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The History Of Banned Rock ‘n’ Roll

August 15, 2009



From Rock and Roll’s very begining, there have been those
who have tried to control what others should hear.

Here is a brief look at The History Of Banned Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rock and Roll had just been born when Michigan congresswoman Ruth Thompson introduced a bill in the House that would prohibit mailing any pornographic recording. The offence would be punishable by five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Just who would decide what is pornographic, is unclear.

Britain’s BBC bans the song “Such a Night” by Johnny Ray after listeners complain about its ‘suggestiveness’.

Memphis police prohibit The Drifters’ “Honey Love” from being loaded into jukeboxes, due to what they considered “suggestive lyrics.”


Police in Bridgeport, Connecticut cancel a dance at the Ritz ballroom featuring Fats Domino. Authorities say the cancellation is because they discovered that “rock and roll dances might be featured” and justify their action by citing “a recent near riot at the New Haven Arena,” where rock & roll dances were featured.

Mobile, Ala. radio station WABB received over 15,000 letters of complaint about the playing of “dirty records”. The station’s response was a promise that they would censor all controversial music, especially rhythm and blues.

An unsuccessful bid to change copyright laws that would prohibit white artists from singing R&B cover tunes was proposed to U.S. Congress by singer, LaVern Baker. Lucky for Pat Boone and other crooners that this effort failed.


ABC radio decides not to play Billie Holiday’s “Love For Sale” because the lyrics are about prostitution. They were also successful in getting Cole Porter to change the lyric of “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, a hit for Frank Sinatra. Porter’s original words were “I’d get no kick from cocaine”. The cleaned up version was “Some go for perfume from Spain”.

Mitch Miller, who was then the music director of Columbia Records, hosts a program on CBS TV with two psychiatrists to point out the “potentially negative effects of rock ‘n’ roll on teenagers”.

Rock ‘n’ Roll fans in Cleveland, Ohio who were under 18, were banned from dancing in public, unless accompanied by an adult, after Ohio Police start enforcing a law dating back to 1931.


Ed Sullivan’s producers decide that their cameras would only shoot Elvis Presley from the waist up, as they considered his hip swinging to be too suggestive.

Cardinal Stritch of the Catholic archdiocese in Chicago, prohibits all rock and roll music from their schools, fearing that “its rhythms encourage young people to behave in a hedonistic manner”.

Disc Jockey Al Priddy of KEX, Portland, Oregon is fired for violating the radio station’s ban against playing Elvis Presley’s rendition of “White Christmas”.

Radio stations in Boston refused to play The Everly Brothers “Wake Up Little Susie” because of its supposedly suggestive lyrics which tell the tale of two teenagers who fall asleep at a drive-in movie. Stations in other parts of the country feel differently and the song rises to #1 on the Billboard Pop and Country charts as well as the Cash Box Best Selling Record chart.

After hearing reports that many U.S. radio stations had banned Elvis’ Christmas album because of their shock over “the Pelvis” singing religious songs, DJ Allen Brooks of CKWS in Kingston, Ontario, plays the entire album and invites listeners to call in their opinion. Of 800 callers, only 56 disapprove of Presley’s sacred music.

Capitol Records received a number of complaints about a picture on the front cover of The Five Keys album “On Stage”. To some imaginitive folks, the finger of lead singer Rudy West appeared to be a penis and subsequent issues of the L.P. were airbrushed.

Egyptian government officials announce that Rock ‘n’ Roll music can no longer be played in public, calling it an “imperialist plot.” They also prohibit Rock ‘n’ Roll movies.


The management of St. Louis radio station KWK, had all rock & roll music banned from its play list. The disc jockeys gave every rock and roll record in the station library a “farewell spin” before smashing it to pieces. The station manager, Robert Convey, called the action “a simple weeding out of undesirable music.”

A Minneapolis based Catholic youth magazine, “Contacts”, launches a campaign for “clean lyrics in pop songs.” Songs they target include Elvis Presley’s “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” because it promotes going steady.


Even though it has no lyrics what so ever, the guitar instrumental “Rumble”, by Link Wray was banned by many U.S. radio stations, who feared the title would promote teen violence. Despite the boycott, the song would still sell over a million copies and Link would follow it with a tune called “Jack The Ripper”.

The BBC in England refuses to play The Coasters’ stateside hit, “Charlie Brown” because of its reference to “throwin’ spitballs”. Two weeks later, they give in to public demand and play the song.

Following the stabbing deaths of two teenagers by a 17 year old and other similar incidents of violence in New York City, WCBS radio in the Big Apple bans Bobby Darin’s hit “Mack the Knife”.

Ray Peterson’s, “Tell Laura I Love Her” is banned from many radio stations who objected to the “death theme” of the song. In spite of spotty air play, the song is still a huge hit for RCA, reaching #7 on the national record charts in August, 1960. On the other side of the Atlantic however, England’s Decca Records destroyed thousands of copies of the record, claiming it was “in bad taste”. A rival record company felt differently and recorded a cover version by a singer named Ricky Valance, which went to #1 on the British chart.


Britains’ BBC Radio bans the song “100 Pounds of Clay” by Gene McDaniels because it has a reference to women being created from building materials, which the network considered to be blasphemous.


After refusing to sign an oath that says they have never been members of the Communist party, the popular folk group The Weavers are removed from the line-up of NBC-TV’s Jack Parr Show.

Catholic school students in New York are forbidden to dance to Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist”, by Bishop Burke, who considers it and other dance craze songs to be “un-Christian”. The rest of the country however, thought different, as “The Twist” went on to be the only record in Rock and Roll history to be a number one hit on two separate occasions. The first time in the spring of 1961 and again in 1962, spending an amazing total of nine months on the U.S. best seller charts.

Britain’s BBC bans Bobby “Boris” Pickett‘s Halloween song, “Monster Mash”.


Bob Dylan cancels a booking on the Ed Sullivan Show in February after he is told by the show’s producers that he cannot sing “Talking John Birch Paranoid Blues.”


The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” is the subject of much controversy and was banned from sales and airplay in Indiana because of its indecipherable lyrics, which were rumored to contain some naughty words. The Kingsmen have always maintained they sang nothing lewd, despite an off-mic shout after a mistake at the end of the instrumental, where Jack Ely started to sing the last verse one bar too soon.

England’s The Pretty Things saw their second release “Don’t Bring Me Down” become a top ten hit in Britain but it was banned in America for its “objectionable lyrics”: I met this chick the other day; And then to me, she said she’ll stay; I get this pad, just like a cave; And then we’ll have, our living made; And then I’ll lead her on the ground; My head is spinning round

Several dance halls in the UK ban the playing of The Dave Clark Five’s “Bits and Pieces” over fears that teens stomping to the beat would damage wooden dance floors.


The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” was banned by ABC-TV and Rediffusion-TV in the UK because it glorified motorcycle gangs. Despite the ban, the song still reached #1 in the US and charted four times in the UK between 1965 and 1976, peaking at number 3 in 1972 (by which time the BBC ban had been lifted).

The Rolling Stones early hit, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, is taken off of many radio station’s play lists, after they receive complaints about the “sexually suggestive lyrics”.

Former New Christie Minstrel, Barry McGuire has his first solo hit “Eve of Destruction” taken off of retail store shelves and many radio stations play lists, because of its “end of the world” theme.

Jimi Hendrix‘s single “How Would You Feel” is given little airplay on radio because of the song deals with the plight of blacks in America.

After Frank Zappa refuses to change it, MGM Records electronically alters the recording of his song, “Money”, because it contains a sexual reference.

The BBC refused to play The Who’s “My Generation”, saying they did not want to offend people who stuttered. When the song became a huge hit, the broadcaster relented and added it to their play list.


Some retailers refused to stock The Mamas and Papas album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” because photo on the front cover showed the group laying together in a bath tub with a toilet in the corner. The picture was quickly altered to include a printed banner covering the toilet which says “Includes California Dreaming”.

Singer P.J. Proby has his scheduled appearance on ABC’s dance show, “Shindig” cancelled after he split his pants during a London England concert. It seems he had used the “pants splitting routine” to gain attention once to often.

Sixties doo-wop group, The Swinging Medallions are forced to re-record a cleaned up version of a song that would prove to be their only hit record, “Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love”, after many radio stations refuse to play the original. The live recording of the second edition became a rock and roll classic.

The first of many controversies that John Lennon would be involved in started in March of 1966, when he told a reporter that “the way (some fans) carry on, it’s like we’re more popular than Jesus Christ”. Thousands of Beatle records are smashed and burned at rallies across America and some radio stations refuse to play their music. Lennon would later apologise, claiming that he was mis-quoted.

Van Morrison‘s group, “Them” had their song “Gloria” banned by Chicago radio station WLS for objectionable lyrics. The song was covered by Chicago’s “The Shadows Of Knight”, who took the song into the national Top Ten after changing the words slightly, from “she comes to my room, just about midnight” to “she comes around here, just about midnight.”

When calls for censorship of Lou Christie‘s “Rhapsody in the Rain,” started, the singer agreed to change the lyrics and the song went on to be another in a long series of hits for him.

A recording engineer named Jerry Samuels, who billed himself as Napoleon XIV, hit the top of the Billboard chart with a novelty song called “They’re Coming to Take me Away, Ha-Haaa!” The song was banned by many US radio stations because it seemed to make fun of the insane.

The Byrds “Eight Miles High” was banned by many US radio stations because programers thought the word “high” was a drug reference. The band claimed it was inspired by an airplane flight where singer Gene Clark asked guitarist Roger McGuinn how high up they were. McGuinn told him 6 miles. Clark later said that when he wrote the song, he changed the 6 to 8 because the Beatles had “Eight Days A Week” on the charts.


The BBC bans the Beatles‘ “A Day In The Life” from its airwaves, claiming it contained explicit drug references.

Because of its vague reference to masturbation, many radio stations ban The Who‘s single “Pictures of Lily”.

The Rolling Stones appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show was in jeopardy until Mick Jaggar promised to change the words of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to “Let’s spend some time together.” When the line came up during the performance, Mick mumbled the words.

Sonny & Cher are barred from Pasadena, California’s Tournament of Roses Parade for supporting some Sunset Strip rioters.

Radio programmers refuse to air Van Morrison‘s “Brown Eyed Girl” because the lyrics refer to premarital sex and teenage pregnancy. Morrison records an alternative version with more acceptable lyrics and the song becomes his first solo hit in the U.S.

When The Doors’ are booked to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, producers insist that Jim Morrison change the lyrics to “Light My Fire”. Morrison agreed to alter the lyric “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” but during the live performance, Morrison sings the original lyric.

Sponsors go into an uproar and threaten to pull support after a television program shows interracial “touching.” During the taping of a duet between Petula Clark and Harry Belafonte, Clark lays her hand on Belafonte’s arm (Clark is white and Belafonte is black).

“Society’s Child” by Janis Ian is banned by some US radio stations because the lyrics refered to interracial dating. Many other stations felt differently and the song rose to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.


An El Paso, Texas radio station deletes all records by Bob Dylan from its play list, because it is too difficult to understand the lyrics. They do however continue to play other artists covering Dylan’s material.

Chicago mayor Richard Daley ordered local radio stations to not play the Rolling Stones’ single “Street Fighting Man” during the National Democratic Convention in anticipation of the rioting that did occur during the convention. The ban gave the song huge publicity, air play and sales.

In November, the UK book and record chain W.H. Smiths refused to display The Jimi Hendrix Experience album “Electric Ladyland” due to the naked girls featured on the sleeve. The album was later made available as two albums with changed artwork.


The Doors Jim Morrison is arrested for indecent exposure after he asks the audience, “Do you wanna see my cock?” and gives them the full Monty, during a Miami concert.

30,000 copies of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s album, “Two Virgins” are seized by Newark police when the records arrive at the airport. The vice squad shuts down a retailer carrying the album, which shows the couple naked on the cover.

Detroit’s MC5 are forced to replace a live version the song, “Kick Out the Jams” from the album of the same name because it contains explicit lyrics (the song’s introduction contained the phrase “Kick out the jams, motherf*ckers!”).

Concern over political and drug references in songs by the Jefferson Airplane cause their record label to delay release of their Volunteers album. The band solves the dilemma by leaving the record label and forming their own.

Despite its status as the number one selling single in the country, many U.S. radio stations refuse to play “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, because the song’s lyrics contain references to Christ and the Crucifixion. (“Christ, you know it ain’t easy”)

Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ric Grech and Ginger Baker saw their debut album, “Blind Faith” banned by several retailers because the cover showed a naked 11 year old girl. Atco Records was forced to issue two different covers, although the ‘clean’ version doesn’t sell nearly as well.

A song called “Try It” by The Standells was banned by Texan radio chain mogul Gordon McLendon, a Christian fundamentalist, who considered the song’s lyrics to be obscene. Actually the lyrics by today’s standards were pretty tame. Even though the record was the number one seller in many markets, including Los Angeles, most of the radio stations followed McLendon’s lead and refused to play it. The group even debated the Texan on Art Linkletter’s Let’s Talk TV show, and by most accounts defeated him handily by pointing out his hypocrisy. But it was all to no avail. The song died and so did the group’s popularity and hopes of another hit record.

For a time, “Come Together” by The Beatles was banned by the BBC, as they believed the song’s reference to “shoot[ing] Coca-Cola” could be construed as a cocaine reference.

Fearing more violence following the shooting deaths of students at Kent State University, Ohio Governor James Rhodes orders radio stations to ban the song “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The ban made the record more popular than ever and sales grew stronger. No further violence was reported.

MGM records, under the leadership of President and future lieutenant governor of California, Mike Curb, cancels the recording contracts of 18 of their acts because they believe the performers promote hard drugs in their songs. Among those who were dropped were night club performers Steve and Eydie. Interestingly, they kept Eric Burdon and War, who made drug references in almost all their songs.

Jefferson Airplane is fined $1,000 for onstage profanity in Oklahoma City.

Joe McDonald of “Country Joe and the Fish” is fined $500 for uttering an obscenity during a performance of his song “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag”.

Janis Joplin is convicted of violating local obscenity laws during a performance in Tampa, Florida. She was fined $200.

President Richard Nixon tells radio broadcasters that rock music lyrics should be screened for content. He further suggests that any music containing drug references be banned outright.

Two days after Jimi Hendrix played his feedback filled version of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Atlanta Pop Festival, Georgia Governor Lester Maddox says he will seek legislation to ban all rock festivals in the state.

The BBC refuses to play The Kinks “Lola” because the lyrics contain a reference to “Coca-Cola” and was in violation of their advertising policy. Ray Davies quickly re-recorded the piece to say “cherry cola” and the ban was lifted.

Three Dog Night caused a stir with the original cover of their album “It Ain’t Easy”, which showed all seven members of the band naked, with their private parts covered up. Following issues of the L.P. showed singers Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron and Cory Wells sitting in front of a piano.

When The Funkadelic tried to tour England in support of their album “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” they were turned away from London’s Royal Albert Hall, whose management said “their style of music would not be accepted by patrons…” Promoters then tried to book the band into Strand Lyceum, but were told “We run a concert hall for music and musicians. We don’t run a circus.” Problems for the band began over their musical version of The Lord’s Prayer and rumors that they ended their shows by appearing only in jock straps. Back home in America, “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” peaked at #11 on the R&B album chart and #92 on the Pop album chart.


Frank Zappa’s January concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall is cancelled because of obscene lyrics in the score of “200 Motels”.

Officials in Illinois release a list of popular music that contain drug references. The list includes the popular children’s song “Puff The Magic Dragon” by Peter, Paul and Mary, as well as The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sends all U.S. radio stations a telegram, threatening to revoke their licenses if they play Rock music that glorifies the use of drugs.

New York radio station WNBC banned the song “One Toke Over the Line” by Brewer and Shipley because of its alleged drug references. Other stations around the country follow suit. The composer of the tune, Tom Shipley, responds, “In this electronic age, pulling a record because of its lyrics is like the burning of books in the Thirties.” Brewer & Shipley would also claim that “toke” meant “token”, thus the line about “sittin’ downtown at a railway station…”

In March, many US radio stations and high schools ban “D.O.A.” by the Texas band, Bloodrock. The song told the story of a dying teen involved in car crash (some say a plane crash). Despite a lack of air-play, the single still reached #36 on the Billboard chart.

The cover of Alice Cooper’s album “Love It To Death”, which showed a picture of the group with a stray thumb that some thought resembled a penis, is recalled and the offending digit is air brushed away.

Songwriter Rupert Holmes set out to write a song that would get banned from radio airplay and thus gain attention for a group he wanted to promote, The Buoys. The result was “Timothy”, a tune about three boys trapped in a mine, one of whom was cannibalized. The song received limited airplay until program directors started listening to the lyrics. Some removed it from their playlists, while others added it. As the record started to gain notoriety, it shot up the Billboard Hot 100 and reached #17. Holmes plan had worked to perfection.


Radio stations across the country ban John Denver‘s hit song “Rocky Mountain High,” fearing that the song’s “high” refers to drugs.

In early February, Chuck Berry achieved his first UK #1 single with a live recording of “My Ding-a-Ling”, a song that morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse had unsuccessfully attempted to have banned.

On February 19th, Paul McCartney releases “Give Ireland Back to the Irish,” his commentary about the Britain-Ireland conflict. The song is immediately banned by the BBC, but the notoriety the song receives from the banning only increases its popularity in England, and it soars into the Top Twenty.

In mid-April, one of John Lennon’s most controversial singles, “Woman Is the Nigger Of The World” is released. The song actually reaches #57 on Billboard’s Hot 100, despite virtually every radio station in the country refusing to play it.

In November, Paul McCartney’s Wings release “Hi, Hi, Hi” which is banned from the BBC because of its “unsuitable lyrics.” The song still managed to be a hit, reaching #5 in the UK and #10 in the US early the next year.


While Curtis Mayfield is lip-synching a performance of his hit “Pusherman” for television’s Soul Train, he learns that the show’s producers have edited the song to delete drug references.

The Rolling Stones single “Star Star”, from the “Goat’s Head Soup” album, was banned from airplay on England’s BBC because it contained the word “Star-fucker” in the chorus. It’s not just sung once, but the word is repeated a dozen times.

In March, the BBC banned all teenybopper acts appearing on the UK TV show, Top Of The Pops, after a riot following a David Cassidy performance.


Three Dog Night tried pushing the envelope again with the cover of their L.P. “Hard Labor”, which showed a female creature giving birth to a record album. To keep retailers happy, the center of the picture was later covered by a large file folder.


Loretta Lynn’s country song, “The Pill” is banned by radio stations across the United States because of its references to birth control.

Reverend Charles Boykin of Tallahassee, Florida, conducts his own survey of 1,000 unwed mothers and determines that 984 became pregnant while listening to rock music. The rest apparently were having sex.

A song called “Cortez the Killer” by Neil Young and Crazy Horse is banned in Spain. The tune is about Hern‡n Cortez, the Spanish conqueror of the Aztec Empire who is regarded as a hero in Spain.


Rod Stewart‘s hit “Tonight’s The Night” is removed from RKO radio play lists until the lyric “spread your wings and let me come inside” is edited from the song.

Following a series of arrests and incidents in the U.K., the Sex Pistols have trouble obtaining work permits to tour in the United States, because officials thought the band’s music lacked artistic value. The group was eventually allowed to briefly tour the U.S.


According to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, disco music promotes promiscuity and drug use and he calls for its removal from U.S. radio stations. This is the same Jesse Jackson who admitted in January, 2001 that he fathered a child out of wedlock, behind the back of his wife of 38 years and their five children.

Jefferson Starship was prevented from staging a free concert in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, because of a city by-law against the use of electronic instruments. The ban was lifted two years later.

Two weeks after signing the Sex Pistols, Virgin Records releases “God Save the Queen” to coincide with Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee celebration in June. The tune is banned from British airplay because of its “treasonous sentiments.” Nonetheless, it becomes Number One in the U.K., listed in some reports with a blank line where the title should be.

Lou Reed was banned from appearing at The London Palladium because of his punk image.


The staff at England’s EMI record pressing plant refused to press copies of The Buzzcocks forthcoming release “What Do I Get” because of the title of the B-side track, “Oh Shit”.


The New Wave band, Blondie was forced to replace some of the words to their number one hit “Heart Of Glass” to gain air-play on US Top 40 radio. The words “Once I had a love and it was a gas / Soon found out, I had a heart of glass” were inserted over top of the original words “Once I had a love and it was a gas / Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass” .


A group of Des Moines, Iowa teenagers are lead by Minister Art Diaz in a record burning rally at the First Assembly Church of God. The burnt offerings included albums by the Beatles, Ravi Shankar, Peter Frampton, and even the soundtrack to the movie Grease. A few months later in Keoku, Iowa, a similar burning takes place when a church group burns the work of The Carpenters, John Denver, and Perry Como.

Pink Floyd’s hit single “Another Brick In The Wall (Part II)”, with its chorus of kids chanting “We Don’t Need No Education”. is banned by the South African government. Black children, upset about inferior education, adopt the song as their anthem. The government says the song is “prejudicial to the safety of the state.”


Olivia Newton John‘s hit “Physical” is banned from radio stations in Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah because its sexual innuendoes were found unsuitable for their Mormon audiences.


A Baptist youth minister from Emporia, Virginia, named Roger Wilcher, petitions city council to remove MTV from the local cable system.


Bruce Springsteen’s monster hit album, “Born In The U.S.A.” comes under fire from critics, after some say that the cover depicts “the Boss” urinating on Old Glory.

BBC Radio 1 announced a ban on “Relax”, by Frankie Goes To Hollywood after DJ Mike Read called it ‘obscene’, a BBC-TV ban also followed. The song went on become a #1 and spent a total of 48 weeks on the UK chart.


The most prominent group in the history of music censorship, the PMRC (Parents Music Resource Center), was formed in Washington, DC by Tipper Gore (wife of then-senator Al Gore) and Susan Baker. The PRMC’s primary focus was getting record companies to monitor and rate their artists’ releases with a system similar to the MPAA system for movies. Their efforts sparked a renewed interest by a variety of groups to censor music and lyrics that lasted for more than five years.

On March 26th, radio stations in South Africa banned all of Stevie Wonder’s records after he dedicated the Oscar he had won the night before at The Academy Awards to Nelson Mandela.

An ultra-conservative group lead by the since disgraced Reverend Jimmy Swaggert, persuades Wal-Mart to discontinue selling rock and roll magazines such as Rolling Stone, Hard Rock, Spin, and Tiger Beat.

A Mormon bishop and apartment complex owner, Leo Weidner, bans MTV from his tenant’s apartments in Provo, Utah. Although he later admits that he has never seen a music video, Weidner claimed that they are “pornographic” and says they are harmful to his tenants.

Record company presidents and CEOs are contacted by The PMRC, requesting a rating system for music lyrics and imagery. The letter specifically targets music by AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Cyndi Lauper, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Madonna, Mary Jane Girls, Mercyful Fate, Motley Crüe, Prince, Sheena Easton, Twisted Sister, Vanity, Venom, and W.A.S.P.


Frank Zappa‘s album, “Jazz from Hell” has an “explicit lyrics” warning sticker put on it by Meyer Music Markets, even though the album is entirely instrumental.


In Callaway, Florida, a record clerk is arrested for selling a copy of 2 Live Crew’s album, “2 Live Is What We Are” to a fourteen year old boy.

George Michael‘s single “I Want Your Sex” is removed from the play lists of radio stations in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Denver, and New York, because of its explicit sexual content. It is also banned in Britain by the BBC.

Heavy metal icon Ozzy Ozbourne is unsuccessfully sued by the parents of a 19 year old boy who claimed their son committed suicide after listening to Ozbourne’s song “Suicide Solution”.

The Beastie Boys become the first act censored on American Bandstand.

Jello Biafra, leader of the punk group ‘the Dead Kennedys’ is acquitted of distributing pornography. The case involved the artwork by H.R. Giger, featured on the band’s “Frankenchrist” album. Biafra was prosecuted after an attorney’s daughter bought a copy of the record for her brother as a Christmas present. Copies of the album were seized and destroyed.

An Alternative Rock band from Scotland called Jesus and Mary Chain are banned by CBS executives from appearing on the US version of Top Of The Pops for refusing to be billed as JAMC.


Prince’s album, “Love Sexy” is removed from store shelves because the record’s cover contains a nude, yet unrevealing, photograph of Prince.

In July, MTV bans Neil Young’s video “This Note Is For You”, which parodied corporate rock by showing a Michael Jackson look-alike whose hair catches fire. The ban would soon be lifted and the video was put into heavy rotation, resulting in it eventually winning the MTV Video Music Award for Best Video of the Year in 1989.


Religious groups are offended by the new Pepsi commercial set to Madonna’s song “Like A Prayer”. The ad campaign is quickly dropped.

Los Angeles radio station KDAY in Los Angeles, pulls “Truly Yours” by Kool G. Rap and D.J. Polo, from rotation after protests from the gay community.

In New Iberia, Louisiana, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance saying that records falling under the state’s definition of obscenity be removed from the view of unmarried people under the age of 17. Violation carries a penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

After the singer/songwriter formerly known as Cat Stevens endorses an Iranian death threat on writer Salman Rushdie, many radio station remove his songs from their playlists. KFI talk host Tom Leykis holds a Cat Stevens record smashing party.

Also that year, Missouri adopts legislature prohibiting the sale of records with questionable content that do not have parental warning labels and the lyrics printed on the album cover. Similar legislation is considered in Maryland, Delaware, Florida and Kansas.


Twenty-one U.S. states introduce bills that prohibit the sale of records containing “lyrics that are violent, sexually explicit or perverse”.

Four hundred Trans World retail stores announce that they will require proof of age before selling records with warning stickers, to minors. Disc Jockey, another record store chain says that it simply will not carry any record that has the warning sticker.

A Tennessee judge rules that 2 Live Crew’s “Nasty As They Wanna Be” and N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” are obscene under state law. Conviction for selling these records could bring fines from $10,000 to $100,000, depending upon the involvement of minors in the offence.

A Nebraska radio station starts a boycott of k.d. lang records because of her anti-meat beliefs. Their action is largely symbolic, since the station rarely if ever played the Canadian singer’s records.

In one of the most famous cases of music censorship, police in Dade County, Florida set up a sting to arrest three retailers selling copies of a record by 2 Live Crew to children under the age of 18. Objections to 2 Live Crew started with the break-thru of their hit “Me So Horny”. Similar prosecutions regarding 2 Live Crew record sales happen in Alabama and Tennessee. No prosecutions result in standing convictions. Members of 2 Live Crew were also prosecuted for performing the material live in concert.

Members of the rap group N.W.A. receive a letter from the F.B.I. saying the agency did not appreciate the song “F*ck The Police”. Law enforcement groups all over the country agree.

A Florida grand jury determines that four rap albums (including “Freedom of Speech” by Ice-T) are legally obscene. Area retailers quickly pull the records from the shelves to avoid prosecution.

Metal band Judas Priest is sued by the family of two young men. The families contend that “hidden” messages in the band’s “Stained Class” record prompted them to beat and choke one of their mothers, walk around town exposing themselves, and steal money.

Representatives of the Italian Catholic Church announce they’ll attempt to put a stop to Madonna’s concerts in Rome because of her alleged inappropriate use of crucifixes and sacred symbols. The group was successful in halting the shows.


House Speaker Newt Gingrich tells Broadcasting and Cable magazine that he strongly encourages advertisers to pull all advertisements on radio stations that broadcast rap music.


Police in Jacksonville, Florida, arrest singer Marilyn Manson for violating the “Adult Entertainment Code.” Police believed that Manson was inserting a dildo into his anus while urinating on the audience.

The Smashing Pumpkins were banned from appearing on BBC TV’s Top Of The Pops because of the lyrics of their current hit single “Disarm”.


Michael Jackson changes the lyrics to his song “They Don’t Care About Us”, following protests that the record is anti-Semitic.


Sheryl Crow’s self-titled second album is dropped from Wal-Mart shelves because one of the songs contains an unflattering comment about the giant retailer’s gun sales policy.


Florida legislator John Grant pushes through an initiative to withhold $104,000 in Florida Department of Education funding for public radio station WMNF. Grant’s objection to the station noted that the station frequently aired programming he felt was inappropriate for a publicly supported station. Objectionable material included on-air praise for Kurt Cobain, and heavy air play of a social-protest song “Wasteland” by singer Iris DeMent (containing the lyric “We got CEOs makin’ 200 times the workers’ pay, but they’ll fight like hell against raisin’ the minimum wage”).

Because he was wearing a Marilyn Manson tee shirt, 18-year-old John Schroder is arrested in a New Braunfels, Texas, grocery store and charged with making an obscene display.

Oklahoma City Council is urged by group calling themselves the “Oklahomans for Children and Families”, to cancel a lease with a concert promoter who is planning a Marilyn Manson concert at the State Fairgrounds.

In Oxford, Mississippi, the three owners of Lyric Hall are arrested and sentenced to six months in jail for booking a performance by 2 Live Crew.

A band called “The Crucifucks” and their label, Alternative Tentacles, are sued by the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, for featuring a photo of a dead policeman on the cover of the band’s album, “Our Will Be Done”.

A Marilyn Manson concert is cancelled by city officials in Richmond, Virginia, because they feel the his songs promote rape, murder, and self-mutilation.

“The Great Milenko” by Insane Clown Posse, is removed from store shelves because of the album’s lyrical content, just hours after it was issued. The group is quickly released from their recording contract and the band’s label, Hollywood Records, is dumped by their parent company, Disney, even though company officials had known of the album’s content for nearly a year.

Texas lawmakers pass a law prohibiting state-employee pension funds from investing any money in record companies whose music “explicitly describes, glamorizes or advocates” violence, bestiality, gang activity or the denigration of females. The Employees Retirement System of Texas currently has $7.2 million (of its $15.2 billion portfolio) invested in Seagram, the owner of Universal Music Group, home of Interscope Records.)

Officials at Giant Stadium in New Jersey refuse to host the Ozzfest, because one of the performing acts was the controversial band Marilyn Manson. The courts disagree, saying the public facility had to be available on a “content neutral” basis.

Techno band Prodigy found their new single, “Smack My Bitch Up” resulted in their album being pulled from K-Mart and Wal-Mart store shelves. The album had been out for almost six months before the single was released. Chain stores that banned the record had themselves sold more than 150,000 copies of the record without receiving a single customer complaint.


Eric Van Hoven, an 18-year-old from Zeeland High School in Holland, Michigan, is suspended for wearing a tee shirt promoting the band Korn, even though the shirt contains no images or words except the band’s name.

At a conference sponsored by Crime Prevention Resource Center in Fort Worth, Texas, representatives of several local police departments advocate the forced hospitalization of Marilyn Manson fans, and recommend the classification of “Goth rock” fans as street gangs.

At Fort Zumwalt North High School in St. Louis, the school band is forbidden from playing the Jefferson Airplane hit “White Rabbit” because of drug references in the song’s lyrics, even though the band’s version of the song is entirely instrumental.


The school library at Kettle Moraine High School in Wales, Wisconsin, requires all students to show ID in order to view Rolling Stone magazine. Even though a child of any age could purchase it at local stores, the school board decides that students must be 18 years of age to view the magazine’s contents.

A Portsmouth, New Hampshire school superintendent, forbids students from wearing Marilyn Manson tee shirts or any other “Goth” attire.

Ministry’s “Dark Side of the Spoon”, is removed from K-Mart shelves because of objections to the album’s cover, which shows an nude, overweight woman, wearing a dunce hat and facing a chalkboard.

Musical artists who support a new trial for death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal are targeted by the national Fraternal Order of Police in a mass boycott. Rage Against The Machine and the Beastie Boys are specific targets, but the association also planed to keep an updated list on its website.

The song, “Slow Motion” by Third Eye Blind, was removed from the band’s second album, “Blue”. The group agreed to the removal song, which contained multiple references to violence, drugs and youth murders similar to the Columbine shootings earlier in the year.

Eminem’s song “My Name Is” was dropped by The National Football League for a series of four commercials because they felt the song was too controversial, even though the made for TV versions contained none of the original lyrics.


14-year-old Daniel Shellhammer is ordered by police officers in Northwood, Ohio, to remove his shirt, which features slogans for the rap group Insane Clown Posse. The officers inform Shellhammer that Insane Clown Posse clothing is “banned” in Ohio and that they will rip the shirt off his back and arrest him if he does not comply.

A roller skating rink in New Iberia, Louisiana, is closed down by police, and more than 60 CDs are seized, after a fight broke out in the rink’s parking lot. Police said the rink’s management sparked the incident by playing music over the rink’s PA system. Among the confiscated CDs are “The Chicken Dance”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”, “The Hokey Pokey”, and “Jingle Bells”.

Four students at a private school in San Antonio, Texas, are suspended for one day, for attending a Backstreet Boys concert. The students were said to be violating a school policy forbidding “involvement in inappropriate music [or] dancing.”

Bruce Springsteen is placed on the boycott list of The New York Fraternal Order of Police. They called for the cancellation of his New York performances, after The Boss sang a song about the shooting of Amadou Diallo called, “American Skin”.

Police intervened in the middle the “Up In Smoke Tour” (staring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, and Eminem) because during the concert, a video is shown that featured a robbery and partially-naked women.

The U.S. Senate heard arguments by The Federal Trade Commission that maintained that the entertainment industry (including record companies) should be regulated and sanctioned for deliberately marketing violent and sexual content to children.


The Catholic Charismatic Renewal Group in Scotland ran a petition in an attempt to pressure the promoters of the Glasgow Green festival, into banning Eminem and Marilyn Manson, claiming that “the violent lyrics of Eminem and the disgusting stage show of Marilyn Manson” are “totally unacceptable.”

Clear Channel Communications, the largest owner of radio stations in the United States, compiled an advisory list of songs which stations might wish to avoid playing in the short term following the terrorist attacks on The World Trade Center and The Pentagon.
That list includes such classic rock standards as:

Steve Miller “Jet Airliner”
Van Halen “Jump”
Queen “Another One Bites the Dust”
Queen “Killer Queen”
Pat Benatar “Hit Me with Your Best Shot”
Kansas “Dust in the Wind”
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
The Beatles “A Day in the Life”
The Beatles “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
The Beatles “Ticket To Ride”
The Beatles “Obla Di, Obla Da”
Bob Dylan “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
Arthur Brown “Fire”
Paul McCartney and Wings “Live and Let Die”
Billy Joel “Only the Good Die Young”
Barry McGuire “Eve of Destruction”
Steam “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey”
Drifters “On Broadway”
Shelly Fabares “Johnny Angel”
Los Bravos “Black is Black”
Peter and Gordon “I Go To Pieces”
Peter and Gordon “A World Without Love”
Elvis “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise”
Zombies “She’s Not There”
Elton John “Benny & The Jets”
Elton John “Daniel”
Elton John “Rocket Man”
Jerry Lee Lewis “Great Balls of Fire”
Santana “Evil Ways”
Louis Armstrong “What A Wonderful World”
Youngbloods “Get Together”
Ad Libs “The Boy from New York City”
Peter Paul and Mary “Blowin’ in the Wind”
Peter Paul and Mary “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”
Rolling Stones “Ruby Tuesday”
Simon And Garfunkel “Bridge Over Troubled Water”
Happenings “See You in September”
Carole King “I Feel the Earth Move”
Yager and Evans “In the Year 2525”
Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky”
Brooklyn Bridgevv “Worst That Could Happen”
Three Degrees “When Will I See You Again”
Cat Stevens “Peace Train”
Cat Stevens “Morning Has Broken”
Jan and Dean “Dead Man’s Curve”
Martha & the Vandellas “Nowhere to Run”
Martha and the Vandellas/Van Halen “Dancing in the Streets”
Hollies “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
San Cooke / Herman Hermits, “Wonderful World”
Petula Clark “A Sign of the Times”
Don McLean “American Pie”
J. Frank Wilson “Last Kiss”
Buddy Holly and the Crickets “That’ll Be the Day”
John Lennon “Imagine”
Bobby Darin “Mack the Knife”
Surfaris “Wipeout”
Blood Sweat and Tears “And When I Die”
Dave Clark Five “Bits and Pieces”
Tramps “Disco Inferno”
Paper Lace “The Night Chicago Died”
Frank Sinatra “New York, New York”
Creedence Clearwater Revival “Travelin’ Band”
Neil Diamond “America”
Tom Petty “Free Fallin'”
Bruce Springsteen “I’m On Fire”
Bruce Springsteen “Goin’ Down”
Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”
Chi-Lites “Have You Seen Her”
Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”
Fontella Bass “Rescue Me”
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels “Devil with the Blue Dress”
James Taylor “Fire and Rain”
Edwin Starr “War”
Lynyrd Skynyrd “Tuesday’s Gone”


A song about money and its corrupting effects on rock music called “The Last DJ” by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers kicked up considerable controversy, with some U.S. radio stations seeing the song as a slap in the face and banning it from air play.


In November, a New Jersey classic rock station removed all Jethro Tull songs from their playlist after Tull frontman Ian Anderson made some comments regarding the American flag in the Asbury Park Press. In the article, Anderson said, “I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It’s easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism. Flag waving ain’t gonna do it.” The station’s program director said that the decision was brought on by their listeners, who voted “99 percent in favour of the ban.”

Many radio stations across North America, including Florida’s WKZY as well as Toronto’s CHFI and CHUM, pulled Michael Jackson’s songs from their play list after the singer was arrested on suspicion of child molestation. Television network CBS announced that they were postponing a Jackson music special that was set to air.


In May, coffee shop chain Starbucks, which stocked CDs at its branches in the US, banned the sale of Bruce Springsteen’s latest album “Devils and Dust” over concerns about its adult content.


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