Being immortalized on the cover of a famous album seems like it would be pretty cool. That’s why it comes as a bit of a surprise that, over the years, there have been a bunch of lawsuits between bands and the people who starred on their album covers unwillingly.
Even when the people in question don’t directly object, the fact remains that sometimes people just have no idea they’ll see their own mugs on the cover of a hit album someday. But it happens. It might even happen to you someday.
Here are seven famous album covers featuring people who didn’t want to be there…
1. Dido – Safe Trip Home
A picture of Earth as seen from outer space is the last place you’d expect to see the likeness of a recognizable person. But that happened when a lawsuit was filed by Bruce McCandless, otherwise known as this guy who you might also barely recognize from the above album cover:
See, that appears to be a picture of an astronaut using a jetpack to spacewalk. Sure, you can’t tell exactly which astronaut, but it doesn’t matter because it’s taken from a famous photo of Bruce spacewalking with a jetpack. But the excitement of untethered space flight probably can’t measure up to the thrill of sitting around suing people over Dido albums, so we understand his actions. The case settled out of court, which is pretty much code for “Bruce took a huge chunk of money in order to drop the suit and Dido probably has a jetpack now.” Son of a bitch.
2. Neil Young – After the Gold Rush
Most people saw the cover of this 1970 album and were so distracted by Young’s simian appearance that they fully failed to notice the old woman growing out of his back.
However one person who took note of it is this obsessed freak. Using nearly 2,000 words and dozens of carefully diagrammed photos, the author takes us step-by-step through their research into the creation of this album cover. Shots include three successive angles of the modern location where the cover was shot (40 years ago), each picture with the album cover spot carefully circled. This album couldn’t have had more attention paid to it if Neil Young had been the second Kennedy gunman.
But even our album cover research expert has no idea who the old woman walking by in the background is. She was just some lady who had the nerve to walk through a Neil Young photo shoot and thus cemented her place in rock history.
Not bad for a woman who appears to be less than three feet tall.
3. Vampire Weekend – Contra
We imagine the scenario occurs all over the world: Your stupid hipster teenager brings home some new album by a group called “Vampire Weekend.” You decide to screen the music, not for inappropriate content but to make sure it doesn’t focus on cheesy vampire shit. Momma didn’t raise no nerds.
But when Ann Kristen Kennis looked at her kid’s album, she saw her own super hot face on the cover. Kennis was a model decades ago, and the picture is from a 1983 casting call. And you probably thought it was from a 2004 Abercrombie and Fitch ad or something. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, youngsters.
Kennis filed a lawsuit, and it was revealed that the shady photographer had forged a release form. Shockingly impolite behavior from someone whose job it is to follow people around and flash lights in their face. The lawsuit was recently settled for terms which, as of now, remain undisclosed but almost certainly included a very large gift card to J. Crew.
4. Matchbox 20 – Yourself or Someone Like You
In the mid-1990s, Frank Torres was walking down a street when a photographer asked to take his picture. Thinking nothing of the request or the fact that he was shirtless, huge and wearing a hilarious cap on his melon, Torres said yes. That picture went on the cover of Matchbox 20′s 15-million-copy-selling album, Yourself Or Someone Like You, which your mom loved, by the way.
Torres, however, didn’t share your mom’s love of shitty bands and remained blissfully ignorant of the fact that millions of aging parents were pulling that album out of their dusty collections and trying to convince themselves it was good. Finally, ten years later, Torres found out and filed a lawsuit.
Torres was probably hoping to get enough money for another World War I leather helmet. In the lawsuit he claimed the picture had caused him a lot of mental anguish. We’d imagine that not knowing why he couldn’t walk down a street without people screaming “sing 3 a.m!” would be enough to cause considerable brain stress.
5. Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde
Okay, this isn’t actually the cover art, it’s art in the pages inside the cover. But we’d imagine most people skipped by the cover without glancing at it, because it has a picture of Bob Dylan and NOT a picture of something like this:
The inside cover features pictures of actress Claudia Cardinale, which is sweet considering that Dylan was trying to provide fans with “a shadowy glimpse of his life” and he had never even met Claudia Cardinale or asked permission to use the picture and there was also a picture of him holding a pair of pliers in one hand and a small picture of a woman in the other. Wait, what?
According to Andy Gill, author of Classic Bob Dylan: My Back Pages, the images “contributed to the album’s air of reclusive yet sybaritic genius.”
Does sybaritic mean super duper creepy? If so, yes, he nailed it.
Anyway, Cardinale sued and future pressings of the album did not include the ill-gotten artwork. If you can track down one of the original pressings that do include the original artwork (and you totally can right here) it’s something that will only increase in value. Not a bad investment if you can afford it.
6. Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico
You almost certainly recognize this famous album cover. In fact, it’s so iconic that any mention of it usually focuses on the Andy Warhol art on the front and much less on the back cover, which apparently featured an upside down image of actor Eric Emerson’s head projected onto a wall. Yeah, we can’t see it either.
But Emerson sure could see it! He sued the record label for using his likeness. The label then released an Emerson-free back cover:
This is the fixed cover, with Emerson’s depiction airbrushed out. At least we think it’s gone. If we can’t see Emerson’s head in the original image, does it mean these drugs we took aren’t working?
7. TAD – 8-Way Santa
Another great way to get sued is to find a lewd picture at a garage sale, then put it on the cover of a major album release. But that was how Sub Pop records rolled: grungy and lawlessly. Calling an album by TAD “major” is probably pushing it though.
But nevertheless, Sub Pop knew the short shelf life on grunge meant “cash in now, settle it all later.” However, they didn’t count on the couple in the photo seeing it and suing, which lets you know just about how low their sales expectations were. TAD was forced to release another cover, and went the ever-popular “sex-and-cow-fueled-band-shot” cover:
“Don’t publish pictures of people without their consent” is a well-known rule in Hollywood. But we can imagine a bunch of rock stars from nowhere are too busy doing heroin to have heard of such a law. Which is why all bands should get lawyers when they go big. Conveniently, these lawyers can often be the very same people who are bringing the heroin.
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