Body Count, ‘Cop Killer’ (1992). A brutal track about revenge on an abusive
policeman, ‘Cop Killer’ caused outrage amongst the media and
politicians, including George Bush Sr. It was argued that lyrics such
as “Cop killer, fuck police brutality” helped spark riots in LA, which
pushed law officials to campaign for Warner Bros to withdraw the album.
Anti-Nowhere League, ‘Streets of London/So What’ (1981). After being prosecuted
under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, police seized all copies of the record
from distributors and the record label itself. ‘So What’ contains the word fuck
countless times, as well as references to drugs, bestiality and STIs. The
confiscated stock was later destroyed. The song’s power to shock was revived in
1996 when Metallica covered the song at the MTV Europe awards.
Barry McGuire, ‘Eve Of Destruction’ (1965). Banned by many radio stations upon
its initial release for the authority-baiting line “You’re old enough to kill,
but not for votin'”, the anti-war ballad was then banned again by BBC Radio
during George Bush Sr’s invasion of Iraq in 1991, and then again by American
media giant Clear Channel after 9/11.
Carter USM, ‘Bloodsport for All’ (1991). This track, about racism and bullying
in the British army, was another song that fell foul of BBC censorship following
the outbreak of the Gulf War. The Beeb were concerned about offending the
military by airing anti-establishment lyrics such as, “Lay down, play dead for
Di and Fergie”. Pic: PA Photos
Crass, ‘Penis Envy’ (1980). Many large UK record stores refused to stock the
British political punk act’s music after one store in Cheadle was prosecuted
under the Obscene Publications Act for selling Crass albums. The ‘News Of The
World’ deemed ‘Penis Envy’ “too obscene to print”. The original album now sells
for high prices to collectors.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ‘Relax’ (1983). The BBC’s most famous – and
embarrassing – ban. Radio 1 DJ Mike Read pulled the song off air because of its
“disgusting” sexual lyrics. The ban backfired as the song went on to become the
seventh biggest selling single of all time. The intention had always been to
shock: early adverts for the single featured frontman Holly Johnson wearing
rubber gloves alongside the pun: ‘All the nice boys love sea men’. Pic:
The Kingsmen, ‘Louie Louie’ (1963). The ’60s garage-rock anthem, originally
released by R&B artist Richard Berry, was banned by the governer of Indiana,
Matthew E Welsh, due to allegedly indecent lyrics such as “I fuck my girl all
kinds of ways” and “I felt my boner in her hair”. These accusations led to an
FBI investigation for violating obscenity laws – but no charges were brought.
Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Hi Hi Hi’ (1972). Banned by the BBC for its
“suggestive” lyrics, “get you ready for my body gun” (later corrected by
McCartney to “get you ready for my polygon”, yeah, right) and a slight drug
reference in “We’re gonna get hi, hi, hi”. Radio stations decided to give
airtime to B-side ‘C Moon’ instead. Pic: PA Photos
The Beatles, ‘Yesterday And Today’ (1966). Famously referred to as ‘The Butcher
Cover’, ‘Yesterday And Today’ was only released in the US and Canada. The album
cover featured the band smiling amidst the carnage of decapitated baby dolls and
pieces of meat. After its release, record label Capitol tried to recall the
thousands of already shipped records. Pic: PA Photos
The Who, ‘My Generation’ (1965) The BBC initially refused to play ‘My
Generation’ on air for fear of offending people who stuttered (“talking ‘bout my
g-g-generation”). But when the song became an instant hit, the Beeb gave in and
added the track to their playlist. Pic: PA Photos
Rage Against The Machine – all songs. Within hours of the 9/11 tragedy, American
radio executives, including those at Clear Channel, made a list of over 150
“lyrically questionable” songs, including all of political protesters RATM’s.
These songs were not technically banned – broadcasters were asked to “exercise
restraint” when playing them. Signature track ‘Killing In The Name’ was played
over speakers in ASDA, Preston, in 2008, prompting complaints from customers.
The Strokes, ‘New York City Cops’ (2001). The New Yorkers self-censored the US
version of ‘Is This It’ for fear of offending Americans in wake of 9/11. The
lyric “they ain’t too smart” in reference to New York police was thought too
derogatory considering the tragic event, and the band re-released a “safe”
version of the album in early October – minus ‘New York City Cops’. Pic:
Dead Kennedys, ‘Frankenchrist’ (1985). The third album, released by one of
America’s toughest political punks, ‘Frankenchrist’ held a poster of H.R.
Giger’s ‘Penis Landscape’ – a poster that depicts a lot of, ahem, genitals. This
led to Jello Biafra’s band being brought to trial for distributing harmful
matter to minors, although the case was unsuccessful. Pic: Redferns
Sex Pistols, ‘God Save The Queen’ (1977). Released during Queen Elizabeth II’s
Silver Jubilee, the controversial punk hit was banned by many TV, radio and
retail chains, including the BBC. Lyrics “her fascist regime” and “There’s no
future in England’s dreaming” caused uproar. One London shopkeeper was even
charged under the Indecent Advertising Act 1899 for displaying the LP in his
window. Pic: PA Photos
Oasis, ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ (2008). Chinese authorities objected to Noel
Gallagher’s involvement in a 1997 ‘Free Tibet’ concert which has led to the
British band being banned from performing in China this April. Both shows
scheduled for Beijing and Shanghai were cancelled as the government revoked the
performance licenses and instructed ticket agencies to stop selling tickets
immediately. Pic: Dean Chalkley
Avril Lavigne, ‘The Best Damn Thing’ (2007) Islamists in Malaysia urged their
government to cancel the pop-punk princess’ performance in Kuala Lumpur in
August 2008, deeming her to be “too sexy” for them. “We don’t want our people,
our teenagers, influenced by her performance,” said party official Kamarulzaman
Mohamed at the time. Despite an initial ban, the show went ahead as planned.
Pic: PA Photos
George Michael, ‘I Want Your Sex’ (1987). The former Wham! frontman’s suggestive
title lyric in this track led to a ban on many US and UK daytime radio stations.
Despite Michael’s intention of showing the beauty of monogamous sex in its racy
video, MTV refused to air it before watershed believing it promoted promiscuity.
Pic: PA Photos