Controversial Album Covers

Alternate album covers are my favorite corner of the record geek universe. Most often a cover is altered due to sexual or religious content, which pretty much says everything you need to know about life in the United States. Sometimes they’re changed due to copyright issues (Rolling Stones’ Some Girls), tragedy (Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors), or some general notion of offensiveness (the toilet on the cover of The Mama’s and the Papa’s If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears). 

Basically what it comes down to is this: If stores wouldn’t stock an album the cover was changed. When and if the physical formats (CD and LP) completely die out, I wonder if artists will finally have the freedom from market pressure to do whatever the heck they want.

We’ll see, but for now you can enjoy a gallery of past heinous offenses that corrupted America’s otherwise totally naive and innocent youth.  Can you think of any albums that I’ve missed? Let me know and I’ll gladly add them, unless you are thinking of the original sleeve for the Scorpions’ Virgin Killer. Even I draw the line at that.

51 replies »

  1. The album cover to the indie rock group James’ “Hey Ma.” Not sure if it’s banned but I saw it first when it came out and it still makes an impression years later.


    • Well done, and consider it added. “Hey Ma” was indeed controversial, though not banned. James made this “Deep Cuts” piece thanks to their crossdressing “Laid”:

      The band’s popularity when that song was hot concerned me, as I was afraid the parallels would expose my deep dark secret. But I’m older now and more comfortable with myself, so I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly admit something: My name is James, too.


    • I have a copy of Scorpions ‘Virgin Killers’ that I purchased whilst serving with the British Army in Germany during the mid to late 1970s…


  2. One thing to note on on the Slayer album cover (the one next to NOFX). It’s title is “God Hates Us All” and it was one of the many releases on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. It is now sold with a black and white paper cover insert with three crosses on it and the band and album title.


  3. Just found out about this!
    The original gatefold cover featured an image of a roll of toilet paper. The image created sufficient controversy that Smash records reissued the album with a cover featuring a portrait of Leon Russell and Marc Benno.[3] Designer: Lou Kimzey Photography: Ralph Poole


  4. Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From New York was one of the releases on 9/11/01 and featured a play on their Images and Words album art–instead featuring the Twin Towers on fire over an apple.


  5. Google the shocking billboard/print ad promo for Rolling Stones “Black and Blue” album. Where a women made up to look SEVERELY beaten straddles the album cover spread-eagled …


    • P.S.: I should have also noted the model is tied by the wrists with arms pulled over her head, ropes wrap her entire body, and she is zombie-like — literally black and blue. I saw this on a full-page ad in a rock magazine when I was a teen girl, but now realize I misremembered it as being on the album cover itself, that’s the impact it had on me. I remember feminist groups raising holy hell until Mick Jagger apologized & the ads were pulled.


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