Some people deliberately set out to shock but sometimes radio stations can be way to jittery! There’s plenty of music that’s memorable for not being played at all.
Hip-hop and rock artists are usual victims of music censorship when certain words are bleeped or blanked out so as not to offend anyone. Basically any album that has an advisory or warning sticker on the outside will be edited in some way to receive any airplay. But as you can see, radio censorship is not a new occurrence…
Incredibly enough, the banning of particular records on the radio was happening from the very early days of the medium too. Some of the early banned material was quite amusing though, such as George Formby’s single “When I’m Cleaning Windows”. The lyrics in part of the song were thought to be smutty, but you’d see birthday cards today that are smuttier than the song was back then.
The blushing bride she looks divine
The bridegroom he is doing fine
I’d rather have his job than mine
When I’m cleaning windows
The release of the Sex Pistols “God Save The Queen” coincided with her majesty’s Silver Jubilee. Its lyrics and cover artwork were highly controversial at the time, leading both the BBC and Independent Broadcasting Authority to ban the song from their airwaves.
God save the queen!
The fascist regime
Nevertheless the track reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart. There’s also been widespread accusations that the singles chart was fixed to prevent the song from reaching #1.
“Relax” was released by Frankie Goes to Hollywood back in 1983. It didn’t do that well initially but once the band had appeared on the British TV program Top of the Pops and it was banned from the BBC, the record enjoyed a huge surge in popularity. Such is the nature of controversy. The record is played now from time to time without anyone batting an eyelid.
Relax don’t do it
When you want to come
Rage Against the Machine are routinely banned or censored for their leftist politics and anti-authoritarian lyrics. The even moreso controversial 2001 Clear Channel memorandum indicated “all songs” by RATM to be “lyrically questionable”, suggesting that its more than 1,200 might now want to play in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. RATM’s most infamous and most popular song “Killing in the Name” ends with an intensifying refrain that’s repeated 17 times of:
F*ck you, I won’t do what you tell me!
In December 2009, a Facebook group was launched encouraging people to buy the single in order to prevent The X Factor winner from achieving the Christmas #1 on the U.K. Singles Chart for the fifth straight year. In a “wonderful dose of anarchy”, the campaign struck a chord with the public, and “Killing in the Name” gained the number one spot selling more than 500,000 copies. The proceeds were donated to charity and the band traveled to London in June 2010 and played a free thank-you gig for 40,000 fans.
Nowadays, artists know they hav to contend with censorship on the radio. Most even record or release a ‘radio edit’ of their songs in anticipation. But that just means that artists are becoming a little bit savvier in trying to get around it….
Take the Britney Spears track “If You Seek Amy”. Now say the title 3 times fast – does it resemble an “F-U-C-K Me”? The chorus’ double entendre made some U.S. radio stations uneasy and renamed it as “If You See Amy”, while some other countries didn’t spot the potential faux pas at all!
Love me, hate me, say what you want about me
But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy
Other recent tracks to be censored include Cee-Lo’s “F*ck You”, which was renamed on radio as “Forget You”, and The Black Eyed Peas “Let’s Get Retarded” to “Let’s Get It Started”.
Other songs have been renamed – even when there were no cuss words involved at all! The Black Eyed Peas single “Don’t Phunk with My Heart” was reedited “Don’t Mess with My Heart”, just in case sensitive listeners misheard the lyrics and took offense.
Different radio stations in different parts of the country, and even may be deemed unplayable in one county or country could be fine to play in another. In Malaysia, the word “cigarette” is banned from Lady Gaga’s song “Alejandro”. Excessive or appropriate?