Only a month before his new album, Mechanical Animals, is set for release, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson has already begun to cause a stir with his latest record, which features an alien-like image of a naked, androgynous Manson on its cover.
The gothic industrial-rocker's fourth album (Sept. 15) has been thus far rejected at the nation's three largest mass-merchandise retailers -- K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Target -- due either to the "parental warning" sticker the album is expected to carry or to the album's explicit cover art.
Adhering to their ban on carrying any album with the advisory sticker -- which flags material with explicit lyrics or content -- both K-Mart and Wal-Mart say they do not plan to sell Mechanical Animals.
"Any product with a parental-advisory sticker is something we don't carry," said Dennis Wigent, director of internal communications for the 2,114-store K-Mart chain. Although Wigent said he had not seen the album's cover art or heard the music, he had discussed the album's contents with his buyer and it would "obviously be something that we would think would be stickered. Those boys don't do much that's not."
Wigent said K-Mart also did not stock Manson's breakthrough 1996 album, Antichrist Superstar, which sold 1.4 million copies in the U.S., according to SoundScan. Manson caused controversy throughout his tour in support of the album as cities tried to ban his performances, citing what some said were offensive stage antics by the outrageous lead singer, which included ripping pages out of the Bible.
Also planning to pass on the album is the 2,374-store Wal-Mart discount retail chain, which, according to spokesman Bryan Holmberg, does not carry stickered material.
While the 828-store Target chain does carry some stickered material, it will not be stocking Manson's album, due to the nudity on the cover, according to spokeswoman Denise Workcuff. "We do not carry any albums with nudity on the cover at Target," Workcuff said. "This is a family store."
The "Seems Like Salvation" website, dedicated to news about all Nothing Records bands (Manson is signed to Interscope/Nothing), displays an unconfirmed version of the cover art, which webmaster Evan M. claims was obtained from the label (
A representative at Interscope Records, Manson's label, would not comment on the album cover art.
A buyer for the Tower Records chain, Howard Krumholtz, verified that artwork for the album in his book of upcoming releases was the same as the photo on the "Seems Like Salvation" site. "I don't know if it's the final art," Krumholtz said, "but it was Manson with red eyes and hair ... he looked like an alien with boobs."
Among the songs slated for the album is the first single, "The Dope Show," whose lyrics include "The drugs they say make us feel so hollow/ We love in vain narcissistic and so shallow/ The cops and queers to swim you have to swallow/ Hate today there's no love for tomorrow/ We're all stars now in the dope show."
The three-chain ban is not insignificant in terms of sales, since, according to a representative for SoundScan, who did not want to be named, chains such as those refusing to carry Mechanical Animals accounted for nearly a quarter of U.S. album sales in 1997. Of the 651.9 million albums sold in the U.S. in 1997, SoundScan reported that 171.7 million were sold at mass merchants such as K-Mart, Wal-Mart and Target.
The ban would not be the first time chains such as Wal-Mart have rejected a rock album due to explicit artwork or lyrics. Albums by alternative-rock groups such as Nirvana, White Zombie and Catherine Wheel, and even one by multi-platinum heartland rocker John Mellencamp, have featured artwork and/or song titles modified to meet standards imposed by Wal-Mart.
Among the modifications was the airbrushing of drawings of Jesus and a devil that appeared on the cover of Mellencamp's 1996 album Mr. Happy Go Lucky. Other alterations included changing the title of the Nirvana song "Rape Me" to "Waif Me," dropping potentially offensive songs from albums by Jackyl and Catherine Wheel and altering the cover of White Zombie's Supersexy Swingin' Sounds (1996).
White Zombie leader Rob Zombie (born Rob Straker) said he initially refused to alter the art on his industrial-rock band's first two albums out of principle. "Then, when we got on the road and toured," Zombie said, "and I'd never even heard of Wal-Mart, I saw that, for some of these kids, it was the only place they can buy records. At the end of the day, it's these kids who are getting f----ed."
Zombie has agreed to modify the packaging for his upcoming solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe (Aug. 25), to meet Wal-Mart's standards. Geffen Records spokesman Dennis Dennehy confirmed that Zombie agreed to remove a pentagram and an "X" on his forehead from the album's cover, as well as cartoon images of scantily clad women in the CD's booklet, to get the album stocked at Wal-Mart.
In 1996, Wal-Mart refused to sell Sheryl Crow's self-titled second album because of the lyrics to a song on it called "Love Is a Good Thing," which suggested that Wal-Mart sells guns to children.
Both K-Mart and Wal-Mart yanked electronica act Prodigy's The Fat of the Land album from shelves last year, six months after its release, following objections by the National Organization for Women to the album's third single, "Smack My Bitch Up" (RealAudio excerpt).
Although "Seems Like Salvation" reports that Interscope/Nothing has contemplated covering Manson's "breasts" with a sticker and wrapping the entire album in blue cellophane to appease some of the chains, neither representatives for Interscope nor Manson's management could be reached for comment at press time.