Let's just hope Washington Wives' leader Tipper Gore is sitting down when she gets a gander at the cover of "Appetite for Destruction," the just-released debut album from Guns N' Roses.
The quintet of L.A.-based enfants terrible , who are signed to Geffen Records, already have a reputation for wild 'n' wooly antics--both on and off stage. Now the group has an album jacket that should stir up even more notoriety.
The cartoon-style cover drawing, by artist Robert Williams, depicts a sexy, saddle-shoed damsel who has apparently been ravaged by a mechanical monster with bear-trap jaws and zoom-lens eyes. But it's the graphic details--and how record buyers might interpret them--that may arouse the ire of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), otherwise known as the Washington Wives. The girl is drawn in a position of sexual submission, with her panties below her knees and her dress split open, clearly exposing a naked breast.
This would hardly cause a ruckus on the walls at the Museum of Contemporary Art. But how will the jacket play on the album racks at K mart in Peoria? The top brass at Geffen Records aren't waiting for an avalanche of irate phone calls to find out.
In what may be an industry first, the label has issued the Guns N' Roses release with a different jacket in each format. The album may have a racy cover, but the cassette version offers relatively tame, heavy-metal style artwork while the CD package simply features the group's logo, a pair of six-guns entwined with roses (though Williams' drawing is the centerfold of the CD booklet).
And according to Geffen president Eddie Rosenblatt, while the label is happy to give its bands a wide berth of artistic freedom, it isn't taking any chances of letting that freedom interfere with record sales.
"We try to be supportive of all our bands here," Rosenblatt said. "So when Guns N' Roses came to us with this painting--and explained to us what they feel it's about--we wanted to get behind them. They see the artwork as a symbolic social statement, with the robot representing the industrial system that's raping and polluting our environment.
"We feel the cover's completely in keeping with the band's image. But since it's open to interpretation, we wanted an alternative for people who might be offended. So we told the band we'll put it out, but record store managers should have the option of stocking another version if they feel the cover might cause a problem."
With that in mind, Geffen has printed up 130,000 copies of the album--half with the uncensored cover, half with the cassette-type artwork. It's still too early to tell which version is getting the most orders. (Locally, Tower Records is carrying the uncensored version.)
In fact, it's apparent that some stores still don't even know that there's more than one version available. An assistant manager at Music Plus' Hollywood store said the chain refused to stock the Guns N' Roses album at all. "It's a corporate decision that the album cover was offensive and we won't carry it. We just have the cassettes and CDs."
When asked why the chain didn't merely stock the less-objectionable version of the album jacket, the assistant manager (who declined to give his name) replied with surprise: "If there's another version, that's news to us."
A midweek spot check of other stores found that Tower Records' West Hollywood store was selling the uncensored version while Sam Goody's West Los Angeles branch hadn't put any albums or cassettes out for sale yet.
The PMRC, which has been keeping a low profile lately, hasn't commented on the cover yet. Rosenblatt noted that the jacket offers a warning label, which refers only to the frequently suggestive lyrics inside. Rosenblatt declined to volunteer his personal opinion of the jacket artwork, saying only: "I don't have to agree with every cover from every band we have around here."
However, he refused to offer any olive branches to the PMRC. "They are still around and they blast our records all the time," he said. "But I don't run my business worrying about what they think."