5 Classic Albums That Had Altered Artwork

Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Kill ‘Em All was Metallica’s first full length release that came out way back in the summer of 1983 when the foursome were young, long-haired, beer-swilling louts. They hadn’t considered playing filled arenas to an aging mainstream audience and lining their pockets. It was well before they made a documentary featuring a psychologist with questionable fashion sense whose job was to get their collective head in the game in order to prolong the life of the money-making machine that their band has become. It was all about beer, metal and pissing people off; the way it should be.

Kill ‘Em All has gone three times platinum and sold over three million copies in the United States alone. Of course, it is far from their most successful album; but it is special in that it was their first. But it makes you kind of wonder what would have happened to the band career-wise if they were allowed to go ahead and call the album by its original title and use their desired artwork.

You see, Kill ‘Em All was originally intended to carry the title, Metal Up Your Ass. It isn’t the most subtle album title ever but in saying that, metal was never meant to be a subtle or thinking-man’s genre; at least not in the 1980s. The artwork was perhaps even more ridiculous. It basically just featured a hand protruding from a toilet brandishing a knife. Whilst it later featured on a few Metallica t-shirts, it never saw the light of day as an album cover, and was shelved by the record company along with the title. It might be interesting to note that the lyrical themes within the album were not so immature and grotesque. But it appeared that the boys just wanted to prove a point with the title and artwork. For exactly what that point was you might have to speak to them

The music itself contained elements of what had been manifesting itself throughout the time since Black Sabbath first played a note, but it took things to a new level. The songs were written better than what came before it and they were played with such intensity that the record company no doubt knew they had a game-changer on their hands. So they made James Hetfield and his mates change things a bit. What resulted was a still-quite-metal, hammer with blood all around. Interestingly, on the album title front, ‘Kill ‘Em All’ it has been suggested, was what the boys came up with as a response aimed at the record company executives.

They could not have known then what the band would become; almost an industry unto itself. Metallica has long transcended the genre from which it was spawned to be placed firmly in the mainstream with its underground roots of 1983 a distant memory. But at the time, youth and immaturity almost gave the world one of its most remarkable pieces of musical art packaged in one of its most ridiculously ill-conceived covers. I bet the guys are happy the record company did intervene.

Pantera - Far Beyond Driven

Pantera - Far Beyond Driven

Hey, while we happen to be on the subject of metal, let’s roll with it. Hell, let’s even talk about another album cover that was originally meant to contain an image of anal violation shall we?

The cover of Pantera’s 1994 metal masterpiece, Far Beyond Driven, may have offered an alternate insight in to the nature of the title itself. The album was originally intended to show a drill bit on the way to finding itself on the way up some poor person’s back passage.

Why would they want to include someone being drilled up the ass on the cover of the follow-up to their most successful album to date? Well apparently, that same drill bit was meant to have been used as a medieval colonoscopy-type thing.

So of course, as with Metallica’s debut, the record company weren’t about to have an album which is tipped to be hugely popular, released with someone’s anus being impaled on the front. So they went for a head instead. Pantera’s seventh studio album, Far Beyond Driven, was released with an alternate cover depicting a skull with a huge drill bit going through the centre of the forehead.

It is interesting to note that had the album been released with its originally intended artwork, the interpretation of the album’s title might have changed. Most songs on the album include lyrics about Phil Anselmo’s early life but also (continuing on from where the predecessor, Vulgar Display of Power, left off) themes of overcoming weakness to find self-empowerment; hence the title seems quite apt. If we had a drill going up someone’s rectum, it could possibly be seen in a different light.

I bet the record company executives were quite satisfied with their decision when they spotted the sales figures. It is probably fair to say that the boys in the band might have been glad that decision had been made too. Far Beyond Driven, despite copping a bit of criticism from writers in the industry, did become a huge hit commercially. It hit number one on both the Billboard 200 album charts in the United States and on the Australia charts. Given that Pantera had upped the heaviness on each album, Far Beyond Driven could almost be considered extreme metal, and was certainly the heaviest album to have reached number one at that time. Many would argue that record stays intact to this day.



U2 - Achtung Baby

U2 - Achtung Baby

This album cover is fairly recognisable despite the fact that it is incredibly visually noisy. It kind of looks like each member of the hugely successful quartet decided that was the day they would all bring their egos to work, and as a result, couldn’t manage to all be on the same page with regards to an album cover. But it wasn’t always going to be this busy. There were many other different ideas floating around for cover artwork and to be honest, despite the fact that there is quite a lot happening on this cover, it is better than the alternatives. It is also better than that other one where they are just hanging out at the airport. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to buy an album by one of the biggest millionaire bands in the world, and all they could come up with for an album cover was four dudes standing in an airport; well, I just might consider pirating a copy (or listening to something else).

So with Achtung Baby, U2 thought they might just release the album with a picture of bassist Adam Clayton nude. In fact, it is amazing that KISS didn’t think of that first. U2 were actually thinking of calling the album ‘Adam’ and teaming it with the nude photo of the bass guitarist. Now that would have been strange. But of course, it was never going to happen. I mean, in the photo, you can actually see the guy’s junk. Can you imagine the world’s current kings of rock releasing an album, hoping that all the parents of its teenage fans don’t mind if there happens to be a picture of a skinny grown man with his genitals out? It would have been a bit creepy really. Sanity prevailed eventually. Well, some semblance of sanity – there were no naked dudes on the cover anyway.

Eventually, the naked photo was still included within the artwork however, it was relegated to the inner sleeve of the album. As the band’s tour diary reads; “The inner sleeve includes a small photo of a naked Adam Clayton, prompting many stores in North America to threaten not selling the album because of the full-frontal nudity. Island Records quickly covers Adam, adding a black “X” or green shamrock over the picture on the CD and cassette version of Achtung Baby. The small amount of vinyl that is printed in North America retains the original, uncensored photo”.

Chumbawumba – Anarchy

Chumbawumba – Anarchy

You might remember these guys if for no other reason than their ability to get knocked down before getting back up again, and telling everyone about said exploits in extremely catchy but equally annoying song form. As it turns out, they also had other songs too; a whole career of them in fact. They clearly got a bit soft later in their career, having gone from playing anarcho-punk stuff to varying stages incorporating pop music, world music and folk.

The band’s lyrics weren’t always about the aforementioned knocking down and getting up again. Quite often they tackled lefty issues such as homophobia, fascism, animal rights, class struggle, feminism, gay liberation and pop culture. So it’s only natural that the album cover depicts a vagina with a baby poking its head out, right?

Hang on, what? A close up of a vagina giving birth? Yes. And nobody knows why. What we do know however, is that this type of thing wasn’t going to be accepted as okay by most corners of society, despite being an image of perhaps the most natural thing in the world (we are a strange and prudish bunch us humans).

Released in 1994, Anarchy was banned by many record shops for its graphic cover art. Other places put it in a sleeve in order to sell it. You know, just so there weren’t heads protruding from vaginas all over the place. It is for the same reasons that we won’t include an image of the original artwork here, but you can Google it if you really want to see it. You might learn something about anatomy, or you could become somewhat disturbed.

So given the controversy and the fact that all these record stores refused to sell the thing, the record was re-released with a cover that looked like it could be an audiobook on gardening. It was just flowers, and none of said flowers even remotely looked like a vagina. Of course, the original artwork is now a collector’s item. There is no word of how the child is doing although, the album Tubthumper, released a few years later, does include an image of a baby looking pretty happy with himself….



The Beatles - White Album

The Beatles - White Album

The White Album is remembered as much for its artwork as the songs on it. I mean, that is not to say the album didn’t contain some The Beatles’ best work; it did. But the bleak cover was in stark contrast to the album’s predecessor, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. That album featured so many little people and things to look at that you could be there for days (especially if you were on psychedelic drugs). However, The White Album appeared to be in opposition to the whole marketing game. After all, not only did it not have a real cover, but it didn’t really even have a name.

It wasn’t always supposed to be that way though. The album was originally meant to be called A Doll’s House. It was to include a weird drawing of the foursome looking incredibly stoned. Yeah it was weird, but there was a different reason they changed their minds. A prog rock group at the time by the name of Family, released an album called Music In A Doll’s House. Imagine you are in a band, just trying to get by and make a living and along comes the biggest band anyone has ever seen and calls their album something along the same lines as you; you might sell a few copies to high teenagers by mistake, but that’s about it. So The Beatles decided to let Family have it. And I guess they realised that they could release an album without a name or artwork and they would still sell more copies than any other band on the planet. They were right. That’s what they did.

Of course, we now know the cultural impact this album has had. It has been an influence on just about every band since. Recorded at a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India, in 1968, The White Album is now regarded as an iconic piece of art. Of course, it affected many different people in many different ways, perhaps most famously, Charles Manson. Manson had already professed to finding hidden meanings in previous work by the band. He convinced the Manson Family that this album contained a prophetic apocalyptic message predicting an uprising of oppressed races, drawing parallels with chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation. Yeah, really…