The shoes behind some iconic album covers

words Alexa Wang

There are some album covers that are just so iconic that everyone knows them. Whether it’s David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, or Michael Jackson’s Bad, the covers are instantly identifiable, even to non-music-fans.

So the folks over at Shoe Zone started thinking about the bigger picture: what shoes were these music icons wearing when they shot these iconic album covers? Did they get their inspiration from their footwear? Did they choose comfort over style?

The answers probably aren’t what you’d expect…

Queen – Queen II, 1974

The second studio album by British rock band Queen was released in 1974. Featuring the band’s first UK chart hit “Seven Seas of Rhye”, this album peaked at number 5 in the charts. With the cover artwork, the band wanted to replicate some of the glam sensibility of David Bowie and really grab people’s attention.

They definitely did that. The image is now well known and was reused in the video for “Bohemian Rhapsody”. But not a lot of people know that Queen actually did the photoshoot en pointe, wearing ballet shoes. It was deeply uncomfortable but produced an undoubtedly iconic shot.

Prince – Prince, 1979

Prince is the self-titled, second studio album by the late American artist (and man of many names). Released in 1979, it was written, composed, produced and performed entirely by the man himself. Because not content with many names, he also had many talents.

While Prince appears shirtless on the cover of this album, it was actually pretty cold in the studio so he kept his shoes and socks on for the shoot, opting for comfy flat sandals in contrast to his usual sexy image.

iconic album covers

Michael Jackson – Bad, 1987

The seventh studio album by the King of Pop, Bad was released in 1987 and peaked at number 1 on the albums charts in 25 countries. Featuring the eponymous single “Bad”, along with now-iconic tracks such as “Man in the Mirror” and “Smooth Criminal”, it also won 6 Grammy Awards. So it did all right.

While Jackson strikes a “Bad” attitude on the album’s cover, what you can’t see is that he teamed his leather jacket and trousers with a pair of Crocs for the cover shoot. In red, of course, to match the colour of the title. Hard to moonwalk in, yes, but oh, so comfy.

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA, 1984

The man known as The Boss has produced over 20 albums in his lengthy career. This one was the seventh studio album, and was released in June 1984. A massive commercial success, and featuring 7 top 10 singles including “Dancing in the Dark” and “Glory Days”, it’s still one of the highest selling records ever.

The cover photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz, and features Springsteen himself in front of the American flag. We can now reveal that The Boss teamed his cutoff jeans with a “boss” pair of heels, matching stars on the soles to the stripes on the flag.

David Bowie – Aladdin Sane, 1973

Featuring one of the most iconic images of the late British singer, Aladdin Sane was David Bowie’s sixth studio album. It debuted at number 1 in the charts, and contained two of Bowie’s singles: “Drive-In Saturday” and “The Jean Genie”.

In keeping with the influences of the character name, Bowie opted to wear Moroccan-style slippers for the cover shoot, although you can’t see them. He credited these with helping him get into character.

Beyoncé – Dangerously in Love, 2003

The debut solo album by former Destiny’s Child singer (and future “Queen-B”) Beyoncé Knowles, Dangerously in Love was released in June 2003 and made Beyoncé the first female artist to top both the singles and albums charts in the US and UK simultaneously.

But not a lot of people know that, perhaps mindful of the album’s title, Beyoncé teamed her spangly bra-top and jeans with a beaten-up pair of safety boots for this cover shoot. Because she’s Beyoncé, she looked fabulous, naturally. And she did add a bit of spangle to the boots.

iconic album covers

The Beatles – With the Beatles, 1963

With the Beatles is the second album by the Beatles, and was released in November 1963. It was only the second album to reach a million copies in the UK, and continued the band’s (ultimately 51-week-long) reign at the top of the album charts, which had started with their debut, Please Please Me.

The cover photograph was taken in a hotel corridor. But what you can’t see is that the band members are actually foreshadowing their famous Abbey Road cover (and accompanying conspiracy theories) from six years later. John’s in white trainers, George is in work boots and Ringo’s got his smartest black shoes on. And of course, Paul opted to go barefoot.

2Pac – All Eyez on Me, 1996

The last of 2Pac’s albums to be released during his lifetime, All Eyez on Me is the American rapper’s fourth studio album. It featured five singles, including “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”.

While he may look tough and be flashing the bling on his album cover, we can reveal that behind the scenes, 2Pac chose to wear some fluffy pink bunny slippers. He claimed they were the most comfy footwear he owned.



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