Cutout Bin: Censored and "Recalled" Album Covers
The Beatles, Yesterday and Today (1966) We start with perhaps the best-known example of a "recalled" album cover. When advance copies were sent to stores and DJs, there was an immediate uproar over the cover, showing the band covered in baby parts and bloody meat. All copies were ordered to be returned to the manufacturer. These copies were "pasted over" with a new cover and sent back to stores. Only a handful of copies escaped the "repasting" and are of course valuable collector items. Many people tried to peel the new cover off, making an original "unpeeled" copy valuable, too!
The Mamas and the Papas, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966) One of the most baffling of history's "recalled" covers, someone apparently thought an unoccupied toilet was offensive. The original cover was quickly withdrawn and replaced with an awkward song-title box covering the offending bowl. Later copies had the entire bathroom cropped out!
Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet (1968) Here we have an example of when controversy caused the cover to change before it was even released. Both the U.S. and UK record companies refused to release the original cover, which appears to be a vintage approximation of the Rudyard's men's room. The dull "RSVP card" cover was released instead, until the original art was restored on CD releases in the '80s.
Rod Stewart, An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down (1969) Stewart, now known primarily for his middle-of-the-road, inoffensive yacht rock, seems an unlikely subject for an album-cover controversy. But the creepy title/cover-photo combo of his UK debut album wasn't quite the thing for US audiences; the cover was changed and the title whitewashed to The Rod Stewart Album.
Blind Faith, Blind Faith (1969) This original cover, showing a budding young girl holding a phallic airplane, was fine in the UK, but had American record execs quaking in their boots. It was changed before release in the U.S. - something we will see several more times in this slideshow! At least this controversy is a bit more understandable than one about a toilet...
David Bowie, The Man Who Sold The World (1970) Another example where the UK cover was deemed too racy for U.S. audiences. David Bowie in a dress? For shame! To add to the confusion, the album was re-released by a different record company a few years later with a different cover altogether.
Mom's Apple Pie, Mom's Apple Pie (1971) This Ohio band is known more for this infamous album cover than for anything else it ever did. The luscious piece of pie hides a sexy secret that most people probably never even noticed. The cover was recalled and the salacious slice replaced with a brick wall and barbed wire under a waving American flag.
Alice Cooper, Love It to Death (1971) Never a stranger to controversy, Alice's little thumb-joke on this cover apparently caused the little old ladies at Woolworth's to freak out. Later pressings had the faux-appendage airbrushed out.
Michael Jackson, Ben (1972) MJ's album cover for the soundtrack of the movie Ben, a film about rats, unsurprisingly showed a bunch of rats. Someone thought the imagery inappropriate for the kids, so the cover was reissued sans rats. The cover redesign, however, does nothing to change the fact that "Ben" is a love song to a rat.
Three Dog Night, Hard Labor (1974) This tasteless cover showing some sort of bird-beast giving birth to an LP is apparently the best thing about this album by a band who, years before, had brought "Joy To The World." It was soon reissued with a giant adhesive bandage stuck over the cover. Later issues have the bandage as part of the artwork. Classy!
Roxy Music, Country Life (1974) This cover was censored for a very common reason - boobs. What was perfectly fine for the rest of the world was once again deemed too racy for American eyes. The titillating pair of ladies were replaced with a dull shot of leaves for subsequent U.S. releases.
Scorpions, In Trance (1975) Another year, another boob controversy. The glimpse of skin on this cover was enough to call for a boobless reissue, and would also foreshadow a continuing drama between the Scorpions and the album-cover police.
Scorpions, Virgin Killer (1976) The Scorpions seem to be trying to outdo Blind Faith with this cover. They had to know there would be issues with it, given the controversy of their last album. Apparently they didn't care!
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Street Survivors (1977) Just days after this record's release, three band members were killed in a fiery plane crash. You can see the problem. The cover was immediately recalled and replaced with another shot with a plain black background.
Scorpions, Taken By Force (1978) AGAIN with the Scorpions. This rather innocent cover of two boys playing shoot-em-up in a graveyard was deemed too distasteful for just about everywhere except Japan. Most countries issued the album with a boring band photo cover.
Scorpions, Lovedrive (1979) Despite being awarded with the enviable Best Album Cover award from Playboy magazine, this cover was considered too sticky for American eyes. It was soon recalled and replaced with an amateurish scorpion logo drawing. This band MUST have been causing controversy on purpose!
U2, Boy (1980) One of the least understandable album-cover changes is courtesy of everyone's favorite Irish supergroup, U2. Their debut album cover in the UK featured a simple shot of a shirtless young boy, which U2's American label thought might give an impression of pedophilia or homosexuality, and the iconic cover was changed in the U.S.
Guns 'N' Roses, Appetite For Destruction (1987) Some retailers didn't appreciate the artwork for G'N'R's debut. Sure, there's a woman about to be raped by a drunken robot, but the robot is about to get his comeuppance from a multi-armed beast with swords for teeth. What's the problem?
The Coup, Party Music (2001) Although we haven't included any other compact disc "album covers" on this list, we couldn't leave this one out. From the annals of "tremendously bad timing", this CD from the Coup was scheduled for release in October 2001. While the 9/11 attacks were still going on, someone noticed the cover on the record company's Web site; by the time it was removed, it had been emailed around the world and gave a third-rate hip-hop group more publicity than could be dreamed of by even the most twisted marketing exec. Click here to see the covers that actually made it into record stores.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.