Pink Floyd and Indecency
March 13, 2004 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Crap - now they FCC Thought Police are going after Pink Floyd. Is nothing sacred?! WNCX, a local Cleveland "Classic rock" station (who just happens to be the same station that airs The Howard Stern Show in the area) is unable to play Pink Floyd's "Money" because of the use of the word "bullshit" within the song. To be honest, until this was brought to my attention, I had completely overlooked that lyric in the song. But thanks to the FCC War Against Indency, I'm now fully aware of it! What other cases of 'indecency' would you have overlooked had the authorities not brought it to your attention?
posted by tgrundke (63 comments total)
Well, the most obvious one is the song "Who are you?" by The Who, in which the word "fuck" is prominently audible. I have never heard it bleeped, and I have only once heard a DJ relish it as much as I do. :)
posted by annathea at 7:11 AM on March 13, 2004

"It's a bitch girl but it's gone too far
'Cause you know it don't matter anyway
Say money but it won't get you too far
Get you too far"

Hall and Oates.

That one always broke me up as a kid.
posted by ColdChef at 7:12 AM on March 13, 2004

thats just like WHJY here in providence. the on air DJ's said that clearchannel gave them a list of songs they can and cannot play....

"Money", and "who are you?" are a couple of the songs on the list they said.
posted by edmcbride at 7:14 AM on March 13, 2004

There's always the insidious subversiveness of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," which features the line "got him by the balls." Apparently for years some stations had spliced in the word "fun" from another part of the song and the nation's morals were saved.

As critic Dave Marsh put it: "Do I detect a new euphemism here? A kick in the fun? Brass fun? Maybe someday radio programmers will have the fun to play records like these."
posted by jonmc at 7:18 AM on March 13, 2004

I always thought it was amusing that Pink Floyd's Money was never censored. On every station I've ever heard that song that I can remember it's been uncensored even though other songs on the same station might be censored.

I think it's utter bullshit that it will be censored. It's just another example of cowardice. Something is offensive to somebody so it needs to be banned. The same people that decry liberals for "What about the children?" and "There ought to be a law" think "There ought to be a law" and "What about the children?".

If you really want to clean up the airwaves how about public caning for lying on the air? Lying is more offensive than the word bullshit. It's campaign season, there would be plenty of good clean martial punishment fun on the air.
posted by substrate at 7:19 AM on March 13, 2004

Some words are magical and must not be used.
Would it be ok if you quickly perform the special ritual to appease the invisible man in the sky?
posted by spazzm at 7:19 AM on March 13, 2004

For the first time since I've heard it on the radio in 1990, I heard Alice In Chain's "Man in a Box" censored. It was silly because I think I've heard that song at least 100 times on the radio without it being censored--why fix it now? Only to draw attention to it. Also, "Zero" by the Smashing Pumpkins ("bullshit fakers, enchanted kingdoms") which was never censored before because of how inaudible it was.

I even heard Alanis Morrisette's "Hand in my Pocket" uncensored in Abilene, TX (buckle of the bible belt)--where she very clearly pronounces "shit"
posted by psychotic_venom at 7:26 AM on March 13, 2004

substrate -

I find your comment interesting - Conservatives will lambast the 'bleeding hearts' for always asking 'what about the children' and claiming 'there should be a law to control these people/words/images!' and yet here they are, for all their "keep government out" rhetoric, squeezing the airwaves to protect the children and control words.

A mi no me gusta. I'm moving back to Spain, a country that recognizes the danger of government in cahoots with religion (the Franco regime - which utilized the Catholic Church as its 'moral arm')
posted by tgrundke at 7:30 AM on March 13, 2004

It's funny, because where I grew up (Washington, DC), "Money" was always censored -- you always heard "bull-" and then a teeny silence.

I actually have no objection to cutting out 'indecent' or foul or adult language from pop songs on the radio. "Money" is not so bad, but I wouldn't want my kid to hear Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" -- "I want to fuck you like an animal" -- that does seem inappropriate. TV and radio are public spaces and it doesn't seem to me that bleeping out a word is anything so huge as censorship. What *was* censorshop was when Clear Channel took 'inappropriate' songs off the air after 9/11 -- but that's obviously different from bleeping out a word.

(And, of course, they should play the song and bleep -- not take it off the air altogether).
posted by josh at 7:37 AM on March 13, 2004

What I have always found dishonest and total fakery is the American penchant for viewing all sorts of things for a moral slant: is it "dirty" or is it "violent" --yet we see The Passion, the cum-stained blue dress worn by the blower to Clinton, priests butt fucking young underage choir boys, etc etc....and yet, Enron execs and other crooks who steal our money, screw up life for those saving money for retirnement etc as ok if they are wealthy and have good lawyers...Americans, it seems, are ok with all sorts of violence but have moral uptightness about SEX, and anything associated with it--exced-pt of course for ads and mags and anything that sells Merchandise.
posted by Postroad at 7:37 AM on March 13, 2004

how about the "OH! fuckin' hell" towards the end of Hey Jude?
posted by mcsweetie at 7:41 AM on March 13, 2004

Lying is more offensive than the word bullshit.

At work I'm censored from using this language, especially around women. Besides not agreeing with this, could you see this becoming a starting point eroding other unethical crud on the air-waves like "lying?
posted by thomcatspike at 7:54 AM on March 13, 2004

At work I'm censored from using this language, especially around women.

Won't somebody please think of the women?
posted by spazzm at 8:02 AM on March 13, 2004

We'll know they're REALLY serious when they censor Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side". It's always amazed me how that song got a free pass. At first, I don't think they knew what "giving head" meant. Now, I guess they think it's gone on so long it doesn't matter.

Seems to me that this radio station in Cleveland's trying to stir the fans up to take some action with the FCC.
posted by pyramid termite at 8:09 AM on March 13, 2004

"I want to fuck you like an animal" -- that does seem inappropriate.

I aggre that that line is inappropirate. But it's not because of the word "fuck"--it's because of the sentiment. I find it reprehensible that "I want to do you like an animal" would probably make it onto any station in the country, but "don't give me that do goody good bullshit" is out of bounds.
posted by jpoulos at 8:10 AM on March 13, 2004

I dunno, bleeping out Closer doesn't leave much imagination to most children I know, unless they're in some kind of homeschool. What cracks me up is that so much attention is paid towards radio when public schools give them far more exposure to dirty words without a nice melody to back it up....
posted by samsara at 8:11 AM on March 13, 2004

I aggre that that line is inappropirate. But it's not because of the word "fuck"--it's because of the sentiment.

Well, "Money" is a song that explicity decries corporate greed and celebrity gluttony. Maybe that's what pissed the FCC off.
posted by jonmc at 8:12 AM on March 13, 2004

please think of the women?
[some background on my first comment]
When I first became part of the "work force", foul language was accepted but 15 years later things have changed a lot under being "pc". Since the work climate has changesd why would the airwaves not become "pc" too .
posted by thomcatspike at 8:17 AM on March 13, 2004

At work I'm censored from using this language
Add, this could also be burning my fellow employees' ears about religion or politics.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:22 AM on March 13, 2004

This is bovine dung.
posted by pedantic at 8:25 AM on March 13, 2004

josh, if Nin's Closer offends you don't listen to stations that would play it. The only time I've heard it uncensored is in the wee hours of the morning.

Stations should be able to choose what they want to play. Most wouldn't play Closer uncensored anyway except maybe on the late night radio shows (if there are any true late night radio shows - when they'd play stuff that they wouldn't during the day or songs that appeal to a more limited audience who'd presumably stay up late for a chance to hear something new from whatever fringe genre floats their boat). Even hard rock stations know that they're treading a line. Be too controversial and you lose advertiser even if you have a lot of listeners. Be too tame you lose your listeners.

Lot's of things offend me. Unless it directly impacts my or somebody else's health or freedom I wouldn't think of asking the government to jump in on my behalf. I will change the station or the channel because it's an easy way to stop being offended.
posted by substrate at 8:35 AM on March 13, 2004

I'm very offended and shocked and awed and a little but just a little disturbed by this FCC 12-March News release[PDF] in which the news editors at FCC used the word "titillate".

It is obvious that "titillating" has a very strong sexual connotation and the pure eyes of our childrens should be kept away from words regarding clitoris or nipples I mean genitalsthese private zonesyou know what I mean !
posted by elpapacito at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2004

Growing up in Alabama, the radio stations played a version's of Geroge Michael's "I Want Your Sex" where, throughout the song, the word "sex" was over overdubbed with the word "love." Never could understand why that song was popular until I heard the real version (the dub mix made the chorus sound ridiculous).
posted by herc at 8:46 AM on March 13, 2004

What exactly happened between the time they okay'd Bono saying "fuck" and now? This is really getting annoying. And there doesn't seem to be any effective way to voice displeasure. My spineless representatives hid among the majority, eagerly trading freedom for sound bites -- so it's not like any complaints sent there will be taken seriously.
posted by RavinDave at 8:51 AM on March 13, 2004

What exactly happened between the time they okay'd Bono saying "fuck" and now?

A big, black boobie.
posted by jpoulos at 8:59 AM on March 13, 2004

Any of you guys heard of Civil disobedience?

All it would take is an alliance of rock, hip-hop & country stars to use the word bullshit in their newest singles, albums & videos to see this for what it really is: a scare tactic from a paper tiger.

Some weird stuff happening in America these days...
posted by dash_slot- at 9:02 AM on March 13, 2004

My God! They're running amok!
posted by troutfishing at 9:10 AM on March 13, 2004

What exactly happened between the time they okay'd Bono saying "fuck" and now?
This discussion has given me the idea this all started years back at our offices. How many folks working in an open office space had radios at their desks 15-20 years ago compared today?

What I'm trying to convey is that the airwaves heard in public space today is being eroded out of our private spaces, homes & cars to name a few. When at work or elsewhere any offensive radio is easily silenced by turning it off. Yet at home we are being censored as it can't be found. Is this more control by corporate america taking over by political correcting our private spaces too.
PS spell check would like to replace fuck with duck.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:14 AM on March 13, 2004

Poor duck
posted by elpapacito at 9:20 AM on March 13, 2004

by corporate america taking over
The corporate company I work for has for the most part a campus style setting that you allows you quick access for your every day personal business: dry cleaning, banking, ect...
posted by thomcatspike at 9:20 AM on March 13, 2004

There was an outstanding episode of WKRP in Cincinnati about this. Some quotes here. Don't miss the longer exchange towards the bottom of the page.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2004

Most stations around here used to bleep out the part after "bull" in "Money", but the classic rock station no longer does it. Ditto the "funky sh--* goin' down in the city" line in "Jet Airliner" - they used to play the single version, which said "funky kicks", but now I hear the profane version.

The Isley Brothers' "Fight the Power" has the word "bullsh--" which the DJs used to either beep out or just leave a space on the second half of the word.

Of course, I'm old enough to remember giggling wildly when they played "Sunshine" by Jonathon Edwards on the radio. It was the fist time I'd heard swearing in a song, and I couldn't believe they played that line "I'll be damned if he'll run mine" on the air.

* sorry for the dashes, but even at my advanced age, I still don't cuss.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:38 AM on March 13, 2004

I saw saw on Drudge that Michaelanglo's David has to wear a diaper now and Venus de Milo needs a wonder bra and chastity belt.

censoring art. shame on you Miss America.
posted by lsd4all at 9:50 AM on March 13, 2004

The song that always brings a smile to my face is EMF's "Unbelievable," where the chorus is "Oh, fuck fuck fuck" over and over again. Never heard it bleeped in my life. It helps that it's a little difficult to understand, but the album liner clearly identified the lyric.
posted by fatbobsmith at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2004

Howard Stern, Janet Jackson, Bubba the Love Sponge, Elliot in the News, Clear Channel and the FCC should take it to MetaTalk.

The litmus test for obscenity is altogether fallible.

Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time. To be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test: (1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. See Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973).

The average person cannot remove themselves from personal bias and apply community standards. As objective as any interpretation may seem, it is heavily influenced by what someone deems "right." Objectivity is a bias. So is subjectivity.

George called a reporter an "asshole." John said George "fucked it up." John's choice of word is commonly believed to be worse than George's, but he did not call George a fuckup. Who is obscene? Both? Does Pink Floyd have more or less leeway than either of these hoodwinkers?

Throughout the years, influential people have been known to swear. Some of them are even great people. Broadcast or print—move on.

posted by pedantic at 10:05 AM on March 13, 2004

which the DJs used to either beep out or just leave a space on the second half of the word.
Butt the use of the *n-word* has gained greater airtime on the airwaves compared to "back then". Just pointing it out.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:05 AM on March 13, 2004

Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment
I fully understand the airwaves are the publics, policed by the FCC whom is empowered by congress through public opinion, us or should be. The hidden problem I'm seeing in this movement is control rather correctness. Because you have to wonder, "why now?" Yes, publics outrage is causing this now but I doubt public outrage was nil to begin with.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:16 AM on March 13, 2004

Butt the use of the *n-word* has gained greater airtime on the airwaves compared to "back then".

Not where I live. You can't even listen to hiphop on the radio--all those blank spaces totally fuck up the rhymes.
posted by jpoulos at 10:25 AM on March 13, 2004

"why now?"
It's an election year, and the pres's base wants this stuff done.

I'm reminded of "Push, Push, in the Bush" ages ago, which the AM music stations wouldn't play, so we all switched to FM. Now, if FM is not open to things that aren't acceptable elsewhere the way it used to be, then satellite or digital is where to go, I guess.
posted by amberglow at 10:32 AM on March 13, 2004

It's an election year, and the pres's base wants this stuff done.
this movement is control

Control of your vote...
posted by thomcatspike at 10:37 AM on March 13, 2004

You can't even listen to hiphop on the radio--all those blank spaces it a "southern thing" that they don't bleep them?
posted by thomcatspike at 10:39 AM on March 13, 2004

Sheesh, I remember the good ole days of radio when Frank Zappa's "Don't eat the yellow snow" was celebrated for getting past the censors. Of course J. Geils "You've got to give it to me" was censored, but now is used in car ads. Go figure. I hear of bullfeces like this, and I think of the Mojo Nixon song "Chicken Drop" where he says "I can say doo doo, I can say poo poo, and I already used excrement in another song, but I can't say the word that rhymes with fit". Maybe someone should write some songs with the legal words in it ad nauseum.
posted by Eekacat at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2004

Isn't it amazing how society hasn't crumbled whilst Money was being played uncensored! Which begs the question, if it hasn't damaged anyone so far... why bleep it (or pull it) now?

Don't you just love the Nanny State ;)
posted by DrDoberman at 11:23 AM on March 13, 2004

I remember it as being edited as just "bullsh--" ever since I was a little girl.

I know this because it was one of the first songs I was able to recognize, apparently, running to my dad and going "Daddy! It's that money song!" whenever it was on.
posted by Katemonkey at 11:55 AM on March 13, 2004

I was working professionally in radio in L.A. when Pink Floyd's "Money" was routinely censored on AM stations, but not on FM. '70s rocker Steve Miller offered a pre-censored version of his "Jet Airliner" song in which he sang over the phrase "funky shit" with "funky kicks" (are for Trids?).

And, when I was doing a show on KXLU on Sunday Nights in 1977 (like most college stations, they counter-programmed Dr. Demento with their own Demento-like comedy format), I personally aired George Carlin's "Seven Words You Cannot Say on Television", substituting cartoon sound effects (from a Hanna-Barbera promotional record) for the specific words (a thud for fuck, squish for shit, splat for piss, waddawadda for motherfucker). Someone else later stole the idea, did the same thing and gave it to Dr. D... but his sound effects weren't nearly as funny as mine.

And I've already written about my suprising brush with f-word censorship at an L.A. comedy club. (here)

I believe that the censorial side of the current Culture Wars are overplaying their hands. The adjective "pissed" had fallen off the banned list and been audible on prime time sitcoms for years (but like my case, not as a verb), and the recent proposal to put a ban of the "7 Words" into Federal Law would criminalize the p-word on the same level as the f-word. It's a battle that was fought to a stalemate a generation ago, leaving us with absurdities like the MPAA's rule that set a maximum number of uses of the word "fuck" before you get an automatic "R" rating (I think it's three).

As I learned twenty years ago, all forms of censorship rely on arbitrary rules that, if you dig far enough, abandon any basis in logic. But the same can be said about most of the "editing decisions" that shape our common communication.

And, by the way, a former boss of mine was once reprimanded by HIS boss for over-use of foul language, after which he started substituting "duck" for "fuck". Within six months his office was overflowing with duck-themed thcotchkes, his department was renamed "The Duck Pond", and everyone under him got "ducky" nicknames. (After I got into ONE political discussion with him in which I took a more Liberal position, he christened me "The Pink Flamingo") Now THAT's "fowl language".
posted by wendell at 12:20 PM on March 13, 2004

Next fucking week when I become a gad damn celebrity and all the mother fucking dipshits in the media come to me with their holes open and glistening with my giiz cus they want to tittilate all their bastard listeners and the bitch ass money lenders who hold their nads I'm gonna just come out and say it loud and proud fuck you america and all your fucking bullshit. It'll be like Dice Clay all over the place and they won't be able to avoid it cuz my movie about the end of times will be all over the place and I'll be the star and all they can do is bleep out every last god damn curse word that I shove down their lilly livered dumbshit throats. And it's gonna be sweet!!!
posted by filchyboy at 12:48 PM on March 13, 2004

posted by pyramid termite at 1:55 PM on March 13, 2004

Josh, the reason (according to Howard Stern) that Money was always censored on your D.C. station is that the D.C. stations have always been stricter - what with the FCC right in their neighborhood and all.

What kills me is lyrics that are now getting bleeped that I never even thought were "dirty" (even a teensy bit)... I'm not entirely sure the artist did, either... Example - I heard the word "coming" get edited out the other day in the Maroon 5 song "This Love". The lyric is:

I tried my best to feed her appetite
Keep her coming every night
So hard to keep her satisfied
Kept playing love like it was just a game
Pretending to feel the same
Then turn around and leave again

Naive me just thought he meant coming over. But maybe the FCC has dirtier minds...
posted by amro at 1:55 PM on March 13, 2004 it a "southern thing" that they don't bleep them?

From my limited experience, L.A. bleeps rap songs less than Dallas radio, which bleeps it less than MTV. MTV is completely ridiculous, which goes without saying, but they bleep every allusion to violence in modern rap songs, including words like "Taliban." What's funny is, they're less strict about older hip-hop, so you can hear EPMD getting away with way more than Juvenile or whoever.
posted by furiousthought at 3:56 PM on March 13, 2004

Let's change the debate.

Instead of playing their game, be it censorship for "morality" or censorship for "fairness", let's change the subject:

Should "Big Media" be broken up in anti-trust actions?

I mean, would it break your heart if all of a sudden, Newscorp, Viacom, Disney, Time/Warner, GE, SONY, Vivendi, and Clear Channel were broken up?

If enough people start talking about breaking up this oligopoly, Michael Powell, that true believer(*) of the CATO Institute, would shut the hell up.


(*) monopolies are GOOD for us!
posted by kablam at 4:24 PM on March 13, 2004

Fucking Political Correctness. The lefties have won.
posted by SpaceCadet at 5:03 PM on March 13, 2004

At the bottom of this mine lies one hell of aa big, big man. Big John.


I done told you once you son-of-a-bitchgun, I'm the best there's ever been.

posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:06 PM on March 13, 2004

Show biz kids making movies
Of themselves you know they
Don't give a fuck about anybody else

Steely Dan
posted by thedailygrowl at 5:22 PM on March 13, 2004

Should "Big Media" be broken up in anti-trust actions?

Yes, and into very small pieces, too.
posted by y2karl at 5:46 PM on March 13, 2004

Fucking Political Correctness. The lefties have won.

Apparently, in some cases, the Martians. Or possibly the leprechauns.
posted by y2karl at 5:49 PM on March 13, 2004

>"I want to fuck you like an animal" -- that does seem inappropriate.
>>I agree that that line is inappropriate. But it's not because of the word "fuck"--it's because of the sentiment.

That comment interests me. Why is it more inappropriate to 'fuck someone like an animal' than to just 'fuck'? I'm genuinely curious -- the only objection I can see is that one might take offense that 'like an animal' here is interpreted as an adjectival phrase modifying 'you' rather than an adverbial one modifying 'fuck', which still doesn't seem that outré, even if it is perhaps offensive to granny.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:27 PM on March 13, 2004

Re: radio edits

Godsmack has a tune named Whatever that has the phrase "better fucking go away" in the chorus. On the radio, though, they blank out the "fucking," and it comes out in a syncopated rythm. For years I only heard it on the radio, and never heard the un-syncopated original. I still can't get used to the real version.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 7:49 PM on March 13, 2004

Anybody know the name of the song out now about the guy who catches his girlfriend giving another guy head and they blank out a word in just about every line? I don't think it's hiphop, but it does have a r&b feel.
posted by mischief at 8:49 PM on March 13, 2004

Green day. "Basket Case". They use their incoherent singing to get away with saying shiat.
posted by jmccorm at 9:05 PM on March 13, 2004

Ah, controversial stuff in radio songs...I remember that the Who's "Who are you" featured "ah, who the fuck are you" right at the end (before the repeat&fade), and that seemed to make it thru my radio's speakers just fine. OTOH, once upon a time, radio stations in Texas didn't play Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" because of the depravity-inducing lines "just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue/I do declare, there were times I was so lonesome that I took some comfort there" - can't have our fair state's youth realizing a young man might partake of the oldest profession, I guess. Finally, I called a local college radio station and asked to hear the Kinks' song "Lola" (if you don't know, it's about a young man's social experiences with a transvestite) and the DJ nervously said, "Oh, man, I dunno, I might get in trouble if I go playing that." And this was in the late '80s, mind you.
posted by alumshubby at 5:12 AM on March 14, 2004

The song that always brings a smile to my face is EMF's "Unbelievable"

Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd see.
posted by glenwood at 6:51 PM on March 14, 2004

Random thought: People still listen to the radio?

If you like the song so much, listen to it at home -- and have your "bullshit", so to speak. Besides, a bleep doesn't alter the fact that the word was said; so you don't actually hear '-shit', big deal.

And what is the huge problem here? It's not like they're censoring the actual album -- they're just changing the version that hits the radio. Like it or not, everything changes.

This seems like a mountain/molehill discussion here, IMO. Admittedly, it is odd that only now is it being censored.
posted by Dark Messiah at 9:41 PM on March 14, 2004

I like how they censor in SouthPark...

Like for the word "fuck" they pronounce the 'f' sound and then beep and then a 'k' making it entirely obvious what is being said. Hell, it even sounds like the work "fuck" because of the fact that if you remove vowels you can still make out the word alot of the time.
posted by LoopSouth at 8:37 AM on March 15, 2004

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