10 More Of The Most Controversial Songs Of All Time
If a piece of music has a catchy beat and a good hook, people will end up singing along to lyrics about sex, murder, assault and/or violent revolution without even realizing it. That’s the sort of thing that’s made these ten songs popular enough to be banned, censored, or otherwise messed with by governments and organizations afraid of their power.
N.W.A. – FUCK THA POLICE
One of the most influential songs by one of hip hop’s most influential groups on their most influential album, 1988’s “Fuck Tha Police” prompted the FBI to write Ruthless Records an angry letter on its release and is still pissing off cops decades later. In 2011, New Zealand dub artist Tiki Taane was playing a set at a club that cops were performing a random inspection on; after sampling the song and singing a few lyrics (guess which ones) Taane found himself arrested on charges of “disorderly behavior likely to cause violence” which were later dropped on the grounds of being almost embarrassingly bullshit.
W.A.S.P. – ANIMAL (FUCK LIKE A BEAST)
Shock rockers W.A.S.P. (“We Are Satan’s Prophets,” “We Appreciate Stinky Pussy,” or “We Ate Savory Pancakes” depending on who you ask) had a guaranteed hit on their hands with “Animal” and were set on making it their debut single and the centerpiece of their first album. One minor issue: The infamous Parents Music Resource Center had so bullied Capitol over “Animal’s” content that they deleted it from the album. It was almost released as a Europe exclusive in a black bag with EXPLICIT LYRICS and WARNING: DO NOT BUY stickers all over it but Capitol chickened out of even that, forcing W.A.S.P. to release the single through an independent label. Today, the only reason you won’t hear “Animal” is because singer Blackie Lawless—now a born-again Christian—refuses to perform it.
CYNDI LAUPER – SHE BOP
Another target of the PMRC’s sexually frustrated rage was Cyndi Lauper and “She Bop,” a superfun dance-pop song that is not actually about dancing at all. Reading between the lines and it’s pretty easy to figure out that the song’s about jilling off, but Lauper’s stated that she wanted it to be something kids would think was just about dancing and having fun, and only eventually figure out that it was actually about that it wasn’t a bad, evil thing to masturbate. That’s probably the most positive and healthy message any pop song could ever communicate about sex, but it still earned a spot on the PMRC’s “Filthy Fifteen” with W.A.S.P., Prince, and Judas Priest, and as such is one of the reasons any sort of cool music gets a PARENTAL ADVISORY stamp on it.
SLAYER – ANGEL OF DEATH
This list could have easily been all metal songs — hell, this list could’ve just been ten Cannibal Corpse songs in a row — but Slayer’s classic “Angel of Death” manages the nod for almost not getting released by its own record company. Named after and based on the horrific experiments conducted by Josef Mengele in the Auschwitz death camp, “Angel of Death” caused Columbia Records to first delay and eventually ditch Reign in Blood; the album was eventually released by Geffen Records but not mentioned on the company’s official release list. Much of the controversy surrounded guitarist and song writer Jeff Hanneman’s hobby of collecting Nazi memorabilia, and while Slayer has always denied condoning racism, they sure did end up using a lot of SS and Nazi imagery afterwards. Of course, that might’ve been just because they realized the controversy was good for them — in 2006 they tried to recapture the magic with a song about 9/11 from a terrorist’s point of view, but as good as “Jihad” is, it’s no “Angel of Death.”
THE WHO – MY GENERATION
The famous stuttered delivery on “My Generation” was either a deliberate homage to John Lee Hooker’s “Stuttering Blues” or the result of Roger Daltrey trying to read Pete Townshend’s terrible handwriting, but to the BBC it was nothing less than a hateful attack on those with sp-sp-speech impediments. At least, that’s the story the Beeb put out as an explanation — many think the song was banned because the lyric “Why don’t you all f-f-fade away” was just suggestive enough of the f-bomb to rub censors the wrong way, or that the song in general was too uppity and revolutionary to be tolerated.
THE KINKS – LOLA
The BBC had an even weirder reason to shut down the Kinks’ famous celebration of sexy transvestites: unlawful product placement. Remember how the champagne down in old Soho tastes just like Coca-Cola (which sounds like some pretty nasty champagne, but whatever)? To the BBC, that was considered a sneaky ad for Coke, and Ray Davies actually had to re-dub the song with “tastes just like cherry cola” to have it suitable for UK airwaves.
FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD – RELAX
Although the lyrics to this ’80s classic are raunchy as hell, the BBC was pretty much cool with it until Radio 1 DJ Mike Read pitched a fit over the song’s content and the classic Anne Yvonne Gilbert album cover (dude, you’re on the radio, only you can see the cover). BBC loudly banned the single from airplay, although late-night DJs like John Peel played it regardless, and the negative publicity boosted the gay sex anthem to #1 in the charts, forcing BBC TV to display the band’s photo on Top of the Pops before playing a different band’s song instead. Oddly, there was almost no controversy about the song in the USA, possibly because Americans are as a rule not very good at listening to things.
OZZY OSBOURNE – SUICIDE SOLUTION
Close listening to Ozzy’s “Suicide Solution” would reveal that it’s a song about how alcoholism is essentially a drawn-out method of killing oneself — Osbourne claimed he sang the song with AC/DC’s Bon Scott in mind, although writer and bassist Bob Daisley revealed he basically wrote the song about Ozzy. Either way, lots of people apparently didn’t get the point, and the parents of depressed teen John McCollum claimed in court that the song drove him to suicide, pointing in particular to a barely audible line that they claimed said “Why try? Get the gun and shoot!” Daisley, Osbourne and the liner notes all stated that it was in fact “Get the flaps out,” a typically weird English phrase for “show us your vagina,” and ended up winning the case.
BARRY MCGUIRE – EVE OF DESTRUCTION
When “Eve of Destruction” was first released (almost by accident—the vocal track was meant to be a rough cut but an enthusiastic DJ put the “first draft” on the air the day after McGuire recorded it) it met immediate pushback from American conservatives who saw the song as everything wrong with modern youth: pessimistic, whiny and altogether unacceptably opposed to dying horrible deaths for nebulous reasons. Many American stations refused to play the song, some of them citing it as “an aid to the enemy in Vietnam” and the BBC put it on a special list of songs that couldn’t be played during general entertainment programs. Clean-cut pop music trio The Spokesmen even scored a hit single called “Dawn of Correction” as a right-wing answer to McGuire’s tune (“The Western world has a common dedication / To keep free people from Red domination”), but time has shown the original to be the better song, even after McGuire became a born-again Christian and briefly refused to play his biggest hit.
JIMMY BOYD – I SAW MOMMY KISSING SANTA CLAUS
What better way to celebrate the holidays than with an anthem to illicit affairs and the disruption of a child’s innocence? That was the official interpretation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by the Catholic Church in Boston, and it pulled enough weight to get the album banned in many New England stores and radio stations. 13-year-old Jimmy Boyd had to personally visit the Boston archdiocese (presumably a grown man) to convince him that the song was actually about a child not understanding that Santa was his dad, and that there wasn’t actually any sort of extramarital sex occurring with a pagan forest elf. The Church lifted their opposition, and today the song is a Christmas classic, alongside updates like the Swedish band Onkel Kankel’s “I Saw Santa Suck Off Daddy,” which apparently the Boston archdiocese is unaware of.
These tunes didn’t make everyone so happy either: The Most Controversial Songs Of All Time