A long time ago many of the tracks that we hold dear may of been controversial or banned for some odd reason, many of these instances are not very known among many but its safe to say that many of our musical idols at one point were slandered and in many ways crucified for their musical efforts.

Many see the birth of Rock n Roll as the beginning of the banning of popular music, the post-WW2 world experienced a surge in technology that provided music the means to receive airplay to far reaching places in the world and in turn garner more press . Examples of types of banning include sexual censorship, political and religious censorship. All these are based around the context in which the banning could happen.

During times of war America would place a censorship on songs that contained themes that opposed their military campaigns like what happened during the Vietnam and Gulf War with many songs. Whatever the context behind a song being banned/censored it is definitely a case that should be resisted. A radio stations idea of what is ‘tasteful’ or what is ‘appropriate to censor’ turns rights into something that is regulated.

First they could ban/censor something because it might offend those affected by tragedy and then perhaps choose to ban songs that offend the governments ruling strategies, what next?

So here at Tastebuds we came up with a list of banned songs we love.

By today’s standards, most of the songs that are included as examples are lightweight and fluffy in language compared to all the other crappy ‘potty-mouth’ tracks in todays music business.

The Beach Boys – God Only Knows.

A song that should’ve been a bigger hit that it was during the time of its release. The first time I heard this song was in the Wonder Years with Fred Savage. Such an Inspirational song, this song really made such a mark in Rock n Roll history. Arguably the Beach Boys at their very best, a notable departure from Brian Wilson’s usual  peripheral themes surfing, girls and the sun, this song was more philosophical in its approach. The first ‘pop’ single to use the word God in a secular context and was banned from radio at the time of its release. Surely this song would turn any Beach Boys-haters into listeners? Love the chord progression in the verses that creates the notion of some kind of ascension.


The Beatles – Happiness Is A Warm Gun.

Banned by BBC for its sexual content. It seems Lennon came up with the title whilst reading an advertisement he saw in the local paper…hmmm was it some kind of local gun freak magazine? Without causing too much uproar I will declare waveringly that this song is a metaphor to sex and drugs BUT this song has as many interpretations as hollywood has remakes! Boo-yeah! Others include a reference to vietnam war, a story of a husband caught cheating on his wife and being killed by her in anger. One of the most ridiculous interpretations I’ve heard was that it was about shooting nuns, oh man.

The Kingsmen – Louie Louie .

Actually a cover of a song by Richard Berry in 1955. In 1964 the cover by The Kingsmen became a hit sensation, a hilarious song whereby the lyrics sung are pretty much inaudible giving the impression that the singer is either drunk or high. The indecipherableness of the lyrics led many to interpret them in the worst possible way, so bad that the FBI called for an investigation on the song, thinking the lyrics were of some devastatingly crude content. Banned on many radio stations across the country, this song became an instant favorite amongst Frat parties in university life in the States in the 60’s. Listening to this song I think of those party scenes with Jon Belushi in Animal House.

Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen.

I know the Sex Pistols are known for their anarchic aesthetic and ‘I don’t give a f*ck’ attitude BUT one cannot contest that this was all orchestrated and organized with the intention of ‘selling’ that look Punk Rock f*ck the system approach. They were made to cause a ruckus! And ingeniously garnered a shitload of media attention. Their song God Save The Queen is an exemplar of their success based on this approach. A song that rebels against British politics and with the lyrics using the Queen as the symbol of the estrangement between the youth the rest of society. Obviously during its release this song was banned due to ‘treasonous beliefs’. Nevertheless the song reached number 1 on the charts.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Relax.

Members of Frankie goes to Hollywood stated that the song was about sodomy. This song had some pretty lewd lyrics and they were pretty blatant and considering the fact that the lyrics promoted not using a condom during sexual activity. 

Hmm not the most tasteful of lyrics but a hilarious track that is a must for any 80’s enthusiast. Banned on UK Radios due to its lyrical content, this banning actually made it a hit; leading it to remain on the charts for 48 weeks. All I can think of when I hear this song is Zoolander…how the song triggers Derek Zoolander to assassinate the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Now all you need to counteract this is to play Herbie HancocksRock It‘.

The Cure – Killing An Arab.

A reference to Albert Camus‘ book entitled The Outsider, where in a chapter the main character kills an arab on a beach. Considered a racist song which is completely ridiculous if you look at the lyrics which deals with life being pointless and how empty it can be; we can thank Camus for that existentialism and I know if you wanna get technical, yes, Camus’ novel was more about absurdism vs. existentialism but lets not go down that path of interpreting The Outsider. Either way after the release of the song Arab groups protested the taking down of the song from radio station rotation to which The Cure requested its removal to avoid any fuss.

Beastie Boys – Sabotage.

Several days after the September 11 attacks the program director of Clear Channel Radio,which had stations all over the country decided to compile a list of songs that they thought were ‘bad taste’ when considering the circumstances of the recent events within the nation. This absurd list included the song Sabotage by the Beastie Boys due to its lyrical content and the title being synonymous with the acts of the terrorist activities. The song was actually released 7 years prior to the events of September 11 and the music video was directed by Spike Jonze which just added to its many praise. A great song who’s lyrics shouldn’t be interpreted as anything beyond a fun track.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Free Fallin’.

Another example that Clear Channel stations banned because they believed it evoked images people jumping out of the World Trade Centre buildings during the attacks. This is hilarious considering the lyrics tell the tale of a guy who is glad he has escaped the scene of relationships and doing what you wanted to outside the strictures of long-term relationships and ‘falling free’.

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – Nowhere To Run.

Who doesn’t love this song? A classic Motown track by Martha Reeves with the instrumentals done by the legendary Funk Brothers. A simple and catchy song concerning a woman’s eternal love for a man despite him treating her badly. It troubles me to of found out that this song was banned from Radio station airplay in the States during the Gulf War. I mean…what the hell…to be honest I have yet to find any information justifying this ban which just baffles me to no end. Especially considering as a Motown group Martha Reeves and The Vandellas to me evokes nothing but good catchy love songs.

Dead Kennedys – Too Drunk To Fuck.

This title speaks for itself I think it’s pretty obvious why Radio stations wouldn’t of put this in their song rotation. Not surprisingly Top of the Pops and Radio 1 refused to play this song. Many chart listings just called it “Too Drunk To..”, although this was the case it was the first song in the Top 40 to include the F word in it. I mean it really just is a amusing song about making fun of drunken idiots, something I’m sure many of us can sympathize with. Doesn’t anyone else find their disdain endearing?

Other songs came close to being on our list that were banned for whatever reason are: The Rolling Stones- Ruby Tuesday, Sam Cooke – Wonderful World, The Bangles – Walk Like An Egyptian, The Cutting Crew – I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight, Pat Benatar – Love Is A Battlefield, The Kinks – Lola. Check out the playlist we made on Spotify for this on Share my playlists.

Let us know about some other cool songs that should be added on our Forum Thread or Facebook Page, and if possible why they were banned.