History of controversial album art
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The following is a list of notable albums with controversial album art, especially where that controversy resulted in the album being banned, censored or sold in packaging other than the original one. They are listed by the type of controversy they were involved in.
Nudity and sexuality
- Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland (1968)
- The intended artwork for the UK version of the album did not arrive in time to press the album, so a cover of naked women lounging in front of a black background was issued in its place. The US cover by Karl Ferris, which Hendrix had intended, has since become the official cover of Electric Ladyland internationally.
- John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Unfinished Music No.1: Two Virgins (1968)
- The front cover displayed Lennon and Ono frontally nude, while the rear cover featured them from behind. Distributors were prompted to sell the album in a plain brown wrapper, and copies of the album were impounded as obscenity in several jurisdictions.
- Blind Faith – Blind Faith (1969)
- The cover featured a topless pubescent girl, holding in her hands a silver space ship, which some perceived as phallic. Photographer Bob Seidemann used a girl who was reported to be 11 years old. Her modelling fee, according to Seidemann, was "a young horse" purchased for her by band manager Robert Stigwood. The US record company issued it with an alternate cover which showed a photograph of the band on the front.
- Scorpions – Virgin Killer (1976)
- Like the Blind Faith LP, this cover featured a topless pubescent girl, only this girl appears completely naked with only a string covering her pubic area. The pose is considerably more provocative than the pose on Blind Faith, and the title "Virgin Killer" strengthens the offensiveness. The original German cover was replaced by a photo of the band for release in other countries. The Museum of Bad Album Covers lists this album as the worst album cover of all time.
- Scorpions – Lovedrive (1979)
- This LP features a photo of a man and a woman in the back seat of a car. The woman's chest is exposed, and the man is pulling what appears to be bubble gum off of her breast. Apparently this cover offended some, as there is a version that features only lettering on the cover. The photo cover is the more common cover.
- David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (1974)
- Dead Kennedys – Frankenchrist (1985)
- A poster inserted in the original record sleeve, H. R. Giger's Landscape #XX, or Penis Landscape, was a painting depicting rows of penises in sexual intercourse. The band was brought to trial for distributing harmful matter to minors, and though the case did not result in a conviction, Biafra's Alternative Tentacles record label was driven almost to bankruptcy.
- Guns N Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)
- The original cover for AfD featured an opened-shirt woman, who was clearly in the act of being raped by a robot rapist, who was about to be a crushed by a metal avenger. When every music video programme refused to play any music videos because of the cover, it was changed to show 5 skulls on a cross.
- Jane's Addiction – Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)
- Anticipating censorship, two versions of the disc packaging were created: one cover featured artwork by singer Perry Farrell including male and female nudity; the other cover has been called the "clean cover", and features only black text on a white background, listing the band name, album name, and the text of the First Amendment (the "freedom of speech" amendment of the U.S. Constitution). The "clean cover" was created so the CD could be distributed in stores such as Wal-Mart who would refuse to stock items with nudity on the front cover.
- Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
- The album cover clearly showed an infant (Spencer Elden)'s penis. Chain stores such as Wal-Mart, and K-Mart were highly offended and initially refused to carry Nevermind. However eventually due to such high demand, Nirvana compromised and put a sticker that read "Featuring "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Come As You Are" and "Lithium" over the genitals. Nirvana saw continued controversy for their next album, In Utero.
- Cannibal Corpse – Tomb of the Mutilated (1992)
- The Black Crowes – Amorica (1994)
- Aerosmith – Nine Lives (1997)
- The original cover aroused the anger of some Hindus who felt the artwork, taken from Hindu imagery and altered by giving the dancing figure a cat's head, was offensive. The band, who had been unaware of the source of the artwork, and record company apologized, and changed the artwork. Ironically, some original covers have found their way to Indian music stores and have not raised any further controversy.
- Poison – Open Up and Say...Ahh!
- The original cover offended churches and parental groups because it featured model "Bambi" dressed as a luminous red demon with a protruding tongue.
- Dio – Holy Diver
- The original cover offended churches because it looks as if the monster on the album was killing a catholic priest.
- The Beautiful South – Miaow (1994)
- The cover originally depicted rows of dogs seated in a music hall with a gramophone on the stage. However, HMV made the band withdraw it as it mocked their trademark dog, and the band put out a second cover, depicting four dogs in a boat.<ref>Beautifulsouth.org, March 1995 Retrieved on 2007-06-10</ref>
- Master P – "Ghetto D" (1997)
- It's original album cover was pulled from the shelves deemed inappropriate. It depicted a crack addict sitting on the curb smoking from a glass pipe. It was promptly replaced by the collage style cover
- The Beatles – Yesterday and Today (1966)
- This album is remembered primarily for the controversy surrounding its original cover image, the aptly named "butcher cover" featuring the band dressed in white smocks and covered with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. The album was recalled after an outcry and had a plain white cover pasted over it.
- Mamas and the Papas – If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966)
- The original cover featured the group sitting in a bathtub with a toilet in the corner of the room. In a move reflecting the mores of the time (1966), this cover was pulled from stores after the toilet was declared indecent. A second cover was then released with a list of hit songs on the album obscuring the toilet, followed by a third with a black border that removed any hint that the picture was taken in a bathroom.
- The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet (1968)
- The cover photo that the band intended to use was taken in a filthy lavatory. The record label refused to distribute the record with this photo, so a plain white cover with the name of the record was substituted. The original artwork has been restored to recent CD reissues.
- Alice Cooper – Love It to Death (1971)
- The album cover caused much controversy at the time of its release due to a gesture (middle finger raised) shown by Cooper, leading Warner Brothers to censor it (four different versions of the front cover exist on LP). Cooper's middle finger is clearly airbrushed out on censored versions.
- U2 – Boy (1980)
- The album features the head and shoulders of an unclothed young boy on the cover. The subject is Peter Rowan, brother of a friend of Bono's, who also appears on the covers of other U2 releases. However, The image was changed to a distorted picture of the band for Canada and the United States, due to fears that the band would be accused of pedophilia.
- Overkill – !!!Fuck You!!! (1987)
- The original cover art featured a hand gesturing an upraised middle finger. The 1990 CD re-issue was sold with a reversible cover art booklet. The visible side when sold in the stores was a simple field of white with the band's logo, the album name reading as !!!**** You!!!, with a subhead that read "The Record THEY tried to ban". A Parental Advisory logo appeared in the lower right corner. The original cover art was able to be used if the booklet was opened and reversed by creasing the cover the opposite way.<ref>"Fuck You! And Then Some" album notes. 1996 Megaforce Records</ref> The expanded re-release, entitled !!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some, displayed the original cover photo.
- The Beautiful South – Welcome to the Beautiful South (1989)
- The album cover originally depicted two pictures, one of a woman with a gun in her mouth, and another with a man smoking. The cover was banned by Woolworths because they thought it might cause people to take up smoking; the picture of the woman with a gun in her mouth also offended. As a result, a second cover was made, depicting a fluffy rabbit and a teddy bear.
- Nirvana – In Utero (1993)
- When In Utero was released, there were many objections to the song "Rape Me", despite the band's claims that the lyrics were "anti-rape." Wal-Mart and Kmart also refused to stock the album because of its artwork (featuring an anatomical figure and model fetuses), so a "clean" version was released for them which featured an altered version of the back cover collage and listed the title "Rape Me" as "Waif Me", though the song remained unchanged.
- Matchbox Twenty – Yourself or Someone Like You (1996)
- In May 2005 Matchbox Twenty was sued by the subject of the cover, Frank Torres. Torres claimed that the band had never sought his permission to use his photo on the album's cover and that the photo had been the cause of mental anguish. Torres justified the delay in suing Matchbox Twenty by claiming he had only seen the album photo within the last two years.
- Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (2006)
- The cover sleeve showing Chris McClure, a friend of the band, smoking a cigarette, was criticised by the head of the NHS in Scotland for "reinforcing the idea that smoking is OK".<ref name="smoking">BBC News:Arctic Monkeys defend album cover Retrieved on 2006-06-05</ref> The image on the CD itself is a shot of an ashtray full of cigarettes. The band's product manager denied the accusation, and in fact suggested the opposite — "You can see from the image smoking is not doing him the world of good".