We've all heard of the unappreciated artist who makes his mark far past his RIP. We've all heard of the shocking array of banned books, usually rejected by indignant parents who wish their children to live in a world of cushioned innocence or certain religious groups who don't like it when blasphemy cramps their style. But, what of banned album cover art?! The covers range from completely obscenely offensive artwork, to artfully displayed nudity that the more prudent public or record labels were less tolerant of. Let's investigate.
We want to hear your opinion. And, stay tuned for the results!
1. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, 1968, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
Though the album remained unchanged, for the purpose of good-old American sales, a brown cover slip was made so that no nip-slips were let lose, or worse, John's john was kept from exposure. Because, no one has ever seen a breast or penis before-- for heaven's sake, put it away! I mean really... it was the 60's! The Sexual Revolution! What else is to be expected, but some friendly exposure of the "hippy" regions. If John and Yoko wanted the world to see them in their birthday suits, who am I to complain. What is so wrong with being naked publicly, if the person naked does not mind? And, why mind at all? After all, neither you nor I were born with tee-shirts on our backs.
2. Appetite for Destruction, 1987, Guns N' Roses.
The album to the left is the original, displaying a robot rapping an innocent, diminutive woman civilian. This seems to be a comment on the chaos-prone world, not only of human nature, but also of the encroaching world of technology constantly reconstructing the boundaries of ethics. Of course, this imagery is violent and offensive, whatever the message, and the album was changed to the now famous cross to the right.
3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland, 1968, Jimi Hendrix.
The album to the left was too racey for the American public, 60's Sexual Revolution or no. The only area in which the head shot (to the right) was substituted was indeed the U.S., the naked images "too obscene" for the American public. Interesting when, as an art piece, the ladies to the left seem more appropriate for the piece than Jimi's face. Jimi is no lady, electric or no. And, the ladies to the left are posed in a way that does not impose a porn-like discomfort. To the contrary, though of course attractive, they display a diversity of background and there faces show a variety of expressions, the photograph as a whole actually quite artfully composed. Well, America really missed out here, but at least we got to hear Jimi rip at his guitar.
4. Lovedrive, 1979, The Scorpions.
A hand stuck to a breast by the grace of chewing gum! Granted, this image is a bit raunchy, but notice there is no nipple exposure. In fact, if you look at just the woman, man and gum aside, she could be a mother lowering her dress for the suckling of a infant. Because of the statuesque stiffness of the woman, positioned as though the man's property as he dominates her with his eyes and arm, this piece could be offensively misogynistic. But, it was banned because it was inappropriate and lewd, not for the rights of women everywhere, and replaced with the photograph to the right.
5. Amorica, 1994, The Black Crows.
For this album, it was the label who put the kabosh on pubic hair and an all-American tan (album to the left). Rather than appearing overly sexualized, the label preferred the patriotic stance: We just love America (album to the right). Well, I guess we can keep it between you and me that when they say they love America? What they really love is its southern regions. Either way, the original album is much more original and interesting than the one released, and I have a feeling that many a frat boy would have the original on their wall-- if they only knew.
6. Slippery When Wet, 1986, Bon Jovi.
The model's "exposed breasts" caused a lot of complaints. Ironic, when the actual name of the album is what is so crude. You can't tell me that Bon Jovi is talking about the wetness of the rain when he chose a picture like that. Either way, the second image (to the right) was chosen instead. And, for the American public, rain it is.
7. Open Up and Say... Ahh!, 1988, Poison.
This demon (to the left) made a lot of influential church groups quite angry, as though they feared it would encourage Satanism. Strange when the cover appears to be more like a Halloween mask than other offensive demon-material that could be portrayed. Or, maybe they were afraid that the demons would get them. Well, after banning the majority of the album (see the newer right version), if the demons weren't angry before, they certainly will be now. Better get out the incense and pray.
8. Country Life, 1974, Roxy Music.
The naked models were too risqué for the European and American Market, so instead of viewing anything close to their nether regions, a pine bush was shown instead (to the right). The original reminds me of an American Apparel add. Interesting how much can change in such a short amount of time. What was once banned on cover art is now displayed 20 X 40 on a Muni bus in SF on the way to work: well, good morning to you too!
9. Love it to Death, 1971, Alice Cooper.
Alice Cooper, as a joke, stuck his thumb through his pants, insinuating that his penis was emerging. What is funny to him, was not funny to others, and his thumb was cordially air-brushed away. Ironic when, the more crude aspect of the picture seems to be the fact that Cooper's hand is down his pants. So, public masturbation? A yes-yes. A thumb that could be a penis? NO-NO! Goodness, Cooper, what were you thinking?
10. Hitch Hiking, 1984, Roger Waters.
Though most don't hitch hike naked, an artist's nude interpretation of hitch hiking is just that: an artist's interpretation. What seems to be the on-going trend here in album sales is that album artwork is no longer considered as just artwork, but commercialized. What would be comfortable in any museum next to a naked Rodin sculpture or a graphic pop-art piece would be rejected by a label company or the American market. This can be seen here, as the behind of this American beauty is covered by a censor strip. Why is it ok for some art to be banned and some art to be appreciated? Isn't it, in the end, all art anyway?
We want to hear your opinion. And, stay tuned for the results!
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Women in the World and the Ripple Effect Section, Sasha Martin:
I made my own major, The Nature of Emotion as investigated through literature, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science and other interdisciplinary fields, and am minoring in Creative Writing. I created Unleashed for the general empowerment and knowledge of women and men everywhere, and continue to be involved as editor, designer and writer. I am an editorial and PR intern for City Lights. I happen to love the Unleashed staff quite dearly, as well as readers like you. It's amazing what words can do! Feel free to email me at Unleashed. I hope you enjoy!