Controversial Album Art : 1980s

List of Controversial Album Art : 1980s

The following is a list of notable albums with Controversial Album Art 1980s (based on nudity and sexuality / religion / copyright / violence & others), especially where the controversy resulted in the album being banned, censored or sold in packaging other than the original one.

Whitesnake – Come an’ Get It (1981)

Controversial Album Art 1980s

The cover features a coiled snake inside a glass apple, with its open mouth closely resembling a vagina. Many subsequent releases of the album have had the snake’s mouth airbrushed over with a solid red.

Metallica – Kill ‘Em All (1983)


Metallica was going to call the album ‘Metal Up Your Ass’, with the cover featuring a toilet bowl with a hand clutching a dagger emerging from it. However, at the request of Megaforce Records (who thought the original album title would be inappropriate), the band changed the album title to Kill ‘Em All. They also changed the artwork, this time depicting a shadow of a hand releasing a bloodied hammer.

Def Leppard – Pyromania (1983)

Def Leppard_Pyromania

The artwork depicted an animated crosshairs pointed at a large flame emerging from the top floor of a skyscraper. This cover gained controversy and was banned from certain stores such as Best Buy and Future Shop. Despite the controversy, no alternative cover was made.

Anthrax – Fistful of Metal (1984)


The cover depicted a metal-wrapped fist emerging from the throat of a man as his mouth explodes. As some stores would not carry the album due to the cover, a cover for the 2000 Megaforce release of the album (which included the 1985 EP Armed and Dangerous) depicting the original artwork with less blood and the artwork for the Armed and Dangerous EP.

Van Halen – 1984 (1984)


The iconic cover was created by graphic artist Margo Nahas. Her husband brought her portfolio to the band and from that material they chose the painting of a cherub stealing cigarettes that was ultimately used. The model was Carter Helm, who was the child of one of Nahas’ best friends, whom she photographed holding a candy cigarette. The cover, featuring as it did the smoking cherub, was ‘censored’ in the UK by the addition of a sticker that obscured the cigarette in the cherub’s hand, and the packet of cigarettes.

Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking (1984)


The cover features a rear-view and nude image of model and pornography actress Linzi Drew. It was condemned by many feminist groups and was also accused of promoting rape. Columbia Records were forced to place a black box covering the nudity for future releases to avoid more controversy.

Exodus – Bonded by Blood (1985)


The original artwork features an illustration of good and evil conjoined twin infants, who are both naked. When Combat Records reissued the album in 1989, the artwork was censored with a red and black image of a crowd, while subsequent reissues feature the original artwork.

Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet (1986)

Bon Jovi_SlipperyWhenWet

The album originally was to feature a busty, 34DD woman in a wet yellow T-shirt with the album name on the front of the shirt. However, the artwork was rejected because record executives feared that the dominant record store chains at the time would not sell the album with such a sexist cover, or Jon Bon Jovi’s complaint that the record company had put a bright pink border around the photograph that the band had submitted. As a result, the rejected artwork was censored with an image of a garbage bag with the words “Slippery When Wet” written on it.

Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction (1987)


The album’s original cover art, based on Robert Williams’ painting “Appetite for Destruction”, depicted a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. After several music retailers refused to stock the album, the label compromised and put the controversial cover art inside, replacing it with an image depicting a cross and skulls of the five band members. The band stated the artwork is “a symbolic social statement, with the robot representing the industrial system that’s raping and polluting our environment.”

Overkill – !!!Fuck You!!! (1987)


The original cover art featured a hand gesturing an upraised middle finger. The 1990 CD re-issue was sold with a reversible cover art booklet. The visible side when sold in the stores was a simple field of white with the band’s logo, the album name reading as !!!**** You!!!, with a subhead that read “The Record THEY tried to ban”. A Parental Advisory logo appeared in the lower right corner. The original cover art was able to be used if the booklet was opened and reversed by creasing the cover the opposite way. The expanded re-release, entitled ‘!!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some’, displayed the original cover photo.

Poison – Open Up and Say… Ahh! (1988)


The original front cover of the album, which featured model Bambi dressed as a luminous red demon with a protruding tongue, caused controversy among parental groups. Some retailers also objected to this sleeve on the grounds that it was too “raunchy”. The band apologized and changed the cover so that only the model’s eyes were visible.

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking (1988)

Janes Addiction_NothingsShocking

The album cover, created by frontman Perry Farrell, features a sculpture of a pair of nude female conjoined twins sitting on a sideways rocking chair with their heads on fire. Farrell said the image, like much of his artwork, came to him in a dream and he hired the employees of Warner Bros. to create the cover sculpture; after learning how to create sculptures by watching them closely, he fired the Warner Bros. staff and created the artwork himself. Farrell hired someone to help create a full body casting of his girlfriend for use as the sculptures. Retailers objected to the album’s cover. Nine out of the eleven leading record store chains refused to carry Nothing’s Shocking and the record had to be issued covered with brown paper.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Mother’s Milk (1989)


The album cover features a black and white photograph of the band sprawled across the arms of a proportionately larger naked woman. A rose conceals one of her nipples while singer Anthony Kiedis’ standing body conceals the other. Several national chains refused to sell the record because they believed the female subject displayed too much nudity. A stricter censored version was manufactured for some retailers that featured the band members in far larger proportion than the original.

The Offspring – The Offspring (1989)

The Offspring

The album’s original artwork depicted an image of a man’s body exploding as the xenomorph from the Alien franchise holding a Stratocaster guitar emerges from his chest. The album was reportedly banned for being “too grotesque” and on the 1995 reissue; the artwork was replaced by a blurry black-and-white picture of a man.

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