Top 10 Banned Songs

When broadcasters care too much about you.

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Top 10 Banned Songs

Sometimes, broadcasters try too hard to protect your delicate ears from any hint of profanity or obscenity. Here are top 10 songs that were banned at some point.

10. The Kinks - Lola

The BBC censored Ray Davies' ode to a sweet transvestite, but not for the reason you'd think. The broadcasters were fine with the title character who "walked like a woman and talked like a man," but not as happy with the reference to Coca-Cola. At the time, the BBC had a policy against airing material with product placement. Paul Simon would later run afoul of the censors with 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' (it mentions Newsweek) and 'Kodachrome' (for obvious reasons). In order to circumvent the ban, Davies had to fly all the way back to London from New York - where the Kinks were touring - to overdub "it tastes just like cherry cola." The song was then cleared for airplay and became a No. 2 hit in the U.K.

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9. M.I.A. - Paper Planes

Just to prove that song banning wasn't only in force during the '60s, here's a modern example of a song that fell foul of the censors. There are a few reasons why the song might have caused controversy - the chorus sounds suspiciously like "Rump Shaker" by Wreckx-n-Effect, on top of a sample from The Clash's "Straight to Hell." So, it wasn't entirely original, or credited but it was the lyrical content that caused controversy, with the song being banned in Sri Lanka for appearing to support the Tamil cause, against the Sinhalese. American-Sinhalese rapper DeLon said she was "supporting terrorism" by using the symbol of the Tamil Tigers and the song was censored on MTV. An admirable political stance and the the publicity didn't damage M.I.A.'s sales at all.

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8. Ray Peterson - Tell Laura I Love Her

From the sexy to the dreary, this was the tale of wimpy Laura and her speed-demon boyfriend Tommy who dies in a firey crash while trying to win the money for an engagement ring. Remarkable for featuring a man able to sing an entire chorus in his "dying breath", the record didn't win over the executives at Decca who decided it was "tasteless and vulgar" and ordered the destruction of the 20,000 copies already pressed. A rival label rushed out a cover version and it went to number 1 for 3 weeks. Bet they regretted that! (Executives at Decca were later to reject the Beatles as well - their decision making skills probably needed a review). It also sparked a host of other teen morbidity songs, including "Teen Angel" and "Leader of the Pack".

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7. The Who - My Generation

The 1960s were the golden age of banning songs - music was becoming ever more controversial and at the same time, broadcasters were run by people born in the 1920s, with 1950s morals. It was a clash that was bound to end in heavy censorship, especially in Britain where the ex-public schoolboys that ran the BBC cringed at the very mention of rebellion.

And along came The Who, who were exactly the kind of band engineered to upset those BBC types. With Keith Moon drumming insanely, and legendary parties that ended up with TVs being thrown out of windows, The Who thrilled teenagers and upset teenagers' parents. So, it didn't take much to get a single banned, and "My Generation" had it all - a rebellious message, some fake swearing and a tic that was bound to offend stammerers. Yes, it was the last bit that got it banned. The line "Won't you all just f-f-f-fade away" was seen to be offensive not because it sounded like he was saying "Won't you all just fuck off?" (a version often shouted by fans), but because stammerers might be upset. That's 1960s BBC logic!

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6. N.W.A - Fuck tha Police

Few bands embraced the fear-mongering media portrayal of hip-hop artists as malicious thugs in the 1980s as effectively as N.W.A. As with Body Count, they provoked the most anger by decrying police brutality in no uncertain terms. The FBI sent a letter of disapproval to the band’s management, while radio stations the world over banned airplay of the song, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The employees of the affiliated Triple J radio station responded by going on strike and playing N.W.A.'s "Express Yourself" on repeat until the ban was lifted.

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5. The Beatles - Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

The song's gist is a father singing about a picture of his son. The issue is that the father is a popular drug user and the picture's initials are that of a psychedelic drug. The title of the song is said to be a smart mnemonic for the drug LSD. This drug reference was the main reason for the ban. The song's lyrical content also has details about the band's experience on drug experimentation.

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4. The Prodigy - Smack My Bitch Up

The title is enough to get it censored. The song implies approval of domestic violence and is overtly offensive to women. The themes of drugs, sex, and violence were also made explicit.

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3. Dire Straits - Money for Nothing 

Talk about delayed reaction. Dire Straits' 1985 mega-hit 'Money for Nothing' wasn't censored until 2011, when the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council deemed it unsuitable for airplay. The reason was frontman Mark Knopfler's use of a gay slur in the second verse. The derisive term violated the council's code of ethics and was forbidden on private Canadian radio stations. Some outlets protested the ban, due to the song's enduring popularity and that the offensive word was not used in a hateful manner. Knopfler wrote the song after overhearing an appliance-store worker's commentary while watching MTV in his shop. 'Money for Nothing' is written from this unenlightened man's perspective. The CBSC altered the decision a few months later, maintaining its stance but allowing stations to use their own discretion.

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2. Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax

Now onto the thorny and very un-British subject of sex. "Relax... when you wanna come" sang the band from Liverpool and earned themselves a ban from the BBC on the basis of obscenity. The DJ Mike Read was the first to notice the sexual imagery on the sleeve and take it off the turntable live on air. The subsequent ban ensured the record shot to number 1 and stayed there for 5 weeks.

The song later featured in the film "Zoolander", where it was used as a trigger to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Now, THAT'S controversial!

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1. Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen

Many bands go extra careful to avoid getting their music dismissed. But Sex Pistols just flaunted a song that's a sure ticket to the banned list. The band swore on live TV and explicitly talked about the fascist regime of the Queen in her Silver Jubilee year.

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33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Ole' Nessie
    No Cop killer? Figured Body Count would be on here for sure. I know that at the time the Album came out I wasn't able to buy a copy with that song on it.
    Beat me to it.  That was my first thought.  It was all over the news at the time, President Bush (41) spoke out against it, etc.
    No explanation for #9 'Paper Planes'..??
    Wasn't Rumble by Link Wray banned at one point for "inciting violent feelings?" Or something along those lines?
    Yeah, rumble was a slang term for a street fight and the distorted guitar sounds were too much for the time
    A bit more songs that were banned/censored: The Doors - Light My Fire The Doors - The End The Beatles - Come Together Van Morrison - Brown Eyed Girl Body Count - Cop Killer The Who - My Generation The Bangles - Walk Like an Egyptian Eminem - The Real Slim Shady Dead Kennedys - Too Drunk To Fuck Fatboy Slim - Fucking in Heaven Nine Inch Nails - The Hand That Feeds
    Hand that feeds? What was the reason for that? "Closer" I can definitely see, even though its a staple of late night radio nowadays.
    You lost one fun (or serious) fact about N.W.A. "Fuck tha police" has been added in the Library of Congress on 31st of March this year.
    Gee Halen
    I remember how feminist (and other) organisations were upset by the Smack my bitch up video back in the day. Obviously they didn't get the joke why the ending felt being a twist.
    Hmm, I thought there'd be some mention of Cannibal Corpse being banned for their violent lyrics. 
    i know that people have been arrested for wearing the 'jesus is a c--t' shirt.
    Some of the reasons for banning these are quite frankly ridiculous
    Different times man. Different times. It's like when you see in museums where they have old signage from bathrooms and bars where it's like 'WHITES ONLY' and stuff like that. It was definitely wrong, but unfortunately, it existed.
    There are far worse things in life to get upset about - than these songs,some of which are meant for nothing other than thought provoke - some just good old rock and roll sleaze 
    ..Or more accurately, Paper Planes was censored because of the gunshot samples. MTV has often censored the word "gun." Unrelated, I've also seen MTV censor the word "G/god."
    Besides banning Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the BBC also banned A Day in the Life for it's reference to "I'd love to turn you on".  The Beatles get bonus points for having 2 songs off the same album banned