TEXTOS DE LAS CANCIONES DE LA EXPOSICIÓN VIBRACIONES PROHIBIDAS
En la exposición Vibraciones Prohibidas, que se puede visitar en El Born Centro de Cultura y Memoria de Barcelona entre el 24 de mayo y el 28 de agosto de 2016, es posible escuchar unas 48 canciones que estuvieron censuradas en su momento. Las canciones se encuentran en una jukebox en la sala principal y pueden ser programadas por los visitantes, además de leer in situ los motivos que los censores dejaron por escrito explicando sus criterios y la justificación de la prohibición de cada una de ellas.
Este es el texto (en inglés) en el que se explica los motivos de la censura de cada una de ellas:
1 AC/DC: “She’s Got Balls” (High Voltage, 1976)
The song was written by singer Bon Scott for his wife Irene, from whom he was separating, but who had stayed by his side in the hospital during the three days he had been in a coma after a motorcycle accident. However, in this case the censor highlights precisely the phrase that is the song’s title as the objectionable element and provides the following arguments: ‘It is simply a vulgar expression because—although she can be understood as being a brave girl—what it actually says is that she has “balls” which, in today’s slang, means that she “has a c…” I think it would be better to reject it.’
2 Alice Cooper: “Never Been Sold Before” (Muscle of Love, 1973)
In this song, no concessions can be made to the word “whore,” quite simply. The text says: ‘I just can’t recall you “little whore” and not “bad girl,” as the benign translation sent by the record company says.’
3 Aretha Franklin: “Mister Spain” (Hey Now Hey, 1973)
‘Because of both the name and the content, it is a personification of Spain. There are cryptic phrases. As long as the error of calling this man “Mister Spain” continues, it will be rejectable’.
4 Azahar: “¿Qué malo hay, señor juez?” (Elixir, 1977)
The song, combining symphonic rock with Arabic influences, was banned for criticizing the penalties suffered by consumers of what they called the ‘God’s little gift.’ The group—led by the Egyptian Dick Zappala, who was living in Spain and who had played the role of Herod in the play Jesus Christ Superstar, saw how the single was quickly withdrawn from circulation after it was released. Taking advantage of the situation, the Aliens Act was applied to him and was expelled from Spain. Antonio Valls, the band’s guitarist, helped him return and, months later, managed to get the punishment of expulsion replaced by the curious legal concept of ‘banishment from the city of Madrid’, which meant he could live and work in towns outside of Madrid, but not in the capital.
5 Black Sabbath: “Who Are You” (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1974)
The song was removed from the Spanish release of the album due to its references to the devil in the lyrics. These are the verses highlighted in the translation of its lyrics: ‘Yes, I know the secret that’s within your mind. / You think all the people who worship you are blind. / You’re just like Big Brother giving us your trust. / And when you have played enough you’ll just cast out our souls into the dust into the dust. / Please, I beg you tell me in the name of hell / Who are you? Who are you?’
6 Bob Dylan: “Just Like a Woman” (Blonde on Blonde, 1966)
The entire Blonde on Blonde was branded by the censorship services as ‘homosexualist.’ As for ‘Just Like a Woman,’ the censor wrote the following: ‘It has phrases whose double meaning within the intent of the song is obscene. Another supervisor authorized it, perhaps because it was in English.’
7 Chuck Berry: Memphis Tennessee (single, 1959)
Although the song is actually about a father who wants to get in contact with his six-year-old daughter whose mother has taken away from him, the censor saw another meaning and understood that the protagonist was her lover: ‘Love-related content aimed at a six-year-old girl. If the singer is a child, the song is innocent, but if the singer is a young man, the song is rejectable.’
8 Creedence Clearwater Revival: “Wrote a Song for Everyone” (Green River, 1969)
This song was censored ‘due to being modern and subversive.’ The lyrics—composed by John Fogerty after an argument with his wife—meant that the author could write a song that reached everyone, but was unable to communicate with his wife. The censor understood it differently.
9 Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: “Ohio” (4-Way Street, 1971)
The song ‘Ohio’ was removed from the Spanish release of the album due to its criticism of the Nixon government’s police action, which had led to the deaths of four university students in Ohio during a demonstration against the Vietnam War. The censor reaffirmed this interpretation of the song, as he describes it as a ‘protest song about army intervention aimed at repressing a riot in Ohio.’
10 David Bowie: “Cracked Actor” (David Live, 1974)
The censor required this song to be removed from the Spanish release of the album, describing its content as ‘obscene’, highlighting as reason for his refusal the following phrases: ‘You sold me illusions for a sack full of cheques / You’ve made a bad connection ‘cause I just want your sex / Crack, baby, crack.’
11 Doctor Pop: Sofía / Lucía (single, 1975)
The Spanish group Doctor Pop’s single entitled Sofía from the composer duo Pablo Herrero and José Luis Armenteros had to be pulled and re- recorded by the band for re-release, as the Franco regime though that someone could interpret the lyrics as referring to the future Queen of Spain (named Sofia), and the lyrics spoke of a woman who liked to go out at night and who returned home alone in the early morning.
12 Don McLean: “American Pie” (American Pie, 1971)
So that it could be released in Spain, the censors asked that the following phrase be beeped out: ‘The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.’ Although they thought it was a religious reference, the fact is that Don McLean was actually talking about Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, who died in a plane crash in 1959 on what for him was ‘the day the music died.’
13 Donovan: “The Intergalactic Laxative” (Cosmic Wheels, 1973)
After studying the text of ‘The Intergalactic Laxative,’ the censor refused permission for the album to be released with this song based on the following arguments: ‘Contains phrases that are too vulgar and coarse (speaking of the cosmonauts)’. He finally approved it for release, but under the condition that the following verses would be beeped out: ‘You may well ask now what becomes of liquid they consume. / A pipe is led from penis head to a unit in the room. / The greatest heroes, they had to shit and pee.’
14 Elton John: “Tiny Dancer” (Madman Across the Water, 1971)
This song—inspired by the by Elton John and his composer Bernie Taupin’s first trip to the US, was censored for containing ‘disrespectful phrases.’ The verses highlighted on this occasion in the English original are as follows: ‘Jesus freaks out in the street / handing tickets out for God.’
15 Frank Zappa: “Dinah Moe Humm” (Over-Nite Sensation, 1973)
In the Spanish release of the album, ‘Dinah Moe Humm’ was replaced by ‘Eat That Question’ at the direction of the censorship office, as it rated those words as ‘banned’ because they told about a bum’s sexual encounter with two sisters.
16 Hair (banda sonora): “Donna” (Hair, 1969)
In this song, the censor underlined the term ‘virgin,’ making it clear that the word was not allowable in Spain: ‘It must be deleted because it assumes a mentality according to which there are hardly any virgins, and it may help to create that same environment in our country.’
17 James Brown: “Escape-Ism” (Hot Pants, 1971)
‘As the title suggests, it is an evasive song, with ambiguous and disjointed language, without significance, and which can mean anything and everything to anyone who listens to it.’
18 Jefferson Airplane: “Easter” (Long John Silver, 1972)
For the censor, the final conclusion of the study of two of the songs on this album, ‘The Son of Jesus’ and ‘Easter’ was that ‘as might be expected, both are rejectable.’ In the lines preceding this conclusion, he explains his reasons: ‘Perhaps they did not even read the words before sending them, as it is inconceivable that they would dare to submit the lyrics of these two songs, full of profanity and irreverent language. Lyrics from “Easter”: “Golden velvet robes on Pope Paul / he’s talking—he’s stalking devils of flesh / Rides through the streets instead of walking / I think his holy story is a mess / Only one true holy book in your hand. Singing in latin nobody understands / Licking wafers paper thin. / Ah, stupid Christian isn’t it grand? / Pope Paul taking all your money … / No more brains in the Christian”.
19 Jethro Tull: “Locomotive Breath” (Aqualung, 1971)
The song was rejected and deleted from the Spanish version of the album in 1975 for being— in the words of the censor—‘a song alluding to life that does not stop with hard, raw concepts,’ and was replaced by the unreleased ‘Glory Row.’ This is rather curious, because it was a song that was already known in Spain: it had been released previously in 1972 as part of the double compilation Living in the Past, on which, moreover, reference was made to the fact that it had been taken from the Aqualung album.
20 Jimi Hendrix: “Freedom” (The Cry of Love, 1971, e Isle of Wight, 1971)
The song was banned on both of Hendrix’s albums due to ‘containing some verses of pornographic nature,’ according to the censor. The verses marked are: ‘You know you hook my girlfriend… / You just wanna bleed me / you’d better stickin’ your dagger in someone else’.
21 Joan Baez: “Non nos moverán” (Gracias a la vida, 1974)
The song was not released on the Gracias a la vida album ‘due to inciting a strike’ in the words of the censor, who specifically highlighted the following verses: ‘Unidos en la lucha, no nos moverán. / Unidos en la huelga, no nos moverán. / Como un árbol firme junto al río, / no nos moverán.’
22 John Lennon: “Imagine” (Imagine, 1971)
‘An entirely negative song, which abolishes everything, including religion, in the hope that everyone will end up following this idea.’
23 John Mayall: “Mr. Censor Man” (Back to the Roots, 1971)
This song was rejected with a big X covering the entire text of the song, as if to imply that there was nothing that was approvable. Moreover, when explaining his reasons, the censor does not bother to detail them, dispatching with it schematically and somewhat secretively: ‘Lightweight song attacking censorship, not in terms of censorship, but rather for limiting what can be censored. Anyway, for Spain, it is improper.’
24 Johnny Cash: “A Boy Named Sue” (At San Quentin, 1969)
In order for the album’s release in Spain to be approved, the words ‘son of a bitch’ had to be beeped out, leaving one of the phrases of the original lyrics reduced to ‘because I am the one who called you “Sue”.’ Moreover, the word ‘damn’ in the last sentence of the song was removed, so that this last stanza was left as: ‘Anything but Sue! I still hate that name!’
25 Leonard Cohen: “Last Year’s Man” (Songs of Love & Hate, 1971)
According to censor’s handwritten note, the song was censored for being ‘disrespectful to Christ.’ Specifically, he states that the reason for the ban was the phrase: ‘When Jesus was the honeymoon / and Cain was just the man.’
26 Los Canarios: “Get on Your Knees” (single, 1968)
The chorus (‘kneel down, baby, and pray, pray, pray, for your love’) could be interpreted from a sexual point of view—according to the censors— which meant that it could not be approved. However, Teddy Bautista, the leader of Los Canarios, clarified the lyrics stating that the song was dedicated to an Englishwoman he’d met on Ibiza who was always ranting and railing against Spaniards, so he had to take her down a peg so that she would accept the importance and quality of Spain and the Spanish. This explanation saved the song from being blacklisted.
27 Los No: Moscovit (EP, 1966)
Moscovit, a statement against the Soviet Union in which Los No band members took digs at its citizens’ fondness for drink and the country’s women, was interpreted in some circles as completely the opposite due to its references to the Communist world. In addition, this Los No EP was released around the same time there was to be a referendum—in November 1966—that the regime wanted to use to whitewash the dictator’s image. The ballots contained a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to Franco, and the entire state apparatus came out in favor of the ‘Yes’ vote. It wasn’t about winning; it was about crushing any dissent. The guitarist of Los No, Victor Portolés, recalls: ‘During an election in which we were asked to vote “yes” for Franco, we had serious political problems. It was unthinkable that, in the midst of the election campaign, a DJ would announce on the radio: “And now for you, Los No.” This seems like BS, but that’s how things were during the dictatorship.’
28 Lou Reed: “Heroin” (Rock’n’Roll Animal, 1973)
Incredibly, the refusal of this song had nothing to do with the story of the heroin addiction of its protagonist, but was instead justified by a possible vulgar word in the opinion of the assigned reader, who declined to authorize it just to be on the safe side: ‘Regarding this song, I don’t know what to say, because the word “fookink” appears, and I cannot find it in any dictionary. If—as I assume it was a typo for “f— —-g” (whose meaning there is no need to explain) I think it would be better to reject it until the word is clarified. Apart from this, there is nothing objectionable in the song.’ In its place, a song from Reed’s self-titled solo debut ‘I Can’t Stand It’) and two more from Transformer (‘Vicious’ and ‘Walk on the Wild Side’), songs that had been recorded in the studio, thereby detracting from it as a live album.
29 Lou Reed: “The Kids” (Berlin, 1973)
‘The Kids’ had to be removed from the Spanish release of the album Berlin so that it could be released because of its references to prostitution and drugs. Specifically, the censor justified the refusal of ‘The Kids’ with the phrase ‘because she sleeps with brothers and sisters’ which, in his opinion, ‘is sufficient in the song context about the corruption of a woman.’
30 Mama Lion: “Sister, Sister (She Better Than a Man)” (Preserve Wildlife, 1972)
Two songs were removed from the Spanish release of the album Preserve Wildlife due to the theme of their lyrics. The first, ‘Bad Be with Me,’ because in it a woman claimed that she would do anything to leave her man satisfied. The second, ‘Sister, Sister (She Better Than a Man),’ because it is a song about the love between two women.
31 Miguel Ríos: “La guitarra” (single, 1966)
The cover of this single, which in its Catalan release had a small introductory text, was censored for the use of the word ‘languages.’ The text it had could be translated as follows: ‘A dynamic singer with a strong personality, in these two versions of the latest album he’s recorded he shows the novelty of some songs full of fabulous content and musicality that has made it necessary to translate them into all the languages in which a quality record can be successful’. In the censored version, immediately released to replace the first version, the word ‘language’ (‘idioma’) was replaced with ‘tongues’ (‘lenguas’). The reason is clear if one takes a look at the definition of the Real Academia de la Lengua. While ‘idioma’ is defined as a ‘language of a people or nation’, ‘lengua’ is a ‘verbal, and almost always written, communication system belonging to a human community.’ Thus, what the censor was trying to avoid was relating the Catalan language with the language of a nation.
32 Neil Young: “Cortez the Killer” (Zuma, 1975)
The record could only be released twelve months after its international released after the title of the song ‘Cortez the Killer’ (referring to the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés) was replaced by ‘Cortez Cortez.’
33 Nina Simone: “My Sweet Lord / Today Is a Killer” (Emergency Ward!, 1973)
‘We must make these warnings. A song entitled “My Sweet Lord” by the same author, George Harrison, is authorized (file 1267/72) but only a very short version, with only some of the verses of those presented here. It now blends two titles into one, “My Sweet Lord” and “Today Is a Killer” and—although both could be authorized separately—when put together they join two irreconcilable verses: “Who are you, Lord? You’re a [murderer] killer”. It is, therefore, in its current structure, refutable.’
34 Ray Charles: “Don’t You Know” (The Ray Charles Story, 1962)
‘It says: “Turn your lamp down… Please turn your lamp down low… / Come on, baby love your daddy all night long. / Now if you love me like I love you we can do all the things we used to do.’ It must be understood that this ‘daddy’ does not refer to her father, but rather her lover. This language is common and is widespread among hippies who call each other, ‘mamas and papas’ or ‘daddies and mummies’. Thus, I understand that what it means is to sleep with him ‘all night long’ and its consequences.’
35 Roberta Flack: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” (First Take, 1969)
The song was banned due to ‘including a final stanza of marked eroticism.’ That stanza—the one marked by its censor—is as follows: ‘And the first time ever I lay with you I felt your heart so close to mine / and I knew our joy would fill the earth and last, ‘til the end of time. My love.’
36 Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin: “Je t’aime… moi non plus” (single, 1969)
In Spain, when songs arrived for approval by the censors with their lyrics, those presented as instrumentals were always authorized without being listened to first. And that’s what happened in this case; in the file it is clear that ‘they are accepted as self-censure, subject to listening to the album.’ Once the album was released and the heavy breathing discovered after it was broadcast over the radio, it was withdrawn from circulation.
37 Simon & Garfunkel: “Cecilia” (Bridge over Troubled Water, 1969)
On the back cover for the Spanish album the title was moved to the right to cover part of the lyrics of the song ‘Cecilia.’ The real intention for this shift was to cover the verses that the censor had identified as the cause of his refusal as he understood that it referred to adultery; the lyrics were as follows: ‘Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia up in my bedroom / I got up to wash my face / when I come back to bed someone’s taken my place.’
38 Spencer Davis Group: “The Screw” (Gluggo, 1973)
‘The title just means “screw” (as in hardware). However, as a verb, this word has different meanings and it appears as a verb in the text. The meaning changes according to the object, for example, “to screw the truth.” But when the object of the verb is a person, if it is a woman, and there is no further object in the phrase, it usually means performing sexual intercourse, so the obvious translation would be “…………….” You already know what it means. Moreover, the boy adds that he cannot wait any more.’
39 Steely Dan: “Dirty Work” (Can’t Buy a Thrill, 1972)
The song ‘Dirty Work’ was removed from the Spanish release of the album Can’t Buy a Thrill because the censor deemed it ‘erotic.’ He justified the description by translating and underlining the following verses: ‘When you need a bit of lovin’ / Cause your man is out of town / That’s the time you get me runnin’ / I’m a food to do your dirty work / Oh, yeah, I don’t wanna do your dirty work no more.’
40 The Beach Boys: “Good Vibrations” (single, 1966)
‘These lyrics belong to American lumpen drug addict environments: the “hip,” whose philosophy is based on sex. The sexual act, depending on its effects, determines the rightness or wrongness of the act. Hence this American subclass that is trying to radically change American morality has become a social threat. The lyrics talk about “Good Vibrations” compared to “bad vibrations”—, which amounts to sexual acts. The Spanish public is not aware of this philosophy, but still and all, if you consider that the album is for young people and that it is in an English and the lyrics are too easy to understand, and that psychologically “vibrations” are associated immediately with orgasm, I think it would lead many young people to dance in order to look funny prematurely. I believe, moreover, that approving it would lead to music-related magazines to publish the lyrics in Spanish. As a result of the foregoing, I believe that it should not be authorized.’
41 The Beatles: “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (Hey Jude, 1970, 1967-1970, The Blue Album, 1973)
The Beatles song was removed from two of Spanish versions of two of their albums: Hey Jude (aka Beatles Again, 1970) and 1967-1970 (the compilation known as The Blue Album, 1973). In this latter album the song was replaced by ‘One After 909.’ The reason for the ban was the references to Gibraltar, where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had been married shortly before—a fact that was mentioned in the lyrics— just as a campaign was being run by the Franco regime claiming the Spanish ownership of Gibraltar, which led to the closure of the border with the Rock.
42 The Doors: “Peace Frog” (Morrison Hotel, 1971)
‘Peace Frog’ was removed from the album because it was—according to the censor—‘biased,’ and on the Spanish release it was replaced by ‘Not to Touch the Earth,’ which had been released two years earlier on the international release of the album from the same group ‘Waiting for the Sun.’ These are the verses highlighted in the translation of its lyrics: ‘Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding / Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind / Blood screams the pain as they chop of her fingers / Blood will be born in the birth of a nation / Blood is the rose of mysterious union. / There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles / Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee / Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago / Blood on the rise, it’s following me.’
43 The J. Geils Band: “Diddyboppin” (Ladies Invited, 1973)
‘I haven’t managed to figure out the meaning of the frequently repeated expression ‘diddyboppin,’ and so I think that we should ask them to explain the meaning of the word, not a description, but rather stating the origin of the word and where it can be found. Because I understand that its meaning is obscene, given that the last verses say: ‘Some like it easy and some like it hard / Some keep it buried in their backyard. / Some like it slow and some like it fast, / Some like to get it and make sure lasts’. It seems suspicious and therefore rejectable.’
44 The Lovin’ Spoonful “Revelation: Revolution ‘69” (Revelation: Revolution ’69, 1968)
The Lovin’ Spoonful “Revelation: Revolution ‘69” (Revelation: Revolution ’69, 1968) Although the record company tried to avoid the ban by intentionally changing the title from ‘Revolution,’ the censor did not overlook its content, which he rejected: ‘It sings to violence and because it is non-conformist, the revolution although ideologically vague and indeterminate.’
45 The Rolling Stones: “Sister Morphine” (Sticky Fingers, 1971)
The song was removed from the Spanish release of the album due to being—in the words of the censor—a ‘song to drugs.’ The lyrics are actually about a man who has a car accident and dies in the hospital asking for morphine. In Spain was replaced by a cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Let It Rock,’ although this was from a live recording, breaking the record’s studio recording structure.
46 The Velvet Underground: “I’m Waiting for the Man” (The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967)
The Velvet Underground: “I’m Waiting for the Man” (The Velvet Underground & Nico, 1967) This song was met with reluctance on the part of the assigned censor. However, the censor’s supervisor, who studied the file stated that he found ‘nothing obscene or pornographic for which it should be rejected.’ Interestingly, in this case he misinterpreted the content of the song, which actually does talk about a drug addict who goes to Harlem in New York—specifically the intersection of Lexington Avenue and 125th Street—to buy drugs from his usual dealer, the ‘man’ of the title (in a later interview with the magazine Rolling Stone, Lou Reed acknowledged that everything described in the song was real, ‘except the $26 price’). To the censor, the reality described was something else, even with its references to ‘works’ and ‘sweet taste’: ‘The content refers to a girl who is always waiting for her man with “twenty-six dollars in hand.” She always has to wait for him. All the rest “needle” her, but he has a sweet taste.’
47 The Who: “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (Who’s Next, 1971)
In addition to ‘Love Is Not for Keeping’ (due to its sexual content) ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ was removed from the Spanish release of the album Who’s Next, composed by Pete Townshend with the idea of showing a revolution that, in the end, turns into the same regime against which he struggled at first. The censor rejected it with this reasoning: While obviously not about a revolution carried out with guns, it refers to a ‘hippy’ type moral revolution or the like.
48 The Who: “Doctor Jimmy” (Quadrophenia, 1973)
As many as three censors studied the Quadrophenia file, and the result was that the album was released in Spain without this song. The first two rejected ‘Dr. Jimmy’ due to erotic and obscene expressions such as: ‘You say she’s a virgin I’m gonna be the first in.’, ‘Oh, fucking will he.’ Two months later, the record company sent the text back for reconsideration, assuring them that they have eliminated the two phrases that led to the rejection. However, the censor in charge of analyzing it added new grounds for rejection, this time stating that it could be authorized if two more phrases that he was underlining would be eliminated, specifically, the following: ‘I’ll rape it,’ ‘When I’m pilled.’