There have been plenty of controversies in the history of modern popular music. From John Lennon’s infamous claim that The Beatles were more popular than Jesus to Janet Jackson’s notorious Super Bowl halftime show “wardrobe malfunction,” there are countless examples of things musicians have done that have offended people. Sometimes it doesn’t even take a sacrilegious comment or an exposed nipple on live television to send the censors into a tizzy. In some cases, all it takes is an album cover. Here’s a look at some of the album covers that have gotten records banned merely based on appearances.
Warning: Some readers may find some of the following images offensive.
1. The Dead Kennedys, Frankenchrist
In 1987, Dead Kennedys lead singer Jello Biafra was acquitted on charges of distributing pornography due to the H.R. Giger artwork for the band’s Frankenchrist album. Giger’s painting, called “Landscape #XX,” or “Penis Landscape,” was included as a poster in the album sleeve. Although technically the image wasn’t on the cover (the image above was), it still managed to get the album banned.
The painting features rows of penises entering rows of vulva. Biafra was prosecuted over the artwork by an attorney after the attorney’s daughter bought a copy of the album for her brother for Christmas, according to a brief history of banned rock music from the radio station, Rock 103. Copies of the album were seized and destroyed, and the resulting trial nearly bankrupted Biafra’s record label, Alternative Tentacles Records. The trial gained Biafra a reputation as a proponent of free speech, and the label was kept alive by the support of fans.