17 Altered Album Covers
Candidates for a photo gallery of Altered Album Covers must have a resume topped by at least one offense – be that death, nudity and general ickiness. Still the wonder is that it ever happened at all. After all, album covers are the gateway to the music found inside, a crucial part of the listening experience. And just as songs are pored over by the artists who make them, album covers – you’d think – are meticulously designed to reflect the theme of the project. But sometimes those original ideas are shot down, even after the records reach the hands of fans. Click through for a compilation of our list of Altered Album Covers.
'Yesterday and Today' (1966)
By 1966, the Beatles were fed up with Capitol Records assembling the U.S. versions of their albums out of bits and pieces of their original U.K. releases. So when the label did it again for the 'Yesterday and Today' compilation (which gathered leftover singles and album tracks from 1965 and 1966), the band responded with the infamous "butcher" cover, in which the quartet, dressed in smocks, covered itself with pieces of raw meat and doll parts. Capitol was not pleased and promptly replaced the photo with one of the cleaned-up group posing with a steamer trunk.
The original cover of the Black Crowes' third album, 'Amorica,' featured a photo that first ran in Hustler magazine back in 1976. Keeping with the band's retro-hippie reputation, the pic zeroed in on a woman's crotch, which sports an American-flag bikini bottom. That wasn't the problem. The tuft of pubic hair springing from it was. The cover was soon altered with a simple black background replacing everything but the triangle-shaped flag.
'Blind Faith' (1969)
The debut (and only) album from Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood's supergroup came out in 1969 with a cover featuring a topless prepubescent girl holding a model airplane . . . which looked suspiciously like a penis if you removed its wings. That, and the fact that there was a topless prepubescent girl on the cover, was enough to move Blind Faith's record company to reissue the LP cover with a black-and-white photo of the band.
'Lovedrive' served as the Scorpions' gold-selling commercial breakthrough -- helped along, no doubt, by the completion of their classic-era lineup with the addition of Matthias Jabs on lead guitar. Well, that and the controversy surrounding its original cover. The image, by Storm Thorgerson of Hipgnosis fame, showed a woman's exposed breast connected to a man's hand by out-stretched bubblegum. At least before it was replaced with a simple image featuring a blue scorpion.
'Diamond Dogs' (1974)
This one's cheating a bit, since the offending cover was actually the back cover -- the bottom half of sprawling gatefold artwork. The original 'Diamond Dogs' design featured David Bowie as a part-man, part-dog beast, but after execs got an eyeful of the creature's genitalia hanging out, they quickly recommissioned the cover with the naughty bits airbrushed out.
'Appetite for Destruction' (1987)
Guns N' Roses' landmark debut originally featured cover artwork that was way better at reflecting the album's title and the band's violent music than the blah skull-and-crosses drawing that replaced it. Based on an illustration by artist Robert Williams, the cover of 'Appetite for Destruction' included a raping robot, a half-naked woman and a vengeful something hovering over the chaotic scene. Naturally, it was quickly replaced by more tamed art.
'Electric Ladyland' (1968)
It wasn't Jimi Hendrix's idea for the original cover of 'Electric Ladyland' to feature a bunch of naked ladies. His original concept was based on a photo shot by the future Linda McCartney. But his record company ignored him, and instead the album was issued with two unapproved photos: the naked-lady one, and the cleaner, more famous shot of the artist's head in blurred action.
'Virgin Killer' (1976)
The Scorpions' fourth release became the first to garner attention outside of their core European base -- and, to this day, the cover is one of their most famous. Or, infamous, really. Taking the album title a touch too literally, the Steffan Bohle-designed art originally showed a nude 10-year-old girl. "RCA, our record label then, went over the edge with 'Virgin Killer,'" frontman Klaus Meine has since admitted. "Today, when you think of child pornography on the net, you would never do something like that. ... It is about the song and the label was pushing the idea because they wanted to get the controversy to help the album sell and you cannot get better promotion than that." Fast forward to 2008, and the album's Wikipedia page was briefly blocked on the grounds that the cover violated the Protection of Children Act of 1978.
'Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins' (1968)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono celebrated their budding love for each other with an entire record made up of experimental, and mostly unlistenable, noises and dialogue. But the most controversial part of 'Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins' was its cover, on which the Beatle and his girlfriend stood completely naked, with genitals, breasts, etc. hanging out. Unsurprisingly, the cover was shipped in a plain wrapper, which obscured all the dirty parts.
'Creatures of the Night' (1982)
Kiss' 10th studio effort was the last credited with Ace Frehley until 1998's 'Psycho Circus,' and also the first with replacement Vinnie Vincent. Because, actually, Frehley didn't play on 'Creatures of the Night.' Confused yet? Wait until you hear the album-image saga, which began with a made-up Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Carr and Frehley then was updated in 1985 with a makeup-free lineup that replaced Frehley with then-current member Bruce Kulick. As such, Kulick became the second guitarist who didn't play on 'Creatures of the Night' to appear on its cover. Later, Kiss reverted to the original image.
'Street Survivors' (1977)
Lynyrd Skynyrd released their fifth album on Oct. 17, 1977. Three days later, their plane crashed, killing some members of the band, including singer Ronnie Van Zant. This made 'Street Survivors'' cover, featuring the group engulfed in flames, seem more than a little morbid. The album was quickly pulled and reissued with a standard photo of the band standing in front of a staid, black background.
'Open Up and Say ... Ahh!' (1988)
Poison's second album came packaged in artwork that took its title most literally: a model, camouflaged as a wild animal, sports an enormously large tongue dangling from her open mouth. During an era when somebody was always upset about something going on with music, there was no way 'Open Up and Say ... Ahh!''s cover would stay intact. And it didn't. Within weeks it was reissued with nothing but the woman's eyes peering out between slashes of darkness.
'Love at First Sting' (1984)
Yes, the Scorpions. Yes, again. The original cover art for this project, created by German graphic designers at Kochlowski, showed a man giving a tattoo to a partially nude woman. A complaint by Wal-Mart after Polygram released 'Love at First Sting' led to yet another second edition. "We never did it on purpose," Meine insisted. "We just did not know it would be a problem in America. It was just sex and rock 'n' roll. It is odd that in America that some of these covers were a problem because in the '80s, when we would tour here, we always had boobs flashed to us at the front of the stage. Nowhere else in the world, just here." A photo of the Scorpions, originally on the inner sleeve, was subsequently moved out front.
'Beggars Banquet' (1968)
The album that launched the Rolling Stones' most fertile period was supposed to come out in summer 1968. But the record company refused to release it with the cover the band submitted: a photo of a grimy, graffiti-strewn bathroom. After months of delays, 'Beggars Banquet' was finally issued in December with fancy invitation-style cover art.
'Country Life' (1974)
One of rock's all-time sexiest covers naturally ruffled some, um, feathers upon its release in 1974. Featuring two barely clothed women, the cover of Roxy Music's 'Country Life' also caused a stir among many retailers, who refused to carry the album. So the two models were erased and replaced with lots and lots of green, and decidedly unsexy, foliage.
'The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking' (1984)
Roger Waters' debut solo album was a typically complex concept record about midlife crises, infidelity and other anxieties swirling around the former Pink Floyd member's head at the time. But that's not what got him in trouble with the moral police. Turns out the cover model's bare ass was a bit too much for some people, so a black box was placed across the offending buttocks when the album returned for further printings.
'Balance,' Van Halen's last full-length project with Sammy Hagar, sparked controversy and intrigue with an album image featuring nude conjoined twins on a see saw. Some were outraged at the image, others wondered if Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang (who later joined the band) was pictured. He wasn't; instead it was a youngster from Denver whose photo was copied to get the desired effect. Later, after some countries refused to sell 'Balance' as printed, the second child was erased.