mon 25/06/2018

Listed: The 10 Most Tasteless Album Covers | reviews, news & interviews

Listed: The 10 Most Tasteless Album Covers

Listed: The 10 Most Tasteless Album Covers

R Kelly's new album is certainly a nadir, but it's by no means the only awful album cover

Black Panties: R Sole.. sorry, R Kelly enters irony-free zone

OK, R Kelly is gross. We knew that. The number of deeply creepy and abusive acts he's been accused of beggars belief (just Google if you want grotty details, it's all on Wikipedia). The fact that he continues happily along his way with wealth and public adoration fully intact must make him feel invincible

Even so, he still maintains an ability to shock and gross out. A lot of people are probably taking this sleeve as a très hilaire arch joke, just as they did with Kelly's preposterous and (go on, you can admit it) deepy rubbish Trapped in the Closet films. But look: it's a bunch of dead-looking models treated as meat, as an interchangeable, endless supply of ego accessories. And worse than that, there's an inescapable image that's conjured by a picture of black bodies so uncomfortably tightly packed together, isn't there? And it's definitely not an orgiastic one.

OK, maybe you disagree. Maybe you think it IS a clever joke, or a bit of a saucy laugh, rather than the grimmest commodification of human bodies. But you can't deny, it certainly pushes the bounds of taste. So in "tribute", here is theartsdesk's rollcall of shame, a line-up of album covers that likewise prompt the question: what were they thinking? Warning: 1983 seems to have been a particularly tasteless year.


Fred Katz: Fred Katz and His Jammers (1958)

Album cover Fred Katz and His Jammers

Fred Katz, who died in September aged 94, was an otherwise serious and respectable musician. After a classical training, including tuition with Pablo Casals, he made his reputation as a jazz cellist and composer, and was nearing the peak of his career when this was released in 1958. So what’s the blonde there for? She doesn’t look dressed for a gig. She’s not there to admire his pyjamas and slippers, surely. And is "jammers" really meant to be a pun on his attire? It’s by no means an isolated example, as some of the spectacularly ghastly examples on this thread demonstrate. Benny Hill, what a career you could have had in jazz. Matthew Wright


Blind Faith: Blind Faith (1969)

Blind Faith's notorious album coverDo we still believe in the myth of "more innocent times"? In this post-Yewtree world, where they came first for the DJs, then the family entertainers, there must be quite a few ageing rockstars shifting nervously in their inappropriate leather trousers. There's no suggestion whatsover that Eric Clapton or Steve Winwood were mucking about in the manner of Jimmy Page or Bill Wyman, but bloody hell, what were they thinking by persuading a barely pubescent farmgirl to strip for their sleeve? This sort of thing was considered acceptable - or at worst just a little bit outré - in mainstream culture not so very long ago, just think about that. Joe Muggs


Metallica: Metal Up Your Ass/ Kill 'Em All (1983)

Bad taste heavy metal album art usually involves Satan, viscera, or naked women. One wonders, however, how the career of the most successful hard-rockin' act on the planet would have panned out if they had released their first album under its original title of Metal Up Your Ass. Still, many might argue the sleeve they ended up with - the hammer and blood of Kill ‘Em All - wasn’t much better. Russ Coffey


Butthole Surfers: Butthole Surfers (1983)

The Butthole Surfers were the tasteless rock band of the Eighties. Live shows featured car crash films and a dancer called Ta-Da the Shit Lady. Their early record sleeves were a riot of bizarre illustrations. Also known as Brown Reasons to Live, their first album is adorned with a multiple image of the bottom half of a young, naked African boy, with a bloated belly. Band Aid this is not, though. It’s more the result of a very black sense of humour, fuelled by liberal doses of LSD. Guy Oddy


The Leather Nun: Prime Mover (1983)

leather nun

Not an album but a 12” single. "Prime Mover", a doom-rock dirge by underrated Swedish biker-metal ironists Leather Nun, arrived in an intentionally preposterous psycho-nun sleeve that, unsurprisingly, caused uproar briefly amid the feminist-friendly UK indie scene of 1983. It’s a smashing song, a personal favourite, and those who object to the cover should see the pic on the flip, for the B-side song “FFA”, an industrial funk opus whose full title is “Fist Fuckers Anonymous”. Thomas H Green


Black Flag: Family Man (1984)

Black Flag were that most frustrating of hardcore punk bands, often musically absolutely astonishing but so painfully earnest that the gut punch of their playing could be significantly weakened. Half this album is spoken-word pontification by iron-pumping demagogue Henry Rollins about the rot at the heart of suburban family life - like, OK Henry, we get it! Sadly in that context, the artwork which at first seems genuinely shocking and affecting just starts to feel as hamfisted as his "poetry". Joe Muggs


Millie Jackson: Back to the S**t (1989)

Containing tracks such as “Love Stinks” and “Muffle that Fart”, Back to the S**t partly justified its cover by continuing the scatological theme inside. Also, unlike many other examples here, Jackson’s cover wackiness has the virtue of being intentionally played for laughs: a fact often missed in the countdowns of bad album art in which she often appears. Russ Coffey

Kevin Rowland: My Beauty (1999)

“I was nuts” is how Rowland now explains this chapter in his career. Having just recovered from an extended period of drug rehabilitation, the Dexy’s singer’s new look was met with consternation all round. When he later toured in a Grayson Perry-style “man’s dress” fans thought he was mocking them and pelted him with bottles. Russ Coffey


Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Mosquito (2013)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Mosquito

They say art is in the eye of the beholder, but you'd expect a band that met at art school to have some appreciation for the aesthetic. The messy, collage-style artwork for their 2003 debut Fever to Tell admittedly set the bar low, but the negative "buzz" (sorry) that this Garbage Pail Kid from Hell-inspired monstrosity generated online almost threatened to overshadow the tunes. Luckily, those spoke for themselves. Lisa-Marie Ferla 


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away (2013)

CMNF (clothed male, naked female) covers imagery of naked women before men, who look on in day-to-day garb. It’s voyeurism, and it’s obvious who’s in the submissive role. Tawdry and clichéd, it’s also the resort of and for bigots. The sleeve of Nick Cave’s Push the Sky Away was a classic of the genre and attracted little comment: the naked female is his wife. If it had been David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, which it’s on a par with, it would have attracted attention. But it didn’t. What does that say about Cave? Kieron Tyler

This sort of thing was considered acceptable - or at worst just a little bit outré - in mainstream culture not so very long ago

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The "farm girl" on the cover of Blind Faith was actually the daughter of an aristocratic hippy painter.

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