The last song I heard on the radio this morning before I arrived at work was I Touch Myself
by Aussie rock band Divinyls. Great song, but it’s blatantly
about female masturbation. I was living in Australia at the time it was released, and even at fourteen I remember wondering how on earth that made it past the guys with the red pens. It’s not even vague or metaphoric -it’s the goddamn title of the song!
Then, upon leaving work, the first song I heard on the radio this afternoon was Can’t Stand Losing You by The Police. Another fine song, but this one is about suicide – specifically about a man’s inability to cope with the loss of his significant other. All right, it has a depth of story to the lyric, but it still ultimately details one man’s descent into depression, with the sweet promise of death to look forward to in the final verse.
Both of these songs got me thinking about censorship, and how the rules of the radio seem to be very specific. It appears that the mild expletive shit
is not permitted – even when sung (or rapped) in a non-threatening way – but the line: and she never lost her head, even when she was giving head
from Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side
is fair game at any time of day. Surely the meaning of that has got to be harder to explain to a child than a word they’ve probably heard at school a thousand times by the age of six.
Then again, we live in a world where, last week, on the same radio station, I heard Pearl Necklace by ZZ Top. Fair enough, the title is used somewhat euphemistically, and the bearded rock gods just about manage to get away with it as an innocuous request for jewellery from a demanding girlfriend, but – newsflash – it ain’t. A casual listener who is not familiar with the song may not… get it, but you just have to scratch below the surface a little to get to the nectar.
It seems that you can write whatever you want into the subtext of a song, and you’ll get airplay.