Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Swearing in Music

I've got lots of things to blog about, but that would require me going downstairs to find my camera and upload the appropriate photos to illustrate the blog... I just don't feel like it. Instead, there's this, something I thought you might find interesting:

So somebody thought it was a good idea to censor our music, at least, put a big bold note in big bold letters on the CDs that we buy that the music contained therein uses strong language. It always makes me laugh, as if they were trying to protect someone, our young ears, our sensitivities, our innocence.

It makes me laugh considering the fact that these same people who pass these kinds of laws are from a generation that started putting “strong language” into music to begin with. Take the Kingsman’s version of “Louie Louie” for example. Sure, there isn’t a swear word in there, but the lyrics were so convoluted that everyone thought it was chock full of sexual innuendo. That alone made a sub-par song which had failed on the charts three previous times to become a cult success. Instead, it was just a song about a sailor complaining to some guy named Louie about having to leave his girlfriend for the sea.

However, there is a host of songs that get regular play on the radio that have several uncensored four-letter words right in them…and nobody seems to mind for some reason. Have you ever seen a Steve Miller album with a Parental Advisory sticker on it... or the Beatles maybe?

For starters, The Who’s “Who Are You?” their 1966 hit has two instances of the F-word, at 2:16 and 5:43. Both times it is clear as a bell, yet it gets airtime and nobody has made a big deal about it.

At 4:13, Ronnie Van Zant of Lynyrd Skynyrd ad libs “My doughnuts, goddamn” in “Sweet Home Alabama.” Although it isn’t much of a swear word these days, it is one of the few words you can’t get away with on TV… yet you can on the radio.

Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner” was released in 1977 which included the following lyrics in the third part:

That I don’t want to get caught up in any of that
Funky s**t goin’ down in the city

Of course, sometimes I’ve heard the S-word replaced with “kicks” but more often than not the original is played as Paul Pena wrote it.

One mention of the S-word that is hardly ever edited out is Pink Floyd’s “Money,” from their 1973 Dark Side of the Moon album.

Money, its a hit.
Don’t give me that do goody good bulls**t.

It is hard to find something to replace the rhyme with “hit” so some versions merely leave it out, which is called the “bull-blank” version of the song.

I know I’m missing some… Soundgarden’s “Outshined” has the S-word in it. Pearl Jam takes a little farther by throwing in the "...harmless little F-bomb" in “Jeremy,” both of which always make it onto the airwaves with little trouble. An interesting one that I hear frequently is Prince’s 1984 B-side song “Erotic City,” where he exclaims in the chorus: “…we can f**k until the dawn…” It has been said that he was saying “funk,” which makes no sense, but maybe enough to allow it to remain uncensored, despite the fact that the song is completely sexual in nature, from the title to the last lines (which contains the F-word).

However, here’s one that may surprise you: Have you ever listed to “Hey Jude” by the Beatles? Sure you have. It seems like a pretty innocent song, not one that should be included here, but turn it up loud and pay attention around the three minute mark, 2:57 to be exact. Someone says the F-word, who knows who. The exact words are this: Someone yells out “Chord” for whatever reason, which is then followed by what sounds like “f**king hell.” English accent and all.

And we have to have those black and white Parental Advisory labels on our music these days? C’mon Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center. Swearing has been in music long before you’ve ever considered looking.

I know, I'm nearly 25 years too late to consider making this arguement against Parental Advisory stickers (and I suppose it might even bother me if I actually purchased music), but I thought the references to these popular songs made for an interesting connection.

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