Song Writing

The Most Controversial Album Covers PG Version

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There are plenty of outrageous album covers with obvious nudity or indecency, but what about those that you can leave on the coffee table, but might still get a reaction. If you're looking for the hard stuff, we'd suggest the following in their uncensored form:

Red Hot Chili Peppers - The Abbey Road EP
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
John Lennon and Yoko Ono - Two virgins
The Black Crowes - Amorica
Millie Jackson - Back to the S--t

Here are our picks for the 10 most controversial PG (or mabye PG-13) album covers.
10. Green Day - American Idiot (2004)
Why? Politics

Green Day released American Idiot two months before the U.S. Presidential election, and tried like hell to keep George W. Bush from getting reelected. Nothing too shocking about the grenade-heart, but politically charged enough to crack this list.

Key Tracks:

9. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Street Survivors (1977)
Why?: Eerie Reminder of Tragic Events

Three members of the band died in a plane crash just 3 days after this album was released, so the label had to put out the fire in a hurry. Last we checked, the original was going for about $100 on eBay.

Key Tracks:


8. The Slim Shady LP - Eminem (1999)
Why? Violence

The Slim Shady LP was our introduction to Eminem, and it featured a picture of a corpse in the trunk of a car, giving a glimpse of his hit "Stan," which came out the next year. He quickly proved to have much more complex issues than the typical thug rapper, and a lot more talent as well.

Key Track:



7. Oral Fixation Vol. 2 - Shakira (2006)
Why? Sex, Religion

Shakira portrayed Eve in the Garden of Eden on this one, which rubbed some people the wrong way. The Colombian singer said that with this cover, she wanted to give Eve a reason to taste the forbidden fruit.

Key Tracks:


6. Get Rich Or Die Tryin' - 50 Cent (2003)
Why? Violence

Did you know that 50 Cent was shot 9 times? When he came on the scene in 2003, every story about him hit on that talking point. The cover played this up as well, with the bullet hole in the glass.

Key Tracks:


5. Beggars Banquet - The Rolling Stones (1968)
Why? Filth, Possible Blasphemy

Quickly replaced with an image of a white invitation, the original Beggars Banquet cover showed a cleverly-graffitied public toilet. The "God Rolls His Own" message under the band name helped expedite the recall of the cover.

Key Tracks:


4. Mechanical Animals - Marilyn Manson (1998)
Why? Nudity, Weirdness

For the album cover of Mechanical Animals, Marilyn Manson was photographed naked, covered with paint and several layers of latex on specific parts of his body. The resulting androgynous alien look spread the rumor that he had undergone plastic surgery.

Key Tracks:


3. Nevermind - Nirvana (1991)
Why? Baby Nudity

Kurt Cobain got the idea for this one while watching a documentary about birthing pools, and of course the record company wanted to hide the little unit, a request Cobain denied. It made Spencer Elden, who was 4 months old at the time, famous.

Key Tracks:


2. Whipped Cream & Other Delights - Herb Alpert (1965)
Why? Sex

Pretty tame by today's standards, but the sensuous beauty wearing nothing but whipped cream was quite an attention-grabber at the time. Did you know that Alpert had the #1 album slot longer than any other artist in 1966? And no, we didn't forget about The Beatles.

Key Track:


1. Yesterday and Today - The Beatles (1966)
Why? Doll Mutilation

Known as "The Butcher Cover," this compilation album showed The Beatles having a marvelous time amid various bloody doll parts and pieces of meat. Released only in America and Canada, the record company didn't anticipate the outrage, and ended up recalling about 750,000 copies that were initially shipped. Those that slipped through are now collector's items.

Key Tracks:
Thanks to Bertrand - Paris, France for his help with this. For more on controversial album covers and other great music discussion, check out the Songfacts Forums.
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Comments: 47

  • T.g from GaWhat about r.e.m losing my religin
  • Pat from St. Paul, MnI'm surprised the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album wasn't listed. When it first was released, the LP had an real zipper on the picture of a man's crotch. Of course many copies had the shrink-wrap ripped open by people who had to unzip the zipper to see what was behind it. Sadly, only white cardboard.
  • Atlasshrugged from PhillyLed Zepplin's album cover for "Stairway to Heaven" Tarot card charactor who represents wisdom is on stairs with a lantern leading and lighting the way for what looks like a little girl at the bottom trying to follow him.
    I take that to mean that "The Stairway to Heaven" is through the wisdom of the occult
  • Roco from MexicoBy far Dawn of the Black Hearts from Mayhem
  • Paul from Adelaide, AustraliaRoxy Music's Country Life and Hendrix's Electric LadyLand
  • Ellen from MinnesotaDid we forget about John Lennon's Two Virgins? They were both naked!
  • Splat from Frankford, DeAlso, don't forget Jane's Addiction's "Ritual de lo Habitual".
  • Splat from Frankford, DeLed Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy was controversial at the time of its release. I kind of remember reading somewhere that the band was more dissatisfied with the color balance. Also, what about Poison's "Open Up and Say... Ahhh"? The original cover was replaced with a greatly-censored one just a few months after release.
  • Kenneth Joseph Spaziani from Winter Park, FlDream Theater REALLY needs to be on this list. The live album that took place in New York Had "Dream Theater- Live scenes from New York" the NYC Skyline in the backround with an Apple in Barbed Wire on fire, flames across the World Trade Center's Towers (along with the rest of the skyline), This was a throwback to the 1991 album "Images and Words" which had a Heart in Barbed wire and the band was just trying to throw the "Big Apple" to look like a heart, It's release date on store shelves was 9/11, Quickly the same day of the events the album was pulled from shelves and people who own the original cover art have quite a piece of rock history.
    - The label submitted a new cover for the live album and re-released it a few weeks later. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_Scenes_from_New_York Has the replacement cover, and original cover along with history behind it.
  • Trenton from Oklahoma City, OkWhat about Pink Floyd's "The Wall?"
  • K.c. from Nh"Blind Faith" - duh!!!
  • Jim@gorillas.org from LondonYesterday and Today is great, but Paperback Write isn't on there. It turned up on the Hey Jude LP in 1970.
  • Danny from IowaUm....Sticky Fingers- Rolling Stones- I won't explain- just google it.
  • Marty from ChicagoThe original cover for Appetite For Destruction was really controversial. The band was forced to change it or have it covered withh paper in all the stores. They decided to change it.
  • John from EnglandHow about the UK cover for electric ladyland?
  • Don from Morton, IlDon't forget "Virgin Killer" by The Scorpions
  • Zigman Bird from East Brunswick NjWhat about "Moms Apple Pie" A lady presenting you with a pie that has a vagina planted in it!! NOW THAT'S PIE!
  • Vinnie Mac from BaltimoreNot too controversial for me, but I liked Sugar Ray's Lemonade and Brownies cover
  • Paul from Croydon, PaDuuhhh - how could I (and you guys, too!) forget Roxy Music's 2 gorgeous women on the cover of "Country Life"? Perhaps you weren't as lucky as I to have this one in your collection before they re-did the cover without them... (sorry for your loss.)
  • Terry from Nova ScotiaDon't forget the nude picture of Joni Mitchell in her album "For The Roses".
  • James BarrAnd then there is the ACDC album with the picture showing how to wire a plug: I remember my science teacher getting apoplectic about that...
  • Cold Nebraska NiteOMG! My mother has one of the ten most controversial album covers of all time! *** "Herbie" & the TB
  • Paul from Croydon, PaSomebody's gotta throw a monkey wrench in here! Remember the BACK side of The Tubes debut LP? A very memorable poolside view even by today's standards.
  • Andy From Rockaway Beach NycThe number one classic album, 1969 " Blindfaith". Had a very young lady, topless holding a silver jet. THis cover was finally released in the U.S. on CD in the 90's. How did you miss this one??
  • Fabrizio from Costa RicaAnd what about the first edition of the only LP by Blind Faith? Came aout featuring a little girl naked holding a phallic toy plane.
  • Betty from MiamiActually, the Eminem cover is not a prelude to "Stan." It is a reference to the song "97 Bonnie and Clyde" where Eminem kills his wife Kim and gets rid of her body with baby Hailie by his side.
  • Jared Mcguire from SeattleAnd just about every single Cannibal Corpse album cover...
  • Eli from North CarolinaI agree with Tyler.
  • Petersen from DreamHOW can you possibly NOT mention LIVE SCENES FROM NEW YORK by Dream Theater, released on 9/11/01 showing the skyline of NY in the flame of a burning apple!
  • Kenny from CaliforniaScorpions - Lovedrive with bubble gum over the nipples...US had a g rated version.
  • Pelverud from Las Vegas (not Originally)Actually, the Herb Alpert cover is mostly shaving cream. Look at your copy closely (don't have one, try a thrift store, most common record I see overall) anyway once you figure out it's shaving cream its a bit disappointing, but still sexy overall~
  • Tyler from England, ArkansasThere's got to be at least one Cannibal Corpse Album on here.
  • James from Los Angeles, CaWhat about Peter Gabriel III (Melt)? Still disturbing, even by today's standards!
  • Grant from Montanaits "pg" album covers
  • StevoACDC's if you want blood!
  • Jack from St. Paul, Mn"Electiclarryland" by the Butthole Surfers
  • Nathan from CanadaIm surprised that The Scorpion's "Virgin Killer" didn't make the list
  • Jim from North Billerica, MaWhat about the Rolling Stone's "Some Girls" album. I mean, they got sued over it!
  • Chris H. from Leola, Pennsylvania"Amorica" by The Black Crowes
  • Tim from Chicago, IlMetallica's "Metal up Your Ass"?? (even though i thought it looked cool haha)
  • Danny from Nb, Ctlove at first sting by the scorpions?
  • Vince from Los Angeles, CaWhat about "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" by Kanye West
  • Fagundus from Dont Worry About ItThe Slim Shady LP cover doesn't have anything to do with the song Stan. It is a preview of the song Kim where he kills his wife in the song and then in the song 97 Bonnie & Clyde on the SSLP is the one pictured on the album cover where he is dumping her body at the beach.
  • Noel from Gooding, Idahowhat about Van Halen's 1984 with the young angel smoking cigarettes.
  • Luis from Bogota, ColombiaHow about Dream Theater's original version of "Live Scenes of New York"? In order to resemble one of their main simbols (The Burning Heart) and as an Obvious Reference to New York, the band had a cover of a Big Apple on Fire and the Silhouette of the New York Skyline inside the fire (This included the World Trade Center). The album was released, as an eerie coincidence, in September 11, 2001. Once it all happened, the band retired all the album versions and published a new one.
  • Todor from Bourgas, BulgariaA fine list, though I'd add John and Yoko's 'Two Virgins', Blind Faith's self titled and maybe several more :) However, the overall selection is fine.
  • Joe Dufrene from New Orleans, LaWhat about the original album cover for British Supergroup Blind Faith? The original album cover had a nude teenage girl holding an airplane
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