Scratched Records: Collecting banned album covers

Rare album covers hit a high note with this Indiana Township collector

We Goofed!” reads a sticker on the cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1980 LP, The Royal Albert Hall Concert. Why? Because the concert was actually recorded at the Oakland Coliseum, and the sticker goes on to explain, “We are in the process of correcting subsequent album covers.” Subsequent covers were corrected, and this one was scratched as quickly as possible—which makes it very valuable to collectors.

“We goofed,” describes most of the extraordinary album-cover collection owned by Dr. Lawrence Biskin, a surgeon who lives in Indiana Township. The covers were pulled from store shelves, and some were banned across the country. Many were too sexually explicit; some were violent, had profane language or infringed on copyrights; and others, like the CCR album, were simply misprints.

Although the misprints and misspellings account for only a small number of Biskin’s collection of more than 150 albums, they are some of the funniest examples. The Marvelettes spelled as “Marvellets” is one of his oldest LPs; he has a 45 RPM record listing the artist as “Jethro Toe,” and some of Eric Clapton’s albums were released in Japan under the name “Eric Crapton.” (Seriously!)

The story behind the beginnings of Biskin’s collection is as cool as the collection itself. Born and raised in Montreal, where he was a DJ for weddings and events for a time, Biskin moved to Pittsburgh in 1987 to complete his residency at Western Pennsylvania Hospital. In the early ’90s, while serving with the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission Medical Advisory Board, Biskin was the resident M.D. at a WWF show. There, he met Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who introduced him to AC/DC, which later led to his meeting Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash.

Slash was autographing an album for Biskin and mentioned that the cover was actually banned for being too explicit. Intrigued, Biskin looked into other banned covers, and the collection began. So, too, did his reputation with many of the world’s top bands such as ZZ Top, The Who and Deep

Purple, some of which turned to him if they needed a physician while in town.

Almost all of Biskin’s finds are from eBay. One of his most valuable is the “butcher cover” from The Beatles’ 1966 release Yesterday and Today, worth between $1,000 and $2,500. The original cover showed The Beatles dressed in white butcher smocks with pieces of raw, bloody meat and plastic baby-doll parts. The cover was pulled for being too controversial, and a sticker with new artwork was placed over it until new covers could be printed.

The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls cover was pulled for featuring likenesses of Raquel Welch, Farrah Fawcett, Judy Garland and others without their permission. And a variety of LPs infringed on corporate copyrights for including logos from properties such as Superman or McDonald’s. In a famous case, the album cover for The Resident’s album Meet the Residents is a defaced version of the exact image from Meet The Beatles.

While these copyright-copycat albums wouldn’t fly now any more than they could in earlier decades, other pulled covers seem tame by today’s standards. A photo showing David Bowie in drag, wearing a long dress? Practically kid’s stuff.

For an avid music lover like Biskin, someone who also appreciates and collects art from rock musicians, the collection is a natural passion. “I’ve always liked things that are unusual, things that not many people have,” Biskin says. “I guarantee you that so many people have these rare covers and don’t even know it, or threw them away without realizing what treasures they had.” Time to hit the attic.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment