List of controversial album art

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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[edit]

  • The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceElectric 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.[1]
  • John Lennon & Yoko OnoUnfinished 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,[2] and copies of the album were impounded as obscenity in several jurisdictions.[citation needed]
  • Blind FaithBlind 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, Mariora Goschen, who was 11 years old.[3][4][5] The US record company issued it with an alternative cover which showed a photograph of the band on the front.
  • Led ZeppelinHouses of the Holy (1973)
    • The cover features a group of naked children climbing at Giant's Causeway. The interior art also depicts a distant figure of a naked man standing on mossy ruins while holding one of the children in a ceremonial gesture. Although the album was originally released with the nudity intact, subsequent editions distributed by Atlantic Records covered one of the naked children's buttocks with the "Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy" text printed on a white background.[6] The buttocks were later airbrushed out.
  • ScorpionsVirgin Killer (1976)
    • This cover featured a photo of naked prepubescent girl, with her pubic area partially obscured by a "cracked glass" effect. Her pose and the title "Virgin Killer" added to the image's notoriety. The Internet Watch Foundation, a British non-profit group who provides content blacklists for major ISP's in the country, also notably blacklisted pages on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia for featuring the cover on its article about the album.[7] This block was later retracted due to technical problems which occurred as a result of the blocking mechanisms and due to the already "wide availability" of the image.[8]
  • Bow Wow WowSee Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy (1981)
  • Roger Waters - "The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking" (1984)
    • The cover features a rear-view and nude image of model and pornography actress Linzi Drew. It was condemned by many feminist groups and was also accused of promoting rape. Columbia Records were forced to place a black box covering the nudity for future releases to avoid more controversy.
  • Dead KennedysFrankenchrist (1985)
  • Jane's AddictionNothing's Shocking (1988)
    • The album cover, created by frontman Perry Farrell, features a sculpture of a pair of nude female conjoined twins sitting on a sideways rocking chair with their heads on fire. Farrell said the image, like much of his artwork, came to him in a dream and he hired the employees of Warner Bros. to create the cover sculpture; after learning how to create sculptures by watching them closely, he fired the Warner Bros. staff and created the artwork himself. Farrell hired someone to help create a full body casting of his girlfriend for use as the sculptures. Retailers objected to the album's cover. Nine out of the eleven leading record store chains refused to carry Nothing's Shocking, and the record had to be issued covered with brown paper.[citation needed]
  • Red Hot Chili PeppersMother's Milk (1989)
    • The album cover features a black and white photograph of the band sprawled across the arms of a proportionately larger naked woman. A rose conceals one of her nipples while singer Anthony Kiedis' standing body conceals the other. Several national chains refused to sell the record because they believed the female subject displayed too much nudity. A stricter censored version was manufactured for some retailers that featured the band members in far larger proportion than the original.[10]
  • Loverboy - Big Ones (1989)
    • The cover features 12 squares with various pictures in them, but with one of them containing a photo of a woman's breasts. After many stores refused to stock the album, the cover was edited with black bars over the woman's nipples.
  • Jane's AddictionRitual 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 that refused to stock items with nudity on the front cover.
  • BlurShe's So High (1990)
    • The cover shows a naked woman astride a hippotamus, painted by Californian artist Mel Ramos. The poster and accompanying T-shirt, with the picture printed in full size, caused some controversy amongst students and advertisements for the single were banned in Hackney and the London Underground, and defaced elsewhere.
  • NirvanaNevermind (1991)
    • The album cover clearly showed a naked infant with his penis showing and is swimming after a dollar bill. Chain stores such as Wal-Mart, and K-Mart 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.
  • Tin MachineTin Machine II (1991)
    • The original cover featured a row of four nude Kouroi. In the U.S. the genitalia of the statues were airbrushed out, leading band member David Bowie to exclaim, "Only in America!"[11]
  • SuedeSuede (1993)
    • The gender-ambiguous cover art provoked controversy in the press,[12] prompting Anderson to comment, "I chose it because of the ambiguity of it, but mostly because of the beauty of it." The cover image of the androgynous kissing couple was taken from the 1991 book Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs edited by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser. The photograph was taken by Tee Corinne and in its entirety shows a woman kissing an acquaintance in a wheelchair.[13]
  • ToolUndertow (1993)
    • Photos in the liner notes of a nude obese woman, a nude man of normal weight, a cow licking its genitals, and the band members with pins in the sides of their heads generated controversy, resulting in the album being removed from stores such as Kmart and Wal-Mart.[14][15] The cover was later replaced by a giant bar code.[14]
  • The Black CrowesAmorica (1994)
    • The album cover's depiction of pubic hair, taken from an issue of Hustler magazine, caused controversy.[16] The image was replaced with a black background cover which blacked out the hair.
  • NOFX - Heavy Petting Zoo (1996)
    • The album features two covers, one for the CD version and one for the LP version. The CD version features a man sitting down on the ground in a petting zoo cuddling a sheep. The LP version sparked controversy, as it features the same man in a 69 position with the same sheep. The album is known as Eating Lamb on the LP. The LP version was banned from Germany due it the cover's subject matter.
  • Buckcherry - Buckcherry (1999)
    • The cover depicts a painting of a naked woman with tattoos laying on her stomach on the floor with her right breast exposed. The album was banned from Kmart because of the cover. The band also saw continued controversy on their next album, Time Bomb.
  • MinistryDark Side of the Spoon (1999)
    • The album's cover depicts a naked obese woman seated in front of a blackboard where the words "I will be god" are written numerous times. The album was banned from Kmart due to the offending cover.[17] In the album's insert, the same woman covers her breasts with her hands, and her behind is also exposed on both the insert and back cover. The woman and the words on the blackboard were later airbrushed out.
  • The Dwarves - Come Clean (2000)
    • The album cover featured two naked women washing themselves with soap while in the bottom right corner there was a naked dwarf.
  • Puddle of Mudd - Come Clean (2001)
    • The album cover features vocalist Wes Scantlin's son Jordon with his pants down and buttocks exposed. The obscene cover resulted in the album being banned from certain stores such as, Walmart and Kmart. The cover was taken by American photographer Kate Schermerhorn on the afternoon of the 1999 full solar eclipse in Cornwall,England. Despite the controversy, the album has never had an alternative cover.
  • The StrokesIs This It (2001)
    • The original cover art featured a photograph of a woman's nude bottom and hip, with a leather-gloved hand suggestively resting on it. Copies of this album were banned[citation needed] and the cover art was changed to a microscopic close-up of particle collisions.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - By the Way (2002)
    • The album cover features a painting by Julian Schnabel of his daughter Stella topless standing on a palm tree background with her eyes scratched out. Many retail stores refused to sell the album due to its cover. Despite the controversy, the album has never had a clean cover.
  • 3 Doors Down - Seventeen Days (2005)
    • The cover depicts a naked baby sitting on an old table with his genitalia covered by a wolf head. Stores such as, Walmart, Kmart & Best Buy refused to carry the album due to the obscene cover. Despite the controversy, the band had never changed the artwork.
  • Ice-T - Gangsta Rap (2006)
    • The cover depicts Ice-T and his wife Nicole "Coco" Austin apparently naked in bed.
  • Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
    • The cover originally showed a painting by George Condo depicting West being straddled by a phoenix. Certain retail stores refused to sell the album due to the cover's sexual content. The cover was pixelated for iTunes. Later, Condo created a second cover, showing a ballerina with a glass of cherry juice.
  • Death Grips - No Love Deep Web (2012)
    • The cover shows the erect penis of drummer Zach Hill with the album's title written in black marker. The cover caused such controversy, along with its spontaneous release without their label's permission, that the band were forced to put a disclaimer on their website. An alternative cover was subsequently released depicting a man wearing socks with the words "Suck my dick" on them.
  • Tenacious DRize of the Fenix (2012)
    • The album cover shows an animated penis-shaped phoenix along with flames and fire in the background. The album cover was pixelated for iTunes, and in-store versions had a sticker covering the explicit content. Some stores sold the cover with no censor.
  • Sky Ferreira - Night Time, My Time (2013)
    • The album cover features Sky Ferriera appearing topless, wearing a cross necklace inside a shower, with a "demented" facial expression.[18] The album cover was cropped for iTunes,[19] and in-store versions had an elongated sticker with the album title and her name covering the explicit content.
  • Nicki Minaj - Anaconda (2014) (Single)
    • The artwork for this digital single depicts the subject with her back towards the camera, emphasizing her thong-clad buttocks. Some stores censored this art by positioning the Parental Advisory seal over the buttocks. (Or a black box on the edited version) [20]


  • AerosmithNine Lives (1997)
    • The original cover aroused the anger of some Hindus[who?] 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.
  • P.O.D.The Fundamental Elements of Southtown (1999)
    • Many Christian stores refused[citation needed] to carry the album due to its surreal cover art, so an alternative cover that was black and featured the band's name and album title was released for Christian markets.
  • Tenacious DTenacious D (2001)
    • The album cover received controversy due to its parody of the Devil tarot card. On the back of the CD were two babies locked to Satan. This had it pulled from many stores and in later US copies of the CD the babies were airbrushed out. Though for the July 2002 CD release of the album in the UK and also the 2013 re-release on vinyl, the babies were kept in.
  • SlayerChrist Illusion (2006)
    • The cover depicts a mutilated, stoned Christ in a sea of blood with mutilated heads. For stores who refused to sell the album with the original cover, an alternative cover was provided instead. In India, Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Mumbai Christian group Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), took "strong exception" to the original album artwork, and issued a memorandum to Mumbai's police commissioner in protest. As a result, all Indian stocks were recalled and destroyed.[21]
  • The Game - Jesus Piece (2012)
    • The cover features an African-American Jesus in a stained glass window sitting on a throne, wearing a red bandana on his mouth and a jesus piece chain and has a teardrop tattoo underneath his left eye and is also pointing to his breast plate. After the Roman Catholic Church complained to Interscope Records about the cover, Game decided to make this cover for the deluxe edition and use a different cover for the standard edition. The standard cover features a black-and-white photo of the rapper's deceased brother Jevon Danell Taylor who died at the age of 21 after being shot.


  • Bob DylanBlonde on Blonde (1966)
    • The original inside gatefold featured nine black-and-white photos,[22] including a shot of actress Claudia Cardinale that Dylan selected from Jerry Schatzberg's portfolio. Since it had been used without her authorization, Cardinale's photo was subsequently removed, making the original record sleeve a collector's item.[23]
  • Richard PryorRichard Pryor (1968)
    • The debut album of comedian Richard Pryor was recorded live at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, California. The cover was art-directed and designed by Gary Burden. According to Burden, As a result of the Richard Pryor album cover, which I loved doing, I got two letters: One was a letter from the National Geographic Society’s attorneys offering to sue me for defaming their publication. The second letter was a Grammy nomination for the best album cover.[24]
  • NegativlandU2 (1991 Unreleased)
    • The cover features the album title, "U2", as a very large logo, with the band's name in small text beneath the album. Island Records sued the band for the use of the misleading album cover because "U2" is trademark of the label. The cover is both misleading and an attempt to confuse fans of U2, an Irish band of the same name, to make fans believe it is a new album by U2. The songs on the album were too controversial, as they were versions of U2's song "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" which were copied without permission.
  • The Beautiful SouthMiaow (1994)
    • The album was originally set to feature a photo of rows of dogs seated in a music hall with a gramophone on the stage. However, retailer HMV made the band withdraw it as it mocked their trademark dog, and the band put out a new cover, depicting four dogs in a boat.[25]
  • 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.[26]
  • U2 - No Line on the Horizon (2009)
    • The cover image, Boden Sea by Hiroshi Sugimoto, had previously been used by Richard Chartier and Taylor Deupree for their 2006 album Specification.Fifteen. Deupree called U2's cover "nearly an exact rip-off" and stated that for the band to obtain the rights to the image it was "simply a phone call and a check."[27][28] Sugimoto refuted both of these claims, calling the use of the same photograph a coincidence and stating that no money was involved in the deal with U2.[29]
  • Vampire Weekend - Contra (2010)
    • The cover art, taken in the 1980s, features a blond girl staring into the camera with an unidentifiable expression on her face. The band are currently being sued by the model, Kirsten Kennis,[citation needed] who claims the photographer who sold the image to the band did not take the picture and she was not aware her image was being used until she saw the copy her teenage daughter had bought.
  • blink-182 - Enema of the State (1999)
    • Initial copies had the American Red Cross on the subject's nurse cap. This logo was airbrushed on subsequent copies after a complaint.

Violence and others[edit]

  • The Mamas & 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.[by whom?][citation needed] 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.
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Street Survivors (1977)
    • The original cover sleeve for Street Survivors had featured a photograph of the band, particularly Steve Gaines, standing in the street of a town engulfed in flames. Three days after the album was released, three of the band members were killed in a plane crash due to fuel exhaustion. Out of respect for the deceased (and at the request of Teresa Gaines, Steve Gaines' widow), MCA Records withdrew the original cover and replaced it with a similar image of the band against a simple black background. Thirty years later, for the deluxe CD version of Street Survivors, the original "flames" cover was restored.
  • MetallicaKill 'Em All (1983)
    • Metallica was going to call the album Metal Up Your Ass, with the cover featuring a toilet bowl with a hand clutching a dagger emerging from it. However, at the request of Megaforce Records (who thought the original album title would be inappropriate),[30] the band changed the album title to Kill 'Em All. They also changed the artwork, this time depicting a shadow of a hand releasing a bloodied hammer.
  • Def Leppard - Pyromania (1983)
    • The artwork depicted an animated crosshairs pointed at a large flame emerging from the top floor of a skyscraper. This cover gained controversy and was banned from certain stores such as Best Buy and Future Shop. Despite the controversy, no alternative cover was made.
  • 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.[31] The expanded re-release, entitled !!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some, displayed the original cover photo.
  • Ice-T - The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech... Just Watch What You Say! (1989)
    • The album cover features an image of a shotgun shoved in Ice-T's mouth, and two pistols pressed against each side of his head. Because of the artwork, the album was banned from many chain stores.[which?] Ice-T has said that the cover reflected his experiences with the concept of freedom of speech.[32] Despite the controversy, the album has never had an alternative cover.
  • 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[citation needed] 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.[33]
  • Cannibal Corpse - (1990-2006)
    • Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse's albums were all banned from Germany until 2006 due to their graphic album covers and violent lyrics.
  • Green Day - Kerplunk (1992)
    • The cover features a white picture (with some green added in) of a teenage girl wearing a flower shirt holding a smoking gun. The back cover features a boy lying on the ground with a gunshot wound on his back. Retail stores such as Walmart and Kmart were highly offended and initially refused to carry Kerplunk. The band saw continued controversy on their next album Dookie.
  • Ugly Kid Joe - America's Least Wanted (1992)
    • The album's cover features an image of Ugly Kid Joe's mascot posing as the statue of liberty holding a porn magazine and sticking up a middle finger. The album was banned from many national retailers because of the cover. A clean cover was used, which featured the band's mascot tied up in rope, handcuffed in one hand (which is covered with duct tape), while his legs are wrapped in chains.
  • Ice-T - Home Invasion (1993)
    • The album's cover depicted a white boy listening to rap music in the midst of a home invasion in which Blacks are attacking Whites (presumably the boy's parents). Sire Records, owned by Time Warner, refused to release the album with the cover, and Ice-T left from the label as a result.[34]
  • 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." Retailers Wal-Mart and Kmart refused to sell the album because of the offensive back cover artwork (featuring model fetuses), so a "clean" version was released for them which featured an altered version of the back cover and listed the title "Rape Me" as "Waif Me", though the song remained unchanged.[35][36]
  • Slayer - Divine Intervention (1994)
    • The cover was originally intended to depict a photo of a guy's arms with the band's name carved into them. However, vocalist Tom Araya stated that the cover was "too graphic" and would be banned from certain stores. Guitarist Kerry King decided to move the graphic image onto the inlay and the disc. The cover was changed to depict a circle of a skeleton sitting on a skull on a stone wall background. However, many vinyl releases have the original cover artwork.
  • Green Day - Dookie (1994)
    • The album cover depicted dogs throwing bombs and dirt on people and buildings and a huge explosion with the band's name on top of the cloud. A blimp on the left in the sky says "Bad Year" (possibly a parody of the Good Year Blimp) and on the right is a man with a harp in a cloud. This cover gained controversy and was banned from retail stores such as Walmart and Kmart (as with their previous album Kerplunk). Despite the controversy, no alternative cover has existed.[citation needed]
  • Slayer - Serenity in Murder (1995)
    • This is a 4-track EP released by Slayer shortly after the release of their 1994 LP Divine Intervention. But it was discovered that the cover featured a photo of the band's name carved into a guy's back (same thing used on Divine Intervention, but with two arms instead of a back). Unlike Divine Intervention, the EP has never had an alternative cover.
  • Ugly Kid Joe - The Very Best of Ugly Kid Joe: As Ugly as It Gets (1998)
    • The cover features a picture of the Ugly Kid Joe mascot running in a living room with a lighter in his hand. Many stores, such as Kmart and Walmart refused to stock the album as it was deemed "too violent". The album was released 6 years after their debut album America's Least Wanted. Unlike that album, As Ugly as It Gets has never had a second cover.
  • Buckcherry - Time Bomb (2001)
    • The cover depicts a black-and-white headshot of a child with bandages crossed on its eyes and mouth. The cover was pulled from the shelves as it was declared child abuse. Since 2010, the album was put out of print.
  • The Coup - Party Music (2001)
    • The original cover art, designed in June 2001, depicted Boots Riley and Pam the Funkstress destroying the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. After the September 11 attacks, the album's release was delayed until November of that year, with the record now sporting an alternate cover depicting a hand holding a flaming martini glass.
  • 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".[37] 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".[37]
  • Manic Street Preachers - Journal for Plague Lovers (2009)
    • The album art depicts a painting by Jenny Saville. A number of UK supermarket deemed the red/ochre colours on the portrait to be blood, and therefore used alternative packaging to stock the item.[38] The alternative packaging in question is a longbox, a type of outer packaging used for some CDs in the 1980s and early to mid-1990s.


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  23. ^ Zoom sur le mythe Dylan 2006
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