The surrealistic image in question--a cat dancing on the heads of pythons--is actually a distortion of a sacred painting of Lord Krishna as a boy subduing the demon Kaliya. Krishna's head was replaced with that of a cat on the album cover.
"Much of the Hindu community is offended," says Adam Bernstein, attorney for Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, the copyright arm for Krishna books and paintings. "Just as Christians might be if the heads on the image of the Madonna and Child were changed to that of cats."
In fact, Aerosmith's label, Columbia, had paid a settlement to Bhaktivedanta after the group claimed that the cover image violated its copyright. The settlement did not require that the cover be withdrawn--the label argued that it had invested too much in marketing to take that step and Bernstein says his clients didn't want to invest in fighting the issue through the courts. At that point, Aerosmith believed that it had a clear right to use the art and that "no further issues existed," said the band's statement.
So what caused the band to finally pull the image? A spokeswoman for Aerosmith wouldn't explain today. And Bernstein said only that it was a decision that the band arrived at on its own.
But if there's any group that understands reincarnation, it's Aerosmith. After overcoming personal demons, including heroin addiction, the band has recently reclaimed the pop charts; Nine Lives was number eight on the Billboard 200 chart last week, in its third week of release.