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As Nasty as They Wanna Be: The 20 Dirtiest Album Covers of All Time

Racy images that pushed the boundaries of art — and taste

Pixies, ween, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Pulp, The Strokes, Prince, Ohio Players, Scorpions

Years ago, before American society had achieved full pornofication, the raciest image in a teenager's room might be an album cover. And many musicians (and record-company art departments) had figured out that an easy way to goose sales was to slap a photo of a half-naked girl on the cover, until the borderline between "sexy" and "sexist" was obliterated. But these 20 covers went above and beyond the normal level of titillation, overloading a nation's brain cells with an unusual level of nudity, kinkiness, or general raunch (and so many of them duly got censored). Without apology: 20 of the dirtiest album covers ever.

Pixies

Pixies, ‘Surfer Rosa’ (1988)

Indicators that these bare breasts have been classed up and the album cover should be considered art rather than porn: the sepia-toned photography and the flamenco dancer outfit. But somehow the overall vibe is "hot quickie between two eager photography students in the university darkroom."

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mothers Milk

Red Hot Chili Peppers, ‘Mother’s Milk’ (1989)

Anthony Kiedis described this cover as "like four Tom Sawyers being held by this giant naked lady." Hot for fans of giantess porn, or for those who like to imagine the Chili Peppers as anatomically correct Ken dolls. When the band printed up posters where model Dawn Alane's nipples were exposed, she successfully sued them for $50,000; Kiedis groused, "I couldn't understand why we couldn't have found a model who was happy to have her tits on a cover."

divinyls

Divinyls, ‘Divinyls’ (1991)

How do you package an ode to masturbation like the classic "I Touch Myself"? With the Divinyls, you put singer Christina Amphlett in the cover in a fishnet outfit, touching herself and giving a classic come-hither look. Rumor has it that guitarist Mark McEntee was also on the cover, but that is impossible to confirm since nobody has ever looked at the right half.

black crowes

Black Crowes, ‘Amorica’ (1994)

A reappropriation of the cover of a 1976 issue of Hustler: one of Larry Flynt's most potent blends ever of sexuality, race, and American civil liberties. It was later sold with the entire image blacked out except for the central triangle.

Ween

Ween, ‘Chocolate and Cheese’ (1994)

Model Ashley Savage stars in a tribute to the power of underboob and strategic airbrushing, clad in a tiny red shirt and a belt that looks like it belongs to a boxing champion. Like Ween themselves, this image was so over-the-top that it became its own freaky thing.

Pulp, This is Hardcore

Pulp, ‘This Is Hardcore’ (1998)

For This Is Hardcore, Pulp had album art that cast actual hardcore porn stars. In various states of undress and simulated arousal, they looked plastic, and they looked like they were going through the motions on one more paid job. It achieved the intended effect: dirty and raw without being particularly titillating.

Basement Jaxx

Basement Jaxx, ‘Remedy’ (1999)

An actual orgy? A multilayered sandwich of human flesh in contrasting skintones? A computer-assisted pasteup job? Whatever the source of the cover art for the debut album by Basement Jaxx, the image suggests that the duo's music will lead to intimate but anonymous writhing with four to 11 loved ones.

D'angelo

D’Angelo, ‘Voodoo’ (2000)

On his second album, D'Angelo discovered the star-making power of removing his shirt, revealing that he was not only a world-class R&B singer/writer/producer, he was amazingly ripped. In the cover photo, he definitely looked like a man who was in the process of taking his clothes off, not putting them on.

Strokes

The Strokes, ‘Is This It’ (2001)

Americans got a trippy picture of subatomic particle tracks, but Europeans got the sexy version of the album art for the Strokes' debut: a leather glove resting on a shapely female hip. The picture, reminiscent of Helmut Newton, was actually by Colin Lane, and is dirty for the pervy situation it implies as much as for what it shows.

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