The following is a list of some of the most famous examples of banned rock ‘n’ roll songs in history. These tracks were widely prohibited by radio stations and record stores for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s the typical offensive content or political messages, sometimes it’s for reasons less expected, but musicians throughout the relatively recent history of rock ‘n’ roll music have been punished with bans for boundary-pushing music.
1. The Rolling Stones, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”
From the beginning of their career, The Stones were never strangers to controversy. 1967’s “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was one of their earliest songs to draw rage from the powers that be, getting banned by the BBC for encouraging promiscuity.
When The Stones appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show planning to play the song, Sullivan requested that they change the lyric from “let’s spend the night together” to “let’s spend some time together.” While Mick Jagger superficially agreed, when it came time to sing it he ostentatiously rolled his eyes and mumbled the line, letting listeners mentally put in the correct lyric. Sullivan was reportedly furious and banned the group from ever returning to the program, a promise he didn’t end up keeping.
The song was again banned along with four other songs in 2006 due to its “suggestive lyrics” when the group gave its first-ever performance in China. “I’m pleased that the Ministry of Culture is protecting the morals of the expat bankers and their girlfriends that are going to be coming,” Jagger sarcastically told the BBC of the Chinese government’s decision, although he added that they fully expected some censorship would be involved with the China show.