Have you ever listened to the radio, only to hear a word bleeped in a song, removed, or just plain censored? Well, how many times have you then heard the uncensored version, only to find out that the offending lyric was so inconsequential that even your grandmother found the censorship to be ridiculous?
Well, you’d be surprised to find out how often that happens. Sure, the censors might have their hearts in the right spot sometimes, while other times they might be completely misguided, but whatever the case, stick with us as we take a look at twelve of the most absurd song controversies of all time.
The Kingsmen – ‘Louie Louie’
So few fucks were given during this recording session that the song was played in the wrong time, musicians missed cues, and Ely mumbled the words ’cause he didn’t know the lyrics. The result was that everyone assumed the mumbled words were hiding something dirty.
So what did you do in 1963 when indecipherable lyrics could actually be sexual? You call the FBI. The feds launched a full investigation into whether ‘Louie Louie’ had dirty words on it and eventually found nothing. Guess they missed the drummer audibly yelling “Fuck!” around 55 seconds in.
Check out ‘Louie Louie’ by The Kingsmen:
Little Big Town – ‘Girl Crush’
A nice little tune from pop-country outfit that tells the story of a girl who’s insanely jealous of her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, however, this message wasn’t received by all listeners.
Apparently, many upset ears believed that Little Big Town were singing about a same sex relationship and therefore demanded that it be pulled from country radio, and let us just remind that the tune came out in 2014. Yep.
Band member Karen Fairchild hit back with the best of responses, saying “That’s just shocking to me, the close-mindedness of that, when that’s just not what the song was about…But what if it were? It’s just a greater issue of listening to a song for what it is.”
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Check out ‘Girl Crush’ by Little Big Town:
Bobby “Boris” Pickett – ‘Monster Mash’
It took a some time for this iconic song to become “a graveyard smash” because upon its initial release it was deemed “too morbid” for the radio, ho the censored days of the ’60s.
Of course, the novelty tune eventually took off and has since become a staple as an original novelty/spooky track that’s been covered by everyone from The Beach Boys to the Smashing Pumpkins.
Check out ‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby “Boris” Pickett:
Bing Crosby – ‘Deep In The Heart Of Texas’
Popular pop songs work because they’re catchy. That’s what they’re meant to be; they’re designed to get you humming and whistling the hook on the way to work. But as Bing Crosby proved, apparently a song can be so catchy that it has to be banned.
The British Broadcasting Corporation banned ‘Deep In The Heart Of Texas’ during working hours throughout WWII because it was such an earworm tune that it made British factory owners worried that the song’s rhythmic clapping would distract workers from their task.
Check out ‘Deep In The Heart Of Texas’ by Bing Crosby:
Neil Young – ‘This Note’s For You’
You know that if a Neil Young video gets banned, it must be for a strange reason. The legend figure has never really had an affinity for things like naked twerkers or suggestive drug use in his clips.
Instead, ‘This Note’s For You’, which makes a mockery of a number of popular advertisements around at the time, was taken down from MTV because it was deemed too “anti-commercial”. In other words, it pissed off their advertisers and essentially made the statement it was trying to make; a note saying a big “fuck you” to capitalist corporations.
Check out ‘This Note’s For You’ by Neil Young:
“Weird Al” Yankovic – ‘Don’t Download This Song’
Back in 2006 when pirating music had become extremely simple for even the biggest of computer noobs, the king of musical parodies, Weird Al, weighed-in on the growing issue in the only way he knew how – through song.
Performed in a very charity song style, ‘Don’t Download This Song’s’ video was barred from MTV because Weird Al refused to remove lyrics that named file-sharing programs, including Morpheus, Grokster, Limewire, and Kazaa *eye roll*
Weird Al’s response of course owned, “Instead of subtly removing or obscuring the words in the track, I made the creative decision to bleep them out as obnoxiously as possible, so that there would be no mistake I was being censored.”
Check out ‘Don’t Download This Song’ by “Weird Al” Yankovic:
Led Zeppelin – ‘Stairway To Heaven’
There are very few songs in music history that have had such a lasting impact like this unforgettable rock God tune – but did you know that at a time, it was banned from radio?
Uh-huh, the Zep classic had plenty of people up in arms because apparently, when the song is played backwards – satanic lyrics could be heard.
When Plant sings “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now” what he actually meant, in backward English, was “Oh, here’s to my sweet Satan/The one whose little path would make me sad, whose power is Satan/He’ll give those with him 666/There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan”. Right…
Check out ‘Stairway To Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin:
Bobby Darin – ‘Splish Splash’
This rock and roll classic by Bobby Darin tells the story of about a guy who walks out of his bathroom after having a good scrub only to find a party going on in the adjoining room. Your grandparents are right, music really had meaning back in the day.
So why was this one banned? Because Darin omitted the part where the song’s protagonist puts his clothes back on. In fact, Darin mentions that he just places his towel around him. Naturally, the thought of a guy in a towel in a feel-good rock tune is a one-way street to Satan worship.
Check out ‘Splish Splash’ by Bobby Darin:
Frank Zappa – ‘G-Spot Tornado’
Fancying herself a beacon of morality in the ’80s, Tipper Gore, wife of Al Gore, launched the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), an advocacy group that wanted to restrict the youth’s access to any music they deemed offensive and unfit for young ears.
One record that caught their eye was Frank Zappa’s 1986 album Jazz From Hell, which was slapped with an RIAA Parental Advisory sticker for offensive content. The only problem? The album was entirely instrumental. Maybe the sticker had something to do with Zappa testifying against the PMRC before Congress?
Check out ‘G-Spot Tornado’ by Frank Zappa:
Lorde – ‘Royals’
While we all figured ‘Royals’ was just a refreshing and sonically interesting pop hit from a young Kiwi singer destined for greatness, back in 2013, Feministing contributor Veronica Bayetti Flores took Lorde to task for the tracks allegedly racist undertones.
According to Flores, ‘Royals’ is a racist condemnation of black culture, and not, as some claimed, a critique of affluence. Essentially, Flores was pissed that Lorde used images like gold teeth, and Grey Goose, i.e. what a teenager in 2013 would consider affluence, instead of “golf or polo”, i.e. what F. Scott Fitzgerald would consider affluence.
Check out ‘Royals’ by Lorde:
John Cage – ‘4’33”’
Coming in at four minutes and thirty-three seconds, John Cage’s 1952 experimental composition is one of the most hotly debated and controversial piece of music in the classical music world, still the subject of scholars and critics to this day.
Why? Because this three-movement piece is entirely silent. The piece lasts exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds and has been “performed” in filled auditoriums. The debate is basically between two camps: those that say Cage is pushing the boundaries of music and those that are saying, “GTFO!”
Check out ‘4’33”’ by John Cage:
Link Wray – ‘Rumble’
While rock legend Link Wray is known to music aficionados and guitarists as the man who invented the power chord, you best know him and his 1958 instrumental hit ‘Rumble’ as “That song from Pulp Fiction” as well as a bunch of other movies.
However, the groundbreaking track was banned in several radio markets because they feared the song could encourage “juvenile delinquency”. It’s at this point that we’d like you to look back at that first sentence where we noted the track was a freakin’ instrumental!