10 Banned Music Videos

David Bowie controversy is just the latest in a storied history of music video bans

May 9, 2013 1:55 PM ET

When YouTube banned David Bowie's music video for "The Next Day," it seemed ironic, since the site is normally the best place to see once-banned videos. But YouTube says it's cool with Bowie now – that banning his racy, bloody, religious-themed video was a mistake. While the video has been reinstated, the flap reminds us of other music videos that were initially banned. Here are some of our favorites:

"Dead End Street" by the Kinks
In 1966, an early music video depicting the band members as top hat-wearing pallbearers was deemed tasteless by the BBC – even though the "corpse" jumped out of the coffin, apparently alive and well – resulting in the BBC's first pop video ban. 

"Girls on Film" by Duran Duran
During MTV's infancy, efforts to appear hip and edgy didn't include airing the racy mud-wrestling scene in this 1981 video. Eventually, an edited version – featuring roughly half the footage and exactly none of the boobs – made the cut.

"Killed by Death" by Motörhead
An Island Records stunt – having two female executives deliver the video to MTV while dressed in chains and biker gear – didn't help get this video on air. Citing "excessive and senseless violence," including a scene depicting lead singer Lemmy Kilminster zapped in an electric chair, MTV sentenced this metal video to death by obscurity.

"This Note's for You" by Neil Young
Young's satirical video singled out big-money TV sponsors including Coke, Pepsi and Budweiser. So when MTV decided to ban the video in 1988, it gave the uncool impression that it was kowtowing to corporate sponsors. Even though the video was reinstated – and won Video of the Year – the damage to MTV ("spineless twerps," according to Young) could've made even Spuds MacKenzie hang his head in shame.

"The Thunder Rolls" by Garth Brooks
At the peak of his power, Brooks portrayed a cheating husband with bad hair and an even worse temper in this 1991 video banned by The Nashville Network and Country Music Television for its depiction of domestic violence. TNN wanted Brooks to add a spoken message explaining the violent subject matter, but Brooks refused, saying it would appear that he was trying to make money off of spousal abuse.

"What It Feels Like for a Girl" by Madonna
On the heels of his hit Snatch and during the throes of his marriage to Madonna, slick filmmaker Guy Ritchie produced this 2001 video featuring the "Vogue" girl living on the edge. While Madonna has had other videos ("Justify My Love" and "Erotica," as well as the more recent "Girl Gone Wild") banned or limited for saucy content, in this case MTV and VH1 didn't approve of a fictional crime spree that ends with a suicidal bang.

"Low" by Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl said the six hours of film he shot with actor Jack Black included sex toys, but discretion led them to edit those out of the video. Still, scenes of Black taking a dump, Grohl fondling himself and a cross-dressed spanking were evidently too much for MTV, which deemed the 2003 video unsuitable for all ages.

"Just Lose It" by Eminem
After Michael Jackson personally called Eminem's depiction of him "inappropriate and disrespectful," Black Entertainment Television decided to ban the 2004 video, which at one point depicted a noseless Jackson on a bed full of children. While Pee-wee Herman, Vanilla Ice and Madonna are also lampooned, the timing was worse for Jackson, who was then battling child molestation charges.

"Born Free" by M.I.A.
One young male gets shot in the head and another blown to pieces in this shocking 2010 video depicting redhead genocide. The violence (along with some nudity that paled by comparison) prompted YouTube to ban the video, though it has since appeared on the site, encouraging thousands to debate racism.

"Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke
Thicke's wife gave him permission to shoot a video surrounded by topless models, but YouTube wouldn't be so charitable. The 2013 video – also featuring helium balloons spelling out "Robin Thicke has a big dick" – quickly surpassed a million views after its Vevo debut.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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