Banned Albums & Songs

Written by Michael Oshust

The past 60 years have seen a fair share of risky album covers and questionable songs that were inappropriate for radio stations, record executives and record stores. Now we look at why these album covers and songs were banned.


The following songs were banned or removed from radio airplay.

Paul McCartney

Hi Hi Hi

In the UK, the song was banned by the BBC for its sexually suggestive lyrical content. The BBC also assumed that the title phrase, "We're gonna get hi, hi, hi" was a drug reference. The specific lyrics objected to is the apparent phrase "get you ready for my body gun"; McCartney has said that the correct lyrics are "get you ready for my polygon", an abstract image, and later said, "The BBC got some of the words wrong. But I suppose it is a bit of a dirty song if sex is dirty and naughty. I was in a sensuous mood in Spain when I wrote it.

George Michael

I Want Your Sex

The song is the first single from Michael's debut solo album "Faith." The song has three separate parts dubbed "Rhythms". The first one, titled "Rhythm One: Lust", is the version released as a single and banned by the BBC."I Want Your Sex" became Michael's second solo hit single after the song "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)", his duet with Aretha Franklin from earlier that same year. Despite censorship and airplay issues, an edited version of the song's music video received ample airplay on North American music channels, fueling its popularity there.

The Beatles

Come Together

"Come Together" started as Lennon's attempt to write a song for Timothy Leary's campaign for governor of California against Ronald Reagan, which promptly ended when Leary was sent to prison for possession of marijuana. In 1973, "Come Together" was the subject of a lawsuit brought against Lennon by Big Seven Music Corp. who was the publisher of Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me".

Ian Dury

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

"Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" is a song and single by Ian Dury. It was originally released as a Stiff Records single with "Razzle in My Pocket" as the B-side. Although the single was banned by the BBC, a number of Radio 1 disc jockeys, including Annie Nightingale and John Peel, continued to promote the record by playing the mildly salacious B-side "Razzle in My Pocket". 

Ozzy Osbourne

Suicide Solution

On January 12, 1986, a lawsuit against Osbourne was filed by the parents of John McCollum, a depressed teenager who committed suicide allegedly after listening to this song. The plaintiffs, however, failed to prove that Osbourne had any responsibility for the teenager's death. The plaintiffs's attorneys alleged that a line in the song stated, "Why try? Get the gun and shoot." Lyricist Daisley and Osbourne himself both claimed that the line actually says, "Get the flaps out." "Flaps," they insisted, was an English vulgar slang term for female genitalia


The following albums were recalled and reissued with alternative covers.

Blind Faith

The cover featured a topless pubescent girl holding what appears to be the hood ornament of a Chevrolet Bel Air, which some perceived as phallic. The American record company issued it with an alternative cover showing a photograph of the band on the front as well as the original cover. Seidemann wrote that he approached a girl reported being 14 years old on the London Underground about modeling for the cover and eventually met with her parents, but that she proved too old for the effect he wanted. Instead, the model he used was her younger sister Mariora Goschen, who was reported to be 11 years old. Mariora initially requested a horse as a fee but was instead paid £40

The Beatles

The album is remembered primarily for the controversy surrounding its original cover image. The original cover was a statement against the Vietnam war which showed the band dressed in white smocks and covered with decapitated baby dolls and pieces of raw meat. In the United States, Capitol Records printed approx. 750,000 copies and sent advanced copies to radio stations. The record was immediately recalled under orders from Capitol's parent company EMI and all copies were ordered shipped back to the record label. The cover photo was replaced with a picture of the four band members posed around an open trunk.


Lovedrive is the sixth studio album by the Scorpions Scorpions. The album was released in 1979. Lovedrive was a major evolution of the band's sound, exhibiting their "classic style" that would be later developed over their next few albums. The original album cover depicted a well-dressed man and woman seated in the back of a car, with the woman's right breast exposed and connected to the man's hand by stretched bubblegum.  It caused some controversy in the US upon the album's release, with later pressings of the album bearing a simple design of a blue scorpion on a black background. 

The Rolling Stones

Beggars Banquet original cover art, depicting a bathroom wall covered with graffiti, was rejected by the band's record company, and their unsuccessful dispute delayed the album's release for months. The "toilet" cover was later on most compact disc reissues. Beggars Banquet was a top-ten album in many markets, including the US and their native UK, and has frequently been ranked highly on many retrospective "great albums" lists. While the album lacked a "hit single" at the time of its release, songs such as "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man" became rock radio staples for decades to come. 


The original cover art for the album depicted a nude ten-year-old girl, with a shattered glass effect obscuring her genitalia. 

The photograph was taken by Michael von Gimbut. Rudolph Schenker stated "We didn't actually have the idea. It was the record company. The record company guys were like, "Even if we have to go to jail, there's no question that we'll release that." The original cover featured a nude prepubescent girl, which stirred controversy in the UK, US and elsewhere. As a result, the album was re-issued with a different cover in some countries.

Guns 'N Roses

Appetite for Destruction's cover art is a Robert Williams' painting titled 'Appetite for Destruction,' which depicted a robotic rapist about to be punished by a metal avenger. After several music retailers refused to stock the album, the label compromised and put the controversial cover art inside, replacing it with an image depicting a Celtic cross and skulls of the five band members. Each skull representing one member of the band: Izzy Stradlin, top skull; Steven Adler, left skull; Axl Rose, center skull; Duff McKagan, right skull; and Slash, bottom skull. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Street Survivors is the fifth studio album by Lynyrd Skynyrd, released on October 17, 1977. Just three days after the album's release, the band's chartered plane crashed en route to Baton Rouge, killing Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines, and severely injuring most who survived the crash. The original cover sleeve for Street Survivors had featured a photograph of the band standing on a city street with all its buildings engulfed in flames. After the plane crash, this cover became highly controversial. Out of respect for the deceased, MCA Records withdrew the original cover and replaced it with a similar image of the band against a pure black background.

Bon Jovi

"Slippery When Wet" is the third studio album by Bon Jovi. The album features songs that are considered Bon Jovi's best known, including "You Give Love a Bad Name", "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The album was named after visiting The No.5 Orange strip club in Vancouver, Canada where the band was recording. The album originally was to feature a busty woman in a wet yellow T-shirt with the album name on the front of the shirt. The reason given for the switch were record execs' fears that dominant record store chains at the time would have refused to carry the album with a sexist cover. The cover consists of a wet black garbage bag with the words "Slippery When Wet" traced in the water.


The Nevermind album cover shows a naked baby boy, alone underwater with a U.S. dollar bill on a fishhook just out of his reach. According to Cobain, he conceived of the idea while watching a television program on water births. There was some concern because Elden's penis was visible in the image. Geffen prepared an alternate cover without the penis, as they were afraid that it would offend people, but relented when Cobain made it clear that the only compromise he would accept was a sticker covering the penis that would say, "If you're offended by this, you must be a closet pedophile."

Roger Waters

The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking is the first album by Roger Waters. The album cover prompted controversy for featuring a rear-view nude photograph of model and softcore porn actress Linzi Drew. Although it was originally released with the nudity intact, subsequent editions distributed by Columbia Records censored Drew's buttocks with a black box. The album has performances by Eric Clapton, Ray Cooper, Andy Newmark, David Sanborn, Michael Kamen, and Andy Bown. The was certified gold in the United States. 

David Bowie

The cover features Bowie as a striking half-man, half-dog painted by a Belgian artist, based on photographs of Bowie. It was controversial as the full image on the cover showed the hybrid's genitalia. Very few copies of this original cover made their way into circulation at the time of the album's release. The genitalia was airbrushed out from the album's cover.  Bowie was simply 'neutered'. If you’re lucky enough to stumble across a copy of the album with the original artwork, you have something worth several thousands of dollars.

Roxy Music

"Country Life" is the fourth album by Roxy Music. The album cover features two scantily-clad models, who were not credited for appearing on the cover. The cover image was controversial in some countries such as the United States, Spain, and the Netherlands, where it was censored for release. As a result, a later American LP release of Country Life (available during the years 1975–80) featured a different cover shot. Instead of Karoli and Grunwald posed in front of some trees, the reissue used a photo from the album's back cover that featured only the trees.

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