Album Covers #7: Favorite Censored Album Covers

1. The Beatles - Yesterday and Today

What do you have to be smoking for this to sound like a good idea for an album cover? This from the same band that gave us perhaps the best album covers of all time: the revolutionary Sgt. Pepper cover, the iconic Meet the Beatles and Abbey Road covers, and the beautifully artistic Revolver... this same group decides to cover themselves with butchered babies. Go figure.

Here's a couple facts that may help us comprehend it better:

(A) When it was photographed, the photos were not intended for an album cover. They were just clowning around and being "experimental". Evidently, their dark humor showed through.

(B) Afterwards, it was only Paul who pushed for the butcher pictures to be used for the cover - as a statement against the war. Quite a bold move for the most popular band on earth.

Not surprisingly, the records were instantly recalled and a newer blander cover was pasted over the butcher cover.

Personally, I don't mind the cover. I mean, you can readily tell it's not real babies. The Beatles album cover that should have been censored and recalled is The Magical Mystery Tour - damn, that cover is dreadful!

2. The Mama's and the Papa's - If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
For this one, the toilet was declared to be indecent and the record was recalled. The new album cover had the toilet obscured by a list of songs on the LP.

I could understand the censorship if there was a big log in the bowl. That would be a bit much. But c'mon, it's obvious they're in a bathroom - bathrooms have toilets. What's the big deal?

3. Buddy Cole - Have Organ, Will Swing

Anyone even moderately familiar with vintage album covers knows that organ albums were the most heavy handed with the cheesecake. They rarely featured the actual musician on the cover - instead, there was always an anonymous female in various states of undress. Geared toward the swingin' hep cat of the 60's, the vinyl babes were quite successful in boosting sales. Unfortunately, Buddy Cole took it a little too far with this one (known henceforth as the "beaver cover") and it was recalled after one week in stores. (image source)

See related post: Sex Sells: Cheesecake Album Covers of Yesteryear


  1. Not sure where you live, but Robert Whitaker (the guy who designed the Butcher cover) has an art exhibit right now in La Jolla (near San Diego). He was actually down there I think last week. I didn't get to meet him though.

    That cover is great though. If I ever get enough extra money I'm going to buy either 1st or 2nd state. The Mama's and the Papa's cover is also funny that it was considered indecent. Regardless, that's a good album. Gotta love the 60s.

  2. I'd always heard the Butcher sleeve was a polite protest about the first few US released albums being carved up with different track listings and running orders IE being butchered - Incidentally the cover photo was taken a few hundred yards from where the Sgt Pepper shoot took place..

  3. your big log comment made me laugh just now and i needed it! superb post as always. thank you thank you.

  4. My folks had the censored Mamas and Papas album.

  5. AnonymousMay 06, 2009

    it's not very retro, but Dream Theater released an album with a street date of Sept. 11, 2001 that showed both WTC towers on fire (called Burning Down NY or something similar) ... the title was changed, and I've never seen a recall so fast and complete..really creepy

  6. It's interesting to note how the tolerance threshold shifted in such a short time - by the 80s you had a Millie Jackson album cover with her actually squatting and straining on a toilet, yet not censored. A far, far cry from the seemingly innocuous throne on the Mamas and Papas cover!

    Another famous banned cover was the famous Blind Faith album with the topless underage girl on the cover. Shame on you, Mr. Clapton!

  7. I read an interview with that girl from the BLIND FAITH album recently. Said it was great fun and she loved the pics but that she kept expecting Clapton to come by the house to visit because she was on his album cover and yet he never did!

  8. I never knew about any of these covers. Thanks for posting this.

  9. Keith - Happy to oblige. You're well on your way to a bachelor's degree in useless retro trivia.

    Booksteve - Yeah, I think no one in Blind Faith actually knew the girl - didn't they find it at a yard sale or something? Regardless, it seems an odd choice for a so-called supergroup to select.

  10. AnonymousMay 07, 2009

    How about the Alice Cooper "Muscle of Love" album. Was it acutally banned? I remember that it came in a thin cardboard box like thing that said "Contains Alice Cooper's Muscle of Love". I never did see the actual album cover. One reviewer at the time called it "repellant". BTW, great thread Gil!

  11. Great post! I had never seen #2 or 3. I think John said he pushed for the "butcher" cover to be released in an '70s interview. He attributed the idea for it to the photographer (Whitaker). It was also used in a promo for the "Paperback Writer" single - it's the kind of cover that is almost begging to be pulled - amazing that Capitol went ahead with it.

  12. don - I've never seen the "Muscle of Love" cover either... although, if the title is any indication of what's on the cover, I'm not sure I want to.

    LotB- Sorry, my research doesn't extend far beyond Wikipedia and half remembered facts... thanks for the interesting info.

  13. According to the book "Heavier than Heaven" that Beatles album cover had a profound effect on a young Kurt Cobain.

  14. I remember buying the Beatle album and my brothers and I steamed the over cover off to expose the "Butcher" cover below...we were quite proud of ourselves.....never did try to analyze the babies, but everyone else on the planet did!

    1. i was at a flea market over 10 yrs, ago..true story...had the orginal in my hands put it down for a few moments, only to find the cute guy purchaing it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!