USA: Rock superstars censored for their lyrics



Rock superstars censored for their lyrics

On February 5, 2006, rock music veterans The Rolling Stones were censored during their performance at the Super Bowl – one of the most-watched events on US tv.

The Rolling Stones were the real talking point of the Super Bowl on the first Sunday in February. Their 12-minute performance in front of a sell-out crowd of 65,000 people and 90 million viewers during a break in the Super Bowl games opened with the song ‘Start Me Up’, followed by ‘Rough Justice’ and ending with ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’.
Tv censors deemed the lyrics of ‘Start Me Up’ and ‘Rough Justice’ too sexually explicit to be broadcast and they were cut from the three-song show. The tv network ABC said the changes to the Stones’ show were made by the US National Football League (NFL) and its producers.

In ‘Start Me Up,’ the show’s editors silenced one word, a reference to a woman’s sexual sway over a dead man (“You’d make a dead man cum”).

The lyrics for ‘Rough Justice’ included a synonym for rooster, (“I’m just one of your cocks”) that the network also deemed worth cutting out.
According to BBC, the Rolling Stones had approved of the censorship, but according to the Sydney Morning Herald, a Rolling Stones spokeswoman, Fran Curtis, said: “Censorship of their songs was absolutely ridiculous and completely unnecessary. The band may have known about it, but that doesn’t mean they liked it.”

ABC is the first network to impose a five-second tape delay on the Super Bowl. The sensitivity no doubt reflects a lingering reaction to Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” two years ago. In 2004, Janet Jackson caused outrage in the US when she exposed her right breast during a routine with Justin Timberlake. The incident, which was broadcast to millions of tv viewers worldwide, led to the CBS tv network being fined 550,000 US dollars for having intimidated its viewers.

Violation of free speech
The incident was reminiscent of the band’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show during the 1960s, when the host demanded the Stones change the lyrics to Let’s Spend the Night Together’. As ordered, Jagger sang “let’s spend some time together”, but he rolled his eyes for effect.
“Who cares if rock stars making millions of dollars a year have to have their microphones turned down when they talk about being aroused? After all, that isn’t appropriate for kids to hear, right? And what if certain networks don’t want their talk show hosts to have guests that they think might cost them viewers? These may be valid points, but it is still necessary to realize that this is, at heart, a violation of free speech, which we all know is one of key concepts that America was founded on,” writes Retriever Weekly’s Aaron Ludensky in his commentary:
“It’s the accumulation of little things like these that may eventually lead to government censorship and reinterpretation of the First Amendment,” he warns. 


The Retriever Weekly – 14 February 2006:
‘Stones censorship bad precedent for free speech’

Sydney Morning Herald – 8 February 2006:

‘Stones hit back at censorship’

BBC News – 6 February 2006:

‘Stones’ Super Bowl songs censored’

Go to top
Related reading