This week on the music beat -- Sony erases cigarettes from record covers and Carlos Santana returns

Forget what you’ve heard about the intemperate lifestyles those classic-rock guys led back in the day. Contrary to popular belief, many of them were health-conscious, clean-living sorts — or so the revisionists at Sony Music would like you to think. Consider the cover of the recently released Bruce Springsteen retrospective Tracks, which features a black-and-white photo of a rugged-looking young Springsteen reclining on a couch. Nice pic, but those who’ve seen the original photo (which can be found in the first edition of Dave Marsh’s Springsteen bio Born to Run) can’t help but notice that something’s missing — namely, the pack of Marlboros lying by the Boss’ foot. Sony Legacy pulled a similar trick last year, when it airbrushed a cigarette — or is that a ”nicotine delivery device”? — from a late-’60s photo of Paul Simon for the Simon and Garfunkel Old Friends boxed set.

Springsteen’s comanager (and Marsh’s wife) Barbara Carr professes ignorance of both the original photo and the retouch job; she does, however, point out that her client ”never” smoked: ”It could’ve been somebody else’s pack of cigarettes sitting there.” Fair enough, but then, who decided to remove the offending pack of smokes from the cover of Tracks? A Sony rep declined to comment, passing the buck to Springsteen’s publicist, who found the question similarly mystifying. Hmmm. Just call it doublethink, rock & roll style.

Faster than you can say ”Oye Como Va,” Carlos Santana, 51, is becoming hip again. Fugees Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill are contributing songs to Santana’s upcoming album, set for release in spring 1999. Other possible contributors are said to include Dave Matthews, Maxwell, and the Artist. Why are so many new jacks drawn to the Woodstock Nation guitar hero (whose group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year)? ”I grew up on Santana — once removed, of course,” says Hill. ”Carlos is amazing. He’s also a very spiritual and humble man.” (Hill has worked with Santana before; he played the haunting guitar on ”To Zion,” from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.) Jean is also effusive in his praise: ”Santana is the guitar. As a guitar player who’s been influenced by Santana, it was a real honor to write a song for him.” Jean describes the composition, ”Maria, Maria,” as ”up-tempo hip-hop, a new style for him.” Was it funky fresh? ”Oh, yeah,” says Jean. Santana ”was in the zone. It’s hot.”