Banned, blamed,hated, & shamed

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Popular music has long been a punching dummy for out-of-touch billygoats looking for answers as to why their kids turn into creeps. Never mind the

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Banned, blamed,hated, & shamed

A guide to five decades of records that have served as musical scapegoats.

  • Banned, blamed,hated, & shamed

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    Popular music has long been a punching dummy for out-of-touch billygoats looking for answers as to why their kids turn into creeps. Never mind the isolation, crippling fears, peer pressure, crossed wires, haywire hormones, sex hang-ups, or the fact that most people are little more than jittery balls of mistakes hoping to make it through the day with all limbs intact. It's like blaming the paint on a runaway train for the damage it causes as it tears through a yellow bus of screaming preschoolers.

    For every loser who loses his or her marbles, there's billions of us who enjoy these so called "causes" of violence without doing so much as popping a zit. Why pick on musicians? Does anyone try to ban the Bible when a religious nut does something violent and wacky? The problem lies within the individuals, not with whatever intellectual ammo to which they are drawn before their acts of miserable insanity.

    Here's a look at some songs and albums that have been banned or blamed for mayhem, global chaos, teenage pregnancy, and so on. And whatever you do: Don't buy these albums! Don't listen to these songs! We don't need any more crazy people in the world.

    Chuck Berry, Everything from "Maybellene" onward (1950s-present)

    Chuck Berry was possibly one of the most banned artists in history—because he was black. He was black, making black music that made white kids want to dance. Rock 'n' roll was born. He even used his success to open up a racially mixed nightspot in St. Louis called Club Bandstand in 1958, prompting local outrage and, eventually, a two-year prison sentence on bullshit charges. Some still claim that society's "breakdown" began here, but not anyone I'd want to hang out at a barbecue with.

    Link Wray, "Rumble," (circa 1955)

    Link Wray, Shitkicker #1 and Father of the Power Chord, did himself proud when "Rumble," an entirely instrumental song, was banned all over America in the late '50s. Apparently "Rumble," by virtue of its title alone, was going to incite teen gang warfare nationwide, and was thus banned by radio in many urban markets. Thanks to the ban, absolutely no violence occurred for the rest of the decade.

    The Kingsmen, "Louie Louie," The Kingsmen in Person (1963)

    "Louie Louie," the biggest hit The Kingsmen ever had, was banned from radio play across America not for what it said but for what it might be saying. The words to "Louie Louie" are beautifully slurred and unintelligible, but that didn't seem to stop anyone from protesting it; by one concerned citizen's logic, "If they can't state the lyrics clearly, they must be hiding something!"

    The Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction," Out of Our Heads (1965)

    The song "Satisfaction" was simultaneously a huge hit and a huge controversy, as 1965 America was not quite ready to hear about insatiable sexual desire. The song was banned as radio stations fell to pressure from church groups that probably didn't listen to FM anyway. Other stones thrown by Jagger and Co. included "Let's Spend the Night Together" (which had to be sung as "Let's Spend Some Time Together" when performed on television) and the demonic suggestiveness of their '67 Sgt. Pepper's retort, Their Satanic Majesties Request.

    The Byrds, "Eight Miles High," Fifth Dimension (1966)

    This single, brought to you by the lunatics who also sang "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!," was banned in the US and the UK because of its possible reference to being very, very high. No one seemed to buy the band's explanation that it was about flying in a plane over the Atlantic Ocean. Yeah, right, and "Mr. Tambourine Man" was about a guy with a tambourine.

    The Beatles, "Helter Skelter," The White Album (1968)

    It was everybody's favorite band (along with the Bible!) that influenced Charlie Manson to develop his nutty cult, the one that hoped to bring an end to America through a falsely started race war. The White Album was also said to have caused a few misfires in the synapses of one Mark David Chapman, eventual assassin of John Lennon, bringing the album's total body count to nine. Helter Skelter indeed!

    Jefferson Airplane, Volunteers (1969)

    Antiwar rhetoric forced Jefferson Airplane to fight tooth and nail with RCA to release this record, causing months of delays. The offenses that had RCA's panties in a bunch? Apparently the original title, Volunteers of America, was too inflammatory for the label. Lyrics like "Get it on together" and "Tear down the walls" were vulgar invitations for global anarchy. I mean, "Get it on"! Now that's some hard-hitting smut!

    Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Ohio," 4 Way Street (1971)

    A song about the Vietnam War-era incident at Kent State University, in which National Guardsmen shot and killed four protesters, "Ohio" was thought too inflammatory to be played on the air. It was banned by radio stations nationwide. Strangely, nobody thought to ask what music the National Guard was listening to before pulling those triggers.

    Judas Priest, Stained Class (1978)

    It was claimed in court that backward masking of phrases like "Let's be dead—try suicide" and "Do it" on this record had caused two teenagers (who had also been drinking beer and smoking pot for the better part of the day) to run out to a playground and shoot themselves. The Priest won the court case in 1990 after it was decided that even if the subliminal message was there, it could not be scientifically linked to the corpses' behavior. No comment was sought from the millions of other people (like your humble author) who own this record and are still alive.

    Ozzy Osborne, "Suicide Solution," Blizzard of Ozz (1981)

    In yet another brilliant case of parents claiming that their years of rearing and guidance were no match for a silly heavy metal record, "Suicide Solution" was the basis for a string of lawsuits against the leather-clad Brit. Ozzy claimed the song was a response to AC/DC frontman Bon Scott's alcohol-related death, and that the "Solution" part of the song title actually meant "solution" as in a "liquid mixture" (in this case booze), not "solution" as in "answer." With this in mind, the lyrics are pretty obviously about drinking. Ozzy won every suit.

    Dead Kennedys, Frankenchrist (1985)

    Jello and his band were dragged into court under the auspices of "distributing harmful material to minors" for including a piece of "pornographic" artwork by H.R. Giger (the guy who designed those cool monsters for Alien) entitled "Penis Landscape." The case soon devolved into a direct attack on the band itself, bringing up the "antisocial" aspects of lyrics opposing corporate imperialism and governmental abuse. The DKs were eventually acquitted on all charges, but not before being forced to spend enough cash on legal fees to bankrupt a small nation.

    Frank Zappa, Jazz from Hell (1986)

    Not exactly banned, Zappa's Jazz from Hell was the proud recipient of the Parental Advisory Warning sticker. No big deal, Zappa always had a blazing case of pottymouth, right? Right, except Jazz from Hell is entirely instrumental. Can you think of a better compliment?

    NWA, "Fuck tha Police," Straight Outta Compton (1988)

    Even before the LAPD played Rodney King like a drumset, NWA was calling attention to police problems in South Central Los Angeles. Unfortunately, cops didn't like the phrasing of the group's argument and, in conjunction with the FBI, started a letter-writing campaign to stop the antipolice sentiment in NWA's music. The FBI went so far as to warn the group's label that the song had "gone too far" and even attempted to block the distribution of the record. You can still buy it anywhere.

    2 Live Crew, "Me So Horny," As Nasty as They Wanna Be (1989)

    Anyone who's ever been to Miami knows what a clean, upstanding city it is. Unfortunately, some bad, dirty Miami residents wanted to rap about sex. This was not acceptable to the State of Florida, and a mediocre record went on to sell a trillion copies as zealous state prosecutors went after the group, the record store owners who sold the record, and the venues that hosted 2 Live Crew's shows. Florida has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Nice to see resource allocation isn't the problem.

    Ice-T, "Cop Killer," Body Count (1992)

    "Cop killer, I'm a motherfucking cop killer!" Or so says Ice-T, who has recorded, practiced, performed, and probably listened to his song "Cop Killer" over a thousand times, yet has actually killed no cops. This didn't stop law enforcement groups from protesting and boycotting this record and its label, Time Warner. Ice-T agreed to pull the song from the record and parted ways with his label. Still, who do you think he calls when someone steals one of his luxury sports cars?

    Marilyn Manson, Antichrist Superstar (1996)

    Manson's the whipping boy of the late '90s. Blame everything on him: teen killings, youth rebellion, boys in lipstick, the advancement of the yen against the dollar. Every era needs a bad guy, and he's the best we got for now. Of course the people who really made Marilyn rich are the concerned citizens who protested him. Every artist should be so lucky as to be condemned.

    Rammstein, "Weisses Fleisch," Herzeleid (1996)

    These industrial rockers from the area formerly known as East Germany are supposedly responsible for the Columbine killings. Their song "Weisses Fleisch" (White Flesh) contained the lines: "You in the schoolyard/I'm ready to kill/and nobody here knows of my loneliness," providing many with irrefutable proof that everything was Rammstein's fault. Forget that the lyrics were in German and the kids were nuts.

    C-Bo, Til My Casket Drops (1998)

    Gangsta-rapper C-Bo was arrested for violation of parole for rapping on this record because part of his previous sentence contained a legally dubious clause that forbade him from "encouraging a gang lifestyle" in his music. C-Bo was on parole for shooting a gun in the air in an apparent attempt to break up a fight. In a more recent hearing, however, a judge let him freestyle his defense (I'm not making this up) and then let him off with more parole for being so fresh.

     
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