6 Classic Album Covers That Were Originally Horrifying

#3. Chumbawamba Showed the Glorious (Disgusting) Miracle of Childbirth

The Album Cover We Saw:

One Little Indian/London Records

The Cover We Almost Saw:

One Little Indian/London Records
Pissing, shitting, and crying the night away.

Best known as the band that gets knocked down and then gets up again, Chumbawamba seems, at first glance, about as punk as your little sister singing Billy Idol at her grade school recital. In fact, if the only way you procure music these days is by downloading it from the Web, the cover for 1994's Anarchy might have you thinking you'd accidentally purchased a Martha Stewart audiobook. If you're old enough to know what a "record store" is, though, you're already remembering seeing the original cover: an up close and very personal image of a mother's proud vagina shooting out her sticky little bundle of joy.

Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
And if you're that old, that's probably ALL you remember.

Many stores refused to sell the album because of that cover, while others repackaged it in plain sleeves. All because the band wanted to depict the most natural, beautiful event human beings are capable of creating, showing that amid all the chaos this world constantly brings down upon us, there is still purity and innocence. Or they just wanted to put a stretched-out vagina on their album cover. Either way, can't blame them for trying.

Since then, the cover has been quietly replaced on most online retailers with a painting of some nice flowers (not even vagina-looking ones). While the original artwork is now little more than a collector's item for people who are oddly obsessed with one-hit wonders and/or pictures of other people giving birth, Chumbawamba got the last laugh when they released the uber-successful Tubthumper a few years later with a big ol' smiling baby boy on the cover.

EMI/Universal Records
Apparently, being photographed as soon as you come out can lead to deformities.

#2. The Beatles' White Album Was Nearly a Bad Cartoon

The Album Cover We Saw:

Apple Records

The Cover We Almost Saw:

Apple Records
"Dammit, John, did you have to bring the Magic Yoko Ball? It's scaring the bunnies."

The Beatles' self-titled "White Album" is a classic not only because it contains some of the best songs the group ever wrote ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Helter Skelter") and some of the weirdest ("Why Don't We Do It in the Road," "Let's Let Yoko Fill These 9 Minutes"), but also because the completely barren album cover -- a stark detour from their previous album, the blindingly colorful Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- presented a grand statement: marketing is for losers.

Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"Hey, it's us. Buy our shit. Fuck you, bye."

But that wasn't the original plan. The White Album was going to have not only a cover, but a name. The Fab Four wanted to call the album A Doll's House (a reference to a play from the 19th century, not Ringo's Barbie collection) and fill the cover with a psychedelic rendering of the group as ... marionettes? Conquistadors? Wildlife enthusiasts? Really, really stoned cartoon characters? Whatever it was supposed to be, we think "nothing" was a huge improvement.

But when British prog band Family released a similarly titled album, Music in a Doll's House, the Beatles decided to do the cool thing and let the other band call dibs on the name: After all, they could put literally nothing on a cover and it'd sell. So that's exactly what they did. They kept this minimalist (lazy) approach when they realized that the planned cover image for a subsequent album, Everest, involved getting off their asses and taking a plane ... so they changed the name to the street outside their studio (Abbey Road) and shot the cover there instead.

Apple Records
It was almost called "Studio Bathroom," but Ringo stank the place up.

The White Album cover turned out to be hugely iconic, influencing everyone from Metallica to Weezer (multiple times). But the Beatles weren't the only British Invasion group with a fickle temperament ...

#1. Who's Next Was Intended to Be a Collage of Extra-Large Naked Ladies

The Album Cover We Saw:

Track/Decca

The Cover We Almost Saw:

Track/Decca
A young Freddie Mercury saw this and immediately started taking notes.

Now here's a case where the final cover is already fairly edgy stuff, compared to the rest of this list. Who's Next famously featured all four band members having just urinated on a monolith possibly inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey (they either hated the film or loved it so much that they literally couldn't contain themselves over it). Others believe the public urination is a comment on their competition with Led Zeppelin (who liked putting sci-fi allusions in their work, the dorks), and that the phrase "Who's Next" suggested they were aiming their wieners at some other band now.

Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Or any fan that insisted on asking them "Who's on first?" like no one had ever done that before.

But the subliminal debauchery of that cover is a tasteful postcard you could send to your grandmother when compared to the original. Ethan Russell, the photographer who captured the photo used for the actual album cover, remembers being around the recording studio when a collage of "extremely fat naked women" was submitted for consideration by another photographer. According to Russell, the collage was only rejected because "Jimi Hendrix had already done something almost identical, only the women in that instance were not fat" (as we in fact covered here). So, were it not for Electric Ladyland, the world would have been treated to this bounty of plentiful women with Pete Townshend's face tactfully looming over their vaginas.

Another cover they seriously considered? God among drummers Keith Moon showing us his underwear.

Track/Decca
Oddly enough, it's the same as Ariana Grande's, except the color.

So, yeah, "pissing on a monolith" seems pretty restrained now.


Jacob loves these album covers but hates his co-workers. His blog, Letters to My Coworkers, Whom I Hate, is chock-full of angry letters to those bastards. He spreads that hate onto Twitter as well.

Related Reading: Speaking of baffling album choices, these concept albums botched their own concept. Some of these classic rap albums were so bad they ruined rap forever. And did you know Neil Young once had an album canned for being too depressing?

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