On October 25th 2013 Damien Hirst’s 22nd record cover for Babyshambles’ “Fall From Grace”, the band’s second single from their “Sequel to the Prequel” album was released on September 2nd 2013. The album cover as well as both singles had cover design by Hirst, who with this latest cover passed the number of covers designed by Sir Peter Blake. Depending a little on how one defines a Peter Blake cover, Blake has produced 21 covers in the 47 years since Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released in 1967. This cover was, of course, designed by Blake and his then wife Jann Haworth – and so should be regarded as a joint effort. The cover for Madness’ limited edition CD version of “Oui, Oui, Si, Si, Ja, Ja, Da, Da” has him pictured on the cover, but the design is by Paul Agar with photography by Perou.
I do not suppose many would argue with me if I suggest that much of Damien Hirst’s art is ugly. Dissected animals or fish in formalin tanks, skulls (even when encrusted with diamonds) do not appear beautiful to these eyes. And Damien Hirst’s record covers fit the mould. His first record cover art was for Dave Stewart’s “Greetings From the Gutter” released in 1994. Hirst’s first covers are really unremarkable – the six variously coloured gas tubes with tubing attached on the Dave Stewart album and the dissection of an egg by two rubber-gloved hands on the “Heart of Stone” single from Stewart’s album are hardly design masterpieces. These are followed by Hirst’s ugliest covers; the CD for Fat Les’ “Vindaloo” with foldout poster and “Yalla Yalla” the single from Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros’ album “Rock Art & The X-ray Style” from 1999. For the album, Hirst drew a series of matchstick men reminiscent of stone-age cave paintings or aboriginal art and these figures appeared on the “Bankrobber 99” promotional single as well.
In 2006, Hirst became manager for the band The Hours and designed the covers for their first album “Narcissus Road” and the singles taken from it; “Ali in the Jungle” and “Back When You Were Good”. These were released on the A & M label.
Hirst made a limited edition of 210 spin-painted skulls as holders for the CD retailing at a cool £4,500 each!
Hirst then started his own record label “Is Good” and The Hours’ second album “See the Light” was released on the label, again with cover art by him. The album was released on gatefold vinyl and a double 12″ single “See the Light” was also released. And, as had been for the singles from “Narcissus Road”, each was decorated with more of Hirst’s skull designs.
In February 2008 the cover of TAR Magazine used Damien Hirst’s portrait of Kate Moss where the right side of her face was dissected down to the muscles. The following year, Hirst released a white vinyl, one-sided 12″ single with the same image on the cover. Hirst’s given name was misspelt on the record label: “Damian”. The single was released in a numbered edition of 666 copies and is currently very sought after.
Hirst’s next cover “I’m With You” for The Red Hot Chili Peppers (2011) revisited two of his earlier subjects, drugs represented by a coloured capsule and decay, represented by a single fly on the capsule.
Hirst designed the cover for the band 30 Seconds to Mars’ fourth album “Love Lust Faith & Dreams” in May 2013 and used his polka dot pattern. The album was released on CD and vinyl and in a limited edition boxed set with the LP, a double CD, a book and four prints.
Later the same year Hirst designed the covers for Babyshambles’ “Sequel to the Prequel” album and the two singles released from it that autumn; “Nothing Comes From Nothing” and “Fall From Grace”. According to Babyshambles’ bassist Drew McConnell reported in NME: “It happened kind of naturally and in the spirit you’d hope for. We asked Damien to suggest someone to put something together, then to our amazement he offered to do it himself. The fact that he used a pic taken by Pennie Smith, who shot all those iconic photos of The Clash (Damien’s old pal Joe Strummer’s band), just makes it make even more sense.”
So those are Damien Hirst’s first 22 covers from his first twenty years of record cover design 1994 – 2013.
And, as is my wont, I’ll list one cover ascribed to Damien Hirst that is not by him. According to Wikipedia Hirst did prepare a design for the cover for the Band Aid 20 single “Do They Know It’a Christmas?”. His design showing the grim reaper and a starving child was considered too scary and was dropped. Mat Maitland at Big Active, a designer in his own right who has designed covers for Michael Jackson and others was commissioned to design the replacement. Rumour has it that Hirst released a limited edition print of his design for the cover. But I have, thus far, not been able to find one.