They are among the most recognisable album covers in history, bought by millions and crafted by some of the world’s best-known bands.
But behind the covers of the smash-hit records are an unlikely group of icons, thrust into the limelight after their starring roles on some on the biggest albums of the past four decades.
From the ‘goddaughter’ of Russian despot Vladimir Putin, to a porn star who once had a bitter custody battle with a top Hollywood star, and a former model who now runs her own beauty empire – all have featured on the front cover of huge records.
Now, MailOnline is looking at six people whose faces were on the front of some of the best-selling albums in history… but do YOU know which covers they were on?
Thumbs up: Chris was told to go out and get drunk before returning for his 2am photoshoot in Liverpool for the iconic cover of this group’s album. Here’s Chris pictured in October 2020
Possibly the best-known of the album cover stars, Spencer Elden, from Pasadena, California, featured on the cover of this band’s iconic album, which went on to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. Here he is pictured in September 2016.
Mother-of-two Lindemulder has faced a tumultuous time, having been jailed in 2008 and then becoming embroiled in a bitter custody dispute over her daughter with her ex-husband Jesse James. Here she is pictured in April 2017… but can you work out which album she was on?
The clue here IS the picture itself. Know the picture and you’ll know the album. The soldier was 20-year-old US Marine Corporal Michael Wynn, from Marion, Ohio. He was serving in South Vietnam, when he was snapped on September 21, 1967 in Da Nang.
Model-turned TV presenter and politician Ksenia Sobchak is a well-known personality in Russia and was once dubbed the Paris Hilton of Moscow… but which Britpop band used her on their album cover?
Leilani Bishop looked elated on the cover of this band’s album. Here she is in 2015
Arctic Monkeys – ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’
He was the mystery man, pictured dragging on a cigarette on the cover of the Arctic Monkey’s legendary 2006 album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’.
But for Chris McClure, the man behind the famous image seen by millions of music fans the world over, the snap is one he will never forget.
McClure, who is the brother of Reverend And The Makers’ Jon McClure, was tasked with getting drunk for the photoshoot.
Dragging on a cigarette in a black and white shot, Chris McClure was the poster portrait for the Arctic Monkeys’ smash hit debut album, ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ (pictured)
He had been invited to do it by Andy Nicholson, the Arctic Monkey’s bassist who he had had known since he was 16, regularly returning from gigs in Sheffield on the same bus.
Then a student studying sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, McClure travelled to Liverpool with some friends where they went on a booze-fuelled night out before meeting photographer Alexandra Wolkowicz for the iconic portrait.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2016 about it, McClure said: ‘They said: ‘Go out and get drunk – come back after midnight.’ ‘They gave us a wad of cash, literally hundreds of pounds. We were young and made the most of it.
In January 2021, McClure shared a colour photo of one of the original shots taken for the Arctic Monkeys’ debut album in 2006 to mark the record’s 15th anniversary
‘When I arrived back it was gone 2am. There was a venue below the bar and we did the pictures there, just me sat on a stool. They gave me more whisky and I threw up half way through. Everything was blurry.’
Chris said he had no idea the picture would become so famous. But within weeks of the album’s release, it became the fastest selling of all time.
‘That Monday, my phone never stopped,’ he said. ‘It was bonkers; like being dipped into fame. Everyone in the world wanted to know who I was.’
McClure later appeared on the cover of Toddla T’s 2009 debut record, Skanky Skanky, recreating his famous snap.
And in January 2021, he shared a colour version of the original image taken for the Arctic Monkeys to mark the 15th anniversary of the band’s debut release.
Nirvana – Nevermind
Nirvana’s acclaimed 1991 hit album, Nevermind, featured a naked baby swimming towards a $1 bill. The infant was Spencer Elden, who was just a few months old at the time of the image
He was the nude baby who featured on Nirvana’s seminal Nevermind album cover.
But Spencer Elden has been embroiled in a costly legal war with the band, accusing it of ‘sexual exploitation’ for picturing him on the iconic 1991 record.
Elden launched three separate lawsuits against Nirvana’s surviving members as well as Kurt Cobain’s estate. All have failed.
He was just a few months old when the image of him, swimming towards a dollar bill, was snapped by photographer Kirk Weddle for the album artwork.
Nevermind proved an instant hit, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide elevating band members Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic to grunge superstardom. Tragically, Cobain took his life in 1994.
But in August 2021 – almost 30 years to the day Nevermind was released – Elden launched the first of his doomed lawsuit, claiming the band violated federal child pornography laws by using his photo.
He went on to recreate the iconic snap years later on the 25th anniversary of its release in 2016 – before then trying to sue Nirvana claiming he had been sexually exploited. His case was thrown out by a judge
He said that at four-months-old, he could have never have given consent for his picture to be used and claimed he had suffered ‘lifelong damages’ because of it.
His lawsuit was amended in November before being dismissed in January 2022 after his lawyers missed a deadline – but he was given permission to file an amended version.
The third complaint claimed the ‘lascivious nature of his image’ amounted to ‘child pornography’ that helped the band reap tens of millions of dollars at his expense.
This bid was thrown out by a judge in September of last year, who ruled Elden would not be able to file a fourth lawsuit.
Elden discovered he was the baby on the album cover more than a decade ago and recreated the image years later. He even has the word Nevermind tattooed on his chest.
But he changed his tune about the album soon after. In a 2016 interview with GQ Australia, Elden said he was ‘p****d off’ about the album art.
‘Recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if it wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’ I didn’t really have a choice,’ he said.
Blink-182 – Enema of the State
Enema of the State… Porn star Janine Lindemulder fronted the iconic cover of Blink-182’s 1999 smash hit, which sold more than 15 million albums worldwide
Flashing a seductive smirk as she slips on a pair of blue, latex gloves, she is the tattooed porn star who adorned the cover of Blink-182’s 1999 pop-punk classic ‘Enema of the State’.
Janine Lindemulder fronted the smash-hit album as well as appearing in music videos for songs on the record, which sold a whopping 15million copies worldwide.
Then aged 31, she was filmed strutting through the street dressed as a nurse as Blink-182 band members Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus jogged naked alongside her.
Janine started life as an actress, appearing in small roles during the 1980s. But her acting career failed to take off.
In 1987, she made her modeling debut for Penthouse magazine as their ‘Pet of the Month’ and was featured several more times in the magazine over the next decade.
In the 1990s, Janine rose to porn superstardom, appearing in more than 100 adult films.
In 1999 she announced she was quitting porn and instead focusing on her dream of becoming a kindergarten teacher – and raise her son, Tyler.
But she has had a tumultuous life since then. In December 2008, she was jailed for six months by a judge in Oregon, America, for tax evasion.
The porn star reportedly spent more than $750,000 (£608,000) on homes, vehicles, furniture and a piano, without making any voluntary payments to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
She has had a string of failed marriages and even faced a bitter custody war with Hollywood star Sandra Bullock and her ex-husband, Jesse James.
Jesse and Janine both had a daughter, Sunny, together. But the couple split and while Janine was in jail, Miss Congeniality star Bullock helped to raise the then-five-year-old.
Bullock and James were fighting for sole custody of the child, accusing Lindemulder of being an unfit mother who falls asleep following drug binges.
But speaking at the time, Janine said: ‘What would give her the right to take away my daughter?’ She ultimately lost her custody war with the actress and James, who split from Bullock in 2010 after a five-year marriage.
The Smiths – Meat is Murder
The Smiths with their provocatively-titled second album Meat is Murder was released in 1985 and featured an image of a soldier on the front cover
Just a few days before Valentines’ Day in 1985, The Smiths released their provocatively-titled second album, Meat is Murder.
Morrissey, the band’s frontman and an outspoken advocate for a cruelty-free lifestyle, used the album as a statement to make his thoughts on animal welfare and veganism clear.
The album’s front features a vintage shot of a young American soldier with the words ‘meat is murder’ written across his helmet.
The soldier used on the cover was US Marine Corporal Michael Wynn, from Marion, Ohio. He was 20 years old and serving in Da Nang, South Vietnam when the original image was taken, on September 21, 1967.
The soldier pictured was in fact 20-year-old US Marine Corporal Michael Wynn, from Marion, Ohio. He was serving in South Vietnam, in Da Nang, when the image was snapped on September 21, 1967 in Da Nang (pictured)
At the time her was taking part in ‘Operation Ballistic Charge’, having only been in the marines for a year. He had been injured in an earlier operation in May but was deemed fit enough to take part in the September mission.
The 20-year-old survived the war and was later promoted to Sergeant. He was discharged in 1970 and emigrated to Australia in 1982.
Writing in a post on the Marion Ohio Veterans site, he claimed he had never been approached by the Smiths to use his picture – which changed the wording on his helmet from ‘make war, no love’.
‘I first learned of it when my sister happened to see the album while she was shopping,’ he added. ‘I wasn’t real happy about The Smiths changing the wording.’
Speaking again in 2020 about the album’s impact on his life, he added: ‘It was a shock and still amazes me that there is still so much interest in the photo today. I can’t say I’m a fan-my era was the 60’s.’
Pulp – This is Hardcore
Pulp’s ‘This Is Hardcore’ album was released in 1998 and featured this blonde model, lying topless on a red velvet lounge. The model is a well-known Russian socialite who is reportedly the goddaughter of Vladimir Putin
Fans of Brit rockers, Pulp, will no doubt have stared at the same blonde woman kneeling over a red velvet lounge for years.
But there is far more to the story of the model featuring on the Sheffield group’s 1998 album ‘This Is Hardcore’ than meets the eye.
The woman, is in fact well-known Russian socialite Ksenia Sobchak – who once ran against Vladimir Putin in the 2018 presidential election.
The model-turned TV presenter and politician ultimately lost out to the Russian despot, who is also rumoured to be her godfather.
Sobchak, once called the Paris Hilton of Moscow, is the daughter of the first democratically-elected mayor of Saint Petersburg.
She featured on Pulp’s sixth album as a teenager. Although reaching number one in the charts, ‘This Is Hardcore’ was nowhere near as successful as Pulp’s fifth record, ‘A Different Class’, which NME ranks as sixth in the greatest 500 albums of all time.
Model-turned TV presenter and politician Ksenia Sobchak, pictured, is a well-known personality in Russia and was once dubbed the Paris Hilton of Moscow
She has had long links with Russian despot Vladimir Putin, who is reportedly her godfather. Ksenia Sobchak (pictured left) with Putin, Sobchak’s mother Liudmila Narusova, right
Sobchak ultimately lost out to Putin in 2018’s presidential election race that was rigged in the Russian leader’s favour. She came fourth. Sobchak is pictured shaking Putin’s hand in March 2018
She was a popular reality TV presenter and once posed for Playboy. She hosted the Russian version of Big Brother and went on to stand as a liberal candidate against Putin when she came fourth.
One of Russia’s best known faces, she now runs independent media outlets which have angered Putin’s officials.
Putin has known her since her childhood and he attended her baptism in the Orthodox Church, leading to rumours he is her godfather.
Her father, Anatoly Sobchak, was Putin’s law professor and mentor who later gave the KGB spy his first foothold in politics as his deputy when he served as mayor of St Petersburg.
Later Putin even smuggled Ksenia’s father out of Russia for medical treatment in the West at a time when his patron was accused by foes of corruption.
In November, footage appeared to show the moment she fled to the West on foot to avoid arrest – hours after Russian police raided her mansion.
Sobchak, who has been critical of Putin, was reportedly seen crossing the Belarusian border into Lithuania, a member of NATO, at the Vidzy frontier point 106 miles north of Minsk.
CCTV appears to show Sobcak, accompanied by an unknown man, covering her face and wearing a cap as she crosses the border, reports RIA Novosti news agency.
The extraordinary video was apparently leaked from Belarusian border cameras – and Lithuania today confirmed that Sobchak had entered the Baltic state using an Israeli passport.
Hole – Live Through This
It was Courtney Love’s grunge band Hole’s 1994 smash hit – released just days after the tragic suicide of her husband, Kurt Cobain. ‘Live Through This’ went on to sell millions of copies worldwide. The album’s iconic cover is pictured
It was the album released by singer Courtney Love just days after the suicide of her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
Cobain fatally shot himself on April 5, with his body being discovered three days later at his home in Lake Washington Boulevard, Seattle.
At the time, Love was the frontwoman of ’90s grunge band, Hole, and had been preparing to release her second album – Live Through This.
Despite the tragedy, Love released the album on April 12, which proved a stunning success, selling more than two million copies worldwide.
And on its front, clutching a bouquet of flowers with streaming tears smudging her black eyeliner, was model Leilani Bishop.
Now, 29 years on from her iconic role as the tearful homecoming queen, Leilani is a successful wellness entrepreneur.
Leilani Bishop was the tearful homecoming queen pictured on the album cover of Hole’s 1994 hit Live Through This. She is pictured in 2015, left, and in 2013, right
Leilani’s new life sees her running Botanica Bazaar specialising in beauty products. She is pictured in September 2017 attending the goop X Cadillac Road To Table Dinner In The Hamptons
She runs New York-based Botanica Bazaar, specialising in beauty products. Before setting up her business, she used to be a top model, working for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Balenciaga.
But Leilani said she was still recognised by fans of Hole for her appearance on Hole’s second album, decades ago.
Asked during an interview with Kerrang! in April 2021 whether she gets recognised on the street still, the former model said: ‘Yes and no. Some real fans did and of course friends of mine, when you mention it people see it.
‘I am pretty casual in person, so that is probably an alter-ego of mine as well.’
Leilani recreated the album cover photo in 2014 for the record’s 20th anniversary while she was in Montreal, Canada, with the picture going viral online.
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