Controversial albums that often required censorship

Toilet has ever been considered taboo, even when used as an artistic object, including the music field studded with memorable album covers where the presence of the loo has often led to censorship.

Here’s a list of the most famous.

1. The Mama’s & the Papa’s – If you can believe your eyes and ears

The mama's and the papa's - If you can believe your eyes and ears
The Mama’s and the Papa’s – If you can believe your eyes and ears

The Mama’s and the Papa’s were an American folk-rock vocal group. If you can believe your eyes and ears is the first album of the quartet, released in 1966. The cover of this album whose photo was taken by the photographer Guy Webster was subjected to several variations: the original (shown above) shows the group sitting in a bathtub with a toilet next to it.

The copies of the album were withdrawn from the stores because the toilet on the cover was considered indecent. Since then, the original copies have become precious and sought by collectors.

On the second cover, the toilet is largely covered by a patch that announces the presence of the famous California Dreamin in the album.

In the third version of the cover instead, the covered part lists two additional songs in the album, Monday, Monday and I Call Your Name.

The latest version is a black cover with a close-up photo of the group with no detail suggesting being in a bathroom.

2. The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones - Beggars banquet
The Rolling Stones – Beggars banquet

The cover of The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet album was considered dirty and indecent enough to be replaced by a white cover that was interpreted as mocking The Beatles’ White Album of the same year. The incriminated cover shows the wall of a public toilet whose photo was taken by photographer Barry Feinstein. On the wall, Richards and Mick Jagger scribbled the name of the album, song titles such as Sympathy for the devil, Prodigal son, and the name of the single Street fighting man. Besides, there is a tribute to Bob Dylan who inspired the new sound of the Rolling Stones. Finally, the slogan God rolls his own, is considered a bit blasphemous.

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On the censored version, the name of the band and the album appear in a very fine and elegant font, looking like a greeting card, in contradiction with the sound of the album and the original cover.

The Rolling Stones tried to keep the original cover but they couldn’t prevail over the choice of the record company since that was delaying the release of the album.

3. Millie Jackson – Back to the s**t!

Millie Jackson - Back to the shit
Millie Jackson – Back to the shit!

Millie Jackson’s album cover and its title are self-explanatory. The R&B, soul, but also disco singer is sitting on the toilet when evacuating as denotes her expression. The record is a live album of 1989 where the censored title doesn’t need too many explanations. Maybe a reference to Back to the Future released the previous year?

4. UFO – Force it

UFO - Force it
UFO – Force it

Force It is the fourth studio album by the British rock band UFO, released in 1975. It became their first album to chart in the United States. The album was produced by Ten Years After bass player Leo Lyons. Another Ten Years After member, Chick Churchill, played keyboards, the first use of that instrument on a UFO record. The CD reissue was remastered at Sound Recording Technology, Cambridge in 1994.

The controversial original cover was designed by Hipgnosis, as were almost all other UFO albums of the 1970s. The nudity on the cover verged on breaching decency standards and the genders of the couple in the bathtub were not known for several years. The models were later revealed to be Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, both later of the influential industrial band Throbbing Gristle. The artwork was softened for the US release, making the couple in the bathtub transparent. The cover is a pun, there are multiple taps or faucets in the picture, which is a play on the album’s title.

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5. Foreigner – Head Games

Foreigner - Head games
Foreigner – Head games

Foreigner is an Anglo-American rock band formed in 1976. The album cover of their third record shows a frightened young lady backed against a urinal in a men’s bathroom. Many stores refused to sell the album, and some radio stations wouldn’t play any songs from it, deeming the cover in poor taste. Responding to accusations of misogyny, the band often explained that they love women and that many of their songs are very flattering toward ladies.

6. Metallica – Metal up your ass

Metallica - Metal up your ass
Metallica – Metal up your ass

It’s fairly well known that Metallica’s first album should have been called Metal up your ass, instead of Kill ’em all. The title, as explained by James Hetfield (singer and guitarist of the band) in an interview for the 25 years of the album, was decided when he was a kid: “You know, we had dreams. I always knew what I would do when I grew up, with guitars and everything. I remember when I was at school drawing my band and album cover. I already knew what to call it: Metal up your ass“, said James. “On the cover, we wanted a toilet with an arm sticking out with a blade in the hand”.

This time, the problem wasn’t the record company because the Megaforce (the label that produced the album) wasn’t a problem but it was for the distributors. So, for the fear of being excluded from the stores, the band chose another name: Kill ’em all, as if to say: “Let’s kill everyone, so we can decide the name we want”.

For the image of the cover instead, they thought about something violent, but fearing censorship, they focused the violent scene on the next moment, showing a hammer with a bloodstain.

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7. Sebadoh – Bakesale

Sebadoh - Bakesale
Sebadoh – Bakesale

Sebadoh is a US indie-rock band formed in 1986, considered one of the pioneers of the lo-fi genre, a subgenre of indie-rock featuring low-quality recording techniques.

The cover of their fifth album Bakesale, featuring a toddler peering inquisitively into a toilet, has long become one of the more iconic album covers. “That’s actually a picture of me that my mom took when I was one year old”, Barlow says. “We were thinking of concepts for the album cover, and I’d found this other mysterious photo from my childhood. I chose that toilet photo for the single cover, but Sub Pop [the label] suggested we use it for the cover of the album”.

8. Maclean & Maclean – Toilet Rock

Maclean and Maclean - Toilet rock
Maclean & Maclean – Toilet rock

MacLean & MacLean was a Canadian musical-comedy duo composed of two brothers, active between 1972 and 1998. They were best known for their often scatological humor, which was combined with (usually humorous) renditions of folk and popular songs.

Their first album was a live recording titled Toilet Rock, like their other songs, was characterized by vulgar language, though ironic, as evidenced by the album cover.

9. Fortran 5 – Avocado Suite

Fortan 5 - Avocado suite
Fortran 5 – Avocado Suite

Fortran 5 was an electronic music group active in the 1990s. Their last album of 1995 closes their activity with an experimental record whose cover set in a bathroom represents a quiet moment of shared relaxation. Probably, given the year the album was released, the problem of toilet censorship was now over.

And you, how many other albums set in a toilet do you know?