Why should one person be the arbitrator or good taste?
April 9, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Help me find offensive songs to help point out how ridiculous it is to let a handful of old people decide the music stations for our entire factory.

We have a 5 XM radio station rotation that was chosen through voting by the entire plant We presented 15 XM stations that were not rated as explicit. Currently the rotation is:
1 - XM Hit List (Has all ready been replaced by Oldies)
2 - Highway 16 (Country)
3 - Lucy (Alternative)
4 - Big Tracks (70s and 80s classic rock)
5 - Kiss Top 40 (replaced by oldies)
The channels rotate every 2 hours 24 hours a day.

A small handful of old biddys complained until they removed XM Hit list and replaced it with the barely voted for Oldies station.
Now they are complaining about Lucy, which is the last straw, why should a small portion of the people decide what everyone gets to listen to. They complain of improper lyics, and swear words not being edited out.
So what I want to do is show that really every generation has its own set of standards, and in the right context many things can be considered offensive, by writing a channel 2 (our official complaint form) listing offensive songs in the following genres:
Classic Rock

I would even like examples in other genres, anything you can think of would be great.
posted by JonnyRotten to Work & Money (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My dad used to complain when Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" came on the radio because the first line uses the word "crap."

"Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" by Cher was considered a bit racy at the time because it tells about a 16 year old girl in a travelling caravan who gets pregnant (and abandoned) by an older stranger they pick up on the road.

"Timothy" by the Buoys is about cannibalism (three men trapped in a mind and two of them end up eating Timothy).

Radio stations used to play censored or edited versions of "Jet Airliner" by Steve Miller because of the profanity ("funky kicks goin' down in the city), but most times these days I hear the "funky shit" version. Likewise "Who Are You" by the Who; you can clearly hear Roger Daltry ad lib "well who the fuck are you?" a few times.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:44 AM on April 9, 2008

The Who's "Who Are You" features an F-bomb, and Pink Floyd's "Money" contains the word "bullshit."
posted by saladin at 9:46 AM on April 9, 2008

But the problem is the tracks the stations are playing. My first question would be: are they correct? Are Lucy, XM Hit List, and the Top 40 stations playing songs with swear words and indencent lyrics?

Because it doesn't matter if country songs or oldies songs exist that are inappropriate to the workplace. It matters if they are being played on the stations that people are having to listen to.

Standards for radio broadcast were (and still are) much tighter than for satellite broadcast. In the past, any song not clean enough for radio was doomed to be a 'novelty' song, traded and sold in sort of an underground fashion but not widely played. They didn't have much of a chance to achieve wide popularity. Though standards for contemporary radio have relaxed under pressure from large corporations like ClearChannel who fear losing market share to the satellites, there are still a lot of songs played that skirt the indecency/obscenity line that wouldn't have been tolerated a couple decades ago.
posted by Miko at 9:47 AM on April 9, 2008

You're not going to have much luck proving that country, oldies, and classic rock are just as likely (or even remotely as likely) to have profanity or objectionable content as modern alternative is. At least you had some input--most people have had jobs where the music is Muzak and there's no choice involved.
posted by goatdog at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2008

To be fair, while there are months and months of songs that endorse drug abuse, sex or use words that were considered risqué at the time that could be considered "oldies" (everything from Louis Armstrong's "Muggles" to "Gloria" by Them), those songs have been mostly excised from oldies stations by generations of biddies sifting through them.

Frankly, were I to be in charge, I would tell people that they can either listen to the stations that are currently in rotation, or no music at all, because minority complaints have been heard about everything. Have a vote on that, and I'm willing to bet that most will vote for music, and you can tell the old folks to go screw.
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: The XM radio guide lists any station that plays explicit lyrics with a big X next to it. Lucy and Hit list are X free.
The other day Lucy played closer by nine inch nails, but it was the radio edited version.

In response to 23skidoo I would say that it doesn't matter if they are played in any of the stations rotation, as long as they are popular or semi well knowen songs.

But no. I have never heard a unedited curse word on any of the stations. Though lucy will very rarely play Detachable Penis, but I consider that a song of joy. Joy in finding your lost detachable penis. Noone has complained about that song yet.

The country station plays "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk" about girls asses, and "Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy".
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:52 AM on April 9, 2008

Hall & Oates' "Rich Girl" was kept off our local top 40 station back in the day because of "bitch" and Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" has an edited version where "making love in the green grass" is removed.

Now that I've answered the question, I don't see that what you're proposing is going to make the slightest bit of difference. Just because you can find these examples doesn't make anything less 'offensive' to people who can find offense at anything. You should probably be pointing out that everyone voted, everyone had their chance to vote, and that's the way the free world likes to do things.
posted by sageleaf at 9:53 AM on April 9, 2008

For starters: "All the Way" (Frank Sinatra hit), "Another Sleepless Night" (Anne Murray C&W), "Make Believe it's Your First Time", "When We Make Love" (Alabama), "Afternoon Delight", "Lay You Down" (Conway Twitty C&W), "Make a Little Magic" and "High Horse Woman" (Nitty Gritty Dirt Band"

Look into Tom Lehrer, a Harvard graduate who was quite popular in the 60's. He wrote satirical songs for television but also also pushed the envelope with tasteless and politically incorrect songs in his recordings and nightclub act. In later years he wrote for children's television before turning to teaching mathematics at the university level.

Also look at collections by "Dr. Demento" a 60's 70's DJ with a young adult market. His collections include many offbeat, off color songs like "Bounce Your Boobies" and "Christmas Balls" ("Let me hang my balls on your Christmas Tree"). Argueably on the edge but he collected songs from the 1940's on up that might fit your needs.
posted by swarkentien at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Unfortunately, the way our upper management works (I work at a Japanese ran company), is that if I want to defend the point of view that no matter what music we play, there will be complaints, is to provide data.
Because if they kill any more stations, I will personally be submitting channel 2 complaints any time I hear an offensive song, therefore becoming what I hate most.
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:56 AM on April 9, 2008

Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" would be a good start for your list. The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" offended Ed Sullivan. The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" is totally about LSD, isn't it? And, as everyone knows, the Kingsmen's "Louie Louie" is utterly obscene from beginning to end.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2008

A small handful of old biddys complained

The other difficultuy here is that the standard for response to complaints seems awfully low. So the handful of people complained, and that was sufficient to change the results of the vote? Why not look at the structure itself? Was/is there a process to call for a re-vote based on new information? What is the standard for number of complaints necessary to result in a change to the policy - does even one person who complains get the result that the station is removed from rotation? Or does it take five people? Or a simple, or two-thirds, majority? Do you have any leverage in changing the way this decision is made or the way complaints get responded to?

I'd look in that direction, because if you keep going down this road of retaliation, you're all going to end up Mantovani. Or silence.

Which causes me to reflect, Marxistically, that it's exactly through pitting worker against worker this way that power remains squarely in the hands of those who own the means of satellite tunage.

Can you wear an iPod at work?

Ear plugs?
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2008

Well! You're Breaking My Heart by Nilsson is as offensive as it gets ("You're breakin' my heart, you're tearing it apart, so fuck you!"), and Zappa's Broken Hearts are for Assholes won't win any friends among the biddies -- nor will Jewish Princess, Titties and Beer, Bobby Brown, or Dyna Moe Hum. Nilsson's Take 54 is great, too -- "I sang my balls off for you, baby..."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:04 AM on April 9, 2008

What Miko said. Or you can just prove that the old folks' complaints are invalid by pointing out that the stations they complained about do not allow explicit lyrics. They're probably complaining because they just don't like the music. Complain to management that it's unfair for a minority to decide on what everyone listens to, especially considering that their argument is completely unfounded.

You're wasting your time collecting offensive oldies songs which may or may not play on those channels. That said, there are PLENTY of Old Country and R&B songs that have the filthiest innuendo I've ever heard.
posted by Koko at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Miko to address your points.
Yes. One or two complaints is enough to take a station down.
No Ipods, unless your office. I could wear headphones or ipods, but I am trying to take a stand for the workers on the floor.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:22 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Koko. I agree
thats the route I took the first time they complained. But since managment has gotten more complaints, those complaints must be true. I love my job.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2008

Well, as for country, a lot of people would consider Toby Keith, post-9/11, extremely offensive. And a lot of those who didn't would then find the Dixie Chicks extremely offensive.

You could always complain that the cheatin' & drinkin' in country songs is offensive. Of course, if you take that route, you'll probably end up with no music at all for anyone.

Perhaps you can correlate output to which channel is on? Suggest that Lucy made the factory more productive?
posted by stevis23 at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: Just to give an example of a song that they have twice now complained about, Alice in Chains "Rooster". A song about Jerry Cantrells fathers experience in Vietnam.
Its pretty baseless.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2008

no matter what music we play, there will be complaints

Then it seems like you're going to make it awfully easy for them to justify kill all music. Baseless or not, that's a likely outcome.
posted by sageleaf at 10:31 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: I would honestly take that over just what a small moral minority like.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2008

I would honestly take that over just what a small moral minority like.

But you said you wanted to stick up for the workers on the floor. Is that what they want? Is it time to take another vote for "just these current station choices, or no music at all?"

I really think you have to go at the decision making structure. Your case ends in 0 music anyway. How would the workers feel about no music? Or about you for pushing it to that point?
posted by Miko at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2008

I've always thought that Gary Puckett and the Union Gap's "Young Girl" was a surprisingly offensive song. "The House of the Rising Sun" is about a brothel.
posted by defreckled at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2008

Response by poster: yeah. I'm just a bit outraged at this point that they would even consider further limiting the station because of a few people complaining.
I don't want there to not be any music, I was speaking while upset.
posted by JonnyRotten at 10:42 AM on April 9, 2008

Some oldies have lyrics which are sexist or exhortations to drink and drive or even gay panic-inspired violence.
posted by waraw at 11:21 AM on April 9, 2008

Goodbye Earl! by the Dixie Chicks is a song about poisoning a man and dumping the body in a lake.
posted by easy_being_green at 11:27 AM on April 9, 2008

This is a great example of a situation where you are never going to be able to make everyone happy. Even if you do successfully lobby the management to change the channel rotation or modify the complaint process----you will end up making enemies and your workplace atmosphere will become worse, not better.

I know this isnt a quick-fix... but is there any way you can get multiple XM receivers and speakers, so that each area of the building can have their own choice in channels ? (IE = all the guys in the warehouse floor chip in $20 and you could probably afford a receiver,etc)
posted by jmnugent at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2008

I would honestly take that over just what a small moral minority like.
posted by JonnyRotten at 1:32 PM on April 9 [+] [!]

I don't think it's an issue of "small moral minority." If the company is playing music, and if there are explicit lyrics that offend employees, than the company is creating and supporting a hostile work environment.

Related example: What if someone was making sexually innapropriate remarks to a single female employee. Would you say that they didn't have a right to complain, and the company shouldn't do anything about it, because it's only impacting "a small moral minority?"

Do I think these people are overreacting? Yeah. But that doesn't mean that the company can ignore it simply because they're a small number and hold a minority point of view. It's the minority point of view that a company has to protect.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:54 AM on April 9, 2008

Somewhat relevant.
posted by dmd at 12:24 PM on April 9, 2008

"I'm like a one-eyed cat, peepin' at a seafood stall" - Shake Rattle 'n' Roll.

"With a four speed on the floor they'll be waiting at the door
You know that ain't no shit we'll be getting lots of tit" - Greased Lightning

"Number forty-seven said to number three:
You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see.
I sure would be delighted with your company,
Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me." - Jailhouse Rock

Tip of the iceberg, I could think of a dozen more, I bet.

Look, whenever a rock'n'roll song says "rock", it rhymes with "fuck". But this is so not the way to get what you want.
posted by Leon at 12:32 PM on April 9, 2008

Very nice quite traditional country with truly offensive lyrics by Ween: 12 Golden Country Greats.
Quite unlike theire other stuff and only 10 songs. I reccomend Mr. Richard Smoker: Very mellow sound .....Mr. Richard Smoker, you're a booby poker... etc.

To qoute an amazon reviewer: "So, it shouldn't seem strange that Ween can do country, and country is what you get in 12 Golden Country Greats. Now, country is a genre of music I tend to admire from afar - I never want to get too close, lest I start feeling urges to square-dance with a ten-gallon hat and tight jeans. So having Ween do a country album gave me the excuse to get into country, even if it was largely the Ween version. But then again, a little parody never hurt anyone, and this album is a must for Ween fans and anyone who wants a little absurdity with their country."
posted by mmkhd at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2008

How old do you need? "Johnny Get Angry" and "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" although I agree with posters above that this whole thing will likely be unproductive at best and backfire at worst.
posted by dilettante at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2008

This looks like a job for deliberative democracy!

Here's a great online project that walks you through the process of deliberative democracy of coming to consensus in a group with varying opinions.

Before you get reactionary, why not see if you can figure out as a group how to resolve disagreements. Who knows; it might work as a test run in case you decide to go on strike in the future.
posted by billtron at 4:39 PM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

offensive country?

david allan coe has put together a pretty offensive catalog.

though i think this is a really passive-aggressive way to address the question of not getting to hear the music you want to hear.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:28 AM on April 10, 2008

Just a datapoint: Lucy might not be listed as an explicit language channel, but they do push the line. I've heard the unedited version of Cake's "I Will Survive," which has one occurrence of the word "fucking."
posted by jeversol at 1:34 PM on April 13, 2008

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