Sometimes music can be risqué and labelled explicit, but it’s a whole different story when an album is banned from store shelves because of its cover. Over the years, there have been tons of rad albums with covers that have been pulled from record stores or rejected by labels before it even had a chance to go out.
Check out our list of the top banned or controversial album covers.
Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet
When this album was released in 1968, records were censored very differently than they are today. The album cover is a washroom with the wall splattered with graffiti with the bands name in a blood red paint and marker. Seems tame right? The reason the cover was actually delayed from release was due to the fact that a toilet was in the art, so the band had to wait for the release until there was an alternative cover chosen to replace it. Yes, the album was delayed because of a TOILET and they are not the only ones who have ever had a toilet “ruin” the cover.
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs
Released in 1966, this album had David Bowie turning heads with his creativity and new ideas. The cover was no different, with Bowie completing his look to match the title of the album by painting his head on a canine body. The front of the album cut off the image at Bowie’s human waist, and the back displayed the rest of his transformation. The bottom half was a pair of dog legs and a particularly large penis, which the label was not happy with. The legs ended up staying but the groin area got edited out.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Jumping forward a few decades to 2010, we come across Kanye West, who has never shied away from being himself. When it came to releasing his fifth album, West told the artist, George Condo, that he wanted an album cover that would be banned. So, Condo listened, and the cover ended up being a painting of West being straddled by a woman with no arms, but wings instead and a tail covered in polka dots. When the album was actually rejected due to the cover, West decided to change it to a painting of a ballerina instead.
Ice Cube – Death Certificate
The cover of this album is an honest one to say the least. It pictures Ice Cube standing beside a dead body in a morgue, with the cadaver’s toe wrapped with a tag that reads “Uncle Sam”. The cadaver is also covered in a United States flag, indicating that the person who died is the embodiment of the United States. The album has songs about racial profiling and violence in the States and how important it is to be informed on what was happening around the citizens in 1991.
Nirvana – Nevermind
In the same year, this famous 1991 album cover had issues with child nudity. The child on the front of the cover was 4 months old when photographed with permission from their parents, and placed on the album. Nirvana’s label was hesitant on releasing the album because the child’s genitals were visible, and they even came up with a version of it that had the groin airbrushed, but apparently Kurt Cobain was very insistent on having the art be in its original form.
Marilyn Manson – Holy Wood (In the Shadow of the Valley of Death)
Music started off the century with a typical Marilyn Manson creative cover. After being attacked for “inspiring” the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, the band released this album and had its art reflect the anger they felt as a result of those assumptions. The art shows Manson crucified like Christ with his jaw missing from his face, which Manson has said that the missing jaw signifies the censorship they received after the shooting. Many retail stores refused to sell the album all together, and some would only agree if the cover was changed.
Slayer – God Hates Us All
Continuing with the religious trend, Slayer’s album title says it all. The cover has a bible with nails hammered into it in the shape of a pentagram, with blood all over it and the bands name branded into it. If that isn’t a middle finger to religion, then I’m not sure what is. The cover ended up being wrapped in a basic brown casing in retail stores to hide the art.
The Beatles – Yesterday and Today
Who knew the Beatles had such dark humour? In the original album cover for this record, it displayed the band all sitting down beside each other, each wearing a white suit, holding large pieces of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. It was supposedly originally for an art piece about the Vietnam War, and was never meant to be a cover, but when Paul McCartney pushed for it, they tried it out. That definitely did not work and almost 750,000 copies were taken off the shelves and recalled because of the artwork.