The previous Music Weird post covered 10 albums that were withdrawn from release. Today we have 10 more albums that were shelved or altered because of contractual disputes, controversies, copyright problems, politics, or artists' whims.
1. John Lennon – Roots: John Lennon Sings the Great Rock & Roll Hits (1975)
The convoluted story behind this television mail-order album is here. In short, Lennon got into a copyright infringement feud with music publisher Morris Levy when Lennon appropriated some of Chuck Berry's song "You Can't Catch Me" in "Come Together." To mollify Levy, Lennon agreed to cut a few of Levy's songs for his next album. While browsing Levy's holdings, Lennon saw so many songs he liked that he decided to do a whole album of them. That didn't work out as planned, though, because of Phil Spector's flakiness and other stuff that came up, so Levy retaliated by releasing the rough mixes on his own Adam VIII label. The album was advertised on TV for three days before Capitol/EMI shut it down. Only a few thousand copies of the album were pressed, so they're valuable collectors' items today, despite their awful cover art and poor sound quality. Later in 1975, Lennon released his official covers album, Rock 'n' Roll.
2. Body Count – Body Count (1992)
Body Count's self-titled debut contained the controversial song "Cop Killer," which elicited such a widespread negative reaction from authorities that President George H. Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle were compelled to comment on it. The vocalist on the song, Ice-T, said that "Cop Killer" was a fictional narrative song, but the general populace has a hard time distinguishing fiction from nonfiction in music, since we don't categorize music the way we do books (fiction and nonfiction) and films (movies and documentaries). Tons of movies depict the death of policemen, but I don't remember anyone calling for these films to be banned. Anyway, the reaction to the song became so fevered that Body Count's label, Warner Bros., received death threats. Ice-T finally decided to withdraw the album and re-release it without that song, but he said, "If you believe that I'm a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut."
3. The Five Keys – On Stage! (1957)
I can think of lots of examples of controversial album art that was withdrawn, but usually, the changes to the cover art didn't affect the music itself, so I consider these to be outside the scope of what I'm writing about here. This Five Keys album is a particularly funny example, though, so I'm including it. When the Five Keys' album On Stage! was released in 1957, some people thought that Rudy West's right hand (far left, crotch level) was something other than his hand, so Capitol reissued the album with a new cover that removed the questionable appendage.
4. Heart – Magazine (1977)
Heart's third album, Magazine, was surrounded by contractual disputes. Heart wanted to get out of its contract with Mushroom Records and sign with Portrait Records, but Mushroom said that Heart was still under contract to them, so the label released Heart's unfinished recordings as Magazine. Heart got an injunction, the album was withdrawn, and in 1978, Heart released an official, re-recorded, remixed, re-sequenced version of the album.
5. James Brown – Sings Out of Sight (1965)
When James Brown moved from King Records to Smash, King said that Brown was still under contract with them, so Brown's first Smash album, Sings Out of Sight, had to be withdrawn. The album was reissued in 1968 with a different cover after the dust had settled.
6. Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963)
If you ever find the original, withdrawn version of Dylan's album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, it's worth a shit-ton of money. The original release differed from the version that most of us know in that it had four different songs and a different track sequence. Dylan wanted to replace some of the songs with newer recordings, and Columbia Records was supposed to destroy all copies of the original version, but a few copies got out into the world.
7. Shirley Bassey – The Bond Collection: The 30th Anniversary (1987)
Shirley Bassey recorded an entire album of songs from James Bond movies in 1987 but decided not to release it. Several years later, the album was released without Bassey's consent, first by ICON Records as The Bond Collection and then by Tring Records as Bassey Sings Bond. In 1995, Bassey got an injunction to prevent the album from being sold, and the existing unsold copies were withdrawn.
8. The Yardbirds – Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page (1971)
Here's an album that was withdrawn twice: In 1971, Epic Records released this 1968 live Yardbirds recording against the band's wishes in response to the popularity of Led Zeppelin. The album was notable for it's inclusion of "I'm Confused," an early version of Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused." The sound quality wasn't great, though, so Epic tried to cover it up by overdubbing crowd noises. Jimmy Page threatened legal action and the album was withdrawn. CBS reissued it in 1976 and Page objected again, so the album was withdrawn for a second time.
9. The Almanac Singers – Songs for John Doe (1941)
The all-star folk group known as the Almanac Singers included Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. In 1941, the group released the album Songs for John Doe, which contained several protest songs that opposed the war and American intervention in Europe. After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the band changed its stance and recorded pro-war songs such as "Round and Round Hitler's Grave," and Songs for John Doe was withdrawn from circulation.
10. The Electric Chamber – Pieces in a Modern Style (1995)
This 1995 album by William Orbit was originally released under the band name Electric Chamber. The album featured modern electronic reinterpretations of works by classical composers. The album was withdrawn when Arvo Pärt objected to the inclusion of two of his compositions. In 2000, the album was reissued under Orbit's name with the two Pärt pieces replaced, and it went to #2 on the UK album chart.