6 Classic Album Covers That Were Originally Horrifying

Some album covers are so iconic that you can immediately picture them in your mind, even if you've only seen them as tiny icons on your Spotify playlist (you'd recognize that Nirvana baby anywhere). Well, we've told you before how some of the most recognizable album covers in music history narrowly avoided being disgusting, confusing, and otherwise traumatizing images that might have ruined the band's legacy (or at least gotten them banned from Walmart).

So if cooler heads hadn't prevailed, history might remember all of these differently ...

#6. Kanye West Was Going to Have Sex With a Winged Woman

The Album Cover We Saw:

Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam

The Cover We Almost Saw:

Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam
He didn't let her finish.

Time.com has called Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy "his most mature work," which might explain why, for the front cover, he went with a sober painting of some Olive Oyl lookalike dressed in a tutu. It's simple, elegant, and ... boring. This would be fine for a late-era Eric Clapton album or something, but we're talking about Yeezy here. Where's the gold-plated cheetah eating a Kanye West-brand Candye Bar? Why isn't there a cutout of Kanye's face on Elvis' body with James Brown's actual feet stapled to the jewel case? WHERE'S THE CRAZY, WEST?

And then you see the original cover. Behold, a nude phoenix with a polka-dotted tail and a severe case of gingivitis straddling a similarly nude, crazy-eyed Kanye(?) with either a beer or a bowling pin in his hand.

Roc-a-Fella/Def Jam
Which is, like, the 974th craziest sentence ever written about him.

For some reason, big market stores like Walmart allegedly threatened to ban the record if it was released in that form. Naturally, Kanye was appalled when he found out his record label was neutering his vision: "Banned in the USA!!! They don't want me chilling on the couch with my phoenix!" he tweeted, comparing the cover to the baby nudity on Nirvana's Nevermind and pining for the free-spirited culture of the '70s. He also said:

"Target, on the other hand, they get me."

Which, of course, is complete bullshit. The guy who painted the cover said Kanye specifically asked for something that would be banned, while his record company clarified that they were prepared to stand behind him if he had his heart set on the drunken demon fucking the firebird with the gross teeth. But, apparently, he didn't. It's almost like he just wanted the publicity or something.

#5. Both Metallica and Pantera Wanted to Put Metal in Someone's Butt

The Album Covers We Saw:

Megaforce, East West

The Covers We Almost Saw:

Megaforce, East West
"I impale butts and I cannot lie."

Heavy metal bands have a long and storied history of disturbingly graphic album covers, because otherwise how would you know their members are total badasses? Certainly not through all the screaming. For example, Metallica's debut album, the delicately titled Kill 'Em All, features a hand gripping a blood-spattered hammer, while Pantera's Far Beyond Driven shows a human skull being impaled with a drill bit. You know, typical metal shit.

This only makes it that much more baffling when we see that, somehow, both covers originally featured anal impalement. How ... how is this a thing? We can't even say one cover influenced the other, because both are unpublished. Apparently, the thought process of the average metal band is just naturally prone to arriving at "let's show some ass violence" at some point.

When Metallica hit the scene, they thought the best way to get their name out there was to literally stuff it straight up your butthole. James Hetfield and company intended to name their debut Metal Up Your Ass, and the matching artwork depicted a sharp metal object being hoisted out of a toilet, presumably to pierce the inside of some unlucky listener's butt regions at a later date.

Probably around the time St. Anger was released.

But sometimes an implied rectal assassination just isn't as satisfying as a disturbingly graphic portrait, so Pantera upped the ante a few years later with a cover that shed new, filthy light on the title Far Beyond Driven. It turns out that same drill bit from the classic album cover was first used as something of a medieval colonoscopy tool on a poor young woman's derriere. So, uh, we hope they cleaned it after that.

Emrys2/Wiki Commons
Or at least gave her a free T-shirt.

Luckily, some wise, respectably squeamish executives stepped in to have the art changed to more normal levels of violence and the bands' legacies remained untainted by assholes (for a while, anyway).

#4. U2 Wanted to Put a Dick on a Cover

The Album Cover We Saw:


The Cover We Almost Saw:

Suddenly "Achtung, baby" sounds a lot dirtier.

The final album cover for U2's Achtung Baby looks like all the members of the band (Bono, the Edge, uh ... Pancho? We feel like there's a Pancho) couldn't decide on what they wanted the image to be, so rather than breaking up what was turning out to be quite a profitable endeavor, they threw all the ideas in there and called it a day. Which is probably for the best, because if they'd settled on one picture, we probably would have ended up with something a lot less interesting, like that other cover photo that was apparently taken while the band was waiting around in an airport terminal. Or, you know, some dude's penis.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
"We wanted to switch it up from the vagina that's usually there."

Some of the many images taken for Achtung Baby's collage did get serious consideration as front cover material -- including that one of U2 bassist Adam "Pancho" Clayton dressed in nothing but a wristwatch. We're not sure how he ended up like that, but the coloring suggests roofies may have been involved. At one point the band even thought about naming the album Adam or 69, the latter of which suggests that maybe there's an alternate shot where Clayton isn't unaccompanied.

In the end, they went with the collage idea and included a considerably shrunken version of the band member's member as one of the miniatures, but label heads intervened and vanished the picture to the back of the booklet. Even that proved too much for the U.S., where Clayton's junk was slashed with a big black X.


Eventually the penis was axed altogether. Man, U2, what happened to you? You used to be all about the penis.

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