Rock and Roll grew up with the post war baby boomers. Living standards were better than ever before and teens in the 50s and 60s had more freedom than ever before. Many had free time after school, allowances, and more freedom than their parents.
At the same time, new technologies made music more available. Phonograph and radio prices came way down with new technology, and the invention of transistor radios allowed teens their own personal music players.
Rock and Roll was their music and parents weren’t happy! It definitely wasn’t big band. The beat was driving, the words weren’t always socially acceptable, and it wasn’t Frank Sinatra!
Of course, a couple of rock groups went a bit overboard … maybe more than a bit … and stepped on a lot of adult toes. Here’s some of the worst … if you were a teen at the time you might say that they were some of the best. Whichever way you see it, here are some of the banned songs and groups that got themselves censored in one way or another… which, of course, increased their sales and cool factor substantially.
When the Rolling Stones titled their song “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, they were asking for a ban. Premarital sex was probably as common then as it is now, but it wasn’t discussed in public. It earned them a ban from the BBC for encouraging promiscuity. Mick Jagger didn’t help when he promised Ed Sullivan to change the words to “let’s spend some time together” for the family oriented Ed Sullivan Show and then jus mouthed the words so that the kids knew what he was singing.
The Beatles “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was banned from many station play lists because the title was thought to be a reference to LSD, a common hallucinogenic drug at the time.
Louie Louie by the Kinsmen was banned by many stations because … we’ll there really wasn’t a reason. It was a suggestive story and a lousy recording. Some people just imagined it to be dirty. There’s more on Louie Louie here. Louie Louie even got an FBI investigation!
Splish Splash by Bobby Darin was banned by some stations because it described a guy getting out of the bathtub and finding a party going on in his living room, then putting just his towel back on. This song did wonders for Bobby’s teen idol image.
Wake Up Little Suzy was banned because it was about 2 teens sleeping together, even though they just fell asleep during a boring movie.
Puff the Magic Dragon drew the ire of no less than the Vice President of the US Spiro Agnew. He labeled it as “blatant drug culture propaganda”. Peter Yarrow claims he wrote the song about losing the innocence of childhood. History has treated Peter well and Peter, Paul, and Mary are considered folk music gods and goddess. Spiro Agnew had to resign as VP to serve some jail time.
And Chuck Berry had a lot of fun with his #1 hit “My Ding-a-Ling”. It got banned by many stations. The song had been around for a while and the words are clear and clean, but Berry twisted them in concert with loads of innuendo.