Saturday, July 13, 2013

Completely Inappropriate: 5 songs not likely to be heard on commercial Radio

In this wonderful world of internet and various forms of music sharing, commercial radio doesn't matter that much. They no longer collectively decide what people can and can't hear without going out their front door, either to buy an album or to a live performance. There are no limits to the types of songs and music that a person can get at a moment's whim without going
anywhere and without paying very much money. In the past, however, people truly had to go searching to run across something weird, risque or perhaps tasteless. To get something that could be described as 'politically incorrect' was near impossible. Radio used to have the proverbial key to the liquor cabinet. They functioned as a miniature moral authority. You wouldn't hear something politically incorrect on the radio, and if you didn't hear it on radio, you may never know it existed.

Of course, we've all heard spoofs of politically incorrect or tasteless music and lyrics. Spinal Tap is notorious for making over-the-top sexist tunes and mysogynist lyrics, while numerous gangsta-rappers, especially those from the late nineties to the early 2000s seemed to ensure their tracks never got played on radio by cursing so often that basically no one wanted to listen to them anymore whether on the radio or not. Punk rock has been known to say F-this and F-that, even when there really seems to be no discernable reason as to what they're angry about. (And let's face it, God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols wasn't anywhere near as controversial in North America as it was in the U.K. so for all the controversy that they caused, many of us were wondering what the big deal was.)

So let's be honest about intentions and realize that some artists never intended to get their song played on radio, or it was just a spoof, or it was just posturing, saying something nasty or scandalous just to get people riled up. Just like a pro-wrestler, these artists are just playing the badass, and they're not really like that. It's not fake, but it's a show or an act. And really, it's always just an act... or is it?

Sometimes it isn't a joke or a facade or posturing, at least not entirely, and sometimes the artist actually really intended to say all those politically incorrect things that he or she was saying. Yes, it can happen sometimes, and it isn't only Ted Nugent to be blamed (though he is responsible for some of the stupidest lyrics ever). But, strange as it may seem, there are some surprisingly catchy songs that you will never agree with, but you might actually dance and sing along with... after all...It's just a song, right?

1. Shake, Rattle and Roll by Big Joe Turner (1957): I know what you're thinking.... You're thinking "I know this song. It isn't politically incorrect at all. It's an all-around-good-times song. An early rock n' roll classic from the fifties." And you would be right, except that you're thinking of the cleaned-up and sanitized version that was made popular by Bill Haley and the Comets. The original version is by Big Joe Turner and it isn't a dance-tune, but a song about a man who's telling his woman to get in the kitchen and make him some dinner. The 'shake, rattle and roll' is not the sound of a wild party, but the noise made by the pots and pans clanging together and someone (female) working hard in the kitchen.

2. The Jack by AC/DC (1979): This is another of the ones that you may think that you've heard before, but really didn't. This is one that AC/DC reworked and cleaned-up themselves. They put it on an album, changing the lyrics and subject to tell the story of a man and woman playing cards, and it refers not only to the Jack, but the Queen, the King etcetera. If that cleaned-up album-version that was the only version that you've heard, then you'd never know that 'The Jack' was about a woman with Gonorrhea. ('The Jack' being the slang term for the sexually-transmitted disease that is exacerbated by promiscuity) And this sort of subject matter could be construed as tasteless or funny, but you're not likely to hear a song about such a woman or her affliction on the radio anytime soon.
3 Run Charlie Run by the Temptations(1972): On the Temptations 'All Directions' album, alongside the classic funk-rock anthem Papa Was a Rolling Stone was a very funky song called Run Charlie Run. There aren't many single words that will get you kicked off the radio completely. Even the 'F-word'  can be bleeped or blanked and the rest of the song played. But the 'N-word'....that one still works as radio-play repellant. Unfortunately, while the n- word may have been bleeped, the challenging nature of the lyrics could not be undone. The message of this song may have all the good intentions of black activism, but the first lyrical suggestion that white people were 'going to church on Sunday and forgetting all they learned on Monday' may have been a little too politically incorrect for radio both then and now.

4. One in a Million by Guns N' Roses(1988): Appearing on a collection of Guns N' Roses few acoustic-guitar songs, the song One in Million immediately stands out from all the other cursing and expletives of nearly all the other songs by Guns n' Roses. Taking the position of telling his own story from the perspective of a 'small town white boy', Axl Rose and the Gunners not only use the n-word, but manage to offend Police, African Americans, Immigrants, the Gay community and even those of the middle-eastern decent. All done in a single song that might be conservatively described as 'somewhat racist'. Is it really necessary to point the finger at all of these different groups to describe how a person felt when he went to the bus station? I don't know, but that's what they seem to have done.

5. Cop Killer by Body Count (1992):  Speaking of police...I can only think that race relations between law-enforcement and the African American community had gotten so bad in the early 1990s that Ice-T and Ernie C felt they had to write a song that they have referred to as their version of 'Psycho Killer' by Talking Heads. Written from the point of view of the person who fully intends to murder a police officer, the lyrics are decidedly unapologetic. At the time, what should and would have been categorized as an underground thrash-metal song somehow became an international scandal associated with all the problems and excesses of rap music. How did a Heavy-Metal song become Rap's problem? Well, one explanation could be that an all-African-American band with a famous rapper as its front-man seemed a convenient scapegoat for those who wanted to silence voices from troubled neighbourhoods. This song was released not long before the time of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles and other places, and in times of such conflict and stress, voices can reach extremes. The song Cop Killer was not only not played on radio, but it was actually banned from publication in certain locations both inside and out of the U.S.A.

 The Moral of this Blog
So what was the point of this? Why listen to all this malcontent and politically incorrect songs other than to make you, the reader of this blog, feel a little uncomfortable and awkward. Why bring up these subjects? What have we Learned from this Blog? Well, there are several lessons to be learned from this: a) If you want your wife or girlfriend to cook dinner for you, you should ask nicely, buy her flowers or perhaps cook dinner for her once in a while. If she does decide to cook dinner for you, it might not be appropriate to leer over her while she does it. b) It's not nice to make fun of a woman with a medical affliction, even if it is acquired by having sex, and even if she is on the promiscuous side. c) Sometimes race relations turn sour, during those times, try to remember that not all white people are bigoted, hypocritical pseudo-christians d) Cultural stereotypes are born of ignorance, but they become a form of racism when taken too seriously. Despite what Guns n' Roses may have sang in 1988, immigrants, even muslims, are not trying to start a mini-iran in their new country and homosexuals are not intending to spread a disease. Be careful not to mistake the stereotypes of the times you live in for real behaviour by real individuals. e) If you are harrassed or intimidated unnecessarily by an officer of the law, insist that the officer provide you with their badge number, precinct number and then, as calmly as you can, inform them that you will be lodging a formal complaint with their superiors as well as your local city councillor and then provide as many witnesses and as much evidence as you can. Officers don't like facing city councillors or police services boards, it's the cop equivalent to jumping over the chain of command in the military and going straight to the civilian authority that oversees and approves their budgets and signs their paycheques, but if you are a citizen, you have that right. Also, if you use this approach, both you and the officer in question will be alive to complain about this incident later on.
      And lastly there's lesson f) If you listen to these songs and realize their meaning and still like the song....well, that's okay too....remember, as inappropriate as it may seem, it's just a song. In the end, for real and lasting peace between races, sexes and civil authorities we all have to learn to respect one another. It's our minds that have to lose their narrowness, not our art. And remember, christians, Jesus said: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."