleeves feature bizarre penguin/human hybrids going about everyday situations. This one is our favourite, thanks to the penguin-headed monkey with a gun. Genius.

  • 43. Genesis: 'Nursery Cryme' – They've produced some seriously deranged music in their time (especially when Peter Gabriel was still a member until 1975), so it's perfectly natural that their artwork is twisted too. 1971's 'Nursery Cryme' was designed by Paul Whitehead and recreated themes within some of the album's songs – presumably about clubbing baby dolls' heads. Hmm.

  • 42. Bjork: 'Volta' – The Icelandic singer is completely off-kilter and unpredictable in everything she does, so it's only natural that the artwork to 'Volta' is stark-raving bonkers too (differing greatly from her more serious previous efforts). Exactly what she's wearing is a mystery, but one thing's for sure; we love it.

  • 41. Debbie Harry: 'Koo Koo' - In 1981, while still in Blondie, Debbie Harry drafted in Swiss artist H R Giger to design the sleeve for 'Koo Koo' after seeing his work on the movie Alien. The resulting image featured the singer with skewers through her face. Unsurprisingly it was pulled from a number of advertising campaigns, including on the London underground. Kebab anyone?

  • 40. Led Zeppelin: 'Houses of the Holy' - Best enjoyed when the gatefold vinyl cover is fully spread out, the ambiguous, nymph-like crawling children, the orange Mars-esque glow and the scene of Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland combine to mark a strikingly original work. Another of Storm Thorgerson's outlandish creations.

  • 39. The Billy Cobham, George Duke Band: 'Live On Tour In Europe' - Unlike others on the list that exhibit a certain seriousness and gravity, this is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Basically Cobham and Duke's heads suspended on walking hands, we at Gigwise want to know exactly what drugs this duo were taking on their travels.

  • 38. Elephant's Memory: 'Elephant's Memory' – The band performed live with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the 1970's, but before this in 1969 they unveiled this curious album. The sleeve depicts the band in tribal paints superimposed onto an elephant's body. Unlike elephants, you're unlikely to forget seeing it in a hurry.

  • 37. J-Zone: 'Music For Tu Madre' – The rapper, producer and DJ may be a talented artist, but he clearly doesn't take himself too seriously with releases like 'A Bottle of Whupp Ass EP' under his belt. His inane 1999 debut album features the most memorable artwork though – basically an alcoholic OAP with anger management issues.

  • 36. Cloud Cult: 'Advice From The Baby Hippopotamus' – We could have included a host of futuristic, acid-tinged artwork on this countdown, but frankly there were too many to choose from. So we've opted for this low-key 2004 release which seems to pay homage to themes of outlandish prog-rock albums of the past.

  • 35. Gerhard Polt: 'Leberkas Hawaii' – A multi-talented Bavarian (as well as a singer, Polt is an actor, film-maker and writer), clearly graphic design isn't one of his strong points. A bizarre mish-mash of Gerhard's head on a plate of food, it's nonsensical and dire. Best stick to the day job my friend.

  • 34. Cerrone 3: 'Supernature' – A collection of disco tunes from the late seventies, it features a smartly dressed chap in front of an operating table with three surgeons wearing animal masks cowering behind him. Exactly how this bares an correlation to the music it contains is a mystery.

  • 33. Little Feat: 'Down On The Farm' – Farm life; it conjures up images of idyllic green meadows and cute animals grazing on the grass. Not in Little Feat's world though. Instead we get are tarted up, slut of a duck showing her high heels and suspenders by the edge of a swimming pool. And a tiger in the background for good measure too.

  • 32. Peter Gabriel: ' III' – English designer Storm Thorgerson (the man behind Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon) created this curious image for the former Genesis man's 1980 album. Basically a Polaroid photo that has been tampered with, Thorgerson claims that neither he or Gabriel can remember who actually manipulated the photograph.

  • 30. CocoRosie: 'Noah's Ark' - To cut costs, many of these lo-fi indie types who are unlikely to shift many units keep things simple with their album artwork. In 2006, CocoRosie released this watercolour doodle featuring three unicorns apparently shagging each other simultaneously, with the front animal spewing some kind of magical rainbow sick.

  • 29. Jo Jo Gunne: 'Jumpin' The Gunne' – From the front sleeve alone, there's nothing too weird about this; it simply looks like four people sharing a bed (well not too weird anyway). Open up the gatefold though and it unveils an obese woman straddling thin air. An absolutely bonkers cover.

  • 28. The Mars Volta: 'DeLoused In The Crematorium' – Arguably the only person who could create something just as weird as The Mars Volta's sprawling music is Storm Thorgerson. An astoundingly brilliant cover, their subsequent album sleeves have been good but they've never topped this 2003 debut.

  • 27. Queensrÿche: 'Hear In The Now Frontier' – Most of their other album sleeves are standard rock fodder, but Queensrÿche pulled out the stops with this 1997 album. Basically five pickled ears spread across an American desert, it harks back to weird prog-rock sleeves from yesteryear.

  • 26. Fist: 'Goodbody’s Traveling Torture Show' – Some of the covers on this list are weird in a good way. This one, however, is a touch frightening. Not because it's a man in drag, but due to the menacing look on his face and the whip he's ominously holding in his hand. Oh and it's called a 'Torture Show' too.

  • 25. Swamp Dogg: 'Rat On!' - While some of his recent releases have been controversial (one album featured a mock crucifixion), back in 1971 soul star Swamp Dogg was more at home being comical. Equally terrible as it is brilliant, the bizarre 'Rat On!' sleeve features our protagonist sitting on a giant laboratory rat. Weird is an understatement.

  • 23. Aphex Twin: 'Come To Daddy' - Just like his 'Windowlicker EP', 1997's 'Come To Daddy' features seriously twisted artwork. On this one, Aphex Twin himself Richard D James' face is pasted onto school children, making for a highly potent image. However, it doesn't come anywhere close to the promo video in the weirdness stakes, which features a monster screaming into a granny's face.

  • 22. Naked City: 'Grand Guignol' - The experimental jazzcore group are notorious for their hard-hitting sleeves and this 1992 release is probably the pick of the bunch. The album has 41 tracks spread over 62 minutes, some of which are just screams; sounds that perfectly complement the decapitated skull on the record cover.

  • 20. Blue Oyster Cult: 'Heaven Forbid' – When the veteran American rock outfit decided to release their first album in a decade back in 1998, they unleashed this monster of a sleeve. Featuring a half mutilated face and a woman screaming in the background, it perfectly complimented the lyrics on the album which were partially written by horror author John Shirley.

  • 19. Emerson, Lake & Palmer: 'Tarkus' - One of the most pretentious sleeves of the prog-rock era (and that's saying something), it depicts Tarkus, a half armadillo/half tank creation born from an egg that erupted from a volcano. The creature is meant to embody war and the power of the military, so in the inside sleeve of the gatefold it does battle with other mechanical beings. Carl Palmer from the trio later called the inside sleeve "a mistake." He wasn't wrong.

  • 18. Hella: 'Acoustics' – On first glance, the cover to this 2006 acoustic EP looks like a lump of shit. Thankfully, on closer inspection it actually turns out to be melted chocolate complete with cute eyes and a nose. Far from disgusting, but definitely very weird.

  • 16. Butthole Surfers: 'Hairway To Steven' - You've got to feel sorry for the man on the cover to the Butthole Surfers' 1988 album. Anyone who is made up of a tramp's head, ET's eyes and Jimmy Hill's chin has got to have some serious genetic defects. Unsurprisingly, like most bands with weird covers, Butthole Surfers are well known for these kind of crazy cover conglomerations. Just wait, for example, until you see their next entry in our list.

  • 15. Marilyn Manson: 'Mechanical Animals' - He's had a number of guises has our Brian, but none are as infamous as the androgynous look he adopted for this 1998 album. The rocker was covered in latex and given prosthetic breasts to create this eerie look. Manson has recently claimed that Johnny Depp is now the proud owner of the said breasts. The lucky man.

  • 14. Kjell Kraghe: 'Vind I Seglen' - Imagine taking acid on a Swedish beach and you suddenly take a turn for the worse. This is probably what you'd see; a weird grinning blonde man in Bo Selecta! style spectacles on the horizon. Unsurprisingly, this album was released long before Photoshop was invented.

  • 13. Twiztid: 'Freek Show' - They say you can't judge a book by it's cover - this may well be true, but you can certainly judge a Twiztid album. The hardcore rap group concocted a hideous sleeve to their 2000 album, much like the dubious quality of music it contains. This is the group's best selling album to date, thanks in no small part to the attention-grabbing artwork.

  • 12. Mike Terry: 'Live At The Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow' - We know very little about Mike Terry, or indeed his performance at The Pavilion Theatre back in the seventies, but frankly such facts are rendered irrelevant when you look at his garish, hideous and utterly bizarre record cover. Dame Edna Everage truly pales into insignificance compared to our Mike Terry.

  • 10. The Handsome Beasts: 'O4' - The Birmingham dad rock outfit were on our worst album covers countdown for the frankly disgusting 'Beastiality', now they've reared their ugly heads once again with this shocker of a sleeve. An array of animals, partially clothed females and the band's frontman spread across a lunar service, it's just plain terrible.

  • 9. Kevin Rowland: 'My Beauty' – Some of the covers on this countdown are truly unforgettable and this is certainly one of them. The former Dexy's man decided to show his effeminate side for the infamous 1999 covers album, but sadly it backfired badly. Admittedly the cover is genius in a twisted kind of way, but the fact remains that hardly anyone has actually been brave enough to buy it.

  • 7. Moving Gelatine Plates: 'The World Of Genius Hans' - If there was an award for the most stoned looking cow in the world, then the cow on the cover to 'The World Of Genius Hans' would take the prize. Complete with his own leather jacket and cravat, he's so off his head he can't keep his eyes open. Actually, maybe he's dead...

  • 6. Jim O'Rourke: 'Eureka' %u2013 A rotund bald man apparently pleasuring himself with a cuddly toy rabbit. Very strange indeed. How Jim O'Rourke came up with the eureka moment of having this as the cover to his 1999 Drag City release we may never know.

  • 5. Cattle Decapitation: 'Humanure' - Almost the deranged cousin of Pink Floyd's 'Atom Heart Mother', instead of a pleasant moo cow in a green field, 'Humanure' features a cow shitting out human remains on a barren wasteland. Tasteless and extremely weird, we should have expected it really from a band dubbed Cattle Decapitation.

  • 4. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band: 'Trout Mask Replica' - The 1969 masterpiece isn't only enduring because of the mind-blowing, experimental music it contains; nope, the cover is also entrenched in its legacy. Designed by long-term Beefheart collaborator Cal Schenkel - a man renowned for his absurd artwork - the trout mask image is sheer magic.

  • 3. Little Richard Miller: 'Born Without Arms and Legs' %u2013 Little Richard Millar was a devout Christian who could play the organ and guitar with his partially formed appendages. Impressive we're sure you'll agree. Yet the fact that this record is called 'Jesus Use Me' and has a floating Christ looking compassionately down on Miller, it has a disturbing edge.

  • 2. Butthole Surfers: 'Double Live' %u2013 This live album, released in 1989, was given an extremely limited run - 10,000 vinyl printings, 7,500 cassettes, and 4,750 CDs to be precise. Sadly, however, those who didn't buy the album before it went out of print are still left with the shocking cover. It begs the question %u2013 if this overgrown foetus was onstage and you were in the front row, would you hold your hand out?

  • 1. Xiu Xiu: 'A Promise' - A baby doll. A naked man. A bed. Three items that should go never together but, worryingly, all feature on the cover to Xiu Xiu's 'A Promise'. Whatever possessed this band to have this cover we'll never know %u2013 it is one of the most disturbing things we've ever seen. Even for a band that is famous for writing lyrics about such topics as AIDS, suicide and other morose subjects, this cover takes some beating in the weirdness ranking.

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