The Most Controversial Banned Songs Ever – Laser Time

Promoting violence, talk of satan, even promoting S-E-X… the reasons these songs were banned run the gamut, but you can listen to the stories behind the most controversial songs here, as long as you don’t tell your parents!

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35 thoughts on “The Most Controversial Banned Songs Ever – Laser Time

  1. Great and informative episode! Two recent “songs that were scrubbed from radio because of outside events” I can think of are after the Sandy Hook shooting Foster The People’s “Pumped up Kicks” which is admittedly has blatant lyrics about committing a shooting, but also Ke$ha’s “Die Young” which content-wise, nothing to do with what happened and is about making the most our of your life, but simply just because of it’s title and chorus it was pulled.

      1. and you can thank Nas for turning “stan” into the insult we use today. While Eminem made the song, Nas used it as a diss to Jay-Z in their infamous battle on wax. On Ether, Nas proclaims Jay is a fan, a phony, a fake, a p*ssy, a Stan.

  2. The BBC has a long history of banning songs for all sorts of crazy reasons. For example, they once refused to play The Monster Mash because they said it was “too morbid”. One of the most famous bannings is probably Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which is an absolutely incredible sonic experience, and one of the highest selling songs in UK singles history. But it is also very explicitly about sex (gay sex at that!). The BBC banned it for a long time, even as it sold millions of copies and was played constantly on the commercial stations in the UK.

    You could probably do an entire episode about songs the BBC banned and why it was so insane.

  3. I do kinda hope youse guys have enough self awareness and since if humor to see the irony of youse guys doing an episode about witch hunts, people being offended and forced censorship…it’s kind of a recurring thing youse guys are mildly guilty of TBH no offense. Speaking of 9/11 I once saw in a proto YouTube world(2004 or 5?) a video of 9/11 footage set to “Jump” by Van Halen LKM was shocked by this!…until they cut to DLR’s face nodding and mouthing jump in between shots of people jumping…it was evil and no doubt came back to bite me a couple years later karma wise

    1. Again no offense but it’s hard not to notice how the pendulum has swung when it comes to outrage and media witch hunt, up until maybe 5 years ago or maybe 17 with the Eminem stuff although that was more both sides the “think of the children” mentality was very much a conservative thing but idk it feels very much like that has turned, idk I’m very much a Lib but also lacking in empathy due to my own life experiences so maybe I’m just mildly dickish about “offensive” material it just does seem like the roles have largely been reversed as far as calling for censorship again no offence intended just an observation about how the “Reverand Love Joy’s wifesque” character would be different in a 2017 Simpsons episode

  4. The FCC, an organization I always envision being run by stuffy conservatives who want us all to go to church on Sunday and be good little Christians, has an odd relationship with the word “god” and media. You pointed it out with the Beach Boys, but even in the 90s it was considered controversial for Batman to react in horror with a “My God!” on Batman The Animated Series and that line was almost cut from the “Heart of Ice” episode.
    —————————————–
    I was a big Danzig fan as a kid (who am I kidding? I still am) and MTV wouldn’t play any of the bands videos because of all of the Satan stuff. They got around it somewhat by releasing a VHS of all of the videos with some backstage segments and junk for padding. The videos are all terrible, real corny stuff with Danzig sacrificing chickens and spraying blood on scantily clad women. The song “Mother” became a minor hit five years after its release when they re-released it with a video comprised entirely of edited concert footage to promote a live EP. And then, of course, once it was a hit MTV was willing to play the old corny shit as well as the new corny shit!

  5. There is a really easy test you can do to see if you’re supporting free speech: Would you accept the tactics you want to use against ideas and values you oppose as legitimate tactics to be used against ideas and values you support?

    Note: That doesn’t mean you have to agree with those ideas, just that you have to agree that if people (not just the government, but people) can use tactic Y against those disagreeing with ideology X then people can also use tactic Y against those AGREEING with ideology X. Again, that doesn’t have to mean you think agreeing with X has the same moral worth as disagreeing with X, just that you think that both should have the same degree of freedom. This is very easy for people to do when it’s something they don’t really care about, but extremely hard if it’s something they have strong emotional feelings over.

  6. Fantastic episode! Bob doing Jack Thompson as Ben Sharpio was just priceless.

    My favourite recent music related controversy is when the BBC refused to play “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”, which for reasons unknown reached #2 on the UK pop chart in the week following Thatcher’s death. Since you guys mentioned Elvis Costello (who is delightful), he revived one of his best songs around the same time as the witch kerfuffle (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t4-zDem1Sk).

    On a similar note to the BLM Beyonce “controversy”, in 1978 the Tom Robinson Band’s “Glad to be Gay” made it into the BBC top 40. As would be expected, they refused to play the song, which is about how it would be nice if police and other assorted bigots would stop beating up gay people (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojnv3fegkfM). Filth, I tells ya!

  7. The Beyonce thing reminds me of the other times Fox News went after black performers like Kendrick Lamar and Pharrell Williams for incorporating BLM support in their award show performances. Kendrick even sampled the rants that Geraldo Rivera went on in regards to his performance of “Alright” on his latest album.

  8. I did a project for a media regulation course a couple of semesters ago, in which I talked about insane failed attempts to censor media because of “profanity,” in which 2 Live Crew was one of the examples I used, so this episode is right up my alley. Great stuff guys, the ep was both a blast to listen to, and informative as hell.

    As a side note, I didn’t know about the “Stan” song by Eminem, so I guess that term has been around a lot longer than I thought it had been.

  9. When I think of banned songs, the first artist that comes to mind is Madonna so I’m surprised there weren’t mention of her songs Erotica (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotica_(song)), and Justify my Love (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justify_My_Love) which both had controversial and banned music videos due to their sexual content. Although since the controversy was about their videos more than the songs themselves maybe that’s why they didn’t make the cut. I’m sure a potential second episode on this topic could cover banned music videos of which there were many.

    Also, related to the songs banned because of 9/11, one artist that I remembered being included were the B 52s because of their name being associated with bomber planes. I remember lead singer Fred Schneider responded to that ban with “I guess MTV doesn’t have a research department”. This was also read out loud in a hilariously bad Fred Schneider impression by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/26/arts/the-pop-life-mtv-is-wary-of-videos-on-war.html

    1. I was in the peak age group for Madonna’s peak controversial period. Heck, I put on the video for ‘Justify My Love’ after listening to this episode. ‘Like A Prayer’ still carries weight. I had an evangelical co-worker who lost his shit just hearing myself say the song name out loud. As a massive fan, it pleases myself that Madonna still pisses off people 25 years later.

  10. Despite growing up as part of the “MTV generation”, I never watched MTV, and never really listened to popular music on the radio. It was a bit interesting to hear about some of these “controversial” songs/raps that weren’t on my radar at all. My wife laughs at me when there’s music and TV shows that weren’t even remotely on my radar but were supposedly incredibly popular.

    The whole 2 Live Crew obscenity trial is really interesting that anyone interested in should read up more on. Jello Biafra talks about it, and music censorship on his spoken word album “High Priest of Harmful Matter”, where he also talks about his own obscenity trial with the Dead Kennedys over the inclusion of H.R. Giger’s “Penis Landscape” picture in their Frankenchrist album. Oddly it wasn’t really about the content of the music, but about the inclusion of an obscene poster.

    Another interesting thing that could have been covered was Leftover Crack’s first record with Hellcat. They wanted to call their record “Shoot the Kids at School”, but fearing the controversy due to the Columbine shootings, Hellcat refused and made them change it. The album finally came out, titled “Mediocre Generica” (partly due to the generic cover art they ended up with), on September 11, 2001. They eventually got out of their contract with Hellcat and moved to Alternative Tentacles, releasing their record “Fuck World Trade”, with a cover featuring George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tony Blair causing 9/11, that record obviously was banned by all the major chains that sold records (not that they carried stuff from AT anyway).

  11. I was a college radio DJ at the UNF WOSP station in Jacksonville Florida. We got albums months before they were released and we had the original Strokes album This is It with the notorious NYC Cops (a song I played numerous times). The album was actually pulled from the shelves because it was supposed to be released on 911. Once a few planes got hijacked it was pulled off for a good month and it returned with the NYC Cops removed. Sadly it was one of their best songs and I remember seeing them live and they were awful… but that’s just a little extra info on that banned song.

        1. Admittedly, they’re similar looking words.

          The weird thing is that was a controversy. But not the fact that there was a song where the lions basically have sex.

  12. Molotov, a Mexican rap-rock band, has controversy for every single album they release except for their cover album. Tv watchers may know them from the first episode of Breaking Bad where their song “Apocalypshit” played over Walter white driving the RV. Anyways, their first album was completely banned in Mexico from selling and playing over the airwaves. Just recently they finally played a venue in Mexico City that refused them many times over the years.

  13. Great episode!
    I’m surprised that you guys didn’t mention “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas. It was originally “Let’s Get Retarded” on the album “Elephunk” in 2003. They recorded a “clean” version for use during NBA games, and that’s the version that got radio play and eventually won them a Grammy. Any presses of Elefunk after 2003 had “Let’s Get Retarded” replaced by “Let’s Get it Started” and the song was only ever rereleased as a bonus track on certain re-issues with the Parental Advisory sticker.

    1. I remember only ever hearing the “sanitized”/”get it started” version for a while, never even knowing that wasn’t the original.
      The first time I heard “Let’s get Retarded” was on a trailer for “Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle” and when I heard that lyric, I honestly thought it was a really bad parody song of “Let’s get it Started.” The kind of bad parody songs you’d find on Napster in 2001 mis-attributed to Weird Al.

  14. Really fascinating episode! It’s true, we mostly get the uncensored versions of things now, and you have to search out the censored/sanitized version. That’s why I was shocked when I recently started listening to Radio Disney with my kids, because it’s like taking a time machine back to Tipper Gore’s America. If you see (Radio Disney Edit) or (RD Edit) after a song title, they censor EVERYTHING, no matter how bland and innocuous the lyric is.

    For instance there’s a song called Issues where the chorus goes “I’ve got issues, and one of them is how I bad I need you”; that’s too lusty for the Mouse, so the Radio Disney edit changes it to “I’ve got issues, and one of them is how bad I need to.” NEED TO WHAT? That doesn’t even make sense. Or another song, completely inoffensive, says something like don’t be nervous, “just picture everybody naked.” The RD Edit goes “just picture everybody…” and then an awkward pause where they trimmed out the word naked. I’ve got young kids so I get it, you become a bit more sensitive to media, but this is just insane. I guess it isn’t even censorship because the artists and labels are all on board with it, but it’s an interesting window into that old-school, pearl-clutching level of sensitivity.

  15. wow….never heard those 9/11 remixes before….pretty terrifying….

    In October 2005, several radio stations temporarily stopped playing The Tragically Hip’s 1989 hit New Orleans Is Sinking out of sensitivity to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had devastated the city of New Orleans in early September of that year.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px3WsQ_XdF8

    During George W’s presidency, The Beastie Boys would often dedicate Sabotage to Mr Bush during live events.
    https://youtu.be/zBk5KogvdbI?t=55s

    Also, here’s Charlton Heston reading Ice-T’s Cop Killer
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6lwNyCo7O8

  16. Amy was the second (and huge) single off of Britney’s comeback album Circus. The first was Womanizer.

    Or maybe I’m just an insane pop music junkie and remember it differently.

  17. David Allen Coe was banned from country for using the n word a bit too much. He had to release underground albums and was barred from being on country music stations. I know it’s tough to believe a white hillbilly from Akron Ohio was accused of racism or misogyny…but it was true this one time.

    https://mobile.nytimes.com/2000/09/04/arts/songwriter-s-racist-songs-from-1980-s-haunt-him.html

    I won’t link any of his songs here, but with songs like n* lover, it won’t be hard to find a controversial song in his library.

  18. I’m glad you brought up the Judas Priest stuff. It’s really unbelievable how that went down in 1990 and not 1950. The news coverage is just surreal to watch. But back when it was going on, I was just a dumb 13 year old kid, and I believed the claims they were making and it scarred me away from Judas Priest and Columbia records for a bit. I eventually got over it and went on to become a huge Judas Priest fan.

    However, listening to you guys talk about Body Count is almost like listening to you talk about sports. Body Count wasn’t Ice-T rapping with Anthrax as back-up. Body Count was a full fledged, all black thrash-metal band made up of musician friends that Ice-T had grown up with. Though Ice-t was the celebrity attraction, the real star of the band was lead guitarist Ernie C, who was an absolute beast and could shred with the best of them. Their debut album, which featured Cop Killer, was a mixed bag. Ice-T’s lyrics were very amateurish, sounding like he went with the first draft that was written in five minutes. The music, however, was fantastic. These guys were truly talented musicians. Overall, it was an impressive debut that dealt with topics that we are still hearing about in the news today.

    They’ve released a handful of albums over the years, with some very big gaps due to the deaths of some band members. Ice-T’s acting schedule has also kept the band from recording as much as they could. But just recently, they released their latest album “Blood Lust” and it is the best thing they’ve ever done. if you’re into metal or thrash metal, you really should check it out. Their song-writing skills have dramatically improved, as has Ice-T’s singing ability. And it is as politically charged as ever. For example, their first single is titled “Black Hoodie.”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_0xYamFYYI

  19. The banned song that sticks out most to me was Lil Jon’s “Get Low”. Dave Chappelle did it in when he mentioned the song in the introduction to the “A Moment in the Life of Lil John skit. ” He didn’t say what the notorious ‘skeet, skeet’ lyric was about, but he did mention that when white people found out it blow their minds. Not more than a week later, the ‘skeet’ part of the song was censored on top 40 radio stations, and maybe another week later, it was gone altogether. Maybe it was the way that muting skeet and motherfucker in the same lyric produced about 4 seconds of dead air time in the middle of the chorus, but I’d like to think it was the extremely graphic description of ejaculation that ultimately caused its demise. You can still hear the song played on hip hop stations, but Dave was right: white people couldn’t handle it.

  20. This is a topic I have always loved and read about over the years. One of my favorite examples is the band Electric Light Orchestra. They had a song in 1974 called ‘Eldorado’ that was attacked by Christians for supposedly containing secret Satanic messages. Specifically, they claimed that when played backwards the song said ‘He is the nasty one, Christ you’re infernal, it is said we’re dead men, everyone who has the mark will live’. The song doesn’t actually have any hidden messages but ELO still wound up as part of Congressional hearings.

    In response to this, on their next album they included an actual backwards message in a song called ‘Fire On High’ which said ‘The music is reversible but time is not, turn back, turn back, turn back, turn back’. Predictably, this again caused controversy with the same Christian group. ELO decided to take it even further and released an album called Secret Messages that outside of the US even had a stamp on the back of the album that said in big letters “WARNING CONTAINS SECRET BACKWARD MESSAGES” but was removed by their record label in America. The album has a bunch of backwards messages in the songs but also includes fake names and messages written in Morse code on the packaging.

    1. Another example is the album Kilroy Was Here by the band Styx. They were another band cited by Christians for hiding secret messages in their music and the activists actually got the Arkansas senate to pass a bill requiring all records with backward messages to be labeled. Kilroy Was Here has a song called ‘Heavy Metal Poisoning’ which they hid a backwards message reading the Latin from the back of a dollar bill but which when translated ominously says ‘He has favored our undertakings, a new order of the ages’.

      But the entire album is actually a rock opera in response to the controversy. The album tells the story of a rock star named Kilroy who lives in a future where the facist government has outlawed music in response to the Majority for Musical Morality or MMM. This is a specific parody of the Moral Majority, a 1970s political action group founded by Jerry Falwell. Kilroy is a prisoner of Dr Righteous and escapes to bring back rock music. The most famous song from the album ‘Mr. Roboto’ is about Kilroy disguising himself as a robot to escape.

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