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Traumafessions :: Kinderpal Chuckles on ’70s LP Covers

March 19th, 2012 by aunt john · 25 Comments

No single event can top the lasting trauma induced by my childhood viewing of THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, that film scared me so bad that it rearranged my chromosomes. However other events, smaller in individual scope but horribly disturbing in cumulative effect, deserve to be mentioned. Specifically, I confess my lasting, great fear of 1970’s album covers.

In the ‘70s, album cover art was kind of a big deal. The cover for an LP was huge by today’s standards and it presented a big canvas upon which the music and graphic artists could express themselves. In the race to make album covers memorable, the art quickly turned very weird. Parents would buy those albums and put them into their groovy record cabinets where they were inevitably discovered by curious tykes like me who would spend the next years trying to erase their psychedelic, grotesque and demonic images from our minds:

I have mentioned the first offender before: Queen‘s “News of the World.” This one belonged to my aunt. Absolutely great album. Murderous cover. The interior fold-out was ten-times worse though, with its depiction of bug-eyed people fleeing the giant killer robot.

The Eagles – “Hotel California”. Part of my parent’s collection. This one is kinda controversial, because pretty much everyone denies that there is a screaming, illuminated face in the lower left-hand window of the “hotel” on the cover of this album. Whatever – I saw that screaming face right away the first time that inspected the album.The fact that no one else could apparently see it made everything that much worse.

Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath.” My uncle had this one. Ozzy and co. managed to scare the world into believing that Black Sabbath was in league with the Devil. This album cover convinced me that Ozzy WAS the Devil.

The Rolling Stones – “Goat’s Head Soup.” This was a fairly popular album and I’m surprised that more people don’t recall being scared by the bizarre image of Mick Jagger’s smiling head in a bag on the cover. This album made me consider the awful possibility that something called “goat’s head soup” actually existed and that kids somewhere were being forced to eat it.

Funkadelic – “Maggot Brain.”
My uncle’s collection. Hmmm. Screaming woman buried up to her neck a la MOTEL HELL. That’s nice. The back cover dispelled any hope that the poor woman got out of there alive. I would remain wary of funk for years.

Elton John – “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.” Not outright terrifying, but filled with lots of disturbing, freakish details. I was also intimidated when Elton John appeared on THE MUPPET SHOW. And on talk shows. Ok, Elton John just generally freaked me out.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but definitely hits many of the worst cases. I’ll leave it to my fellow Traumaniacs to fill us in on any horrors from the record cabinet that I left out.

Tags: Traumafessions

25 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bjkatcherNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who saw horror in random things like this.

  • 2 kristyNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 10:11 am

    Not an album cover, but the original box art of the 70s board game Mastermind. When I was about 8 or so I found this game while rummaging around my grandparents attic and I remember initially feeling creeped out by the models. It wasn’t till I had a nightmare about the creepy James Bond-type villains on the cover chasing me around my grandparents’ house that my fear solidified. Over the years I forgot about this, until when I was 15 and suffering from the chicken pox, one of my brave friends came over to hang out with me and she brought the game. Luckily they had changed the box art. Still, gave me the creeps.

    One of my good friends had a childhood fear of Twisted Sister’s lp Stay Hungry. Apparently her older brother would chase her around the house with it.

  • 3 Will NepperNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

    kristy — This one?

    I had similar heebie jeebies from this as a kid. As soon as you mentioned it I saw it in my head clear as day even though I hadn’t lt laid eyes on it for years. (Fun game though.)

  • 4 Jami JoAnne RussellNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Oh this is another one I can relate to thanks to my brothers. I don’t remember if it was a ’70s or ’80s album, or even the band. I just remember the album had a woman in a red dress sitting in an alley her legs all sprawled out. Either she was dead or halfway there. And while I didn’t know about sex back then, I knew that someone on the album had done the “bad touch” stuff to her.

    I can’t remember the rest of the details, just that lady in the red dress.

    And a few years ago the man who owns the place where I go for my vocal lessons gave me a bunch of demo CDs people had given him to take to the library where I work. I wasn’t interested in any of them myself as they were music I don’t care for. But I noticed one cover. Just the lower half of a girl in a stereotypical Catholic school girl skirt. Her legs sprawled much like the lady in the red dress and her panties around her knees. I decided that one was disgusting and threw it in the dumpster before taking the rest into work.

    Some things just should not be used as cover art and the suggestion that a little girl has just been raped is one of them.

  • 5 RockwaterNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Few things were as traumatizing to me as 70’s record covers. I was brought to quivering tears by Elton’s Captain Fantastic.

    The most disturbing cover of the time, I think, is AC/DC’s “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It”. I can still hardly bring myself to look at it today.

  • 6 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

    Queen’s News of the World TOTALLY freaked me out when I was a kid. But I was so drawn to the whole scenario that I would stare at the record cover for hours.

    I have never heard that about the Hotel Calif. cover. That’s so crazy. I love it! The song always completely freaked me out though. I think there was even a traumafession on here about it. Or maybe that was just me thinking about doing one. There are quite a few songs where the lyrics scared the crap out of me when I was a kid.

    I might have to do that traumafession up here pretty soon. It’s been a long time since I’ve done one.

  • 7 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    @Rockwater – I seriously thought about adding “If You Want Blood You’ve Got It” to my list – I was really disturbed by how realistic the Angus-skewering was but I was a little older when I saw it and it therefore did not rank up there with some of the others on my list. Good call though – it is very freaky.

  • 8 VicarOfVHSNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    My older brother and I were always freaked out by the cover of Jethro Tull’s AQUALUNG lp. We were sure that when our parents warned us about not wandering off alone or talking to strangers, it was because of THAT GUY.

    It was years before I listened to the actual song. It didn’t help.

  • 9 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    My 70’s album cover trauma has to go to Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic”…

    But I was creeped out by that Queen cover too!

  • 10 Ben SherNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    The only LP I remember traumatizing me was–and this is sort of cheating, I guess–the soundtrack LP of CREEPERS, which I saw staring back at me from the record store. In retrospect, I can’t believe a record store in the town where I grew up carried that!

  • 11 FatherOfTearsNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    My sister had that “News of the World” LP back in the 70’s. I thought it was neat. Looking at it now that giant robot makes me think it’s influenced by “I Robot”. See the robots in the recent Will Smith movie. They look a bit similar.

    Oh, that Funkadelic cover would have creeped me out if I had seen it as a child! I’m getting a “Suspiria Skull” vibe from it.

    Oh here’s one from 2000:

    And here’s one I have:

  • 12 godmonsterNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    From 1973, the cover for “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” just scared the hell out of me.
    I owned the first album and the music scared me more than the cover! The title track was horrifying, I know it upset my little sister. The song title “A Bit Of Finger” is just pure nightmare fuel. The cover for “Paranoid” convinced me not to take the band too seriously, but that album seriously rocked.
    “The Court of the Crimson King” was pretty traumatizing as well.

  • 13 kristyNo Gravatar // Mar 19, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Will Nepper – yep, that’s the one! Apparently they reunited 30 years later to do another photo:

    Now that I know the back story to the photo I don’t feel as creeped out.

  • 14 Faniel DranzNo Gravatar // Mar 20, 2012 at 2:09 am

    That BLACK SABBATH Cover with this strange dark woman even scared me in my teens.
    Who thought that many years after, long-blackhaired women would become an commercial scare??

  • 15 Joanna BoeseNo Gravatar // Mar 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Believe it or not, a recent “Family Guy” episode was about Stewie’s fear of Queen’s “News of the World” album cover…

  • 16 Drew BluddNo Gravatar // Mar 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Don’t forget Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica”

  • 17 RawhideAlmondMacheNo Gravatar // Mar 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    That Funkadelic album cover is STILL creepy. Brr!

    The one that did it for me was Powerage by AC/DC, but I find it more comical now:

    Borderline, as it’s technically 80s, but I was mildly disturbed by the “hand-head” character from Genesis’ Duke LP:

    And just when I thought I had grown too “mature” to be scared of things like this, along came Uriah Heep’s Abominog (another one that merely looks silly as an adult):

  • 18 Faniel DranzNo Gravatar // Mar 21, 2012 at 6:13 am

    “Trout Mask Replica” sounds a lot more scarier for the unprepared ear than it looks for the frightened eye!!

  • 19 Drew BluddNo Gravatar // Mar 21, 2012 at 10:02 am


    Whether your child mind interprets that photo as a man/monster with a fish head waving at you or just a guy wearing a fish AS A MASK – either way, that’s fuckin’ WEIRD.

  • 20 bdwilcoxNo Gravatar // Mar 22, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I can’t believe no one’s mentioned the cover of the Scorpion’s album Blackout. Their Acoustica album cover was mighty freaky as well.

  • 21 amrith888No Gravatar // Mar 24, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Ami-The album you mentioned was the original cover art intended for Guns n Roses hit album “Appetite For Destruction”.There’s a whole controversial backstory,but anyway–the powers-that-be echoed your sentiment and made them change it.
    Also-I agree with the Sabbath album covers & that Scorps cover always made me cringe.”News of the World” was VERY creepy & made me wonder if that was the “Iron Man” that Ozzy was referring to O.o
    To add to the list, I’d hafta say BOC’s “Cultosaurus Erectus was pretty damn scary & bizzare…

  • 22 Neil EmmettNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2012 at 5:50 am

    Bit of background on the Queen cover: it was painted by Frank Kelly Freas and based on a cover image he’d previously done for the magazine Astounding Science Fiction:

  • 23 Jami JoAnne RussellNo Gravatar // Mar 25, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    @Amrith – Yeah, I think that’s it. Though I could’ve sworn the woman was wearing a red dress and you mostly saw a side view of her with a robot standing over her with a knife. But I could be getting it mixed up with some other spooky heavy metal album cover my brothers had.

    Glad two of my brothers grew out of that. Oldest sadly likes rap now. Ug. Though he’s also a huge Wayne Newton fan. The other really likes people like Kenny G.

    Third brother I don’t speak to. I won’t thread jack why other then to say he’s a low class child abusing pot head.

    I wonder where I got the red dress in an alley image for that one. I have to be mixing it up with some other album.

  • 24 Faniel DranzNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2012 at 6:18 am

    Thinking back i´m glad that none of my uncles listened to DEATH or BLACK Metal back in the days cause they got some heavy traumatic covers to share! Some of the CANNIBAL CORPSE album imagery was banned here in germany but a friend of mine managed to get all of them on vinyl so we spend a lot of time starring at some of those the whole night long. During that time, i discovered that PUNGENT STENCH Cover in his collection which really (and still…) disturbed me (i was 15 back then). My friend also suceeded in telling me, that this photo was a real one (which isn´t true but back then i believed it…):

  • 25 Faniel DranzNo Gravatar // Mar 30, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Oh guys. You got to check these out.

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