Thursday, July 21, 2011

Those Darn Kids and Their Music

Banned Songs: Part 1
So how about a three-part segment of songs that were either banned or edited for the radio due to questionable lyrics?!
For anyone that knows a little about The Beatles, they probably can guess a few of their tunes were banned including "A Day in the Life" (for lyrics about a graphic car accident) and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (which was thought to be a drug reference, however, it was based upon drawing by John Lennon's son). "I Am the Walrus" was another of those banned songs, although it's quite clear what substance contributed to some of these lyrics. Released in November 1967 as the B-side to "Hello, Goodbye," Lennon composed this psychedelic rock song by combining three songs he had been working on. He also added a verse of nonsensical words when he had a learned that a teacher at his old primary school was having students analyze his lyrics. The walrus is a reference to Lewis Carroll's "Walrus and the Carpenter" (from the sequel to Alice In Wonderland), however, Lennon was 'bummed' when he later learned that the walrus was the 'bad guy.' From their 1967 TV film Magical Mystery Tour, here's a Beatles tune banned by the BCC for a couple of inappropriate lines.

And here's Peter, Paul, and Mary, the beloved folk group just discussed a few posts ago. Although they were often politically outspoken in their lyrics, their only song to actually be banned was "Puff, the Magic Dragon," a simple song about the loss of childhood innocence. Based upon a 1959 poem written by 19-year-old Cornell student Leonard Lipton, an acquaintance of Peter Yarrow (of the trio), Lipton was given half of the songwriting credits along with Yarrow after the song's release in 1963. Throughout the sixties, there was lots of speculation about the lyrics referring drugs leading to its ban in several countries, but the authors consistently deny this rumor. Since, this song is considered a popular children's classic, and has become a part of American and British pop culture.

From Portland, Oregon, The Kingsmen were a garage rock band best known for their 1963 recording of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie." It held the #2 spot on the Billboard chart for six weeks and is still well-known today. However, because of lead singer/rhythm guitarist Jack Ely's indistinguishable enunciation of the lyrics (try saying that ten times fast!), the song became immediately controversial, with millions of teenagers and their parents thinking it was "dirty." As a result, the governor of Illinois banned it, and the FBI even got involved investigating the lyrics, but found nothing. The words are, in fact, innocent, which you can actually hear a bit clearer in this video footage from Shindig! compared to the garbled vocals on the original recording.

Finally, we all know that The Rolling Stones were the 'bad boys' of the British Invasion as their music was often quite suggestive. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, "Let's Spend the Night Together" was released as a double A-sided single with "Ruby Tuesday" in January 1967, and was definitely controversial at the time. On the Ed Sullivan Show, the band was initially not allowed to perform this song, but a compromise was met by changing the lyrics to "let's spend some time together." However, during the live performance, Jagger clearly rolled his eyes at the TV camera every time he sang that line (seen in this footage below). This, combined with their antics backstage (something about wearing Nazi uniforms), Ed Sullivan announced the band was banned for performing on the show again.

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