Banned in the U.S.A.


Saving kids from offensive lyrics is nothing new, as this time line demonstrates.


The Kingsmen, “Louie Louie” The fratboy anthem catches flack from Indiana governor Matthew Welsh, who wants it banned for supposed obscene references: “I smell the rose in her hair” is rumored to actually be, “I feel my boner in her hair.” The FCC finds the lyrics indecipherable.


Peter, Paul and Mary, “Puff the Magic Dragon” The Illinois Crime Commission compiles a list of songs referencing drugs, including the Grammy Award-winning children’s ditty about how “Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff.”


Led Zeppelin, “Stairway to Heaven” California state assemblyman Phil Wyman plays the song backward for Congress, trying to demonstrate the masking of subliminal messages, which purportedly say, “Here’s to my sweet Satan.”


Ozzy Osbourne, “Suicide Solution” Osbourne is sued by the parents of John McCollum, who charge that the song’s lyrics aided their son’s suicide. But a judge cites insufficient evidence, insisting the lyrics are protected speech. “Suicide is slow with liquor/Take a bottle and drown your sorrows/Then it floods away tomorrows.”


Tipper Gore and 20 other Washington wives form the Parents’ Music Resource Center, urging Congress to force the music industry to sticker or rate albums with explicit content. Targeted songs include: Prince, “Darling Nikki” (“I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine”); Sheena Easton, “Sugar Walls” (“Come spend the night inside my sugar walls”); W.A.S.P., “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” (“I start to howl, I’m in heat/I moan and growl and the hunt drives me crazy/I fuck like a beast”); The Mentors, “Anal Vapor” (“Bend up and smell my anal vapor/ Your face is my toilet paper”).


N.W.A, “Fuck tha Police” The FBI writes N.W.A. a nice letter thanking the group for the song and sends the note to police around the country. “Some police think/They have the authority to kill the minority/ . . . A young nigga on the warpath/ And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath of cops.”


2 Live Crew, “Me So Horny” A Broward County, Florida, sheriff aims to pull 2 Live Crew records from stores; a Florida judge rules the album obscene. His decision is overturned by the Supreme Court, which maintains that the lyrics are protected under the First Amendment. “Put your lips on my dick, and suck my asshole too/I’m a freak in heat, a dog without warning/ . . . Fuckie suckie. Me fuckie suckie.”


Body Count, “Cop Killer” Ice-T kills the single from his band’s album after protests and boycotts of Warner Bros. “I’m ’bout to bust some shots off/I’m ’bout to dust some cops off!/Cop killer!/It’s better you than me/ Cop killer!/ Fuck police brutality.”


Eminem, “Kill You” The white rapper winds up the ubiquitous punching bag during September FTC hearings about the entertainment industry marketing violence to children. Lynne Cheney holds him up as evidence of Western civilization’s decline. “Put your hands down bitch, I ain’t goin’ shoot you/I’m a pull you to this bullet and put it through you/Shut up slut, you’re causin’ too much chaos/ Just bend over and take it like a slut, OK Ma?”


Rage Against the Machine, “Calm Like a Bomb” A lawyer for one of the accused teenagers in a Colorado triple murder case maintains these lyrics influenced the suspect: “There’s a right to obey and a right to kill.”

Honorable Mention: Marilyn Manson Unpleased with onstage antics involving dildos, shredded Bibles, and thongs that expose his butt, officials boycott the shock rocker and cancel his concerts in the aftermath of Columbine.

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Kelefa Sanneh parses the new federal attempt at music censorship, and gauges the music community’s response. Chelsea Peretti breaks down who owns what.