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11 CONTROVERSIAL ALBUM COVERS THAT GOT BANNED

Many people believe censorship is bad. One of the arguments they use to support their belief is that many literary masterpieces and scientific texts – which provided valuable knowledge – were viewed as too dangerous for the masses to read and so they were burned and lost forever to history and culture. However, there are many people who strongly believe that censorship is good and helps to protect people and keep them safe from things that are bad for them to know when it comes to the truths of this world.
On the other hand, we at TCmag don’t have a specific opinion about it, and even if we did we would not try to brainwash you. In any event, we did some research and discovered some popular and not so popular album covers that were banned for one reason or another. Was it a right decision? We will let you be the judge.

Written By @TheodorosII For TCmag


APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION – GUNS N’ ROSES



Appetite for Destruction is famous for being one of the biggest-selling albums of all time with more than 30 million copies sold globally, and the album that introduced us to one of the most legendary Hard Rock bands ever: Guns N’ Roses. How many of you knew about the cover’s sinful and dark background, though? The album’s original cover art, based on Robert Williams’s painting of the same name, depicted a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger.

Of course, the vast majority of music retailers refused to stock the album and the label compromised, putting the controversial cover art inside, replacing it with a milder image. This is how we ended up with the wildly popular classic image of a cross and the skulls of the five band members that was originally designed as a tattoo by Billy White Jr.

SLIPPERY WHEN WET – BON JOVI



All we can say about this classic album cover is that it featured one of the best pairs of boobs we have ever seen in music history. However, the prude record companies of the ‘80s were way too scared and afraid of mammaries back then; covered or uncovered…it just didn’t matter. For the record, only the Japanese had the cojones to go with the original album cover and that is another reason I personally respect those crazy, fearless Japs.

DARK SIDE OF THE SPOON – MINISTRY



Ministry’s Dark Side of the Spoon created controversy and made some noise the very first day of its release back in 1999. Kmart found the cover art to be extremely offensive and decided not to stock the album in any of its stores. The funny thing, however, is that Kmart failed to explain to who exactly the image was so offensive and we still wonder if they meant women, religious freaks, or obese people, since the cover showed a naked fat woman standing in front of a blackboard where the words “I will be god” appear many times.

TIN MACHINE II – TIN MACHINE



Do you guys remember Tin Machine? No? Well, I didn’t either before I did the research for this list but now unfortunately I do. And I say “unfortunately” because I love David Bowie, and this was easily the biggest mistake of his career. Back in the late ‘80s the White Duke was trying hard to revive his almost-dead musical career and came up with this mediocre group and he pulled off every trick he could to make it big.

One of these “tricks” was the cover of the second and last album (thank God) produced by the group, Tin Machine II. The genitalia of the ancient Greek-like statues on display on this cover was too much for America, which pretty much showed Bowie the middle finger and told him to stop making shitty music and even shittier album covers. 

NOTHING’S SHOCKING – JANE’S ADDICTION



Whoever’s familiar with Jane’s Addiction’s music and performances knows very well these are not exactly the most normal dudes in the music industry and they make sure they let the world know this in every chance they get. This was certainly the case when they picked a cover that portrayed nude female conjoined twins sitting on a sideways rocking chair with their heads on fire for their platinum 1988 album titled Nothing’s Shocking. Apparently, it was found extremely shocking for many major US stores which refused to stock the album as delivered, so it had to be issued with a brown paper sleeve.

STICKY FINGERS – ROLLING STONES



Despite this being one of the most recognized and iconic albums ever the fact is that the cover got banned in Spain where it was replaced by artwork of a can of fingers, which was easily a more disturbing image. What can you say, man? Those Spaniards have no taste when it comes to rock music. 

MOTHER’S MILK – RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS



Back in 1989, only twenty-six years ago a model showing a little more flesh than she should have was considered a sin and could be the main factor for an album to be banned by the vast majority of US record store chains. This at least was the case with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ breakthrough, Mother’s Milk, which was found to be “inappropriate” because the model on the cover, Dawn Alane, was flashing a little too much flesh. A new cover, featuring larger band members who were hiding Alane’s boobs, was subsequently released to keep the stores and prude clients happy.

PYROMANIA – DEF LEPPARD



Apparently, a picture of a burning skyscraper in the crosshairs of a gun has been always considered a highly contentious image, even before 9/11. However, the band refused to change it no matter how hard their record company tried to change their minds and despite the fact that most music stores in America refused to stock it.

Nonetheless, and despite all the problems the album’s cover caused, it went on to sell over 10 million copies in the US alone and Q magazine placed the album at No. 35 on its list of the 40 Best Albums of the ‘80s. So the question is: Did the album cover harm the band or help boost sales?

ELECTRIC LADYLAND – JIMI HENDRIX



In November 1968, a bunch of British record stores banned the Jimi Hendrix Experience‘s new album due to its cover art. The funny thing about this story though is that the legendary guitar player hated the album’s cover even more than the retailers. How do we know? Well, Hendrix made it clear from the first moment that he had nothing to do with it and that his UK label was to blame for the artwork. He said,

“Folks in Britain are kicking against the cover. Man, I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t have put this picture on the sleeve myself, but it wasn’t my decision. It’s mostly all bullshit.” 

GOLD COBRA – LIMP BIZKIT



Gold Cobra (2011) was the most anticipated studio album by Limp Bizkit in recent years, and the first with the full original lineup since 2000’s super successful and classic Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water. However, things didn’t start well for the band. Apparently, the band’s choice of three semi-naked ladies being attacked by a giant snake was considered inappropriate and sexist by most American stores such as Target and Best Buy, which refused to stock it and this way “butchered” the band’s hopes for a big comeback. 

TWO VIRGINS – JOHN LENNON



John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins was distributed in a brown paper bag so that buyers would be spared looking at a naked picture of what Lennon himself admitted being nothing but two slightly overweight ex-junkies. The most important fact about this album’s cover, however, is the fact that technically this controversial photo was also an early example of a selfie, taken with a timer. One way or another, John and Yoko were heads and shoulders ahead of their time. 

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  • Posted on January 30, 2015
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