I fought the law and the law won

“Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?…  I’m goin’ down to shoot my old lady, I caught her messing ’round with another man… Hey Joe, I heard you shot your lady Hey-Joe-Stone-Free-Singolo-45-Giri-Jimi-hendrix-vinile-lp2down, shot her down to the ground…  Yes, I did, I shot her, you know I caught my old lady messing ’round town, and I gave her the gun, I shot her!…”

For at least a hundred years, probably longer, songs of many genres have been written about jealous men shooting their cheating women (or their lovers, or both) in arguably justifiable “crimes of passion.”  Perhaps most familiar is “Hey Joe,” whose origin is murky but seems to have been written in the 1950s, recorded by dozens of artists, and made most famous by Jimi Hendrix on his 1967 LP “Are You Experienced?”

It’s merely one example of how the old bromide “Crime doesn’t pay” certainly doesn’t hold true when it comes to popular music.

Hundreds of songs about crime — blues, hard rock, country, rap, folk, pop — have been cairnes-colt-gun-guitar02written that feature outlaws, thieves and serial killers and the broad array of awful things they do.  Some are based on true stories; some offer disturbing images of unspeakable acts; some are sad tales of accidental shootings resulting in prison terms.

Some are even written with an almost happy-go-lucky slant and turned into Top Ten confections that sell millions.  Take, for instance, “Indiana Wants Me,” a 1970 pop hit about a man who killed another man and went on the lam from the authorities.  He 1200x630bb-10regrets his act, if only because he knows it will mean separation from the woman he loves.

The Steve Miller Band wrote “the story about Billy Joe and Bobbie Sue,” two madcap felons “with nothing better to do” who got away with murder and robbery, and turned it into a hit called “Take the Money and Run” in 1976.

Even the peace-and-love Beatles came up with “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” a silly throwaway on 1969’s “Abbey Road” about an unhinged fellow who delights in killing people with hammer blows to their heads.

The late weird genius Warren Zevon became known as the “Excitable Boy” for the title 71uE8bn8X7L._SX355_track of his top-selling 1978 LP.  That song whimsically describes the boy’s escalation from rubbing pot roast on his chest to biting the theater usherette’s leg, to eventually raping and murdering a girl and then digging up her grave to build a cage with her bones.  Charming little ditty…

And those are just a few of the lighthearted ones.  It was challenging indeed to try to whittle down the voluminous list of “criminal songs” to about two dozen for this blog post and playlist.  But I’ve made my selections, and added a healthy gang of “honorable mentions” afterwards, and as usual, you’ll find a Spotify playlist at the end as a soundtrack to your reading pleasure.


51Cv700H1UL._SX355_“I Fought the Law,” Bobby Fuller Four, 1966, The Clash, 1977

The moral of the story here is crystal clear:  Break the law, you go to jail.  But talk about a creepy coincidence:  Texas native Bobby Fuller put together a foursome and recorded the regional favorite “I Fought the Law” in 1966, turned it into a Top Ten nationwide hit and, only six months later, was found dead in his mother’s garage from asphyxiation.  Suicide or homicide?  We’ll never know.  England’s punk heroes The Clash found success with their more aggressive cover of the song, which brought them a US audience in 1979.

Glenn_Frey_-_Smuggler's_Blues“Smuggler’s Blues,” Glenn Frey, 1984

As music videos took center stage in popularizing songs in the 1980s, former Eagle Glenn Frey (who passed away in 2016) wrote, produced, and starred in “Smuggler’s Blues,” an award-winning work that ended up as the inspiration for an entire episode of the “Miami Vice” TV show.  The lyrics tell the story of a drug deal gone awry, and the life-changing consequences for everyone involved:  “It’s a losing proposition, but one you can’t refuse, it’s there politics of contraband, it’s the smuggler’s blues…”

“Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash, 1969

R-5030921-1382615509-7462.jpegCountry musicians haven’t been the least bit shy about writing songs about outlaws, thievery and love gone horribly wrong.  From Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” and George Jones’ “Still Doin’ Time” up through the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Five Finger Discount,” country music fans have always cherished the songs that canonized gun-toting folks who felt the need to settle scores “because he needed killin’.”  Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” which combined the metaphors of trains and prisons in one memorable track about a cold-blooded killer who “shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” reached #1 on the country charts in 1968.

“Robbery, Assault and Battery,” Genesis, 1976

robberyPhil Collins, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford and Steve Hackett had their hands full as they prepared material for the first Genesis album without their former front man Peter Gabriel.  One tune Collins wrote, “Robbery, Assault and Battery,” recalled his days as a young actor playing the Artful Dodger in a London stage production of “Oliver Twist.”  But the song took the crimes much further, from picking pockets to murder, still gleefully escaping the reach of the law, at least for now:  “I’ve got clean away, but I’ll be back someday…  Some day they’ll catch me, to a chain they’ll attach me, until that day, I’ll ride the old crime wave…”

“Midnight Rambler,” The Rolling Stones, 1969

530f7b6bbb80f_300_sqIn the ’60s, The Stones encouraged the perpetuation of their bad boy image with references to Satan (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and violent crime (“Gimme Shelter”).  One of their more notorious efforts is “Midnight Rambler,” which uses the example of the so-called “Boston Strangler” of 1966 to paint a harrowing picture of a madman on the loose, possibly in your neighborhood.  The studio version on 1969’s “Let It Bleed” is pretty great, but the live version on 1970’s “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” is superior.

002424“I Shot the Sheriff,” Bob Marley and The Wailers, 1973

This classic reggae tune by the late great Bob Marley has an unusual twist:  The narrator freely admits to killing the (corrupt) local sheriff but professes innocence regarding the death of his deputy.  Guitar hero Eric Clapton turned The Wailers’ obscure track into a #1 hit in 1974.  Decades later, when rapper Ice-T took a lot of heat for his incendiary song “Cop Killer,” he cited “I Shot the Sheriff” as proof of society’s hypocrisy that neither Marley nor Clapton ever faced the same outrage.

maxresdefault-18“Don’t Take Me Alive,” Steely Dan, 1976

From as early as 1972’s “Do It Again” (“In the morning you go gunnin’ for the man who stole your water…”) through 2000’s twisted “Cousin Dupree” (“What’s so strange about a down-home family romance?…”), Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were infamous for writing lyrics populated by felons, weirdos, pedophiles and outcasts.  In “Don’t Take Me Alive,” the narrator has killed his low-life father and has no intention of turning himself in (“Got a case of dynamite, I could hold out here all night…”)

“Miguel,” Gordon Lightfoot, 1971

hqdefault-9The legendary Canadian troubadour did wondrous things with this melodic piece of Spanish guitar folk music that tells the tragic story about Miguel, a Mexican who sneaks across the border to see his true love and avenge his mother’s broken heart at the hands of a deserting father.  Miguel also shoots the lawman who came to capture him, and Miguel ultimately dies as well.  In this tale, revenge is definitely not sweet.   

“Ride Like the Wind,” Christopher Cross, 1980

R-2724911-1349521796-5725.jpegCross burst on the scene in 1980 with this #2 hit, another murderer-on-the-lam vignette.  The first-person narrator laments that he was “born the son of a lawless man who always spoke my mind with a gun in my hand.”   He was accused, tried and sentenced to death… but he “never was the kind to do as I was told, gonna ride like the wind before I get old…”  The galloping musical arrangement underscored the sense of urgency in the man’s race to reach Mexico before being captured.

R-9763215-1485973867-7424.jpeg“Jailbreak,” Thin Lizzy, 1976

“Tonight there’s gonna be trouble, some of us won’t survive, see, the boys and me mean business, bustin’ out dead or alive…”  It’s unclear just what crimes they committed that landed them in jail, but the point here for songwriter Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy is that “the boys and me” are serious tough guys who don’t intend to sit rotting in jail for even one more day.  The hard rock song remains a staple on classic rock playlists many decades later.

ROCK_805-2“Nebraska,” Bruce Springsteen, 1982

After five albums full of songs about exuberance, lust, hopes and dreams, Springsteen threw his audience a curve ball with the album “Nebraska,” full of criminals and losers facing bleak, dead-end existences.  At the top of the list was the man in the title track, fashioned after the real serial killer Charles Starkweather, a Nebraskan who killed 11 people in the 1950s before being executed in 1959.  The album, sparsely recorded by Springsteen at home alone on a four-track cassette recorder, also included crime-related pieces like “Johnny 99,” “Highway Patrolman” and “State Trooper.”

“Bloodbath in Paradise,” Ozzy Osbourne, 1989

220px-No_rest_for_the_wickedLeave it to that unpredictable psycho Ozzy to write a lurid hard rock song blatantly depicting the infamous crimes of Charles Manson and his “family” 20 years after they took place in the Hollywood Hills.  Manson may be dead now, but thanks to tracks like this one, the gut-wrenching murders live on.  In case you’d forgotten, here’s a snippet to turn your stomach:  “There’s blood on the walls when Charlie and the family make house calls, if you’re alone, then watch what you do, ’cause Charlie and the family might get you, can you hear them in the darkness, helter skelter, spiral madness, bloodbath in paradise…”

“Murder By Numbers,” The Police, 1983

maxresdefault-19The most chilling thing about this compelling song (found as a bonus track on The Police’s final LP “Synchronicity”) is how it offers a virtual manifesto for how easy it is to turn murder into an art form “if you’ve made a stone of your heart and your hands are willing.”  The lyrics explain that there’s no need for bloodshed if you merely slip a tablet into someone’s coffee.  It goes on to suggest, “If you have a taste for this experience… then you must try a twosome or a threesome… it’s a habit-forming need for more and more…”  Hmmm.  Makes me wonder whether some of these shooters today grew up listening to this track over and over…


Songs about mentally ill loners who kill innocent people are almost too numerous to mention.  Sad to say, these curious, dangerous types have always made fascinating subjects for songs, films and books.  In the popular music arena of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, I have singled out these riveting tracks:    

psycho_killer_poster_new“Psycho Killer,” Talking Heads, 1976

When David Byrne wrote this quirky song back in 1974 “because the villains were always the more interesting characters,” he envisioned Alice Cooper doing a Randy Newman-type ballad about a murderer.  By the time it was released on the Talking Heads’ debut LP in 1977, many erroneously assumed it referred to the so-called “Son of Sam” killings in New York City that year.  The translated lyrics (partly in French) tell the story pretty clearly:  “What I did that evening, what she said that evening, fulfilling my hope, headlong I go toward glory…”

maxresdefault-20“Ticking,” Elton John, 1974

Elton’s lyricist Bernie Taupin intended for his fictional antihero to earn our pity as a misunderstood, troubled kid whose “brain just snapped” when he “went berserk in Queens” and murdered 14 people.  The dramatic, seven-minute track from the “Caribou” LP offers taut-nerve lyrics in which the killer is described as “an extremely quiet child” who wrestled with demons that no one paid attention to.  But they should’ve seen it coming, he believes:  “Hear it, hear it, ticking, ticking…”

1*5r1NwBOzlYYnqUNivLaRWg“Family Snapshot,” Peter Gabriel, 1980

This harrowing song from Gabriel’s third solo album (unofficially known as the “Melt” LP) takes the listener along on a ride through the warped mind of a lone assassin eager to pick off an unnamed politician as his campaign caravan travels by on a city street.  We learn his plan (“If things work out right, they won’t see me or the gun”), his irrational motive and need for fame (“There he is, the man of the hour, standing in the limousine, I don’t really hate you, I don’t care what you do, we were made for each other”), and even what likely caused his unraveling (“Come back Mum and Dad, you’re growing apart, you know that I’m growing up sad, I need some attention…”).

1bc845ee44fd92345c2b3f4cf3810521.1000x1000x1“Killer’s Eyes,” The Kinks, 1981

An attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981 was the impetus for Ray Davies’ song “Killer’s Eyes,” included on The Kinks’ “Give the People What They Want” LP that year.  Davies said he was among those who continually searched for answers as to why someone seeks to kill anyone, let alone a man of God who preaches world peace.  The song is written largely from the point of view of the assassin’s brokenhearted mother:  “We all go through hell in some kind of way, can you tell me what it’s like to be there every day, when you were young you had a vision, why’d you go and do a thing like that?…”

419JGQY6S2L“Sniper,” Harry Chapin, 1972

Chapin wrote long story-songs, and this interminable 10-minute treatise is a test of anyone’s endurance.  Although it doesn’t mention Charles Whitman by name, it’s clearly about the disturbed man who climbed a tower at the University of Texas in 1966 and murdered 16 innocents.  It’s not a great song, not by a long stretch, but it offers some constructive insights into the dysfunctional thinking of those who commit such acts:  “I am a lover who’s never been kissed… Listen you people, I’ve got a question, you won’t pay attention but I’ll ask anyhow, I found a way that will get me an answer, been waiting to ask you ’til now, right now!  Am I?…  You’ve given me my answer, can’t you see?  I was!  I am!  And now I will be!!…”


Honorable mention:

Down By the River,” Neil Young, 1969;  “Too Much Blood,” The Rolling Stones, 1983;  “Been Caught Stealing,” Jane’s Addiction, 1990;  “Crime of the Century,” Supertramp, 1974;  “Smooth Criminal,” Michael Jackson, 1987;  “Stagger Lee,” Lloyd Price, 1959;  “Let Him Dangle,” Elvis Costello, 1989;  “Machine Gun Kelly,” James Taylor, 1971;  “Bankrobber,” The Clash, 1980;  “Janie’s Got a Gun,” Aerosmith, 1989;  “Riders on the Storm,” The Doors, 1971;  “Thieves in the Temple,” Prince, 1990;  “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde,” Georgie Fame, 1967;  “Renegade,” Styx, 1978;  “The Killing of Georgie (Parts I & II),” Rod Stewart, 1976;  “Band on the Run,” Paul McCartney and Wings, 1973








Just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art

I’ve written before about album cover art — its beauty, its creativity, its shock value, its lasting durability.  Indeed, the covers of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” are almost as memorable as the music inside.

In the 1980s, for a relatively short period, there was a new option for rock music buyers: 17f1cd68-6130-43da-9e99-825e813b10a0the 12-inch single.  Many songs were released not only as traditional 7″ 45-rpm singles but also in a 12″ 33-1/3-rpm format, often containing several different mixes and extended versions of the song (ideal for use in dance clubs).

These products offered another great opportunity for the designers, photographers and art directors, who had been using album covers from the late ’60s and throughout the ’70s to stretch their wings and create arresting visuals as companions for the music.  Now, they could pour their energies into additional projects to help promote specific songs with still more eye-catching images.

Album cover art has endured for decades, even in its ineffectively smaller canvas on the front of CDs.  The artwork created for these 1980s 12″ singles, however, had a relatively short shelf life.  Unless you were a collector of this format (and not many Needle-Coverconsumers were), the single and its covers would be pulled from distribution once the song had completed its cycle of rising up and down the charts — probably six months at most.

I was recently gifted a fun coffee-table book called “Put the Needle on the Record” by Matthew Chojnacki, which is a collection of  250 examples of the artwork made for the 12″ singles of the Eighties.  There is some imaginative, startling stuff here that I think is worth sharing, because it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else.

Some artwork will look familiar because it borrows from the art of the accompanying album from which the single was pulled.  Some will be unfamiliar because the art has nothing to do with the art from the album cover.  And others will appear totally foreign to you because you’re unfamiliar with the group or artist.  All are, without question, products of the times — the MTV era, the big-hair era, the pretentious fashion era, the pre-PC era.

The book’s author has some interesting things to say about that period.  “It wasn’t just about the music; it was also about the art of the music.  What we saw was nearly as important as what we listened to.  Record sleeves and music videos inspired new and dramatic looks for our self-expressive Me Generation.  Music, lyrics, and fashion, together, revealed who we were or who we wanted to be.”

Below I’ve selected 20 of my favorites (the artwork, not necessarily the music) from the book, a cross-section of the kind of art forms, graphic designs and type faces that dominated the decade.


220px-She_Blinded_Me_with_Science“She Blinded Me With Science,” Thomas Dolby, 1982

Dolby was a nerdy-looking genius who collaborated with photographer Andrew Douglas on the art for his “She Blinded Me With Science” hit single.  “Douglas had an archive of clippings from the early 20th Century, one of which showed an odd horn-rimmed spectacle with a single lens,” he recalled.  “We merged the idea with a photo of the specs I wore at the time.  My imagination muses about the strange mutant who might wear such an item.”

9ff1798600e90f98a98f7586d360db0a“Rooms on Fire,” Stevie Nicks, 1989

Big poofy hair styles were the order of the day during the ’80s, not only for women but many men in “hair bands” as well.  Stevie Nicks’ hair was never quite as big as it appeared here on the cover of her 1989 single, “Rooms on Fire,” the successful hit from her album that year, “The Other Side of the Mirror,” which similar cover artwork.  Note the huge poofy shoulder pads as well, another sign of the times.

R-1421651-1228445377.jpeg“Let’s Go to Bed,” The Cure, 1986

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Robert Smith, who led The Cure from obscurity to great success on the British pop charts in the 1980s, was a leader in another important way:  He was a trailblazer of the “goth” subculture, particularly the look.  The all-black attire, hollowed-out eye makeup and frightening hair, adopted by many disaffected teens in the US and UK alike, is on full display on the 12″ single sleeve for The Cure’s “Let’s Go to Bed.”

118861290“When the Tigers Broke Free,” Pink Floyd, 1982

Here’s an example of how the artwork created for related movie promotional posters was re-used on 12″ single sleeves.  Gerald Scarfe, a British artist known for his work in The New Yorker, had created the art on the award-winning cover for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” LP in 1979, so three years later, for the release of “Pink Floyd — The Wall” movie, he was asked to expand on that visual look with a howling face in the throes of madness, and it was used for the single “When the Tigers Broke Free,” not part of the original LP but included in the film.

220px-Eurythmics_Revival“Revival,” Eurythmics, 1989

Throughout the ’80s, Eurythmics lead singer Annie Lennox was eager to create stunning visual imagery to go with the group’s innovative music.  “The intimate association between sound and vision can be powerful and profound,” she said.  “Images inform and assist in guiding you to whatever message is contained in the music.”  The intense closeup of Lennox’s eye on the 12-inch single sleeve for “Revival” suggests a much more alluring mood than the stark whiteface used on the companion LP, “We Too Are One.”

Unknown-26“Start Me Up,” The Rolling Stones, 1981

The front and back cover of The Stones’ “Tattoo You” LP in 1981 had mutated treatments of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, while the inner sleeve featured a bizarre shot of a deer leg wearing a high heeled shoe.  That same photo was lifted for use on the “Start Me Up” 12-inch single, which became a huge dance club hit as well as an international #1 pop hit.

220px-Metallica_-_One_cover“One,” Metallica, 1988

Heavy metal bands have always been big on ghoulish, violent images for its album covers, both in photography and in illustrations, and Metallica was no exception.  The cover art for the LP “And Justice For All,” which depicted the Statue of Liberty bound and tethered in ropes, was the model from which designers came up with a single mummified/skeletal figure to represent the single “One”, using the same logotype on both covers.

220px-Sunglasses_at_Night_(Corey_Hart_album_-_cover_art)“Sunglasses at Night,” Corey Hart, 1984

Beginning, I suppose, with Tom Cruise’s look in the film “Risky Business,” Wayfarers and Ray-Bans became required accessories for pretty boys in the movies and in rock.  Corey Hart took that a step further with the obvious hit “Sunglasses at Night,” and for the single cover, he added sunglasses to the same wardrobe he’d used on his accompanying album cover, 1984’s “First Offense.”

R-2143371-1269226987.jpeg“Tempted,” Squeeze, 1981

Instead of featuring a photo of the band members posing or performing, as they did for the album cover for “East Side Story,” this single used a compelling conceptual illustration by Patricia Dryden, depicting Adam and Eve’s temptation toward the apple in Eden.  Note, also, the clever way the word “Squeeze” pushes (or squeezes) the two “e”s together.

R-300091-1479653432-8952.jpeg“Rock the Casbah,” The Clash, 1982

One of the iconic British punk/rock bands of the ’70s and ’80s, The Clash was known to push boundaries with lyrics, live shows, and album artwork.  By 1982, they had learn to trust the work of designer Jules Balme, who came up with a provocative painting/live model rendering of an Arab sheik and a Jewish rabbi dancing together outside a casbah.  It’s far more interesting than the “Combat Rock” LP cover, a relatively bland shot of the group clowning around alongside railroad tracks.

R-1440619-1219896851.jpeg“Gone Daddy Gone,” The Violent Femmes, 1983

A 3-year-old girl named Billie Jo Campbell was randomly selected by photographer Ron Hugo one day in L.A. where she was walking with her mother.  She was persuaded to look in the door of a condemned old house to see what was in there, and Hugo quickly snapped the photo, which was used on The Violent Femmes’ 1983 single “Gone Daddy Gone.”  The Femmes were Wisconsin natives but never charted higher than the mid-50s in the US, although they managed better results in Australia and the UK.

220px-Prince_RaspBeret“Raspberry Beret,” Prince, 1985

“Around the World in a Day,” Prince’s follow-up to the megaplatinum “Purple Rain,” adopted a dense psychedelic style, and he wanted the corresponding album art to reflect that leaning.  Painter Doug Henders worked for months on the album’s unusual, stylized cover art, and the single sleeve for “Raspberry Beret” was cropped from that sprawling painting.

thecars_drivesingle_a725“Drive,” The Cars, 1984

The Cars’ fifth LP, 1984’s “Heartbeat City,” used the precise artwork of pop artist Peter Phillips, who gathered several iconic pop culture images, from muscle cars to the kind of buxom women he had illustrated for Playboy Magazine for years, and merged them in a flashy montage.  A spinoff of the cover, using a different color scheme, showed up on the sleeve for the hit single “Drive.”

lita-ford-back-to-the-cave-remix-rca“Back to the Cave,” Lita Ford, 1988

The Runaways were arguably the first all-female rock band, enjoying success in the second half of the ’70s employing a look of tough bad-ass girls.  When Joan Jett and then Lita Ford went solo in the ’80s, they so no reason to mess with that success, maintaining the tight-leather-and-lingerie look that apparently appealed to their target audience.  I doubt Ford’s cover for her “Back to the Cave” single would meet the approval of the #MeToo crowd today.

BornInTheUSAsinglecover“Born in the U.S.A.,” Bruce Springsteen, 1984

One of the most popular albums of the Eighties was Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” whose LP cover showed The Boss’s butt and a ball cap in front of a flag backdrop.  For the release of the title song as a single, they used another image from the same photo shoot, with Bruce leaping in the air with his guitar, also in front of a huge U.S. flag.  The album had seven Top Ten hit singles, each with its own distinct sleeve art.

Madness_-_Our_House“Our House,” Madness, 1982

One of England’s leading pop/ska bands of the late ’70s through the present day, Madness never caught on in the US, with one big exception:  They made it all the way to #7 in late 1982 with their melancholy single, “Our House.”  The band wanted a childlike piece of art for use on the single’s cover, but instead of lifting something by the likes of Andy Warhol or Peter Max, they chose to visit a local elementary school, surveyed the display walls in the art classroom, and selected six-year-old Karen Allen’s simple painting of her family’s house.

BILLY_JOEL_WE+DIDNT+START+THE+FIRE-502140“We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel, 1989

This #1 hit is teeming with lyrics that list various people, places and events that define post-World War II pop culture and current events.  I can’t think of a better concept for illustrating the single’s cover than with black-and-white type of all the song’s lyrics that resembles a news teletype or newspaper column.  Joel said he wrote it to dispute the fact that all of society’s ills had been created by the Baby Boom generation.

220px-Chaka_Khan_-_I_Feel_for_You“I Feel For You,” Chaka Khan, 1984

Khan, a major funk vocalist for many decades, was starting to peak with 1984’s LP “I Feel For You,” whose title single was the first R&B single to feature a rapper as well.  The striking hand-sketched chalk illustrations by Anne Field mimicked a popular aesthetic of early ’80s design, with bold colors and swirls indicated Khan in pensive thought (on the album) and in motion on stage (on the single).

516-E9oS7AL._SX355_“Mary, Mary,” Run-DMC, 1988

This early hip-hop group, who successfully merged rap and rock, are credited with creating the hip-hop fashion style that came to define the genre:  Huge ropy gold chains, oversized clothing, unlaced white Adidas sneakers and Kangol hats.  These all showed up on the “Mary, Mary” single sleeve, even more prominently than on the companion LP “Tougher Than Leather.”

Mjhm“Human Nature,” Michael Jackson, and “Heart Don’t Lie,” LaToya Jackson, 1983

“Thriller,” as everyone knows is one of top-selling albums of all time.  Released in late 1982, it spawned seven Top Unknown-24Ten hit singles between October 1982 and February 1984, and each 12-inch single sleeve featured a photo of Michael Jackson decked out in fashionable attire with his name and song title sharing the same cursive type face.  Jackson’s sister LaToya, struggling to succeed with her own career, released her own single concurrently with “Human Nature” and copied her brother’s fashion statement on the cover.