We have a look back at the fascinating tales behind some of our favourite album covers. This month: The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995).
The huge ambition and musical scope of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – the third studio album from The Smashing Pumpkins – encapsulates so many enormous themes and secret details that cult fandom quickly crawled across the world upon its release in 1995.
According to artist John Craig (speaking to NPR in 2012), frontman Billy Corgan had many scribbled ideas for the images he wanted depicted in the album’s booklet: animals, seraphic figures, alchemic symbols and bucolic Victorian-era scenes with strange juxtapositions. Craig, a collage artist who works with “lost and vintage imagery”, created sample artwork based on doodles Corgan faxed to him, and was given the cover job.
Mellon Collie’s cover art is an assemblage of pieces from different sources, which Craig composited using a colour photocopier. “It’s the CSI of album covers,” he said. ”With any collage piece, I’m always trying all the possibilities. It’s almost like one of those changing heads books, where you move the eyes and nose until you get what you want.”
The cosmic background Craig lifted from an old children’s encyclopedia, the star from a magazine whiskey ad, the woman’s body from Raphael’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1508), and her head from Jean-Baptise Greuze’s The Souvenir (Fidelity) (1789).
The alt-rock masterpiece reached #1 in several countries (including Australia) and earned seven Grammy nominations.