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Riffs: Banned in the USA: If you don't want your album cover banned, Kanye-style, don't do these five things


By Allison Stewart

On Sunday, Kanye West tweeted that the artwork for his upcoming album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," had been banned, implying that Wal-Mart was the culprit. If this is true (Wal-Mart told MTV News they hadn't even seen the cover yet, and West's tweets are best viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, anyway), it would be the best thing to happen to the disc next to a Taylor Swift duet: The banning of album cover art, once commonplace and now a relatively rare phenomenon, practically guarantees a publicity windfall.

Besides being 10 different kinds of ugly, West's artwork -- a drawing of the rapper being mounted by a naked white woman with wings and a polka dot tail -- is relatively tame by historical standards, though it does fall into one of the categories Click Track has assembled in our new list: Five things sure to get your album cover banned. (Warning: The following is fairly tame, but still NSFW).

Category One: Do not show mutilated babies and/or corpses

The Beatles: "Yesterday and Today," 1966:

The stark whiteness of the background against all that blood, the creepy smiles of the Beatles, who until that point in history had seemed pretty harmless -- this one barely made it into stores before being recalled.

Category Two: Refrain from displaying your genitals (this means you, Adam Clayton) or anybody else's

U2: "Achtung Baby," 1991

In which a back cover photo of bassist Adam Clayton's penis gets covered with a big black "X."

The Scorpions: "Virgin Killer," 1976

We can't show you the album's original cover, which featured a fully naked 10 year old girl, legs spread. It still routinely tops "Worst Album Covers Of All Time" lists, and were it to be released today, someone would go to prison.

(Floating skulls, devils with long tongues and things not to do with papier-mâché, after the jump.)

Category Three: Do not use violent imagery

Black Sabbath: "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," 1973

A Rape Fantasy With Floating Skull, otherwise known as The Usual. Unsurprisingly, metal bands have this category pretty much to themselves. Other images they're fond of: toilets, things with feathers, the work of sci-fi artist Frank Frazetta. We could have done an entire blog post just on the collected works of Cannibal Corpse.

Category Four: Religious Imagery

Killing Joke: "Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!" 1992

Depicts a German abbot blessing Nazi soldiers. Next to the usual metal band fare, consisting of devils with really long tongues and bibles with nails drilled through them, this is comparatively subtle.

Category Five: General Taste Level issues (includes awkward political satire, inappropriate use of papier-mâché, general ugliness)

Jane's Addiction: "Ritual de lo Habitual," 1990

Papier-mâché pubic hair = not okay, so the band replaced it with a cover featuring the text of the First Amendment. This remains the single greatest thing they have ever done.

The Coup: "Party Music," 2001

Unsurprisingly, no one really wanted a depiction of the World Trade Center in flames weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks. This one pretty much banned itself.

By Allison Stewart  | October 20, 2010; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Riffs  | Tags:  Beatles, Black Sabbath, Jane's Addiction, Kanye West, Killing Joke, U2, the Coup, the Scorpions  
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