On the 40th Anniversary of the Van Halen Album ‘1984,’ Artist Talks About Inspiration for the Cover Image

At the backstage of Van Halen on their 1984 tour in support of their sixth studio abum 1984, The Omuni, Atlanta, GA, US, 23rd February 1984. (Photo by David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images)
David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images

The iconic Van Halen album 1984, featuring the hit songs “Jump,” “Hot For Teacher,” and “Panama” was released on January 9, 1984. As it marks the 40th anniversary of its release, the artist who created the memorable cover image recently spoke out about its creation. Artist Margo Nahas, along with her husband Jay Vigon, have made over 18 album very well-known album covers, (“Tusk” by Fleetwood Mac and Prince’s “Purple Rain” to name a couple) during their career but Margo admitted that 1984 is definitely her favorite.

Before she created the image of a young angel smoking a cigarette, the album cover was supposed to be something completely different. She said that Van Halen’s record company wanted something along the lines of four dancing chrome ladies and she shot down the idea. Her husband then took her portfolio to Van Halen and they loved the angel. After that, everything went smoothly and her art made it as the album cover.


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She said that her friend’s son, Carter Helm, posed for the photo and added, “I took a picture of him, took him candy cigarettes which he proceeded to eat, every single one, after a brief tantrum, of course.” While the cover art has become iconic, it wasn’t always welcomed around the world. It was censored in the UK when it was released and a sticker was put on every album to hide the cigarettes.

In 2020, when Van Halen frontman Eddie Van Halen passed away, Nahas shared a new version of her image, where the angel has tears in its eyes. She shared at the time, “I made this. I don’t know if you can see him. He’s really sad and crying. Can you see the tears? I was just so sad today. It’s like the angel has to cry, he has to cry.”

The album has sold over 17 million copies around the world and counting. Can you imagine looking back and saying that you were the model for a Van Halen album?

’80s Where Are They Now
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’80s Where Are They Now

March 2023

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