7 Memorable Cases of Rock Censorship

MC5's Kick Out the Jams
The censors took aim at the MC5’s 1968 debut album (see No. 3 below)

Rock and roll has always pushed the limits. Here are seven cases where the censors pushed back.

1. Ed Sullivan refuses to let Bob Dylan sing “Talkin’ John Birch Society Blues.” Dylan then refuses to appear. (1963)

2. The Rolling Stones turn “Let’s Spend the Night Together” into “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” for The Ed Sullivan Show. But Mick Jagger rolls his eyes at the camera during the performance. (1967)

3. The MC5 begin their debut album by screaming, “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” On the single, this is revised to “Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters!” Multiple versions of the album offer censored and uncensored recordings and liner notes. (1968)

4. The Top 10 hit “Lola” finds the Kinks’ Ray Davies singing about a transvestite who “walked like a woman and talked like a man.” That is apparently no problem for BBC censors, but they draw the line when Davies mentions Coca-Cola, due to a policy against references to brand names. So Davies has to overdub “cherry cola” before the song can air. (1970)

5. Lou Reed scores his biggest hit with “Walk on the Wild Side,” where he proclaims, “She never lost her head/even when she was givin’ head.” RCA removes that line from the U.S. single version, which makes the Top 20, but censors in the U.K. sometimes miss it, reportedly because they don’t know what it means. (1973)

6. Jefferson Starship scores a No. 3 hit with “Miracles,” in which Marty Balin sings, “I had a taste of the real world/When I went down on you.” However, AM radio plays a dramatically shortened version of the song that omits that line. (1975)

7. In the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner,” which becomes a Top 10 hit, Miller sings that “I don’t want to get caught up in any of that funky shit goin’ down in the city.” But “shit” turns to “kicks” for AM radio. (1977)

One comment

  1. Hey Jeff, they won’t let me post this on Facebook because some of the language might be offensive to their readers!!! You’ve officially been censored.


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