The 6 Most Hilarious Failures in Music Censorship History

#3. The BBC Bans Bing Crosby for Being Too Catchy


Before there were rock stars, there were crooners, and one of the most successful was Bing Crosby. Way before Elvis and the Beatles, Crosby was a radio and box office star who sold a shitload of records and whose dulcet tones made ladies everywhere feel splendiferous in their garter-quadrant.

For all she knows, he could be singing about the benefits of racism.

Anyway, Crosby's 1942 tune "Deep in the Heart of Texas" hit No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard chart and was also a big wartime hit in the United Kingdom. As we saw before, the BBC has historically been quick to step in and start a-censoring dubious tunes. But in the case of "Deep in the Heart of Texas," there were no innuendos or backward messages to the Prince of Darkness. No, the BBC banned it for being too fucking catchy. Listen to this earworm below:

The BBC restricted playing the song during working hours, as there were concerns that it would cause factory workers to bang their tools and clap along like idiots, presumably allowing their planes and bombs and crap to explode all over the assembly lines. This ban stayed in effect until the end of World War II. There's definitely an alternate reality out there where the Nazis won because Bing Crosby's love of the Lone Star State accidentally sabotaged the Allied war effort.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Then "White Christmas" takes on a whole new terrifying meaning.

#2. MTV Pretends That Neil Young Sells Out


Neil Young has been called many things -- rock elder statesman, legendary asshole, Canadian -- but he's certainly never been shy about expressing his opinions. And throughout the '80s, he was all over the place musically, veering from ill-advised forays into new wave (1981's unfortunately named Re-act-or) and synth-pop (1982's Trans) to weird-ass rockabilly (1983's 25-minute-long Everybody's Rockin') to old-timey country (1985's Old Ways). In fact, the only thing Young did consistently during the decade was be totally inconsistent.

Nothing says "cyberpunk" quite like Neil Young.

In this regard, 1988's This Note's for You fits perfectly.

You see, Neil had a bit of an issue with musicians allowing their songs to be used in advertising. In particular, he was irked at Michael Jackson's infamous (and nearly deadly) endorsement of Pepsi, and ad campaigns by Michelob and Budweiser that used hits by the likes of Eric Clapton and Genesis. Young didn't mince words, opening the tune with "Ain't singin' for Pepsi / Ain't singin' for Coke / I don't sing for nobody / Makes me look like a joke." The lyrics also name-check Miller and Budweiser's spokesdog, Spuds MacKenzie, whose lookalike appears in the video alongside a burning Michael Jackson impersonator.

This is where the problems started. MTV -- which was keener on being in the Michael Jackson moneymaking business than in the Neil Young business -- pulled the video. Their reasoning? The channel had a policy against product placement, an explanation that completely disregards the fact that "This Note's for You" was plainly satirical. (In fact, the lyrics clearly state that Young is not endorsing any of the products he mentions.)

"Neil, we can't have you pushing your company, Sponsored by Nobody, in your videos."

Yup, MTV just sort of accidentally-on-purpose misinterpreted the song's entire meaning in order to avoid pissing off their cash cows. After fan outcry, "This Note's for You" was eventually placed back in rotation on MTV -- and even won the channel's 1989 Best Video Award as a mea culpa of sorts -- but honestly, this is just more evidence that MTV was The Man years before they ever canceled Wonder Showzen.

#1. MTV Censors Weird Al


Remember what we said about MTV being eternal squares? Well, a few years back, they censored a goddamn legend. Specifically this man, seen below having no idea what the heck is happening on a Japanese talk show.

In 2006, parody song godhead Weird Al Yankovic decided that he had something to say about the whole illegal downloading boom. Weird Al being Weird Al, he wrote a 100 percent unsmiling "We Are the World"-style ballad titled "Don't Download This Song." This single solemnly explained how illegally downloading music inexorably leads to crack addiction, sends evil children to prison, and prevents Weird Al from buying "another solid-gold Humvee."

Now, everybody knows that MTV barely plays videos anymore, but they specifically refused to play the video for "Don't Download This Song" unless Al censored the names of once-popular illegal downloading applications Morpheus, Grokster, Limewire, and Kazaa (because how else would downloaders ever learn the names of such software if not from a Weird Al song?). Said Weird Al of MTV's ultimatum, "Instead of subtly removing or obscuring the words in the track, I made the creative decision to bleep them out as obnoxiously as possible, so that there would be no mistake I was being censored."

This censorship didn't come to light until 2008, when the bleeped-out version of "Don't Download This Song" finally ran on MTV's music video website. By this time, Grokster and Morpheus had disappeared from the scene, Al had been offering the song for free download for years, and anyone with a third-grade education realized that "Don't Download This Song" was a gag by a noted goofball. Good job, MTV -- you're officially the evil television station from UHF.

Mike Floorwalker has a website that you have to hear to believe (and since you can't hear text, you won't believe it).

For more ridiculous moments in the music industry, check out 6 Classic Songs That Were Supposed to Be Jokes and The 7 Most Unforgivable Grammy Award Snubs of All Time.

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