How the Rolling Stones' Iconic Let It Bleed Album Art Was Made

With most of us buying our music in digital formats, album art just isn't treasured in the way it was in the 1960s and 70s. And now, MoMA has added a classic from that bygone era to its permanent collection: The cover of the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed, designed by Robert Brownjohn.

The iconic cover shows a wacky cake with layers made of a tire, a clock face, a film canister, and a pizza, clad in white frosting peppered with candy orbs. Little Rolling Stones figurines top the cake, which is situated on a record player, with a cracked Rolling Stones album playing below. Knee-deep in frosting, Keith Richards is the only member of the band that hasn't been knocked over.

Richards hired Brownjohn, a close friend, to design the cover of the album, which was originally supposed to be called Automatic Changer. In spite of the name change, the Stones stuck with Brownjohn's design because they liked it so much. And more than 40 years later, MoMA agrees:

Brownjohn was hired by his close pal Keith Richards to design the cover, and he in turn hired Delia Smith—the same Delia Smith who would go on to become a well-known British cookbook writer and television celebrity—to bake the cake. As quoted in bassist Bill Wyman’s memoir, Rolling with the Stones, Smith recalled, ”I was working then as a jobbing home economist with a food photographer who shot for commercials and magazines. I’d cook anything they needed. One day they said they wanted a cake for a Rolling Stones record cover, it was just another job at the time. They wanted it to be very over-the-top and as gaudy as I could make it.”

This cover—along with the title sequence of Goldfinger, which Brownjohn also designed—will be on display at MoMa starting October 5 as a part of the museum's Designing Modern Women, 1890-1990 exhibit. [MoMA]