From banned to boring.
June 19, 2006 9:43 AM   Subscribe

What are some songs that were shocking or sensational when they first came out - even got banned from radio play - which are now considered so humdrum that they're played on "easy listening" or "soft rock" or perhaps even "family safe" stations?
posted by dmd to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It is not "easy listening", but you hear parts of it in places like commericals now-- School's Out by Alice Cooper.
posted by oflinkey at 9:51 AM on June 19, 2006

relax by frankie goes to hollywood?
posted by ascullion at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2006

God save the Queen - The Sex Pistols
Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Both banned in the UK, now played on Radio2 quite frequently.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:52 AM on June 19, 2006

The classic one is Louie Louie, whose slurred lyrics were supposedly obscene, and which even got the FBI involved.
posted by mendel at 9:54 AM on June 19, 2006

Brown Sugar - The Rolling Stones
posted by JekPorkins at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2006

The hit single "I Kissed a Girl" by Jill Sobule was banned by some Southern radio stations in 1995 Considering the artists and subject matter that this paved the way for, it now seems incredibly tame.
posted by hermitosis at 9:56 AM on June 19, 2006

This weekend I heard "Because the Night" in the supermarket. I've never heard Patti Smith in the produce section before.
posted by faceonmars at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2006

I heard the Muzak version "Like a Virgin" in a grocery store the other day.
posted by birdherder at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2006

And though not banned, "I Kissed a Girl" was still a big controversy even in mainstream NYC radio, as I recall.
posted by mikepop at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2006

Some Girls by the Stones
posted by TedW at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2006

I keep hearing "I Want Your Sex" by George Michael on rather unlikely easy-listening stations, given how much controversy I remember about it when it came out.
posted by occhiblu at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2006

Physical by Olivia Newton John was considered very risque and banned by some stations.
posted by gfrobe at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2006

This brings to mind the reverse question: what songs that were formerly played unedited are now edited for content for airplay; for example, the word "bullshit" in Pink Floyd's "Money"? I was going to ask it as a question, but thought it might be too chatty coming on the heels of this one.
posted by TedW at 10:02 AM on June 19, 2006

The Stones were famously banned from Ed Sullivan after singing "Let's Spend the Night Together" on the show.
posted by MarkAnd at 10:04 AM on June 19, 2006

Jazz. Check out some of the proposed etymologies ("jass"), but not if you're at work.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:08 AM on June 19, 2006

A lot of stations refused to play "Rhapsody In The Rain" by Lou Christie.

"Wake Up Little Susie" was apparently shunned by some Boston radio stations.

Both these songs are now routinely played on family friendly oldies stations.
posted by justkevin at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2006

Link Wray's 1958 single "Rumble" (an instrumental number!) was banned in most radio markets because it was said to glorify gang violence. Nontheless the single sold very well. I wouldn't say it has become boring, but it is a relativley tame piece of rock'n'roll, at least tempo-wise, and for some reason it didn't make the cut for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack despite being used prominently in the film.
posted by mds35 at 10:14 AM on June 19, 2006

TedW: An example that springs to mind is Alanis Morissette's song "You Oughtta Know" which bleeped the F-bomb on US radio, but untouched the line "Is she perverted like me? Would she go down on you in a theatre?" Which was later blurred.

Also, Third-Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life" was played whole for a long time and then, later on, lines about drugs and sex were blurred.

This was in AZ, can't vouch for less conservative zones.

I always found this so hypocritical because by then EVERYONE knew the words already.
posted by hermitosis at 10:15 AM on June 19, 2006

On a related note, I don't think you can even say "Buzzcocks" on prime time television, but their songs have been used in Jeep commercials.
posted by mds35 at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006

"Sympathy for the Devil."
Lots by the Clash (Yes, 'Guns of Brixton', Muzak style).
When Chuck Berry first had songs out lots of parents were up in arms about them.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:24 AM on June 19, 2006

Chuck Berry's "My Ding-a-ling," about you-know-what, commonly heard on oldies stations.
posted by scratch at 10:27 AM on June 19, 2006

Mds35: Same, I think, with the Butthole Surfers (minus the JEEP commercials).
posted by hermitosis at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2006

The Stones were famously banned from Ed Sullivan after singing "Let's Spend the Night Together" on the show.

Oops, I have this wrong. The Stone complied and changed the lyric to "Let's Spend Some Time Together." The Doors got banned after singing "Light My Fire."
posted by MarkAnd at 10:29 AM on June 19, 2006

"Lust For Life" by Iggy Pop is in all kinds of commercials lately. Minus the "no more beating my brains with liquor and drugs" part, of course.
posted by sbrollins at 10:32 AM on June 19, 2006

I once heard a muzak version of "Smells like teen spirit," but I doubt that song was ever banned. Still, weird.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:33 AM on June 19, 2006

The weirdest muzak I ever heard was "Excitable Boy" by Warren Zevon, which is about a rapist/murderer.
posted by matildaben at 10:37 AM on June 19, 2006

"Rock Around the Clock" caused rioting in places when Bill Haley and the Comets played it in concert; it now appears on one of my 5 year old's computer games.
posted by Lucinda at 10:38 AM on June 19, 2006

"I touch myself" by the Divinyls. Christ on a crumpet - you'd think that civilization as we knew it was coming to an end the way the old folks carried on about that one. Doesn't seem to be any big deal anymore.
posted by msali at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2006

"Roxanne" by The Police caused a huge fuss.
posted by gt2 at 10:50 AM on June 19, 2006

Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-las.
"Many radio stations banned the song from playlists due to its graphic death sequence."

posted by -harlequin- at 10:53 AM on June 19, 2006

"Come Together" by the Beatles leaps to mind, which was banned for obvious references to drug use, and also because it mentions Coca-Cola, which many stations didn't like because it felt to them like free advertising.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2006

Didn't a lot of Little Richard songs cause controversy like Tutti Frutti? No one blinks an eye at that song anymore.
posted by Julnyes at 10:59 AM on June 19, 2006

I've heard "Shout At The Devil" by Motley Crue played on the classic rock station here.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:10 AM on June 19, 2006

Beatles "I want to hold your hand"
are they saying "I can't hide" or "I get high"?
Not sure if the song was actually banned...
posted by nimsey lou at 11:11 AM on June 19, 2006

Lots by the Clash (Yes, 'Guns of Brixton', Muzak style).

That opens up the possibility of hearing "Lost in the Supermarket" in the supermarket.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:11 AM on June 19, 2006

I always thought it was funny that there seemed to be no controversy around Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band. It practically defines easy listening.
posted by OmieWise at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2006

Well, let me say that there didn't seem to be any controversy in DC when it came out, but they were a local band, so maybe it was banned elsewhere.
posted by OmieWise at 11:41 AM on June 19, 2006

Can't believe nobody's mentioned "Walk on the Wild Side."
posted by languagehat at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2006

Lou Reed - Take a walk on the wild side
posted by Evstar at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2006

posted by Evstar at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2006

Two from my high-school years:

I Don't Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats and Another Brick in the Wall Pt 2 by Floyd both for their perceived anti-school messages.
posted by octothorpe at 11:53 AM on June 19, 2006

The word "faggot" is now sometimes omitted in "Walk On the Wild Side." It only starting happening post-Nipplegate. Ridiculous.

"Light My Fire" by The Doors was controversial because of the line "we couldn't get much higher." In fact, I believe that they agreed to change the lyric when they performed on Ed Sullivan, but when they performed did the song normally causing a mini-furor.

"Tutti Frutti" by Little Richard was also controversial (and nearly more so). From wikipedia: "In order to make it commercially acceptable he had the foul lyrics changed from "tutti-frutti, good booty" to "tutti frutti, aw rooty." (Tutti-frutti was a slang term meaning a "gay male" and booty means "buttocks")."

Elvis' "Hound Dog" was pretty controversial, but more for his dance moves while singing the song than the lyrics.

Also. there's the whole "Southern Man"/"Sweet Home Alabama" controversy.

I'm too lazy to scroll up, so this may have been said already but The Beatles "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was derided for possibly being code for LSD.

The thing is, there are whole bands that fit into this category, from Black Sabbath to Led Zeppelin to The Rolling Stones to The Doors.

This article may help you.

And this, if you can get it to work.

I know I can think of more.
posted by Cochise at 12:04 PM on June 19, 2006

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison wasn't banned, but edited for radio play, when they took out the "makin love in the green grass, behind the stadium with you". Most of the time that you hear it on the radio these days, it has the original lyrics back.
posted by Inkoate at 12:08 PM on June 19, 2006

She Bop by Cyndi Lauper was contriversial, at least in East TN.
posted by kimdog at 12:08 PM on June 19, 2006

Give Ireland Back to the Irish was written by Paul McCartney four weeks after Bloody Sunday, and subsequently banned by the BBC.
Though I've only ever heard it one time on the radio in the US, so I don't know if it qualifies since it's unlikely to be played even though most Americans would not think twice about the political content.

Johnny Horton's Battle of New Orleans was banned by the BBC because of the "Bloody British" line.

Puff the Magic Draagon by Peter, Paul and Mary was not played by many radio stations for its supposed drug reference; Ohio by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was also on a lot of stations no -play list for political content. I hear both of these on oldies radio all the time.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:15 PM on June 19, 2006

I don't know if "Lust for Life" was ever banned, but it's been used to sell financial services and vacation cruises.
posted by Good Brain at 12:55 PM on June 19, 2006

(Push, Push,) In the Bush and Love to Love You Baby were both banned by most AM radio stations, for some disco examples.
posted by amberglow at 1:08 PM on June 19, 2006

"In order to make it commercially acceptable he had the foul lyrics changed from "tutti-frutti, good booty"

getthefuckouttahere! I did *NOT* know that.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:13 PM on June 19, 2006

tutti-frutti, good booty

Not in the Pat Boone version!

posted by kirkaracha at 1:37 PM on June 19, 2006

I happened to be looking into the oft-covered Stagger Lee the other day, when I ran across this on Wikipedia:

A cover with different lyrics was a chart hit for Lloyd Price in 1959; Dick Clark felt that the original tale of murder was too lowlife for his American Bandstand audience, and insisted that they be changed.

posted by Kafkaesque at 2:00 PM on June 19, 2006

I believe Sam Cooke's "What A Wonderful World It Would Be" -- is that the correct title? Was banned because of the lyrics "Don't know much about History/Don't know much Biology" etc.

It was banned supposedly because it discouraged teenagers from studying. L, as they say, OL.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2006

"Lola" by the Kinks
posted by Thorzdad at 3:01 PM on June 19, 2006

And, while I'm here, I do recall the more religious members of the family getting their panties in a bind over the lyrics in Lennon's "Imagine"
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 PM on June 19, 2006

Hank Ballard had some tunes ("Work With Me Annie" and "Annie Had a Baby") that were only sold "behind the counter" at many records stores because they were considered vulgar at the time.

As for things that seem to pass by the censors, that "Who the fuck are you" song springs to mind. I hear it in its unexpurgated form on many classic rawk stations.
posted by First Post at 5:17 PM on June 19, 2006

Stuff by Cole Porter; I Get A Kick Out of You (Cocaine reference) and Night and Day (references "making love").
posted by 4ster at 7:17 PM on June 19, 2006

TedW: The most hilarious version of post-release editing has got to be the Black Eyed Peas' "Don't Phunk With My Heart" which after several weeks on the radio got switched to "Don't Mess With My Heart". I mean, what the phunk? It's not even a real word, how can it be offensive?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:42 PM on June 19, 2006

Australian example: When the (once) youth station JJJ started up in the seventies the first song they played was "You Just Like Me 'Cause I'm Good in Bed" by the Skyhooks. The song was banned on all other broadcast stations at the time, but has now passed so far beyond shocking it is now into "meh" territory.
posted by arha at 8:02 PM on June 19, 2006

Oddly enough, the last two times I have been in my local Chinese restaurant, the music playing has included the following :

`Motherfucker on a motorcycle'
`The Roof is on fire' (bloodhound gang), which includes the line `we don't need no water let the motherfucker burn'.

Fortunately, on government stations in Australia, nothing is censored. They just let you know if there's a language warning before playing certain songs.
posted by tomble at 8:35 PM on June 19, 2006

There are no "government" radio stations in Australia. There are taxpayer-funded independent radio stations.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:49 PM on June 19, 2006

I know the "Tutti-Frutti" example has been trotted out, but I don't think people realized how different the real song was. There were many, many other references to anal sex in that song, other than the one's mentioned ("make it greasy/make it easy") The had to call a woman in to help Little Richard change the words. He was so embarassed, he couldn't sing the words while facing her, and had to turn away. Also, the original line was "A-womp-bomp-a-loom-bah, A Good God Damn!"

Also, Shake, Rattle and Roll had really risque lyrics. It's so tame by today's standards.
posted by piratebowling at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2006

Kinda late here to the thread, but I can tell you a few from the old, old days.

Rum and Coca Cola by the Andrews Sisters was once banned for its mention of alcohol.

Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen, also by the Andrews Sisters, while not banned, was thought to say "My Mere Bits of Shame Instead" and became a major hit because of its scandalous sounding title.

Now they're both timeless classics.
posted by Sallysings at 10:46 AM on June 20, 2006

this would be of some use, i imagine.

oh, and in case you're interested, it doesn't really fit the category but, "It's Raining Men" by the Weathergirls was banned for a while after 9/11 for obvious reasons (raining men....)
posted by alon at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2006

« Older How can I help my young friend?   |   Timeline of world history Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.