Whether or not Mel Brooks makes Spaceballs 2, Hollywood’s “search for more money” goes ever on. Studios have adapted board games (Battleship, Clue!), newspaper and magazine articles (The Fast and the Furious, Saturday Night Fever), trading cards (Mars Attacks!, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie), amusement park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion), toys (The Lego Movie, Transformers) and freaking emojis (Gone With the Wind) into movies, but for decades now they’ve been missing out on a visually rich and evocative potential source material: album covers. After all, several feature-length flicks — Earth Girls Are Easy, Born in East L.A., Ode to Billy Joe and Convoy – have been adapted from songs (including an unfathomable FIVE made-for-TV movies based on Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler”), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall famously became, as beleaguered director Alan Parker called it, “the most expensive student film ever made.” Album covers themselves, however, have gone inexplicably unadapted thus far. The old cliché says a picture is worth a thousand words, and in Hollywood, a cliché plus a thousand words plus some key endorsement deals is worth at least a meeting or two.
Since we love a poorly thought-out and hastily executed movie based solely on brand recognition as much as any film nerds, we thought we’d do studio execs a solid and give them a few suggestions of album covers worthy of the big-screen treatment. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy means we’ll have no shortage of neon-colored sci-fi eye candy for the foreseeable future (Thor: Ragnarok, Valerian, et al), so we’ve used 1970s prog rock records sparingly, even though the covers designed by Roger Dean and Shusei Nagaoka are easily the most obvious choices. We’ve left out country music altogether, because Hollywood seems to have that genre completely on lock (Harper Valley PTA, Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, Take This Job and Shove It, and, seriously– how do you make five movies out of a song about the importance of knowing “when to fold ‘em?”) We’ve even selected a lyric as a poster-ready tag line and included a possible synopsis to save screenwriters as much work as possible, so surely some of these will be coming soon to theaters near you.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus
Tag Line: “Were you there to watch the earth be scorched?”
Synopsis: We know we said we’d include as few prog-rock albums as possible, but come on. This one is solid gold. A daring documentary crew captures the majestic Tarkus in her natural habitat: the battlefield. Thrill as the armadillo-tank hybrid fends off her only known predator, the terrifying Manticore (with a barrage of killer keyboard solos) and try not to look away as the Tarkus attends Mass in the most violent church-related sequence since The Godfather’s “Baptism of Fire.” Marvel at her metamorphosis into her ultimate form: the Aquatarkus.
Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp a Butterfly
Tag Line: “Black man taking no losses.”
Synopsis: Anyone afraid of the Huey P. Newton-referencing poster art for Marvel’s Black Panther should stay the hell away from theaters on Butterfly’s opening weekend. Lamar (pictured holding the baby) would naturally get the lead role and screenwriting credit for this film about “a group of the homies who haven’t seen the world” on a raucous road trip to find what To Kill a Mockingbird’s Tom Robinson never could: a judgement-free zone. Think Friday meets Malcolm X meets Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Maybe some highly charged Weekend at Bernie’s style hijinks ensue. Featuring Dr. Dre, George Clinton, and Wesley Snipes. Flying Lotus directs, assuming he can bring it in with an “R” rating. After Butterfly inevitably busts the block, watch for its prequel: Fear of a Black Planet.
AC/DC – If You Want Blood You’ve Got It
Tag Line: “Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation!”
Synopsis: Just when you thought it was safe to get back into a school-boy uniform… Tchaikovsky famously said, “Let there be rock,” but a demon-possessed electric guitar called “the Jack” is murdering the world’s rockers and its rollers live onstage, and only the Problem Child (the kid from Problem Child) and Whole Lotta Rosie (either Perez or O’Donnell would work here) can pull the plug in this high-voltage thriller.
Björk – Homogenic
Tag Line: “Excuse me, but I have to explode. Explode this body off me.”
Synopsis: Put out an alarm call. It’s a state of emergency. Björk is Björk in her many manifestations. The Hunter, the Bachelorette… they’re all here, in an all-neon-like Army of Her. All is full of love in this evocative sci-fi fantasy spanning innumerable emotional landscapes. Immaculately produced and impossible to fully understand, Homogenic will nourish your turtleheart. As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers once raved: “Björk is thrilling, possessed of a face the camera embraces and an emotional range as compelling and varied as her music.” Lars von Trier will absolutely not direct.
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Tag Line: “My name is Lucifer, please take my hand.”
Synopsis: It’s The Witch meets Grey Gardens when Satan’s jilted lover goes HAM Miss Havisham-style in a dilapidated old mansion on the outskirts of a sleeping village in a wicked world. Without warning, a wizard walks by and inspires an Eat Pray Love-like journey through Transylvania, where she has a meet-cult with a dark prince named Ozzie (Jason Momoa). Not gonna lie, some animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture.
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew
Tag Line: “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down!”
Synopsis: Part of the shared Mati Klarwein universe, along with Live-Evil and Santana’s Abraxas, Bitches Brew is a magical-realistic retelling of Egypt’s 25th dynasty, of the long-forgotten Nubian pharaohs of Kush who ruled the empire for a century, introducing many innovations that will probably be imitated until the end of time. Featuring lots of bold, expressionistic and often improvised scenes recut by a virtuoso editor after filming, Brew will confound many traditionalist critics who want to argue it isn’t even a movie, but it might well be the coolest thing you ever see. Somebody get Alejandro Jodorowsky on the line.
Elton John – Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy
Tag Line: “Just like us, you must have had a once-a-upon-a-time.”
Synopsis: Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy make their way out of their home in the woods to bring their musical cavalcade of anthropomorphic animals and animal-pomorphic humans — sugar bears, swinging stars and Diamond Jims — from the end of the world to your town. Ishtar meets Alice in Wonderland with more basement drug deals and suicide attempts.
Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time
Tag Line: “Time is always on my side.”
Synopsis: The Eddie the Head series — with its mysterious time-traveling antihero wreaking havoc across the epochs — begins here. In other films, Eddie will confront the Ancient Mariner, sit on Egypt’s throne and open the Book of Souls, but first he has to cross the Sea of Madness and escape the recursive cycle of déjà vu plaguing all timeless beings. He was once a young man, filled with hopes and dreams, but he’s soon lost and far from home in the ancient land of Macedonia, hunting down Alexander the Great in a kickass conclusion that’s surprisingly historically accurate.
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica
Tag Line: “That’s right, the mascara snake — fast and bulbous!”
Synopsis: Rob Schneider (Crispin Glover) wakes to find himself setup by Big Joan and stuck in Frownland, transformed into a trout-faced octafish (its droppings are tiny green phosphorous worms). His only hope is to hit the road in Dali’s car with his new friends Ella Guru and Pachuco Cadaver to find the elusive Ant Man Bee and smash him with an orange claw hammer. It won’t make much sense and many people will say it’s completely unwatchable, but it’ll still be better than The Hot Chick.