Behind the Scenes: ESPN The Magazine Recreates Iconic Music Covers

Behind the Scenes: ESPN The Magazine Recreates Iconic Music Covers
ESPN The Magazine has hit it out of the park again with their Music Issue which is on stands now. SPD spoke with Senior Director of Photography Karen Frank about putting together this issue.  Take a look at the photos and get a behind the scenes peek of the athletes and their music inspiration. 


When we decided to do a Music Issue, ESPN contributing writer and producer, Stacey Pressman, pitched the idea of recreating iconic album covers.  Everyone agreed it was a great idea and a really fun way to get athletes, who are so passionate about music, excited and interested in participating.  Even so, it was no small task, and Stacey worked hard to get us a great group of athletes.  Once we had the athletes on board, it was fun matching them with their covers. And the athletes really got into it!

Photographer Matthias Clamer did an amazing job matching lighting and all details from the original covers, traveling to Tampa, Los Angeles, Colorado Springs and New York City for this project.  Senior Deputy Photo Editor, Nancy Weisman produced the shoots, putting together fantastic crews for each shot, making sure that we got great images as authentic to the originals as possible, and that everyone had fun in the process. 

Trent Richardson, LaMarr Woodley and Marshawn Lynch as Run DMC on "Ultimate Run DMC"

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Deciding who would play whom was tricky, but then Marshawn showed up with his own DMC glasses; Lamar begrudgingly allowed us to put facial hair on him (while Trent & Marshawn teased him). Trent made a perfect Rev Run. The guys were very dedicated to striking the right pose and assuming their characters' spirit.  

Allyson Felix as Beyonce on "Dangerously in Love"

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Allyson is a huge fan of Beyonce, and listens to Beyonce's song, "Diva" before a big race.  The top was custom-made by premiere costume designer IN-HOUSE ATELIER, who creates costumes for Beyonce (Super Bowl), Lady Gaga, Shakira, and many and others.  It took 35 hours to make the top which was constructed of chains and Swarovski elements.  It was stunning, but posed a challenge, requiring lots of attention and hands on set to hold it in place. 

Ryan Lochte as the baby on Nirvana's "Nevermind"

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Thumbnail image for Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 12.32.16 AM.pngAdmittedly, Nirvana is not #1 on Lochte's playlist (his favorite song is "The Sky's The Limit " by Lil Wayne), but he knew the album cover, and was excited to recreate it. It was difficult finding a pool to close down for us on a Saturday, even for Ryan Lochte!  Gold's Gym in Colorado Springs came to our rescue.  Ryan had amazing body awareness and control under water, and was great at taking direction from photographer, Matthias Clamer, adjusting in the tiniest ways to get as close to the baby's pose as possible.  

Josh Freeman as Michael Jackson on "Thriller"

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Before he cut his afro, Josh had been called "Tito" (Jackson) by his coach, Raheem Morris.  When his transformation with wig and styling took place on set, Josh admitted that the resemblance was striking.  Josh loves animals and fell in love with the 6-week old tiger cub from Big Cat Habitat in Saristoa, FL.  Josh was so happy with the shoot that he just changed his Twitter avatar to the "Off the Wall" image Matthias shot. 

Jimmie Johnson as Bob Dylan on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan"

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Jimmie is a fan of all sorts of music, and really loves artists like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. This album cover seemed a perfect fit for him: he got to work with his wife, Chandra, and the location is meaningful as it's very close to his own home in NYC.  We shot in the same location in the West Village of Manhattan, on Jones Street between Bleecker and West 4th, as the original album cover.  The buildings on the street were covered by scaffolding and trees that hadn't been there at the time when the album cover was shot, so we adjusted on set by shooting in the opposite direction which got us pretty close to the original look.   All the cars were sourced from different companies. The white Dodge in the front was actually newly painted lime green.  It was our best option, so we grabbed it and changed the color in post.  With everything in place, we only needed an overcast day to complete the magic, and luckily we got one! (We also got some falling snow which kept things interesting.)  MORE PHOTOS

James Stewart as Rick James on "Street Songs"

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MotoX sports star, James Stewart used to make videos of himself as 'Rick James' Stewart and put them online ( It was a no-brainer to sign him onto this project as he was able to take Rick James to a whole new level, and do it in a real way. We shot at Universal Studios, on their Brooklyn street lot, the location for the original Rick James album shoot.  The red boots we hoped James would wear were too high for him - he could barely stand in them - so we painted a pair of flat black boots red and voila!

Alex Morgan as Katy Perry on "One of the Boys"

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Alex is a fan of Katy Perry and was very excited to recreate the "One of the Boys" cover.  Set designer Rae Scarton and her team used 12 different types of flowers (only one of which were real:  primrose; the dark purple, pink, and yellow clusters in the foreground); 120 square feet of live, overgrown grass; 16 feet of fencing; and rose vines to recreate the scene.  The lounge chair was custom fabricated in about seven hours because the one used for the original Katy Perry album cover was lost in a fire a few years ago when part of the prop house where it was housed burned down. 

Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Upton, Brandon Phillips, Evan Longoria and Shane Victorino as Devo on "Freedom of Choice"

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ESPN Creative Director of Print and Digital Media, John Korpics really wanted to find five guys to recreate this cover. ESPN contributing writer and producer Stacey Pressman had been talking to Giancarlo Stanton, who wanted to be part of the project.  She sent him the DEVO cover, he thought it was hilarious, and the rest of the cast followed.  Although none of the ball players had ever heard of DEVO, they thought it was a cool image that would be fun to do, and really got into character on set.  It took ten days to make the suits; the fabric had to be specially made.  See tweet below from Gerald Casale of DEVO:
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