For all you music addicts out there, we have made a list of top 10 most controversial album covers that stirred the public and raised few eyebrows (and sometimes ire).
THE CONTROVERSY: Guns Nâ Roses seemed to enjoy courting controversy â and that joy apparently extended to their album covers. Their astonishing first album, 1987âs Appetite for Destruction, used an image, drawn by underground cartoonist Robert Williams, depicting a raping robot â later versions used different art. The album cover to their sophomore effort, G Nâ R Lies, was a collage of faux tabloid stories, which included two misogynistic headlines: âWife-beating has been around for 10,000 yearsâ and âLadies, welcome to the dark agesâ.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: Responding to numerous complaints, new versions of the album utilized new headlines: âLIES LIES LIESâ and âElephant gives birth to midgetâ.
THE YEAR: 1966
THE CONTROVERSY: The 11th album from the Beatles â released only in the U.S. and Canada â featured the grinning Fab Four wearing butchers smocks and draped with bloody pieces of meat and dismembered doll parts. The photos were first used in promotional campaigns in the U.K., including the release of their new single âPaperback Writerâ â reportedly Paul McCartney suggested it be used as a cover image. When more than a few music critics and radio DJs who were sent advance copies of the album objected to the photo, the label knew they had a problem on their hands.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: Roughly 750,000 albums were printed and assembled. The few that made it to stores were recalled. Some copies were taken to a landfill and buried; most, however, had a new cover â with a photo of the band posed around a steamer trunk â pasted on top of the offending art. In 2006, a pristine copy of the original album sold for $39,000
THE CONTROVERSY: One score and one year ago, a rock trio from Aberdeen, Washington, released their first âofficialâ album, Nevermind, collection of 12 â okay, 13 â songs that would come to be regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. The now-iconic album cover featured a three-month old infant â the new son of the photographerâs friend â swimming towards a dollar bill hooked on some fishing line. The label was okay with the anti-capitalism message, but had concerns about the prominent display of baby genitalia.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: According to band biographer Michael Azerrad (Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana), the label wanted to use a different image. Lead singer Kurt Cobain agreed to only one compromise: a strategically placed sticker that would read: âIf youâre offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile.â The original album art went out untouched.
THE CONTROVERSY: In 1991, Aerosmith, one of the biggest bands at that time, signed a $30 million contract with Columbia Records â a kind of deal unheard of today, but normal in that crazy coke-fueled era. The band still owed Geffen a few more albums, so they didnât get around to their Columbia projects for another six years. Nine Lives was recorded during a time of dissent and upheaval in the band and the albumâs art certainly didnât do much to relieve their stress: the original art, drawn by Stefan Sagmeister, was based on Hindu imagery and shows Krishna dancing atop a snake demon â with Krishnaâs head replaced with one of a cat (you know, Nine Lives?).
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: The art offended some in the Hindu community and the band and label released a new cover that showed another cat-headed figure strapped to a circus knife-throwerâs wheel.
THE CONTROVERSY: The much-anticipated second album from indie darlings Vampire Weekend, Contra was a hit both commercially (debuting atop the Billboard Hot 200) and critically (eventually landing on many best-of-the-year lists). The album cover image was taken from a discarded Polaroid discovered by Vampire songwriter Rostam Batmanglij â the band was quite taken by the enigmatic look of the blonde-tressed subject. A few month after Contraâs release, the band was named in a $2 million lawsuit filed by the girl in the photo, Ann Kirsten Kennis.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: The legal proceedings took a strange turn after Tod Brody, the individual who claimed he took the Polaroid in 1983 and sold the rights to Vampire Weekend for $5,000, disappeared when he, in turn, was sued by the band. In August 2011, Kennis dropped her suit after receiving an undisclosed settlement from the band and label. (Brody, whose whereabout were recently discovered, still faces legal action from all parties.)
THE CONTROVERSY: The dazzling debut album from the Strokes earned raves for its effervescent pop sensibility and its raw, seemingly unprocessed sound. The album cover featured a photo of a womanâs leather-glove-encased hand (a sly nod to Spinal Tap?) resting on her bare bottom. The photographer was Colin Lane and the model was his then-girlfriend, who had just emerged from a shower.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: When early copies of the album appeared in the U.K., retailers grumbled but stocked them in shelves. Perhaps sensing a stronger backlash from retailers in the U.S., the band replaced the stylish derriere with a more abstract image that showed the spiraling trajectories of subatomic particle collisions.
THE CONTROVERSY: The fifth album from indie-folkie Sufjan Stevens, Illinois (not Illinoise, as the album text would suggest) was reportedly the second in a series of of 50 albums, each celebrating a different state in our union. The albumâs 22 tracks reference the best and worst of the Prairie State (including Carl Sandburg, serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the Cubs), and the album cover does the same: Divya Srinivasanâs illustration includes likenesses of Al Capone, the Hancock Tower, and â strangely enough â a flying Superman.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: It was widely reported that DC Comics â the holders of the copyright to the Man of Steel â sent a cease-and-desist letter to Stevensâ label, Asthmatic Kitty. In fact, the labelâs own lawyers, when alerted to this infringement, contacted DC on their own and worked out a deal that allowed them to sell existing inventory and remove Superman in subsequent pressings. (Sadly, Stevensâ later admitted his 50-state project was just a gag.)
THE CONTROVERSY: The double-disc Electric Ladyland â featuring such guitar-rock staples âCrosstown Traffic,â âVoodoo Chile (Slight Return)â and a searing cover of Bob Dylanâs âAll Along the Watchtowerâ â was the third and last album from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi Hendrix himself had a definite concept of what he wanted on the cover: a picture of the band surrounded by children (taken by the future Linda McCartney, whose photos are featured inside). The labels had different ideas: Reprise, in the U.S., used a blurry picture of the rock star taken by Karl Ferris; Track, in the U.K., opted for a photo of 19 naked women sitting against a black backdrop.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: The U.K. version, released a month after the album went on sale in the States, generated a bit of controversy, but never to the degree that caused the labels to recall or remove inventory. The Hendrix estate has stated that the U.S. album, with the Ferris pic, should be considered the âofficialâ version.
THE CONTROVERSY: The fifth album from the legendary Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, Street Survivors, was, sadly, the last album recorded by founding members Ronnie Van Zant and Allen Collins, as well as new guitarist Steve Gaines. On October 20, 1977, just three days after the album was released, a chartered plane carrying the three bandmates crashed in Louisiana, taking seven lives in all. The album cover featured a photograph â shot at Universal Studios â of the band engulfed in flames: an image that was hard to ignore as an unfortunate and macabre premonition of the tragedy that soon followed.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: At the request of the bandâs families, the fiery picture was moved to the back of the album, and a new photo from the same shoot â with the band placed against a black background â was used on the cover. A 30th-anniversary re-issue, released in 2007, restored the original image back on the front.
THE CONTROVERSY: In late 1987, Prince fans awaited the release of his widely talked-about and deliciously funk-heavy Black Album. Only a few records went out before the artist, in true Prince fashion, abandoned the project and recalled all the albums â with the circulating copies becoming much sought-after bootlegs. A few months later, Prince released Lovesexy, which features a nude picture of the Purple One (shot by fashion photographer/video director Jean-Baptiste Mondino) reclining on a floral arrangement â with a distinctly phallic stamen pointed at his chest.
WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS: More than a few retailers objected to the images and would only sell the album wrapped in â you guessed it â black. (The ârealâ Black Album got an official release in 1994.)source