Banned Covers

One aspect why record collectors love those 12” black vinyls is the record jacket that clothes those grooved discs. Reading the notes and admiring the cover art in LPs is an added treat, on top of its supposedly superior sonics.
In contrast, reading the liner notes on those 5”X 5” CD jewel cases is a major pain.

Album cover art has been used as an alternative canvas by artists such as Warhol, Gieger, Dean, and Klarwein. Their earlier works on albums of Velvet Underground, ELP, Yes, and Santana respectively are now  appreciated as true works of art. Even  the mainstream detractors (during the time of these albums releases) now see their significance as art.

But album cover art has had its share of controversies. Working in the barrier-breaking area of rock n roll, this is not surprising. These controversies can lead to banning of album covers from public viewing.

Probably the most famous/notorious of these is the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today wherein “butchered babies” are displayed on the laps of the Fab Four. This led to the term “Butcher Copies” and made this album one of the most (if not the most) expensive LP to date. I think this cover has undergone 4 changes with each edition fetching different prices.

ImageThe Beatles Yesterday and Today

I’m not sure but I think the copy on the right is a second state butcher cover where a whole new cover was reprinted and was pasted on the original jacket. You can also find “peeled” second state butchers on ebay to reveal the first state cover.

It is not surprising that this cover shocked the sensibilities of the sixties. Even by today’s standards, medyo over the edge nga ito.

Most of the banned albums though, dealt with the human anatomy. With the advent of today’s MTV, showing of skin is now common place. But back then, even while slogans such as “Free Love” was being touted, the 60-70’s was still a puritanical age when compared to the present. A slight misangle in  photography or misprint in the presses could make critics howl.

The Five Keys On Stage!  

Notice that little “sliver” encircled? Mistaken for something else, either because of a misprint in the press or a photography misangle, this cover was retouched in subsequent releases.

If the example above was unintentional, meron namang deliberate ata. Baka makalusot, ika nga. And although the offending organ is not what it seems, the photograph had to be airbrushed to sanitize the image.

ImageAlice Cooper Love It To Death

Also called the “bad thumb” cover (left pic), Alice Cooper playfully inserts his thumb and positions it for that added “effect”.

Moby Grape Moby Grape

An example of baka makalusot. Notice the finger by the washboard?

Maski hindi pinakita, pinagbawal. K-Mart ordered the pullout of the Stones album below from their shelves because the act of pulling the zipper up and down was offensive to the owners of this retail giant.

Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers

The female anatomy has always been a favorite subject of art since time immemorial. It is but natural that album art is abounded by these images and most of the banned covers were because of this subject. Remember this was 30 to 40 years ago kaya no-no ang mga ito.
Below are examples of the original and sanitized versions

ImageJimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland

ImageMama Lion Preserve Wildlife

If an adult naked female figure was offensive then, can you imagine the critics raising hell with a 13 year old exposing her breasts.
We are all too familiar with this cover now, but when this first came out, it was absolutely unacceptable – forcing the record company to change the album cover totally.

ImageBlind Faith

At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, I can understand and appreciate showcasing the female body. But seeing a man stark naked is something else. Only someone like the late John Lennon would conceive of this undertaking.
When Lennon asked Paul what he thought about the cover (before its release), Paul said that he found it in bad taste and that it would just fuel controversies. To which John replied, “I don’t mind controversies” and went ahead with the cover.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono Two Virgins

A brown bag over the album with holes to show just the heads of John and Yoko was used as a tradeoff.

Pati banyo pinagbawal. The urinal was one object that insulted the senses of critics then. In the case of the Mamas and Papas album, the fixture was airbrushed off the photograph. In the Stones’ Beggar’s Banquet, the whole design was changed to a simple “invitation-like” design to the banquet.

The Mamas and Papas If You Can believe Your Eyes And Ears


The Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet

The Stones’ couldn’t care less for the change in cover concept. But it did spark another issue though. The release of Beggars coincided with the Beatles White Album; same concept, similar type font

Ito hindi naman banyo but some critics contend that it seems the Boss was in the act of urinating on the US flag. Some stores refused to sell this album because of this.

Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA

There were also some tragic incidents that identified with the design of some albums.
Before the release of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors, some of the band members perished in a plane crash that was engulfed by fire. The flames in the original cover design was brushed off in deference to this tragedy.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors



As you can see, album cover art is not just mere paintings/photographs to look at.
In essence, they are evolutions into our norms and sensibilities. They can act as mirrors of respective generations and historical perspectives of our morals.
It is a heritage handed down from the past for us to remember, appreciate and keep

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