GALLERY OF THE FORBIDDEN


The exhibits presented in this GALLERY OF THE FORBIDDEN highlight artifacts and info about historical incidents of music censorship. For details about more recent incidents please visit this site's TABOO NEWS page.

Seen below are graphic examples of the various ways that new forms of music and youth culture have been attacked by intolerant people over the years. Viewed as a pattern, it becomes clear that the corporate music biz itself – rather than the usual powers-that-be (parents, preachers, principals, politicians, & police) – does most of the "reining in" of today’s artists. Revealed is how the intentions of artists are often negated by skittish entertainment industry firms who cave-in when challenged by outside forces. No matter whether these artists were up-&-comers or established superstars, they have all felt the sting of censorship and, variously, saw their work reviled, rejected, recalled, repressed, and/or forcibly revised.

Now, this history can be revisited.


If you enjoy this gallery, please know that there are a lot more fascinating details about music-censorship contained in the book, TABOO TUNES.


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IF DANCING IS OUTLAWED ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE DANCES

 
In recent decades, Footloose-style backlashes have erupted over “Freak dancing,” Raves, the “Lambada” or “dirty dancing” – and even “The Twist.” But reactionary condemnations, and laws passed to ban new dance-fads, are nothing new: way back in 1583 one British scold griped about all the “filthy groping and unclean handling” young dancers engaged in; in 1646 Boston outlawed dancing in taverns because it led to “immoral and ungodly” behavior; in the 1800s when “The Waltz” was new, it was denounced in Europe for being “reckless,” & in the 1890s when “The Tango” emerged, it was attacked as “promiscuous” & was banned at dance-schools & dancehalls. Then, the rise of the ragtime/jazz era in the early-1900s saw a wave of anti-jazz laws enacted – & as seen here, a number of songs penned about this conflict.

  “Can’t Stop Rag-Time” The title of this vintage song-sheet reflects the anti-jazz vibe of 1913 when efforts to halt the spread of ragtime music included new laws that banned the public performances of saxophones & the broadcasting of jazz records, & restrict dancers from doing particular steps. One proposed law actually called for the incarceration of the “jazzily intoxicated” to insane asylums – though more typical were the many new municipal morality codes that required the policing of dancehalls.
“Anti Rag-Time Girl” This 1913 song extols the supposed virtues of a young lady who hates jazz and its associated “animal dance” moves: “She don’t do the Bunny Hug, nor Grizzly Bear…She don’t wave her shoulders when the band plays ‘Itchy-koo’” – and thus, because of her dislike of modern dance-steps she is, of course, “just the kind your mother would have liked to have you know.”  
  “The Police Won’t Let Mariuch-a Dance (Unless She Move-Da-Feet)” This 1907 song-sheet has both cover-art & lyrics that tell of a “hoochie-coochie” stage dancer whose risqué routine risks getting a hall shut down – unless she conforms to a rule requiring entertainers to keep moving rather than just standing while shimmying, bumping & grinding.
“The Quakers Are All Shoulder Shakers” This 1919 song-sheet’s cover-art depicts a scowling elder disapproving of modern young dancers, and essentially pokes mild fun at the puritanical Quaker sect’s love of “quietism” & their associated antipathy for dancing & music. In this fictional tale: “Down in Quaker town, things are upside down, the Jazz bug bit ‘em, How it hit ‘em…” & now “…It doesn’t seem quite right, to see all the Quakers dancing, way into the night.”  
  “Vo-Do-Do-De-O Blues” This 1927 song-sheet has lyrics bemoaning the ubiquity of jazz at the time (“I’m warning the police, to get ready for another war, if a certain song don’t cease”) & vivid cover-art showing a tortured fellow who’s steaming mad because jazz – as heard on his radio & Victrola, & as sung by his piano-playing wife, by a neighborhood trio, & even by his jazz-lovin’ cat and dog – is giving him the blues.

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YOU CAN’T DO THAT

These two variants of one album’s cover-art represent perhaps the ultimate Battle of the Bands vs. the Bosses rumble in record biz history a real testing of battle-lines in a balance-of-power war between artists and management. Try and guess who won…

The Beatles – Yesterday and Today [a.k.a. “The Butcher Cover”] The Beatles were the first band powerful enough to really challenge their label overlords. The fact that they had issued only seven LPs from 1964–'66 in England, but Capitol Records had hacked those into a more profitable ten LPs in America, rankled. The final straw was the issuance of Yesterday and Today – an album that didn’t even exist in the UK and was, in fact, cobbled together out of odds and ends: three songs from Revolver, three from Rubber Soul, two from Help!, & two from a single. Reportedly outraged that their art was being “butchered,” the Fab Four posed for this photo while wearing butcher smocks draped with cuts of meat and dismembered baby-doll parts. Infected with accute Beatlemania, Capitol apparently overlooked the questionable image and released it in June, 1966.

 
  The Beatles – Yesterday and Today Faced with rejection at the distributor level, Capitol scrambled to recall tens of thousands of “Butcher” LPs already shipped out, and to design a new cover-image. Panicked, they quickly rustled up this gloomy and unflattering photo – ever since known as the “Trunk Cover" – and pasted them over the recalled jackets. In that process, the company created one of the holy grails of record collecting – & many owners of this album have successfully peeled it to expose the highly prized original "Butcher Cover" hidden beneath.

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SOMETIMES A THUMB IS JUST A THUMB

That plain-fact observation by famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud – “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” – regarding the interpretation of perceptions (in particular: the apparently common one of “seeing” phallic symbols, even where they don’t exist) is a relevant one in the realm of album cover-art. Here are a couple classic cases of manifest clinical paranoia by America’s filthy-minded prudes:

The Five Keys On Stage! After the Five Keys’ On Stage! album was released in 1957, Capitol Records reportedly received a bit of heat over the Virginia-based doo-wop stars’ cover photograph. It seems the angry complainants imagined that the forefinger (seen at far-left) of lead balladeer, Rudy West, was a penis – & thus a decision was made to air-brush the offending digits out for subsequent re-issue.  
  Alice Cooper Love It To Death When Warner Brothers record company started taking minor flak over the cover-image on the classic 1971 Love It To Death album by the rock band, Alice Cooper, the questionably “offensive” thumb (at center) was air-brushed away on all later printings & thus, the streets of America were thankfully made safe once again.

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DIRTY MINDS

The fact that the mere visual presence of such a commonplace object as a commode can spark a prudish backlash is remarkable. Yet, here are two examples of top 1960’s bands whose albums' graphics were tampered with by record companies runnin' scared of our society's easily offended party-poopers.

 

The Mama's and The Papa's – If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears When Dunhill Records first released this group’s debut LP in 1966, few could have imagined that an innocent image of the flower-power pop quartet wedged into a bathtub adjacent to a toilet would draw complaints. But, the tempest was such that a rush-replacement cover – one that completely blocked the offending object from sight with graphics that hyped the hit singles – was substituted. Finally – with label execs apparently still spooked by the whole uproar – this third, black-bordered, squeeky-clean & perfectly porcelain-free model was issued.

 

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet By 1968 the Rolling Stones were nearing their creative peak, but the self-proclaimed “World’s Greatest Rock Band” still didn’t wield the power required to ensure usage of the cover-art they preferred – graffiti on a grungy washroom wall. Decca UK & America's London Records both balked, a bitter three-month standoff began, & in the end (November) the band lost. The Stone's original artistic intentions were flushed right down the drain with the imposition of a replacement design – that of a pristine & ultra-elegant formal party invitation.

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EAR OF THE BEHOLDER

It was back in 1964 that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously commented on the keen challenges of determining if something is legally "pornographic" by noting the criterion is inexact, but: "I know it when I see it." True enough, but the problem is: just as judges, juries, counselors, and cops know all-too-well, eye-witnesses to events frequently report "seeing" details that never actually existed. Similarly, music history reveals plenty of cases where perceived auditory offenses proved to be figments of over-active imaginations.

Peter, Paul & Mary “Puff, The Magic Dragon” To most listeners, 1963’s “Puff” by the folkie trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, seemed to be nothing more than a rather sweet & benign radio hit. But America’s Drug Warriors raised an alarm contending that the seemingly simple tune was a nefarious drug paean in disguise. You see, to their twisted minds the playful lyrics [‘...Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea / and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honalee... / Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff...’] really served as drug-addled code-speak: [‘...Puff...’] signified marijuana; [‘...Dragon...’] referred to inhaling (or draggin’); [‘...Jackie Paper...’] personified a cigarette rolling paper; and [‘...mists...’] obviously meant exhaled smoke. The little fact that “Puff’s” composers consistently denied such druggy interpretations did nothing to slow the growing Great Drug Lyric Scare of the 1960s.  
  The Kingsmen “Louie Louie” In early-1964 word spread that the Kingsmen’s garage-rock 45, “Louie Louie,” contained secret dirty lyrics. Rumors had been circulating among students for months that if you played the hit single at a slower 33 1/3 rpm (or faster, at 78 rpm), lascivious messages were audible. That’s when parents began inundating the offices of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, & various other politicians with distraught letters demanding action. The result was a gubernatorial ban imposed in Indiana and full-scale investigations by governmental agencies including the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, & the Federal Trade Commission. After two long years, the investigations finally concluded with the concession that the lyrics couldn’t be considered “pornographic” because they were “unintelligible” at any speed. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll!

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OVER & OVER & OVER AGAIN, MY FRIEND...

Few songs in history have been “controversial” enough to spark a censorship campaign – far less have been targeted on two separate occasions. And vastly fewer are those tunes that have earned this distinction three or more times. Here’s one of those…

Barry McGuire "Eve Of Destruction" The anti-war ballad, “Eve of Destruction,” was issued in 1965 when opposition to the Vietnam war began gaining momentum in America & the record immediately faced reactionary responses. Never before had such a grim & angst-ridden anti-establishment lyric [“you’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’’] sold well enough to register on the popularity charts, & as the folk-rock tune hit #1, detractors raced to condemn it. Christian Crusade leaders charged that the lyrics were “obviously aimed at instilling fear in our teenagers as well as a sense of hopelessness,” with a nefarious goal of inducing “the American public to surrender to atheistic international Communism.” Such sentiments caused the disc to be banned by many radio stations. Then, a quarter century later, “Eve of Destruction” was banned by BBC radio during President Bush’s 1991 war against Iraq. And then, once again, the song was black-listed by America’s giant radio network, Clear Channel, in the wake of 9/11 & the ramp-up to the second President Bush’s Iraq War.  

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IS DISSENT INDECENT?

In theory, the governments of democracies are wisely restrained from repressing the legitimate political activities of their citizenry. In practice, they occasionally choose to sidestep the spirit of those restrictions by cracking down on people via other means. One favored tactic has been to prosecute rebellious artists on the unrelated issue of “obscenity.” And so, just as Prohibition Era G-men were long frustrated in their efforts to “get” the gangland boss, Al Capone, on charges of bootleg liquor distribution (&/or organized murder) & finally had to settle for nailing him on the lesser charges of tax evasion, so too have politically oriented bands been persecuted on more-convenient side-issues.

The Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks: Here’s The Sex Pistols England’s pioneering punk rock band, the Sex Pistols, emerged in 1976–77 with two blistering political 45s, “Anarchy in the UK” & “God Save the Queen,” immediately catching the attentions of royalist conservatives – & the discs were banned by British TV, radio, and certain retail chains. But an opportunity for further persecution came with the release of the band’s debut album which used a rude slang word ("bollocks") for “rubbish” or “BS” and thus opened the door in late 1977 to the prosecution of a London shopkeeper who had mounted a window display of the LP and was then charged under the Indecent Advertising Act of 1899 – a case that, rightly so, was ultimately tossed out of the courts.  
.   The Anti-Nowhere League “So What” In 1982 the Anti-Nowhere League’s snotty classic, “So What,” was prosecuted under Britain’s 1959 Obscene Publications Act. After the police’s record-seizing raids on label headquarters, a pressing plant, & various distributors’ offices, the trial magistrates’ eventually concluded that the song evinced a “tendency to deprave and corrupt,” which resulted in destruction of the confiscated stock & the effective banning of the record.
Crass Penis Envy When the politically leftist British punk group, Crass, dared to criticize British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s questionable Falklands War of 1982 in their songs, “How Does It Feel (To Be The Mother of a Thousand Dead)” & 1983’s “Sheep Farming in the Falklands,” they definitely made enemies in lofty places. Targeted in 1985 under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, the latter record was initially judged obscene. But then, upon appeal, it was rightfully cleared. In response, the same obscenity charge was leveled against their “Bata Motel” song (from the 1981 Penis Envy LP). Like the others, this song also contained nary a single term that could be considered obscene – it did, nevertheless, convey an undeniably lewd & rude theme, & was quashed with a formal ban.

 
  Dead Kennedys Frankenchrist When the Dead Kennedys formed in the late-1970s they immediately became America’s toughest leftist political punk band. They railed against war-mongering, police brutality, conformity, & other such issues. Reaganistas, cops, and the Parents’ Music Resource Council (PMRC) didn’t appreciate any of this one bit. Indeed, in April, 1986 – only days after Tipper Gore's PMRC condemned the band – authorities raided the home (& the Alternative Tentacles’ record label) offices of leader/singer, Jello Biafra, & filed charges of violating a brand-new Distribution of Harmful Materials to Minors law. Their legal wedge was a bonus poster ("Landscape #20, Where Are We Coming From?" by noted Swiss surrealist painter H.R. Giger) that was included in the Frankenchrist album (seen here). Artistic merits of the poster aside, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office actually admitted to the L.A. Weekly that they had actively built files on several other PMRC-targeted musicians, but chose Biafra because it was, “a cost effective way of sending a message.” That message – SHUT UP & CONFORM!!!! – while a powerfully administered one, lost a bit of its oomph when the case disintegrated under judicial scrutiny.

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REVENGE OF THE SEX OBJECTS

The capitalistic practice of marketing products via the usage of sexual imagery is a quite common one. Everything including apparel, automobiles, books, liquor, magazines, movies – & certainly music – have all had advertising campaigns based on the sexual objectification of people. More troubling by far though: sometimes those images have crossed the line into the realm of violent sexual assault. Given its attention-grabbing effectiveness, this premeditated phenomenon will likely not soon come to an end – but, in at least a few instances, such egregiously misogynistic materials have been forced from the marketplace by vigilant activists.

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue Despite their many positive musical qualities, the Rolling Stones – whose work includes such hits as "Stupid Girl," "Under My Thumb," & "Some Girls" – have certainly never been accused of being feminists. Their nadir, though, may have been reached in 1976 when a grisly promotional campaign (based on this photograph of a bound, bruised, & spread-eagled vixen) was launched to help push their new LP. Published in Rolling Stone, & mounted as a giant billboard on Hollywood's Sunset Strip, the bondage image drew the wrath of women's rights groups, like the Women Against Violence Against Women, who launched a year-long boycott against Atlantic Records.

 
   

Battered Wives Battered Wives What in the world was Bomb Records ever thinking in 1978 when they issued this eponymous LP by a band with the regrettable moniker, The Battered Wives? Just one glance at the cover reveals why the group was instantly targeted by feminists who objected to just about every aspect of the Canadian group’s existence, including: 1.) A horrendously callous name, 2.) A woman’s prominently featured booty, and 3.) A unforgivably tasteless logo of blood dripping from a clenched fist smeared with lipstick. The group was reportedly boycotted, picketed, & hounded out of the biz.

 

Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction While no one has ever expected enlightened behavior (or lyrics) from the vast majority of heavy metal bands, it was Guns N’ Roses who probably set some kind of World Record for efficiently managing to offend a huge portion of potential fans with songs that offered up, variously: racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, & sexist bile. But the final straw for some observers was the robot-rape-scene cover (by the noted artist, Robert Williams) used for their 1987 hit album, Appetite For Destruction. After protests and denunciations, Geffen Records withdrew the LP and replaced its cover-art with a skulls & cross tattoo-styled graphic motif.  

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CIVICS 101

Georges Clemenceau’s old axiom that “war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals” rings as true as the realization that Free Speech is too important a right to be left "guarded" only by rank politicians (&/or entertainment/media corporations). Here are a few stark examples of artists who have served the public well by reminding us of our hard-won rights – and of Thomas Jefferson's truism that "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."



  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – "Ohio" When CSN&Y rush-recorded “Ohio” as their musical response to the National Guard’s shocking massacre of four anti-war demonstrators at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4th, 1970, numerous radio stations opted not to support the song with airplay. Despite that corporate shunning, sales ensured that the classic protest tune became a Top-20 national hit. One bonus for those who bought the Atlantic Records single was the inclusion on the picture sleeve of the text to Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights which guarantees our right to peaceably assemble, etc…
  Jane’s Addiction Ritual de lo Habitual When Perry Farrell – the singer with Jane’s Addiction – submitted his original artwork to Warner Brothers Records for the band's 2nd album, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual, the label reportedly wasn’t too thrilled. Still, they honored the band's vision and gave it a go in the marketplace. Until, that is, a few stodgy retail chains squawked. Under corporate pressure, & forced to reconsider, the guys opted to go with minimal text simply quoting the Free Speech guarantee within our First Amendment.    

  The 2 Live Crew "Banned In The USA" The repression of this hip-hop group’s 1989 album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, resulted in “negative” publicity that catapulted its sales to the double-platinum level. So, Luke & his posse raised the stakes by throwing down the gauntlet to would-be censors with the 1990 hit single, “Banned In The USA,” whose cover quoted and promoted the First Amendment’s text.

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BANNED IN THE USA

Historically, when we speak of a song getting “banned” in America, that has generally meant some radio station or retail outlet has chosen not to support that particular recording. Another common form of “censorship” is when a record is altered by a record label after having second thoughts about the item’s "appropriateness." While hardly an ideal situation for freedom of expression or the open dissemination of ideas, these moves are perfectly legal & at least understandable. But another form of suppression that is down-right dangerous is the occasional involvement of the government – usually via selective law enforcement or set-up cases in conservative courts – in repressing or outlawing music.

N.W.A. Straight Outta Compton In 1989 the California hip-hop crew, N.W.A., issued their classic, Straight Outta Compton album, and a musical protest against police brutality, “Fuck Tha Police,” soon attracted the unwanted attentions of the FBI. That’s when an Assistant Director penned his unprecedented and intentionally intimidating memo (on agency stationary) to Priority Records registering official displeasure. Furthermore, the label was reportedly advised to dump N.W.A. & it was rumored that the FBI also made attempts to intervene in the distribution of the album. What is certain is that N.W.A.’s summer tour was disrupted by boycotts & police raids – & in 1990, a Tennessee court judged the album to be “obscene.” Perhaps, but others of us would insist that it is police brutality, rather than rough language, that is the true obscenity in America.  
  Body Count Cop Killer It was during the election year of 1992 that certain politicians engineered a controversy over the already-more-than-year-old, “Cop Killer” – a brutal song about the fantasized street revenge meted out to an abusive policeman – by rap-star Ice-T and his part-time hard rock band, Body Count. The Bush/Quayle campaign, the NRA, & other right-wingers condemned the song & a serious boycott was promised against Sire Records (and all Warner Brothers product), but the conglomerate admirably issued statements in support of their artists’ right to Free Speech. Until, that is, bomb threats started coming in…that’s about when Ice-T and Sire agreed to part ways. The end result? “Cop Killer” was excised from the album and today it remains one of the very few songs ever successfully suppressed in America. Interestingly, it was another of Ice-T’s records – the ironically titled, Freedom of Speech ... Just Watch What You Say – that a Florida Grand Jury branded as legally “obscene.”
Ice Cube Death Certificate When Ice Cube broke from N.W.A. to go solo, his 1991 album, Death Certificate, carried on the tradition of controversy. The cover showing Uncle Sam on a mortuary gurney (a visual metaphor for the "death of the American Dream"?) & his various intolerant and violent songs led to condemnations in Billboard magazine, widespread retail boycotts, & in Oregon, an official statewide ban on displaying the rapper’s image in retail shops.

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JUST SAY NO TO CRACK!

Anyone old enough to recall the popular [ca.1956...] advertising campaign for Coppertone® sun-tan lotion (which featured Little Miss Coppertone, a happy and carefree partially bare-bottomed cartoon child & her puppy) might be a bit surprised in realizing to what extent the public exposure of a human derriere in more modern times has, apparently, caused traumatic grief to some folks. It seems that in the conservatives’ "New World Order," any thought that rumps are rather universal and harmless is nothing but a sorry reminder of the liberals’ fast-fading Era of Enlightenment.

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy Even though Led Zep’s fifth album was released in 1973 with an unusual design element – a Japanese OBI-style paper sash that was reportedly included in order to hide the young cover-art models’ rumps from view – the package was nevertheless reportedly banned in notoriously intolerant places like Francisco Franco’s dictatorial Spain, oh, and in towns across America’s fundamentalist Bible Belt.  
  Roger Waters The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking When Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters stepped out in 1984 with his first solo album – including a cover-image of a butt-naked hitchhiker – he scored no hit songs. But the LP did grab the attention of reactionary feminist activists. After enduring charges that he was a sexist, & assertions that the graphics “encouraged rape,” a new cover was issued with the offending buttocks covered by a hilariously incongruent black bar! As Playboy.com noted: This censorship “was unfortunate considering the album’s pros were the unadulterated cover and its cons the music.”
The 2 Live Crew As Nasty As They Wanna Be The bodacious baby-got-back cover-art graphics (and raunchy lyrics) of 2 Live Crew’s 1989 hit album, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, sparked boycotts, bannings, confiscations, & arrests of band-members (& record store clerks in three states). Then the album became the first to ever be declared “obscene” in a federal court. But as one source put it, all this “negative publicity had an enormously positive effect on Nasty, catapulting sales near the double-platinum plateau.”    

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I.P. FREELY

In recent times the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of corporate entities has increasingly become an active battlefront in the censorship wars. While there is little doubt that reasonable trademark enforcement in the marketplace is fair and necessary, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of musical artists whose work has been stymied by various IP claims made against them. Some of the companies (&/or their products) that have been involved in these disputes with musicians over the years include: Converse sneakers, Lysol disinfectant, Jolly Green Giant frozen vegetables, Carbona stain remover, et cetera.

One interesting cluster of such examples regards the soda pop empires. As early as 1918 “Every Day Will Be Sunday When the Town Goes Dry” – an anti-Prohibition song with the lyrics (‘…At the table d’hote with Lola they will serve us Coca Cola…’) – mentioned the beverage without any legal repercussions. Then in 1948 the Andrews Sisters celebrated, the drinking of “Rum and Coca Cola” with a similar lack of trouble. Likewise when Coke was mentioned in Pat Boone’s 1960 clean-cut take of “Call It Stormy Monday.” But it was a different thing altogether when the Kinks’ humorous 1970 hit, “Lola,” noted how the champagne at some Soho dive tastes just like “Coca Cola.” Not only did the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) ban the tune on radio but, apparently, additional pressure from the brand-owner led to the band altering its lyric to “cherry cola” in subsequent pressings. Persistent rumors circulated that the conservative company probably just had an aversion to being linked, lyrically, to a song about a transsexual, (‘...I know I’m a man / and so is Lola...’). And the carbonated sugar-water industry has remained a tempting target ever since:

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Enjoy Jimi Hendrix Had this album of a 1970 Hendrix concert performance been issued by a legitimate record company – rather than by a shadowy bootleg label, Rubber Dubber Records – the Coca Cola company would clearly have had an air-tight trademark-infringement case on their hands.  
  TAD Jack Pepsi In 1991 the Seattle grunge band, TAD, and their label, Sub Pop, were forced, at considerable expense, to change the cover art for their pro–drunk driving single, “Jack Pepsi.” Any response from the other implicated firm, Jack Daniels Distillery, remains unknown.
Negativland DISPEPSI In 1997 when the radical audio-collage band, Negativland, issued their hilarious DISPEPSI album (which directly dissed both the PepsiCo and Coca Cola companies by manipulating unlicensed samples from various old ad campaigns) nothing happened. Perhaps the soda execs calculated that fighting it would only further publicize the disc’s negative critique of their questionable corporate policies.  

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SEX, FLAGS, & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL

The negative firestorm that has greeted the issuance of various musical products that mingle patriotic and sexual imagery offers the cultural observer a window into one remarkably sensitive societal fault-line. And the times have certainly changed: back in the anti-Vietnam War Era plenty of hippies were jailed for wearing American flag-motif shirts, headbands, or jeans' patches – today, it is mainly self-declared "Super-Patriots" who figuratively and literally wrap themselves in the flag every chance they get.

  Roxy Blue – Want Some? A humorous cover illustration depicting Uncle Sam gripping a buxom, "Daisy Dukes"-clad, heavy metal hottie reportedly drew complaints when this CD was issued by Geffen Records in 1992. The tempest led to the album's banishment by various record retail chains, & a premature out-of-print status.
Black Crowes – Amorica When this album was released by Universal in 1994, the cover image of a woman’s flag-bikini bottom (replete with potentially unpatriotic pubic hair sprouting over the top) caused an immediate uproar. Under pressure from Wal-Mart and other powerfully conservative retail chains, the band was forced to accept the imposition of a perfectly un-artful substitute image.    

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BAD TIMING ON A TRULY EPIC SCALE

The shockingly tragic events of 9/11 – spectacular terroristic attacks on the symbols of American capitalism (the World Trade Center towers) & military (the Pentagon) that our government has informed us were planned by someone named Osama bin Laden – are widely said to have “changed everything.” Only time will reveal the extent to which that sentiment is true, but in the immediate aftermath, a few particular musical records felt a definite impact. With infinite respect offered here to the victims of 2001, this exhibit is presented strictly for the sake of historical documentation.

  The Coup – Party Music When in early September, 2001, The Coup released their 4th album, Party Music – replete with unbelievable cover-art showing band-mates Boots and DJ Pam the Funkstress conducting the demolition of the WTC – they likely thought the most controversial aspect of the disc was a par-for-the-course anti-capitalistic hip-hop anthem, “5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.”. But days later, after the WTC was destroyed, the duo quickly heard from their label: “Two hours after the thing happened,” Boots once recalled, “we got the call saying, ‘OK, you've got to have another album cover.’ No discussion. That was it. It was one of the first things that I saw in a series of censorship things.” The substitute cover is rather less incendiary, merely depicting someone’s hand cradling a flaming cocktail adjacent to a gallon of gasoline.
Dream Theater – Live Scenes From New York It was purely the "luck of the draw" that resulted in Dream Theater seeing their latest album – the 3-CD set, Live Scenes From New York (replete with cover-art showing the NYC skyline & WTC towers engulfed in flames) – being assigned a release date of September 11th, 2001. Concerns over the sensitivity of the citizenry to such a keenly sore subject caused Elektra/Asylum Records to immediately recall every copy they could round up, & then remarket them with a thoroughly uncontroversial new cover featuring a collage of standard live performance pix.  
  The Strokes Is This It When released on September 25th, 2001, this New York City band’s debut album contained a song that just did not mesh with the new post-9/11 zeitgeist of hero-worship for law enforcement. The minimally derogatory lyrics [‘…they ain’t too smart…’] to “New York City Cops” were suddenly a strictly verboten utterance & RCA Records, fearing a backlash, attempted to erase them from history by withdrawing the disc, “disappearing” the song, & re-releasing the new safe version in early October.
Dilated Peoples "Target Practice" When this 12-inch hip-hop single was issued by ABB Records not long after 9/11, controversies erupted over the song “Target Practice,” as well as the cover-art which featured an image of a high-tech electronic map of the world with cities, including NYC, apparently targeted for attack. Before long, the tune in question was axed and the cover totally redesigned.    

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