Call it 1984 or call it MCMLXXXIV— Van Halen’s sixth album is one of the great achievements in rock for the entire decade of the 1980s. It also happens to sport a pretty badass front cover:
The band’s original vision for the 1984 cover involved four dancing, chrome women. The artist that Warner Bros. wanted to commission for the cover, Margo Nahas, declined the job as it was too complex. Her portfolio found its way to Van Halen however, and when they stumbled upon a painting of hers — featuring an angel baby smoking a cigarette — they knew that was what they wanted for 1984.
The angel, who was rumored to be David Lee Roth as a child, is actually modeled after Carter Helm, the son of one of Nahas’s friends. She styled his hair with some “goop” and gave him some candy cigarettes for the modeling session. The sky in the painting is just as it was back in Malibu for the photo shoot. The only additions are the wings and marble table.
For a more in-depth look at the history behind this all-time classic cover, check out this interview with Nahas.
- Van Halen Recording With David Lee Roth (stereogum.com)
- Van Halen Aims For Summer Release Of New Album (wzlx.radio.com)
- The Ugly and Unlistenable Death Spiral of Eddie Van Halen (Sound Affects) (popmatters.com)
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