It’s hard to believe that these popular songs were once banned for being too controversial, since they seem tame today. But at the time, some were not allowed airplay on radio or television while others were removed from their corresponding record altogether. What songs do you remember being shocking when you first heard them?
10 Famous Songs That Were Actually Banned
Bobby Darin – Splish Splash (1958)
“Splish Splash” was originally banned because it suggested nudity, even though the lyrics mentioned the main character “wearing a towel.” The problem was that there was no mention of him putting clothes back on.
Peter, Paul and Mary - Puff the Magic Dragon (1962)
Although Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul, and Mary insisted the song was from a poem by Leonard Lipton and was in fact actually about a dragon, the Vice President under Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, thought it promoted drug use.
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Although “A Day in the Life” is arguably one of The Beatles’ most famous songs, DJs thought it promoted drug use with the line “found my way downstairs and had a smoke” (even though it could have been referencing cigarettes), and alluded to sex with “I’d love to turn you on.”
The Who – My Generation (1965)
BBC Radio banned “My Generation” in the U.K. because they feared the stutter in “why don’t you f-fade away” might offend people with the disorder. However, they didn’t seem to notice that the song lyrics showed disrespect towards the musicians’ wartime elders.
Olivia Newton-John – Physical (1981)
Two radio stations in Utah, one owned by the Mormon Church, claimed the song was too suggestive, especially when Newton-John sang about being “horizontal.” The music video was also banned from television.
Abba – Waterloo (1974)
The song was released during the Gulf War, and even though the references were pretty vague, they still alluded to armies, fighting, killing, and the Middle East. It’s not difficult to see why the song would have been considered controversial at the time.
Queen – I Want to Break Free (1984)
MTV banned the music video, which featured Queen dressed in drag, and some radio stations wouldn’t play the song because that accompanying video appeared “too homoerotic.”
Madonna – Justify My Love (1990)
Another video that MTV banned, as it was deemed too “sexually explicit.” Defying conventions, Madonna instead released it as a single on VHS, where it became a major hit.
Loretta Lynn – The Pill (1975)
Loretta Lynn sang about enjoying sex without worries because she now had access to the pill, and also mentioned dressing “sexy”. Country radio banned the song because of its raunchy lyrics.
Bobby “Boris” Pickett – The Monster Mash (1962)
This one seems silly in retrospect as the lyrics are so mild, but the popular Halloween song was banned by BBC for being too morbid. Now it’s a tune regularly heard on the radio leading up to the October holiday.