Not every rock star is a musician. Some don’t even say an actual word, let alone sing a note. Yet, the rock-and-roll icon status is indisputable among the following females who emblazon landmark album covers. Their images exude the ideas and energy of the music contained within, as well as each embodying a very specific time and place in rock history.
Still, while fans may obsess over chords and lyrics and who played what instrument on which track, the facts regarding many of rock’s most toweringly totemic album-topping sirens remain unknown or unsung.
Let us now lift the veil, then, and crack open the backstories of 15 iconic women on classic rock album covers.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (1970)
The mystery woman on the cover of Black Sabbath’s debut remains just that—a mystery. Her green-tinted skin, witchy frock, and (super)naturally radiant air of high spookery all serve brilliantly to make her stand out against the already sufficiently creepy 15th century Mapledurham Watermill. She may or may not also be holding a black cat. From the photo’s overall look, though, it seems just as likely this sorceress had suddenly just shape-shifted herself from being a black cat.
Rumors have abounded through the years as to the woman’s identity. For a time, it was thought to be drummer Bill Ward’s wife. Others believe it to be Ozzy Osbourne in drag! A one-time popular legend states that there was no model at all; that the shot was just taken of the building and the woman appeared in the foreground during development. The strongest reports, however, identify her as a model named Louise who was hired for the day, played her role quietly and professionally, then disappeared.
Of course, it’s in Black Sabbath’s—and our—best interests for this vision to remain shadowy and unknowable. Piling heaviness on top of heaviness is what that band has always done better than any other entity in our particular cosmic realm.
The painting by Playboy and Esquire pin-up artist extraordinaire Alberto Vargas on the cover of the Cars’ 1979 new-wave smash Candy-O depicts a volcanically enticing redhead in high heels and a black leotard ecstatically sprawled out on the hood of a partly-drawn sports car. For an entire generation of young record store browsers, puberty kicked off immediately upon first sight of the Candy-O packaging.
The many listeners who presumed that Vargas’s scarlet vision was “Candy-O” herself were correct The model who posed for the image was grown-up TV child actress Candy Moore, whose previous greatest exposure came by co-starring as Chris Carmichael Lucille Ball’s teen daughter on The Lucy Show from 1962-65.
Immediately following Candy-O, Candy M. played Linda, a bit part in the Scorsese-De Niro boxing classic Raging Bull, after which she co-starred as buxom bikini beach body builder Deidre in the 1981 cult teen comedy, Lunch Wagon. From there, clearly, all Candy could do was go out on top, and she subsequently retired from show business.
The cover of Head Games by Foreigner boasted of the most instantly scandalous and unforgettable images in the history of rock LPs. It depicts a panicked, sexily attired young girl getting caught in a men’s room, squatting on a urinal as she frantically attempts to scrub her graffiti-scrawled name off a stall wall with toilet paper.
The hand-tinted photo scared up enough controversy its own, but it swelled into a minor (pun intended) cause celebre when the girl was revealed to be Lisanne Frank, a Ford Agency model who had come up alongside Brooke Shields. Also like Brooke Shields, when Head Games came out, Lisanne was all of three years shy of even meeting the age laid out in the album’s FM-radio hit, “Seventeen.”
Still, it was the ’70s, so the Head Games brouhaha barely cut through the anything-goes culture of the moment. A couple of years later, Lisanne embarked on a successful acting career, most notably co-starring as Heather McNamara in the 1989 high-school-set black comedy classic, Heathers. Ironically, Lisanne was 24 at the time and, in the movie, plays a seventeen-year-old.
Unlike the Jenny of Tommy Tutone’s hit “867-5309/Jenny,” the Knack’s “My Sharona” actually drew inspiration from a real Sharona. The subject’s full name is Sharona Alperin, and she was seventeen when she met the Knack’s lead singer and songwriter, Doug Fieger.
“He was nine years older than me,” recalls Alperin, now a highly regarded L.A. real estate agent, “and within a month or two later, he told me that, ’I’m in love with you, you’re my soulmate, you’re my other half, we’re going to be together one day.’”
Fieger kept us his semi-jailbait passion for a year, and eventually won Sharona’s suddenly legal heart. It was his girlfriend, then, that Sharona posed, looking chilly, in a sheer tank-top while holding the Get the Knack album for the jacket of the smash #1 single that forever immortalized her name.
The same year she co-starred with Tom Hanks in Bachelor Party, heavy metal’s MTV-era “It Girl” supreme Tawny Kitaen posed for the cover of Out of the Cellar, the 1984 breakthrough LP by L.A. hair-banger Ratt.
Tawny was the on-and-off girlfriend at the time of Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby, a status the couple had maintained since high school. In addition to sprawling out above the record’s open cellar doors, Tawny starred in the music video for the Ratt single, “Back for More.”
Kitaen and Crosby were clearly off-again by the release of Ratt’s 1985 follow-up Invasion of Your Privacy. Cover model duties then went to Playboy centerfold Marianne Gravatte, who also featured in the video for the album’s hit, “Lay It Down.”
A few years later, Tawny would get even more (specifically) famous as the on-screen muse of Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale in that group’s videos, “Here I Go Again,” “Is This Love?” and “Still of the Night.”
“Back for More”
Bob Dylan’s real-life 1963 girlfriend, artist and activist Suze Rotolo, appears alongside him on the cover of his history-making LP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The couple is famously pictured locking arms on a snowy day as they happily walk down a Greenwich Village street.
Rotolo and Dylan broke up within a year of the album’s release, and she remembers their relationship as complicated in her memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time. Suze writes: “He wore a very thin jacket, because image was all. Our apartment was always cold, so I had a sweater on, plus I borrowed one of his big, bulky sweaters. On top of that I put on a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.”
“Girl From the North Country”
Pop-punk cut-ups Blink 182 perfectly cast the cover of their pun-titled 1999 hit-machine Enema of the State by dolling up adult video superstar as a nurse and having her snap on a rubber glove.
All at once, Janine projects an image that’s provocative, funny, a little menacing, and, as such, perfectly in keeping with Blink-182’s music. Capping it off, Janine reprises her nurse role in the music video for the album’s biggest smash, “What’s My Age, Again?,” wherein she sexily proves unimpressed with the band members’ comical nudity.
“What My Age Again?”
Supermodel Jerry Hall takes on the title role for the cover of Roxy Music’s Siren LP, as she ably portrays just such a lethally tempting creature of ancient myth, a merciless beauty who dwells on seaside rocks and lures ships to their ruin by way of her irresistible call.
Jerry was dating Roxy frontman Bryan Ferry at the time. A year later, devoid of the curly red wig, seashell crown, and aqua-fins adorning her ankles on the Siren cover, Hall memorably appeared in the music video for the title track from Ferry’s solo album, Let’s Stick Together.
“Love Is the Drug”
In what seems a very specific brining to life of the song “Pasties and a G-String (At the Two O’Clock Club),” emphatically buxom actress and model Cassandra Peterson portrays a stripper in a backstage dressing room posing alongside Tom Waits on the cover of his Small Change album.
Cassandra looks resplendent adorned by her natural wavy red hair and the costume so vividly described in the song title. In 1981, the public would get to know her looking markedly different—except, frankly, for two key areas—when Cassandra donned a black bouffant hair-do wig and super form-fitting witch-like attire as uproarious horror hostess and Halloween’s all-time sexiest ambassador, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.
“Pasties and a G-String (At the Two O’Clock Club)”
It’s a clean, simple shot that speaks volumes: Russian model, singer, and author Natalia Medvedeva, up close and behind a steering wheel, beaming a huge, joyful, exquisitely lipstick-enhanced smile with her arm draped across her forehead.
Aside from playing on the name of the band and their self titled debut—The Cars—Natalia’s look and character communicates the coming of new wave: a fresh, fun, stylish reinvention of rock-and-roll that the cars both electrifyingly embodied and pioneered.
Tragically, Natalia died from a sudden heart attack in 2003. Thanks to what she brought to The Cars, however, Natalia as the very face of new wave music itself will live forever.
“My Best Friend’s Girl”
Eveline Grunwald and Constanze Karoli
Ever the suave continental stylists, British art-rock squadron Roxy Music frequently topped their albums with images of breathtaking world-class beauties. For Country Life, the group doubled their (and our) pleasure by showcasing two scantily clad lingerie models, Eveline Grunwald and Constanze Karoli.
Roxy frontman Bryan Ferry met the eye-popping pair in Portugal. Upon learning they were Roxy Music fans, the singer persuaded them to pose in the country amid lush greenery for photos he shot himself along with collaborator Nick Deville and they immediately became essential icons in the echelons of their favorite rock band’s history.
“All I Want Is You”
Pink Floyd bassist and chief creative visionary Roger Waters went high concept for his 1984 solo debut, The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. He assembled a crack band that included Eric Clapton on guitar and David Sanborn on saxophone to regale listeners with a hallucinatory inner monologue set to music of a driver mulling over his midlife crisis while traveling through the night on a California highway.
In keeping with Floyd’s tradition of immediately arresting album artwork, the cover of Pros and Cons showcases the rear view of a female hitchhiker who wears only red high heels and a red backpack. For initial pressings, the cheeky thumb-tripper was presented plain as day; later on, Columbia Records slapped a black bar over her lower half.
The comely figure on the cover is that of British actress Linzi Drew, best known for starring in softcore sex films but also noteworthy for her memorable turns in An American Werewolf in London (1981) and Tommy director Ken Russell’s Lair of the White Worm (1988)
“The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking”
Just as Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry’s then-galpal Jerry Hall graced the cover of the group’s 1976 Siren album, so too did the singer’s first international supermodel girlfriend, Amanda Lear, perform similar duties on the group’s three-years-previous release, For Your Pleasure.
Lear was a jet-setting sensation in the art world, having served for years as Salvador Dali’s inspirational muse. She was also long rumored to have perhaps not actually be female, prompting Amanda to quash those rumblings in high style with a doubt-dismissing 1970 Playboy spread.
As mentioned earlier, cultural mores remained loose enough in 1979 for Lisanne Falk to pose provocatively on the cover of Foreigner’s Head Games without anyone enduring any real consequences.
Still, that’s a quantum leap more conservative than where society’s collective “whatever turns you on” permissiveness was a decade earlier, when a supergroup featuring Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker could emblazon their self-titled debut (and only) LP Blind Faith with the image of a topless preteen girl. Not only that, the record went to #1 both worldwide.
Cover photographer Bob Seidemann said he envisioned an adolescent figure like Shakespeare’s Juliet holding a spaceship, to symbolize “human creativity.” He had a very specific type in mind, stating: “If she were too old it would be cheesecake, too young and it would be nothing. The beginning of the transition from girl to woman, that is what I was after, that temporal point, that singular flare of radiant innocence.”
Seidemann initially thought he’d found his model on the London subway but, alas, being fourteen, she appeared too old for what he was after (it’s perfectly right and natural to be creeped out at this point, by the way). He turned instead, then, to Mariora Goschen, the original girl’s eleven-year-old sister.
Mariora asked for a horse in exchange for posting, but was instead paid what today would be about $400. She has been an iconic rock image ever since and a reminder that, when it comes to album covers, they just don’t make them like that anymore—we’re happy to report!
“Can’t Find My Way Home”