Prepare yourself!...

16:08 19th March 2008

Below is the brilliant cover to James' new album 'Hey Ma', the artwork that has inspired us to make this gallery. A poignant image of an innocent baby choosing between a handgun and his toys, advertising agencies have given it a wide berth. However, if you find this shocking, be warned of what is to come: Nudity, violence, macabre gore and other such things - here is our 50 most controversial and shocking covers of all time! Be warned, further into the gallery (from about 20 downwards) some of the images are not for the feint hearted! We did warn you!!

You can also see our other album lists by clicking the links below:
The WORST album covers of all time
The BEST album covers of all time
The SEXIEST album covers of all time
The WEIRDEST album covers of all time

  • 50. Bloodhound Gang – ‘Hefty Fine’ Bloodhound gang’s latest album caused a bit of a stir with artwork featuring an overweight nude in a cardboard box. The gentleman in question doesn’t look too happy about it, either.

  • 49. Arctic Monkeys: ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’ - Featuring the band’s close friend and brother of The Reverend, Chris McClure, the Arctics landed into hot water after anti-smoking groups complained about the cigarette in McClure’s mouth. NHS for Scotland even said it hammers home the viewpoint that “smoking is okay” for impressionable young people.

  • 48. The Rolling Stones: ‘Sticky Fingers’ – The Stone’s 1971 release provided entertainment for anyone that ever had a wet dream about getting into Jagger’s pants: the cover featured a working zipper on a Warhol image of a denim clad crotch. Family-orientated record shops refused to stock it, but that didn’t dent the album’s ability to bring a whole new meaning to the album’s title.

  • 47. The Beautiful South: 'Welcome To The Beautiful South' - If you thought that anti-smoking lobbies are relatively new things, then think again. Back in 1988, Woolworths of all people banned this album due to the smoking figures on the front page. The artwork was then altered for the store.

  • 45. Roxy Music: ‘Country Life’ – The fourth and perhaps most accomplished of all Roxy Music albums featured two seductive and slippery semi-naked models on the cover. Bryan Ferry is said to have met the girls in Portugal and persuaded them to pose for the shot. Later copies of the album showed only the leafy background.

  • 44. David Bowie: ‘Diamond Dogs’ – The half-Bowie, half-dog on this 1974 concept album caused controversy due to the exposed genitalia of the creature, painted by Guy Peellaert. The offending member was rapidly airbrushed in time for the 1974 mainstream release, making the few that did slip through the censor’s net some of the most expensive and sought after Bowie records of all time.

  • 43. Aphex Twin: ‘Windowlicker’ – Most blokes have probably spent a bit of time fantasising about having their own pair to fondle at some point… an idea Richard D. James took one step further with the cover of his 1999 EP, ‘Windowlicker.’ He looks pretty pleased with himself, anyway!

  • 42. Roger Waters: ‘The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking’ – This 1984 concept album about a man’s midlife crisis featured a cheeky hiker in red heels by the side of a grey road, waiting for a ride. The controversial nude might have been a happy middle-aged fantasy for Waters, but the public weren’t quite as easily convinced of the cover’s mainstream suitability.

  • 41. The Rolling Stones: ‘Beggars Banquet’ – Though it hardly seems shocking now, the original yellowed, graffiti-ed toilet chosen by the Stones for their 1968 release was rejected by both Decca and London Records due to its inappropriate imagery. In a show of defiance, Jagger and the band withheld the album for several months before finally relenting and allowing a replacement to be printed.

  • 40. Poison: ‘Open Up And Say… Ahh’ – It was only in 2006 when the re-mastered CD release of this 1988 glam metal album escaped the censors unscathed. Back in the eighties the image of model ‘Bambi’ dressed as a demon with a huge protruding red tongue had to be censored, obscuring nearly all of the figure’s offensive face.

  • 39. Nirvana: ‘In Utero’ – The collage of foetuses and body parts on a bed of orchids and lilies that featured as the back cover of Nirvana’s third studio release was creation of Cobain himself. Photographer Charles Peterson reported that one Sunday afternoon Cobain called him up, saying “hey, I want you to take that picture, now.” Combined with the second single release, Rape Me, the cover enraged numerous feminists.

  • 38. Guns N Roses: ‘Appetite for Destruction’ – MTV originally refused to play any of Guns N Roses videos until they agreed to change the cover of their debut album. The original art, based on the Robert William’s painting ‘Appetite for Destruction’ showed a robot attacking a partially undressed woman. Eventually this was included in the inner sleeve.

  • 37. Black Sabbath: 'Born Again' - The cover of Black Sabbath?s cult eighties album shows the birth of a pop art demon on a purple background. It was designed by Stephen Joule, in a deliberately brash attempt to get rejected from the design commission as he was already tied into the design of Ozzy Osbourne?s album covers at the time. To Joule?s surprise the design was accepted, despite fierce reservations from some.

  • 35. Serge Gainsbourg: ‘Histoire De Melodie Nelson’ - The cover for this album, showing a young girl naked from the waist up clutching her clothes about her, might be shocking, but it’s no match for the content of the album! Gainsbourg’s magnificent 1971 concept album depicted, in just under half an hour, the Lolita-esque lust of a middle-aged man for his pubescent nymphet muse.

  • 34. The Strokes: ‘Is This It’ – Ranked as one of the greatest album covers of all time, the image of a leather-clad hand pressed into a woman’s behind was banned from the US and had to be replaced with a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber. The content was controversial too: ‘New York City Cops’ had to be replaced with ‘When It Started’ to avoid causing offence after 9/11.

  • 33. The Black Crowes: ‘Amorica’ – The sexually ambiguous pubis on show in the cover of The Black Crowes’ 1994 album Amorica caused trouble for the band’s label, Universal, who later changed it for a blacked out image.

  • 32. Ministry: 'Dark Side Of The Spoon' - Yet another controversial cover from an industrial metal band came from Ministry in 1999. K Mart refused to stock copies of the album, apparently believing that the crinkly overweight figure apparently was wearing a white KKK hat.

  • 29. Birth Control: ‘Operation’ – This carnivorous cretin caused such controversy that the album was banned in several countries. Even more scandalous: on some copies an image of the Pope was shown cheering the baby-eating bug on.

  • 28. Millie Jackson: ‘Back To The Shit’ - If the obscene title wasn’t enough to get the censors all hot under the collar, the toilet humour on the cover certainly is. The striking soul singer got it all wrong with this unflattering image of her straining on the loo – not to mention some terrible track names including ‘Love Stinks’ and ‘Muffle That Fart’.

  • 27. King Diamond: ‘Give Me Your Soul Please’ – Based on a painting titled ‘My Mother’s Eyes’, Diamond is said to have based this themed album on a story of two dead children, murdered by their father, relating their story to him.

  • 26. Dio: Holy Diver – Dio’s defining debut, ‘Holy Diver’, caused a scandal due to cover art that appeared to show a priest being attacked by a demon. Not one to bow to controversy, Dio responded to criticism by suggesting that appearances could be deceiving: how are we to know that the image doesn’t show a demon being attacked by a priest?!

  • 24. The Residents: ‘The Third Reich & Roll’ - Avant-garde rock stars, The Residents, generated scandal with the cover of their second studio album. It featured television entertainer Dick Clark in a Nazi uniform, holding a carrot while surrounded by swastikas and dancing Hitlers. The cover had to be heavily censored before it was exported to Germany in 1980!

  • 23. Anthrax: ‘Fist Full Of Metal’ – The thrash metaller’s debut record in 1984 featured a metal fist (naturally) smashing into the face of some unsuspecting image. Thankfully, it’s just a cartoon image – otherwise this would have been much further up the list.

  • 22. The Five Keys: ‘On Stage!’ – An unintentional photography slip resulted in a bit of a scandal when fans mistook Rudy West’s hand for a penis on the cover of this 1957 album. The phallic finger was subsequently airbrushed out for later editions.

  • 21. Black Flag: ‘Family Man’ – The punk ethos manifested itself in a good few nasty-looking album covers. Among them, Californian outfit Black Flag chose a suicidal father, gun-to-temple, for the release of the 1984 LP, ironically titled ‘Family Man’. Presumably the family man in question wanted to get the job done before social services saw the state of his children.

  • 20 The Beatles: Yesterday and Today – Carnivorous controversy surfaced over the odd ‘Butcher’ cover of this 1966 album, which showed the Liverpudlian lads brandishing hunks of raw meat and decapitated baby dolls. Unsurprisingly for the times, the cover was swiftly changed; on many copies the tamer substitute was simply pasted over the offending original image!

  • 19. Ice Cube: ‘Death Certificate’ - In an affront to patriotic Americans everywhere, the cover of Ice Cube’s 1991 album showed the rapper presiding over Uncle Sam on a mortuary gurney. Perhaps an allusion to the death of the American dream, the album was nonetheless condemned Stateside and suffered severe retail boycotts.

  • 18 Megadeth: ‘Youthanasia’ - More heavy-metal inspired controversy features on the cover of Megadeth’s sixth album Youthanasia. This Boosh inspired Nanageddon entails a murderous granny pinning babies by their ankles to a washing line that extends as far as the eye can see. Rather oddly, the little ones in question don’t seem overly perturbed by their fate.

  • 11. The Exploited: %u2018Jesus Is Dead%u2019 %u2013 The Exploited concocted a cartoon reworking of the death of Christ for their 1986 EP, complete with a badly-coiffed zombie girl in heels to overlook the torrents of blood spurting from the crucifix. Tasteful.

  • 10. Marilyn Manson: %u2018Holy Wood%u2019 %u2013 The third instalment of Marilyn Manson%u2019s concept album trilogy featured a rotting Christ-like figure from the torso-up. The corpse%u2019s mutilated face showed Manson with his teeth bared in a typical display of gothic headline-grabbing. The album was especially controversial as it was released in the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, of which Manson had been lazily blamed by sections of the press for inciting hatred in the young offenders prior to their crime.

  • 9. Jane's Addiction: %u2018Ritual de lo Habitual%u2019 %u2013 Jane%u2019s Addiction were forced to replace the cover of their 1990 album showing male and female nudes so that stores like Walmart could stock it. Though the front of the replacement simply listed the album name, band, and First Amendment in black text on a white background, the back contained a statement that suggested Hitler%u2019s rise to power began with the suppression of freedom of speech.

  • 8. Mortad Hell: %u2018There%u2019s A Satanic Butcher In Every One Of Us%u2019 %u2013 If the mullet on this blood-thirsty cretin isn%u2019t controversial enough, the featured festering alien has a few controversial tricks up his sleeve, including self-mutilation and abundance of bloody gore. No hands though, sadly, as they%u2019re the first to suffer the butcher%u2019s wrath.

  • 7. Royal Trux: %u2018Sweet Sixteen%u2019 - American rock duo Royal Trux decided on a little toilet humour for the cover of 1997%u2019s %u2018Sweet Sixteen%u2019, The image shows the results of a serious scientific study on the average student toilet after three years of constant partying in the wake of a toilet cleaner shortage.

  • 6. Slayer: %u2018God Hates Us All%u2019 %u2013 Though their album title suggests that this thrash metal outfit aren%u2019t afraid of a little religious controversy, even they turned against the cover art. The record company chose an image of the bible spiked with nails and covered in blood in an effort that, according to guitarist Kerry King, %u201Clooked liked a seventh-grader had defaced the bible.%u201D

  • 5. Rammstein: %u2018Sehnsucht%u2019 %u2013 German industrial-metal band Rammstein went for all-out gore on the cover of this album %u2013 the only album sung entirely in German to go platinum Stateside. Fans were treated to a fold out featuring the heavily mutilated faces of the six band members including blacked out eyes, rotting flesh, metal implements and pincers in a Freddy Kruger-esque dentistry nightmare.

  • 4. The Coup: %u2018Party Music%u2019 %u2013 In an entirely coincidental faux-pas, The Coup planned to release 2001%u2019s %u2018Party Music%u2019 with a cover showing band members Pam the Funkstress and Riley standing in front of the World Trade Centre. Riley is shown pushing the button on his guitar tuner as the towers explode beneath them. The album%u2019s release was planned for just a few weeks after the attacks took place %u2013 and the cover art was hastily changed!

  • 3. Mom%u2019s Apple Pie: %u2018Mom%u2019s Apple Pie%u2019 %u2013 This unsuspectingly filthy cover shocks precisely because it appears so innocent on first glance. Seventies American rock band Mom%u2019s Apple Pie weren%u2019t talking about their mum%u2019s favourite baked puddings, as closer inspection of the missing slice in this kindly lady%u2019s pie will reveal.

  • 2. Type O Negative: %u2018The Origin%u2019 %u2013 Brooklyn band Type O Negative were forced to change their album artwork to a green and black image of dancing skeletons after the close-up of a sphincter, reportedly that of lead singer Peter Steele, unsurprisingly caused controversy. (We%u2019ve tastefully edited out the offending arsehole.)

  • 1. Scorpions: %u2018Virgin Killer%u2019 %u2013 The image of a naked prepubescent girl on later editions of %u2018Virgin Killer%u2019 was replaced with a cover featuring a picture of the band due to the controversy it caused. Even the vocalist from this German heavy metal outfit admitted to feeling shocked when he first saw the image, but claims that the band were pressed into doing something controversial by their label.

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