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Stylus Counsel | Area Resident’s Records

Track 7 | Where did the boobs go?

In our home, right by the front door and the entrance to the music-listening room, is our record wall. It’s an area with 11 little clear plastic shelves to hold vinyl record covers, which my partner and I switch up with a different theme every week or two. Currently, it’s Black History Month Vol. 4.

But recently the theme was nudity. Roger WatersPros & Cons of Hitchhiking, Pink Floyd’s A Nice Pair, Two Virgins by John & Yoko, Supertramp’s sophomore release Indelibly Stamped, Nevermind of course, Surfer Rosa by Pixies, Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop, Moontan by Golden Earring, etc.

Of course, many of these classic album covers have seen their share of censorship over the years — Two Virgins was sold in a brown paper sleeve (or a brown flap on the CD) after distributors decided the uncircumcised Beatle member needed to be circumvented.

Pros & Cons of Hitchhiking was given a black bar across the naked woman’s bum. A Nice Pair got one across the boobs, but Moontan got a whole different cover. The original was a painting of nude woman, believed to be model Jilly Johnson. It was discarded in favour of a close-up of an ear with a large hoop earring.

So, here’s the thing — it’s not just boobs and peni which leads to album covers getting altered. I was recently putting some vinyl up for sale on my Discogs page and discovered I had a weird Gordon Lightfoot album called Sit Down Young Stranger. I’d never heard of it before. That’s because it was renamed If You Could Read My Mind after that song — Side 2, track 2 — became a huge hit. Incidentally, Van Dyke Parks, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman and John Sebastian are on that record — just not on that song.

Another reason album artwork gets changed is lawsuits, or potential lawsuits. My pal Aedan has a prized copy of Sufjan StevensCome On Feel The Illinoise with a sticker of cartoon balloons covering up an illustration of Superman after the record company got worried DC Comics might issue a cease & desist order. There’s a handful with Superman, more with balloons covering Superman, but most of the covers just have balloons instead of Superman.

This was kind of the reason the cover of Joe Satriani’s Surfing With The Alien was changed to a flying guitar from one depicting Marvel’s Silver Surfer. But, in this case, Satriani’s people got permission. Heck, Marvel even named the planet Satriani after the guitarist in its Silver Surfer comics. But about five years ago the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a price to continue to use the character, so it was dropped for a guitar neck.

The most famous instance of cover art being changed is The BeatlesYesterday And Today, which originally sported what’s become known as the “butcher cover.” The conceptual art by photographer Robert Whitaker depicted the four lads in white coats covered in bloody meat and decapitated baby dolls. 750,000 were made and 60,000 were issued. Many were recalled and covered with an album-sized sticker of the tame, familiar cover photo, known as the “trunk cover.”

Similarly, the cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s album Street Survivors was changed. Initially, it depicted a photo of the band surrounded by flames. Three days after the album came out, the pilots, tour manager and three band members, including lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zandt, guitarist Steve Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines — perished in a plane crash. Gaines’ widow requested the cover be changed. The more common cover is a photo from the same session, but instead of being surrounded by flames, the band is surrounded by plain black space.

But it’s not just cover artwork that gets changed. If you have earlier versions of Dark Side Of The Moon, it came with two posters. One of them is a group of six squares with different band members in them. It shows both Roger Waters and David Gilmour playing their instruments left-handed, which neither of them are. The sinister photos were either inverted or swapped for a more realistic depiction of Britain’s most attractive band.

Welcome to the machine, dear boys.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.