In previous installments of Banned in the USA, I have featured album covers that were censored due to depictions of nudity, bathroom fixtures, and cuts of raw meats. In each of those cases, I had no qualms about including the original album art in the article. The album cover Virgin Killer, a 1976 album by German heavy metal band Scorpions, is an exception.
An officer of the Concerned Women for America, a conservative Christian advocacy group, commented, “By allowing that image to remain posted, Wikipedia is helping to further facilitate perversion and pedophilia.” EContent magazine subsequently reported the Wikipedia community’s internal debate as concluding, “Prior discussion has determined by broad consensus that the Virgin Killer cover will not be removed”, and asserted that Wikipedia contributors “favor inclusion in all but the most extreme cases”. In December 2008, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), a UK-based non-government organization, added the Wikipedia article Virgin Killer to its internet blacklist due to concerns over legality of the image, which had been assessed as the lowest level of legal concern: “erotic posing with no sexual activity”. As a result, people using many major UK ISPs were blocked from viewing the entire article by the Cleanfeed system, and a large part of the U.K. was blocked from editing Wikipedia due to the means of blocking in use. Following discussion, representations by the Wikimedia Foundation (who host the Wikipedia website), and public complaints, the IWF reversed their decision three days later, and confirmed that in future they would not block copies of the image that were hosted overseas.
Scott and I agreed that the Virgin Killer cover is one that is of interest to album art collectors and historians — due mostly to the recent controversy. Therefore, it has been included in the AAX gallery and I have included it in this article. It would be almost impossible to discuss this cover without including the actual image. Doing so is not an endorsement of the record label’s decision to use a photograph of a nude child on an album cover. The cover was distibuted as part of a commercial recording by a major label (RCA) and is for that reason historically significant. Apparently, the cover was held up on national TV by Tipper Gore, the wife of former U.S. vice president. If it was acceptable for Mrs. Gore to show Vigin Killer to the world, I feel more comfortable with my decision to display the uncensored image here.
Unlike many other banned and censored album covers, the cover of Virgin Killer was intended to spark controversy. In a 2007 interview with Blasting-Zone.com, Scorpions guitarist Rudolf Schenker discussed releasing the cover:
Blasting-Zone.com: In hindsight, do you regret releasing the album Virgin Killer with the original uncensored cover?
Rudolf: “No. We didn’t actually have the idea. It was the record company. The record company guys were like, ‘Even if we have to go to jail, there’s no question that we’ll release that.’ On the song ‘Virgin Killer’, time is the virgin killer. But then, when we had to do the interviews about it, we said ‘Look, listen to the lyrics and then you’ll know what we’re talking about. We’re using this only to get attention. That’s what we do.’ Even the girl, when we met her fifteen years later, had no problem with the cover. Growing up in Europe, sexuality, of course not with children, was very normal. The lyrics really say it all. Time is the virgin killer. A kid comes into the world very naive, they lose that naiveness and then go into this life losing all of this getting into trouble. That was the basic idea about all of it.”
As was expected, the cover was banned in many counties or sold in a plain wrapper. An alternate cover featuring a photo of the band was issued for use where the original was banned. The alternate cover is used on Amazon.com and iTunes.
The band has also released two other albums with controversial covers. Taken By Force depicted children playing with guns in a cemetery. The cover of Lovedrive features a woman with a bare breast that appears to be made of chewing gum.
In 2006, Classic Rock Revisited published an interview with Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth, in which he was asked about the Virgin Killer cover:
Classic Rock Revisited: “Virgin Killer” was banned!! Who was the girl on the cover and whose idea was it to have a nude child with broken glass in that area? What a statement.
Uli: “Looking at that picture today makes me cringe. It was done in the worst possible taste. Back then I was too immature to see that. Shame on me — I should have done everything in my power to stop it. The record company came up with the idea, I think.
“I can’t blame Tipper Gore for brandishing the cover on TV as offensive, though. She was completely right in doing so and she’s a good person anyway, although she probably didn’t make the effort to check out the lyrics, which put a different slant on the whole thing — can’t blame her for that either, because knowing what I know today, I would have possibly reacted in a similar vein.
What do you think about this album cover and our decision to include it in the AlbumArtExchange gallery? Should AAX censor albums that are uploaded by our users?