Album covers get banned for all sorts of grisly reasons, and in Beady Eye’s case in 2013 the reason it was pulled from supermarkets was a simple nipple. Liam said: “It’s not porn, is it? It’s classic, man. Classic nipple.”
Artist George Condo painted a lovely picture of ol’ Kanye having a nice bottle of beer and some sexy times with a naked phoenix women with a spotty tail and all the squares freaked out. It’s almost like Kanye was trying to be provocative, but that’s not like him.
BEATLE WANG! John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s ‘Two Virgins’ was distributed in a brown paper bag so that people would be spared looking at a naked picture of what Lennon admitted were “two slightly overweight ex-junkies”. This is also an early example of a ‘selfie’, taken on a timer. They’d have just snapchatted it these days.
The Manic Street Preachers’ ninth album came packaged in artwork by Jenny Saville which James Dean Bradfield called “a beautiful painting” but which ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Tesco disliked so much they would only sell it in a plain slipcase.
Crystal Castles’ debut album featured a beaten and bruised picture of Madonna, but the artist Trevor Brown kicked off and distributors also baulked at the image.
DOG WANG! David Bowie’s 1974 concept album ‘Diamond Dogs’ features a painting by Guy Peelleart which originally featured an anatomically-correct dog penis over the album fold. RCA Records took umbrage, and poor old Bowie was neutered (or rather, airbrushed.)
In November 1968, some record stores banned the Jimi Hendrix Experience‘s ‘Electric Ladyland’ because of gratuitous album cover nudity. Funnily enough, Jimi also hated it, saying the cover had “nothing to do with him.”
Many supermarkets disapproved of Bat For Lashes’ 2012 album cover even though Natasha Khan had gone to extreme lengths to cover up by draping a human man over herself. Supermarkets felt a sticker was also required.
The Black Crowes’ third album ‘Amorica’ was released in late 1994 and swiftly banned from some American chain retailers like Walmart and Kmart due to its cover art, which was taken from the cover of a July 1976 Hustler magazine, and which ended up creating a hairy situation for the band.
The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday and Today’ cover, released in 1966, marked something of a watershed in that it was the first time the band were widely criticised by the press. After advance copies had been sent to journalists, uporoar was so strong their label Capitol recalled 750,000 copies.
‘Marilyn Manson as crucified Christ with missing jaw’ is obviously an image designed to be censored, and Manson owned up to this, saying: “My jaw is missing as a symbol of this very kind of censorship. This doesn’t piss me off as much as it pleases me, because those offended by my album cover have successfully proven my point.”
Bryan Ferry talked Constanze Karoli and Eveline Grunwald out of their clothes and onto this Roxy Music cover. Prudes were shocked.
Here’s that cheeky, naked scamp Prince sitting on a flower. That thing with the pink crown is only a stamen, but many shops sold the album in a black bag just to be on the safe side.
‘Nothing’s Shocking’ declared Jane’s Addiction in 1988, although they later found out that a pair of naked conjoined ladies with their heads on fire is, in fact, shocking if you run a chain of record stores.
The motherly figure on the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Mother’s Milk’ cover may have a rose and a Kiedis to protect her modesty, but that wasn’t enough for many shops.
Perry Farrell knew what ‘trolling’ was way back in 1990. Two covers were made for Jane’s Addiction’s ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’: this tasteful nude threesome scene, and a second cover featuring only black text on a white background: the band name, the album name, and the text of the First Amendment (the “freedom of speech” amendment of the U.S. Constitution). Well played.
US shops like Wal-Mart and K-Mart were so unhappy about the baby wang on the cover of Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ that eventually the band placated them with a sticker that read “Featuring ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, ‘Come As You Are’ and ‘Lithium'” over the genitals.
TIN WANG! David Bowie’s short-lived side-band Tin Machine had to have their metal penises airbrushed out for American distribution.
It’s the most natural thing in the world, and the place we all start from, but Chumbawumba’s decision to use an image of childbirth on their album cover is considered so shocking by iTunes that they replaced it with “a painting of several flowers.”
The Strokes’ cover – which may or may not have been inspired by Spinal Tap’s seminal banned ‘Smell The Glove’ cover – was itself banned and replaced on some covers by a close-up of particle collisions. But what’s wrong with being sexy?
What would Jesus do? If you answered ‘join the Bloods and sell weed’ then you are a) The Game and b) probably gonna get in trouble for your album artwork.
In what now seems a bizzarely puritanical move, the Rolling Stones’ ‘Beggars Banquet’ cover was banned for featuring nothing more offensive than a toilet. A plain ‘invitation’ cover was used until 1984.
Pink Floyd’s 1975 ‘Wish You Were Here’ cover was banned by many shops for being “too violent” – which is mad when you can clearly see the two men are not at all alarmed that one of them is on fire.
Those naughty scamps Nirvana were back in trouble with their ‘In Utero’ album art, not least the presence of the song title ‘Rape Me’ on the back. A new version for Wal-Mart and Kmart was released with model fetuses removed and the offending (unchanged) song now listed as ‘Waif Me’.
A cute moonlight stroll on the dock of the bay? Or dumping his wife’s body in the ocean? It’s Eminem. It was the latter.
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention’s 1968 album ‘We’re Only in It for the Money’ – coming just a year after The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – was intended as “a direct negative” of the iconic cover. “[Sgt. Pepper] had blue skies […] we had a thunderstorm.” said Zappa. Label Capitol objected and released it with a photo of the band from the inner sleeve on the front.
The original cover for Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ shows the child star over an image of massed ranks of attacking rats, which Motown Records not unreasonably decided might scare the living beejeezus out of his young fans. The rats were removed.
The original cover for Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite for Destruction’ was based on a Robert Williams painting showing a springing metal creature of vengeance launching himself at a robotic rapist. Music television weren’t fans, so the artwork was switched for the now iconic ‘5 skulls on a cross’ tattoo.
Is that Death Grips’ album cover for ‘No Love Deep Web’ or are they just pleased to see us? So explicit we still can’t show it here, the image featured a male appendage with the album title written on with a Sharpie.
Roger Waters’ ‘The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking’ album art was designed by Gerald Scarfe, who had previously worked on Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, and it caused uproar from feminist groups who argued it promoted rape. Softcore porn actress Linzi Drew’s bum was censored for later editions.
It may seem relatively tame, but Alice Cooper’s thumb sticking through his trousers on the cover of 1971’s ‘Love It to Death’ had to be airbrushed out for ‘looking too phallic’.
There’s a naked lady riding a hippo on the cover of Blur’s ‘She’s So High’, painted by Californian artist Mel Ramos. Students, unusually taking against Damon Albarn, kicked up a fuss and adverts were banned in Hackney and the London Underground, and defaced in other places.
WAIT A MINUTE. That ‘Fenix’ looks suspiciously like a cock and balls! Oh those Tenacious D boys have done it again!
Somehow Led Zeppelin got away with naked children showing their bums on the cover of 1973’s ‘Houses of the Holy’, although the offending buttocks were airbrushed out on later versions.
As a spin off from their ‘Heavy Petting Zoo’ (see what they’ve done there?) album art, NOFX’s ‘Eating Lamb’ single got even more explicit and even more banned.
Slayer’s 2001 ‘God Hates Us All’ cover shows a bible with nails hammered into it, the word ‘Slayer’ burnt in, and splattered with blood. More tea, vicar?
This offering from Metallica is in fact the compromise option: the band were originally going to call the album ‘Metal Up Your Ass’ and have a cover depicting a toilet bowl with a hand clutching a dagger emerging from it. The bloody hammer doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
In 1986, Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘The Ultimate Sin’ caused a stink because of the lack of pants on the big-haired lady warming herself by Ozzy’s dragon.
You expect this sort of thing from metal bands, but even erudite pop songwriters The Beautiful South got in on the controversial album covers act with this sleeve depicting a woman with a gun in her mouth and a guy smoking. Woolworths banned it, apparently because they thought it might cause people to take up smoking. A new cover was produced with a fluffy bunny rabbit and a teddy bear.
The original 1989 cover of The Offspring’s ‘The Offspring’ featuring this guitar playing stomach-dweller clearly modelled on ‘Alien’ was banned for being too grotesque and an entirely tamer cover appeared on reissues.