We enjoyed doing “Cancel This Film”, so it seemed natural to do the same type of list with songs. There are a lot of songs out there that have offensive content, even beyond the normal swearing. Many (most?) rock songs are about trying to get laid, so depending on the aggressiveness of the lyrics, some of them now run afoul of today’s post #meetoo era sensibilities. The question is, how much do these songs deserved to be censored? Or do we accept that they were written in a different time and don’t deserve a retroactive standard to be applied to them. Anyway, here are our thoughts on songs that may no longer be appropriate for air play.
So on Sirius radio, on the 80s station, they play Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” quite often, yet they have censored the song’s use of the six-letter homophobic “F-word”, which was used intentionally in this 80s song to show the unenlightened view of a couple of fictional blue-collar workers. What I find weird is that they don’t just bleep out the word, they remove entire chunks of the lyrics. I can see bleeping out the word, but I find it going too far to actually cut out song lyrics. Additionally, you have to pay money for Sirius, so why censor at all? It is not subject to the normal FCC broadcast standards. On other Sirius stations, all forms of swearing are allowed as well as the “N word” in rap and hip/hop songs. Doesn’t really make much sense.
- “Seventeen”, Winger (1988) – I guess this is better than the two “16” songs DJ has, but it still has the lyrics “Daddy says she’s too young/But she’s old enough for me”. Blame it on The Beatles, as writer Kim Winger says he was inspired by the lyrics in “I Saw Her Standing There”.
- “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”, Joan Jett – (1980) – Most may not object to this when sung by a female rocker, until you find out it was a cover of a song originally written and recorded by Gary Glitter, a convicted sex offender.
- “El Scorcho”, Weezer (1996) – The first lyric is “Goddamn, you half-Japanese girls/Do it to me every time”. I don’t think we are allowed to be attracted to others based on race/ethnicity anymore.
- Any song, Rage Against The Machine – So this is a reference to the infamous “Do Not Play” list that was distributed by Clear Channel to its radio stations, in the wake of 9/11 – and that was how they listed Rage. Even at the time, I thought this censorship was ridiculous and scary. If you get a chance, check out the list here on Wikipedia, or elsewhere. I can see the logic behind some songs, but much of it is nonsensical – explain to me why John Lennon’s “Imagine” had to be taken off the radio in the wake of the attacks.
- “You Dropped A Bomb On Me”, The Gap Band (1982) – Yes, this made the aforementioned list, even though no bombs were used in the 9/11 attacks. In the post-Patriot Act era, one dared not order a Steak Bomb sub anywhere near an airport, or say “That was the bomb!” in a text message, lest you get on the FBI terrorist list. I’ll probably land on it just for typing out these last two sentences (see the movie Snowden for details on how the government spies on everything we do).
- “Fat Bottomed Girls”, Queen (1978) – Even though writer Brian May was celebrating the more full-figured woman, if released for the first time in today’s world this would be slammed as a “body shaming” song.
- “The Dope Show”, Marilyn Manson (1998) – If Manson wasn’t already getting cancelled due to his abuse allegations, this song’s lyrics would get it kicked off the radio. It features the following lyric: “Cops and queers/make good-looking models”. I don’t think “queer” is yet on the level of the 6-letter “F word”, but I feel like it’s headed that way.
- “Black Betty”, Ram Jam (1977) – I’m surprised the woke crowd hasn’t come for this song yet. Not only did a white rock band appropriate an old African-American folk song, but “Black Betty” was reportedly a term used for a whip in the South.
- “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)”, Aerosmith (1987) – Poking fun at transsexuals was a thing in the 80s (see also the “Oscar Meyer wiener” line in Tone Loc’s “Funky Cold Medina”). But poor taste & public trans-phobia was still around as recently as 2013, when Fox News used this song in an introduction of Chelsea Manning.
- “What It’s Like”, Everlast (1998) – This song won’t be played in Texas, as it features a storyline about a woman named Mary having to get an abortion and getting “static walking through the door”, where “They call her a killer/And they call her a sinner/And they call her a whore”. Its ridiculous that the word “whore” is bleeped out on the radio, along with the word “drugs” and “Chrome 45” in a later verse. The lyrics aren’t glorifying drugs or gun violence, but rather presenting a cautionary tale of a low-level drug dealer engaging in dangerous behavior and ending up getting killed. God forbid a song talks about reality.
DJ: Good list. I love “Black Betty” such a good jam, we once knew a Betty we used this for in some form of demented parody. “El Scorcho” too great hook. The Rage Against the Machine stuff I don’t understand, always a social justice band trying to give a voice to people. I bet if we went through hair bands almost everyone probably has a song about a young girl. Except maybe Stryper.
Just like the movies, I don’t want to cancel art. Music is an expression of an artist and often something they may have lived through. Often like Eminem they use a character to tell a story. I would say most musicians mean no harm and for some older songs, again times were different. One, I might cancel is Hairbands with horns, Ugly Kid Joe or even worse White Trash, that being said I love their song “Apple Pie” which could also be a cancel song. Not as obvious as Cherry Pie, but according to them, the girl tastes like Apple Pie. Take a look:
- “Only Sixteen”, Sam Cooke (1959) – In many places in the 50s you could marry at 16, but that doesn’t translate to the morals of today and most of the laws. It’s a classic Sam Cooke song, and it’s not as blatant as the next “16” song.
- “You’re Sixteen”, Ringo Starr (1973) – Another, “Ew, David” song. I can’t get behind Ringo’s intent here, but the 70s were a different time, and it’s a nice song. Singing it out loud – not recommended.
- “Crazy Bitch”, Buckcherry (2006) – This song has such a great riff. It made it to 59 on the charts, the radio play was a mess though since it had to be radio friendly, and it’s clearly not. It’s pretty hardcore. The original music video was not only R-rated, but supposedly had underage women exposing themselves. The video was definitely cancelled.
- “Leave the Biker”, Fountains of Wayne (1996) – Great track from the underrated Fountains of Wayne. It’s unfortunate that we recently lost the great Adam Schlesinger to Covid-19, he was a great talent and too young. This song uses the homophobic “F” word. But it’s coming from a character’s mouth. So this song gets a pass.
- “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”, Dean Martin and Female Chorus (1959) – “Rape song, Rape song, Rape song!”. It’s not, I get it, and it’s a bit creepy, no doubt. Probably the first instance of a culture going after a song. I see it being more playful and not being serious. It’s a great song as long as you see it as it is and not anything more.
- “A Boy Named Sue”, Johnny Cash (1969) – Don’t mess with genders today. Pronouns are changing. Boys, Girls, and Binary people can be named anything. I heard of a boy with a Kryptonian name, that’s not even a real race of people.
- “Ahab the Arab”, Ray Stevens (1962) – This song blows, novelty or not. I may cancel this one myself. Even how it’s pronounced is racist, need to rhyme Arab with Ahab, I suppose with the emphasis on the “A”? What rhymes with A-hole? If this song was made in 1362 it would be considered wrong. 1962 was a different time, though – right?
- “Oliver’s Army”, Elvis Costello (1979) – Great song by the king of angry rock. I love this song, and it’s off the great Armed Forces album, but unfortunately he uses the “N” word. Now he is British, is that still ok? No, but he says white “N” word, is that ok? Just don’t play it on the radio, too good a song.
- “Kung Fu Fighting”, Carl Douglas (1974) – This song was played at my wedding. I love dancing like I’m some kind of Kung Fu fighting machine. But the lyrics about a “chinaman” in Chinatown is a bit on the racist side today. But 1974 was a different world.
- “Illegal Alien”, Genesis (1983) – Another great novelty song that really doesn’t fit on the album it’s from. I loved it. I also loved the goofy video. They are just having fun. Now, the video and some stereotypes in it are considered offensive. The lads meant well so need to cancel.
MG: If you are a hipster, that Sam Cooke song presents quite the conundrum. I still love “Illegal Alien” but I suppose Phil Collins using a Speedy Gonzalez-style accent in the song could be considered in bad taste now. Then again, are we going to consider any time a singer or actor adopts an accent to play a role to be offensive? People getting worked up about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is another example of the woke Twitter crowd wasting time with false outrage. Maybe do something useful for society like get out and ring the bell for the Salvation Army during the holidays instead of sitting behind a keyboard and trying to get woke cred.