Music throwback: banned songs?

Here’s a song – and I think it’s a good thing – that you DON’T hear much anymore.

Julie Brown
Julie Brown
The discussion about whether radio stations should play Baby, It’s Cold Outside heated up in 2018, with some suggesting that the song should go away and others suggesting the song is not a problem. A LOT of people in this discussion argue, “Don’t they have something better to do?”

I commented about the song back in 2017. My basic belief is that I don’t much care – ban it, don’t.

These posts led to some nifty conversations about what ELSE has been banned. To be sure, a radio station choosing not to play a song isn’t an outright ban unless some government entity actually prohibits it. The FBI checked out Louie Louie by the Kingsmen (#2 pop for six weeks, #1 r&b for six weeks in 1963) but couldn’t figure out what was said.

I recall Society’s Child by Janis Ian (#14 pop in 1967) didn’t get played on certain radio stations because of the interracial reference. Even Love Child by Diana Ross and the Supremes (#1 pop for two weeks pop, #2 r&b for three weeks) got yanked by a couple stations.

The more interesting conversation is what songs SHOULD be axed now. More than one person noted Run For Your Life by the Beatles (1965), “I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man.” I admit it is one of my least favorite songs by the group, and John Lennon himself has dismissed it. It’s possibly the reason the Revolver album ranks higher with me than Rubber Soul.

What about Hey Joe, by the Leaves (#31 in 1966), famously covered by Jimi Hendrix (1968), about actually shooting someone? Ditto Neil Young’s Down by the River (1969). Or do they belong to the genre of “murder ballads” such as Pretty Polly (1968), famously covered by Judy Collins?

Now here’s a song – and I think it’s a good thing – that you DON’T hear much anymore. The Crystals’ He Hit Me (and It Felt Like a Kiss) (1962) was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

There’s one song that I own a Dr. Demento album that I’ve not heard for decades on the radio. Homecoming Queen’s Got a Gun by Julie Brown (1983) was played on MTV in the early days. School shootings were once a rare event, so this was just an absurd, possibly tasteless, joke in the 1980s. I can’t imagine it being played in the era of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Stoneman Douglas, and Brown hasn’t performed it in two decades.

What songs, if any, would you ban?

Music throwback: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

“The tension in the song comes from her own desire to stay and society’s expectations that she’ll go.”

Somehow I missed the controversy over the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside that was apparently raging on social media last Advent. It’s back in full force this year, having shown up in at least two Facebook threads, and I wasn’t even looking.

More than one person I’ve seen refer to it as the “Christmas rape song.” First off, it’s not about Christmas at all. The weather is obviously unpleasant, but it has no more to do with the holiday than “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”

The song was written by Frank Loesser in 1944 and performed in the 1949 movie Neptune’s Daughter by Ricardo Montalbán and Esther Williams, with the guy in pursuit, two people who are IN LOVE, not contending for dominance. In the same film, Betty Garrett is wooing Red Skelton.

Some of the defenders of the song suggest considering the time period. Is it about sex? Possibly, but not necessarily. Perhaps he was being a gentleman by offering his place for her to stay warm into the morning. Her concerns may have been about what people would think about a single woman staying at his place.

But if the original is sweet and consenting, can the many cover versions be seen in the same light?

The specific lyric “what’s in this drink” is also a current concern, given the fact that there have been numerous cases of men (usually) lacing the drinks of women (most often), for the purposes of sex. Many women have reported that Bill Cosby was notorious for doing that sort of thing. But the phrase was, and arguably is, a common joke, justifying one’s goofy behavior, even when one is consuming nothing stronger than grape juice.

In the 2010 Listening While Feminist post, In Defense of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “The tension in the song comes from her own desire to stay and society’s expectations that she’ll go.”

As for the drink: “The phrase generally referred to someone saying or doing something they thought they wouldn’t in normal circumstances; it’s a nod to the idea that alcohol is ‘making’ them do something unusual. But the joke is almost always that there is nothing in the drink. The drink is the excuse. The drink is the shield someone gets to hold up in front of them to protect from criticism.”

See also the 2016 Vox article: Why “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” became an annual controversy about date rape and consent.

Listen to Baby, It’s Cold Outside, from Neptune’s Daughter.

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