Classic Moments In Rock Censorship

As you’ve probably heard, AT&T did some fancy editing during its webcast of Pearl Jam’s Lollapalooza set at Grant Park last weekend. Haven’t been paying attention? A recap: During “Daughter,” Eddie and the grungers smoothly transitioned into “Another Brick in the Wall,” improvising on Pink Floyd’s lyrics by repeating “George Bush, leave this world alone” twice, following it with “George Bush, find yourself a home.” The controversy? If you’d been watching on AT&T’s site, you only got the first part of Vedder’s variation — the audio cuts out for 15 seconds after the first mention of George W. You can check out both versions at Pearl Jam’s website to see and hear the fiasco.

A bunch of you were keyed in on the live feed and wrote us about it that night, but at the time, we were standing in Grant Park trying to make sense of Eddie riding Rodman around the stage. Since then, though, AT&T issued a statement in response to the indelicate-edit furor, saying it was a “mistake by a Webcast vendor” and that censorship is “contrary” to their policy. To quote

We have policies in place with respect to editing excessive profanity, but AT&T does not censor performances. We very much regret that this happened in the first place.

Of course they do. Obviously we have no idea what happened over at AT&T, but all of this silencing, chicanery, and outrage fed an intra-office Stereogum email chain about other big censorship moments in rock, and we thought it’d be fun to whittle it down to a quick list for your enjoyment. Our Top 10 after the jump.

Let’s take it chronologically…

1956: Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show
Elvis’s hips didn’t lie, but nobody at home could tell because Ed’s cameramen were instructed to avoid filming the King’s gyrating lower body.

1964: The State of Indiana tries to ban “Louie Louie”
The Hoosiers decided The Kingsmen were hiding something sexual in their ’63 recording of the Richard Berry tune. Were they? Who knows; not even the FBI could decipher the lyrics (they tried!).

1967: The Rolling Stones’ shift “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” on the Ed Sullivan Show
In order to perform on national television Mick and Keith had to tone things down a bit. Forty years later, Mick and company also cleaned “Start Me Up” and “Rough Justice”
during the 2005 Superbowl XL halftime show.

1968: John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Two Virgins cover confiscated
John and Yoko appeared nude on the front and back cover of their ’68 album. Let’s hope Yoko doesn’t try to recreate it somehow on her next release.

1981: Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” banned by two radio stations Utah
Wait, was it lines like “‘There’s nothing left to talk about/’Less it’s horizontally” or the still-disturbing-to-this-day video?

1985: PMRC formed
Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center lobbied record companies for a ratings system for albums and album artwork, wanted lyrics printed on album covers, dirty discs hidden behind the counter, a rating system for concerts ? etc. The letter the PMRC first circulated to record labels and people of influence included a so-called “filthy fifteen,” with songs by AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Cyndi Lauper, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, Madonna, Mary Jane Girls, Mercyful Fate, Motley Crüe, Prince, Sheena Easton, Twisted Sister, Vanity, Venom, and W.A.S.P. A parental warning sticker and Ice T’s Freedom Of Speech were subsequently born. Little good came from it, but for a classic Rage Against The Machine concert.

1986: Jello Biafra charged with the “Distribution of Harmful Materials to Minors”
The Dead Kennedys/Alternative Tentacles impresario was charged with breaking section 313.1 of the California State Penal Code for the very penal poster that came with the Frankenchrist album — the artwork was H.R. Giger’s “Landscape #20, Where Are We Coming From?” Biafra went to court; the charges were eventually dropped.

1989: Madonna’s “Make A Wish” Pepsi ad pulled
Madonna was paid $5 million for an ad that ran twice. It featured “Like A Prayer” as its soundtrack. Pepsi execs weren’t unnerved by the commercial — it was the furor by religious groups over “Like A Prayer”‘s video that caused ‘em to freak.

1990: 2 Live Crew’s As Nasty As They Wanna Be declared “obscene” in Florida
The 1989 record came with one of those PMRC warning stickers, but politicos in Florida went a step further, deciding it was illegal to sell the album within the state. A local record store owner was arrested for selling it. Three members of 2 Live Crew were arrested at a Hollywood, Florida concert. The group shrewdly followed the controversy with 1990’s Banned In The USA, which used “Born In The USA,” with Springsteen’s permission, as its template. In other rap news, Public Enemy?s 1991 video for “By the Time I Get to Arizona” caused a major stink for its depiction of Arizona’s governor as a David Duke-style racist for being the only state not to recognize MLK Day as a holiday.

2001-Present: Post 9/11 Censorship
After the attacks on the World Trade Center, a number of radio stations voluntarily pulled songs that they felt to be in poor taste. The offenders included “Walk Like An Egyptian,” ?Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,? Dave Matthews’ “Crash Into Me,” and “Bennie And The Jets.” We can think of other reasons for banning a couple of ‘em.

So that’s our list. Obviously we left shit out. How about some of Prince or Ozzy’s various offenses, Wal-Mart’s weirdness, artwork switcharoos, subliminal messages or “This Note’s For You”‘s? Fill in the blanks, we promise not to censor. Nothing’s shocking…

Tags: Pearl Jam