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Banned in the U.S.A.: 20 Wildest Censored Album Covers

From nudity to toilets (yes, really), see what got these LPs shelved

Censored Albums

Puritans were some of the earliest European settlers in North America, and despite the sexual revolution and half a century of rock & roll, the U.S.A. still has a strong tradition of bluenose moralizing. Many musicians have tried to push the limits of society in their album packaging — only to find out that sometimes society pushes back. Here are 20 of the most notable censored album covers: The reasons for their bowdlerization include squeamishness about toilets, nudity, and general freakiness.

Roger Waters

Roger Waters, ‘The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking’ (1984)

Old-school censorship for the first solo album by the former Pink Floydster: If people are offended by the rear view of a blonde hitching a ride, naked except for red shoes and a red backpack, then just slap a black box over her butt.

Guns N' Roses

Guns N’ Roses, ‘Appetite for Destruction’ (1987)

The album got its title from the Robert Williams painting that originally served as its cover: a robotic rapist about to get its comeuppance from a much larger robot predator. After complaints, the band replaced it with an image of its five members rendered as skull heads. The controversy could have been worse: Axl Rose originally wanted the cover to be a photo of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

Poison

Poison, ‘Open Up and Say…Ahh!’ (1988)

The original cover to Poison's second album: a red-skinned female demon with big hair and an even bigger tongue. It was more odd than sexual or Satanic, but under pressure, the band changed it, covering up most of the image so you couldn't see much more than the eyes.

Jane's Addiction

Jane’s Addiction, ‘Ritual de lo Habitual’ (1990)

The iconic Ritual cover is a photograph of a diorama made by lead singer Perry Farrell, depicting him in the three-way affair he sings about in "Three Days." But the nudity, both male and female, made some retailers squeamish, so the band also provided a plain white cover adorned with the text of the First Amendment.

Tad

Tad, ‘8-Way Santa’ (1991)

The amazing cover for 8-Way Santa was found art: a photograph from a thrift store of a beaming couple where a hirsute shirtless dude is copping one breast of his partner. Unfortunately, the couple wasn't amused by the unauthorized use of their picture on the album: one had become a born-again Christian. They sued, and Sub Pop replaced the cover with a mundane picture of the band standing in front of cows.

Nirvana

Nirvana, ‘In Utero’ (1993)

The song "Rape Me" was too provocative for Walmart and K-Mart, which wouldn't stock In Utero because of it. Or more precisely, the title was too provocative — when the band changed it on the back cover to "Waif Me," without changing the music, the album was approved for the stores' racks.

Pantera

Pantera, ‘Far Beyond Driven’ (1994)

What image did Pantera select for the cover of their seventh studio album to show their view of the modern world? Why, a drill penetrating an anus, of course. It was quickly replaced with a drill boring into a person's forehead — savory only in comparison.

Van Halen

Van Halen, ‘Balance’ (1995)

This cover art — Photoshop-assisted conjoined twins on a teeter-totter — was just plain disturbing. Which is presumably what the band was aiming for, but enough people were weirded out that some territories offered a version with one twin airbrushed out.

Master P

Master P, ‘Ghetto D’ (1997)

The original title was Ghetto Dope, and the original cover featured a man smoking a crack pipe. To secure wider distribution, Master P truncated the title and concocted a new cover that was an ugly digital collage, heavy on the flames.

Kanye West

Kanye West, ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (2010)

West told artist George Condo that he wanted to have an album cover that would get banned. Condo provided a painting of a naked West being straddled by a naked woman, who had wings but no arms, plus a polka-dot tail. Mission accomplished: when some retailers wouldn't accept the cover art, West substituted an image of a ballerina instead.

Sky Ferreira

Sky Ferreira, ‘Night Time, My Time’ (2013)

For her debut album, Ferreira rejected her record company's advice that she pick a conventionally styled photograph of herself, opting instead of a Gaspar Noé photograph of herself in the shower, looking wary and vulnerable. To make it more palatable for the likes of the iTunes Store, her label also released a version that strategically cropped out her nipple.

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