We don't expect much from album covers. Wear something revealing if you're a pop starlet. If you're Prince, just make sure to wear something. If your album's called The Wall, maybe sketch some bricks on there. Honestly, our expectations couldn't be any lower. Which is why it's so baffling that we get album covers like:
Guns n' Roses- Appetite for Destruction
The cover art for a band's debut album is especially important. It has to express what your music sounds like to people who have never heard of you. And while we can't speak from a place of experience, we don't imagine that violent robot rape is quite as melodious as "Sweet Child O' Mine."
Luckily for Axl and company, someone talked some sense into them and this cover was replaced with the with the now famous five-skull cross emblem. Unluckily for Axl, this is apparently what the music sounds like inside his head.
Birth Control - Operation
Feeding infants to a giant insect isn't an effective form of birth control, primarily because, you know, you've already given birth. But even if it were available on the consumer market we're pretty sure it wouldn't be enough to get the Pope to change his stance.
Boned - Up at the Crack
Well Boned, we probably shouldn't be surprised at this point. When your song titles include such gems as "Drain the Main Vein," "Ain't No Talkin' With Your Mouth Full" and "Tails Up Heads Down" you've pretty much beaten subtlety to death, looted the corpse, tossed it in the Brooklyn river and then watched an episode of Law and Order based on the crime.
The Scorpions - Lovedrive
This is the album cover equivalent of a bad political cartoon that nobody quite understands. What does any of this have to do with being rocked like a hurricane? We've always defined lovedriving as an act occurring between two consenting adults behind a beaded curtain. Scorpion's definition apparently involves Bubble Yum, an expensive car and a nonplussed society lady.
Pooh-Man - Funky as I Wanna Be
We might be willing to believe that your nickname has nothing to do with poop. That it's Pooh with an H, because you like honeyz as much as Winnie likes honey. We'll accept that you named your album Funky as I Wanna Be because of the southern influence evident in your twangy bassline, and not because poop gives off a horrible odor that could be described as funky.
But if you're going to ask us to go along with all that, don't make an album cover that, when flipped upside down, looks like you're being pooped out of a call girl.
The Frivolous Five - Sour Cream and Other Delights
There's a lot of shitty jobs working for a records label, but what's worse: having to take this picture or having to lather up the five elderly ladies with shaving cream?
Try not to think about it for too long; the screaming might wake your neighbors.
Boxer - Below the Belt
Unless you're reading this from inside a maximum security prison, you'll probably agree that there's nothing appealing about violently punching a woman in the ovaries.
The Beatles - Yesterday and Today
It was the end of the mop top era, and the Beatles wanted everyone to know it. John and George's hair looked a little more disheveled than usual, as did Ringo's facial features, and Paul ... well Paul was very obviously as high as he'd ever been in his life. Fine. All part of emerging from the pop star pupa and sprouting rock and roll wings.
But somebody should have told them there are steps in between "Bubblegum pop" and "Joyously murdering infants and covering yourself in the guts." Holy shit, guys. If you wanted edgy, just stick some skulls on there.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono - Two Virgins: Unfinished Music Vol. 1
Proving he was probably the master of subtlety behind the Yesterday/Today cover, years later John Lennon would force us to look at an image so horrible that it can only truly be captured by the writing of H.P. Lovecraft. Adding to the psychological terror is the subtitle Unfinished Music Vol. 1, which implies multiple entries in a series and therefore potential for even more Yokogina.
Millie Jackson - Back to the Shit
For those of you wondering what the Pooh-Man cover might look like if the photographer had taken a few steps back, Millie Jackson has you covered.
Though not related to Michael Jackson, she's crazy enough to pass for at least a second cousin. Or maybe she just thought her fanbase was unfamiliar with the term "shit" and needed an illustration of how a bowel movement works.
Cannibal Corpse - Tomb of the Mutilated
Does this image represent a convoluted knot of psychosexual neurosis in the artist? Or, was it that the band was already called Cannibal Corpse and the album Tomb of the Mutilated and really there was nowhere else to go. After checking everything else corpse-related off the list ("What if we have the corpse eating a child?" "No, that's just more cannibalism"), corpse cunnilingus was really the only thing left.
Mom's Apple Pie - Mom's Apple Pie
Not so bad, right? Well, take a good looks at where the slice is taken out of the pie. Here's a close up, just in case you need it.
Is that the pie's vagina? Is it a pie full of disembodied vaginas? Can the pie give birth? Like to one of those little Hostess pies?
Guru Guru - Hinten
Question: What could offend consumers and retailers more than vagina pie?
Answer: a tunnel of asses. It's like seeing Goatse for the first time and being unable to close your browser window.
Kevin Rowland - My Beauty
Kevin Rowland is the man responsible for the insanely singable, "Come on Eileen." On this solo offering, he decided to show the world just how awkward drag can be when the guy dressing up half-suspects he looks ridiculous. The self-conscious way he clutches the purse to his body and the apparent refusal to shave his sad teenager sideburns combine to make him look less iconoclastic and more like he's been the victim of a prank. Plus, it totally ruins the illusion that the title of his only hit was a subtle bukake reference.
The Scorpions - Virgin Killer
It should have been obvious to everyone involved with Virgin Killer that an album cover depicting a nude minor would cause quite a bit of controversy. Indeed, when most sophisticated societies are exposed to a naked child being used for the purpose of financial gain they tend to flip their collective shit. Of course, The Scorpions are from Germany.
Above: A good idea at the time.
The image was designed by then RCA product manager Steffan Bohle and according to the band's bass player the girl was Bohle's "daughter or niece." Maybe there's some sort of cultural barrier but we like to think that when a grown man asks his own daughter or niece to undress for a photo shoot at least one person in the room would object.
Albums with the original cover were quickly pulled in most regions and reissued with this cover instead:
As you can see, most of the band are celebrating because they weren't arrested on child pornography charges, while the dude with the mustache seems to have just been shown the child porn cover for the first time.
For more examples of poor, misguided millionaire musicians, check out 6 Singers Who Are Mistaken About Their Raw Sexuality. Or find out which musicians couldn't even be trusted to name themselves in The 25 Most Ridiculous Band Names in Rock History.