Music’s most controversial single titles

It’s fair to say that this year’s Christmas UK Singles Chart has raised a few eyebrows.

It is not for the same reasons as last year, though, when Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ became the most unlikely and unsuitable Christmas Number 1 – much to the delight of many people.

Matt Cardle may be this year’s Christmas Number 1, but the song ‘Use My Arsehole as a C**t’ by Kunt and the Gang caused excitement on the Internet after entering the UK Singles Charts at Number 66. While this is an offensive title for a single, it isn’t the first time that this has happened.

Cee Lo Green, for instance, was forced to defend the artistic merits of his excellent single ‘F**k You’, which was later renamed ‘Forget You’ for its radio edit.

And there have been several other singles that have been inappropriate and caused controversy over the years.

Wash your mouth out

Although a song, that included the “c-word” in its title, charted for the first time yesterday, there have been several song titles with coarse language that have charted.

One of the most famous examples occurred when the Super Furry Animals released ‘The Man Don’t Give a F**k’, which was released in December 1996.

This political protest song used the “f-word” in its original release so much – 50 times during its 286 seconds length – that the record sleeve had a warning sticker confirming this.

The 2004 re-issue, consisting of a live recording at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, managed to outdo the original by using the “f-word” over 100 times. This still remains the release that has used the “f-word” the most, beating the Insane Clown Posse’s ‘F**k the World’.

The track became an immediate favourite with fans, though, as the 1996 version reached Number 22 in the UK Singles Chart and the re-issue peaked at Number 16 in October 2004.

Furthermore, the rock act Smokie teamed up with the comedian Roy Chubby Brown in 1995 to re-record ‘Living Next Door to Alice’, with Brown adding the words “Alice, Alice, Who the F**k is Alice?” at the end of every chorus.

The song was, unsurprisingly, called ‘Living Next Door to Alice (Who the F**k is Alice?)’.

However, a week before Smokie and Brown’s version was first released, Dutch DJ Gompie reached Number 34 with his version: ‘Alice (Who the X Is Alice)’.

Smokie and Brown’s version was originally unsuccessful, as it peaked at Number 64 in May 1995. The track, however, soon re-entered the chart at Number 34 in August 1995 – possibly due to the track becoming a hit in Spanish holiday camps.

It soon became one the final singles to gradually move up the UK Singles Charts, due to media coverage and appearances on ‘Top of the Tops’. The song eventually peaked at Number 3 in October 1995.

2k’s ‘F**k the Millennium’ also jumped on the swearing bandwagon in the 1990s, and became The KLF’s Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty comeback single.

The track was released to celebrate their tenth anniversary as musical partners and to also mock the intense media coverage of the millennium.

The duo’s original performance of the track, at London’s Barbican Arts Centre in September 1997, was edited as a single release and it peaked at Number 27.

W.A.S.P.’s ‘Animal (F**k Like a Beast)’, ‘Too Drunk To F**k’ by the Dead Kennedy’s, Mogawi’s ‘No Education = No Future (F**k The Curfew)’ EP, ‘F**k Forever’ by Babyshambles and ‘F**k It Up’ by Towers of London have also charted with “f-word” titled singles.

More bad language

Usage of the word “b***h” also proved popular in the late 1990s, as some tracks managed to reach the Top 10.

The Prodigy’s ‘Smack My B***h Up‘, however, outraged others due to its banned video that featured graphic usage of heroin and cocaine, domestic violence, sex, vandalism and drink driving.

The track ended up becoming an international hit – as was Meredith Brooks’ ‘B***h’ – and spent four weeks at number one in Finland.

There have been several tracks with the word “b***h” in the title previously, though, such as Elton John’s ‘The B***h is Back’ and ‘B***hes Brew’ by the Inspiral Carpets.

Usage of the word “a*s” also proved popular, too, as ‘Homophobic A*shole’ by Senseless Things, Mystikal’s ‘Shake Ya A*s’ and ‘The Move Your A*s EP’ by Scooter all reached the Top 75.

There have been other singles, which have used swearing in the title, that have failed to chart.

Blood Sausage’s ‘F**k You and Your Underground’ is probably the most acclaimed, due to the group’s association with the cult riot grrrl band Huggy Bear.

F**king Driving or What? EP’ by Silverfish also attracted cult status, while ‘You Stupid A*shole’ by Mudhoney and ‘Teenage Whore’ by Hole attracted fans from the grunge movement.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll

There have been other inappropriate single titles that have referenced sex and drugs.

One of the most controversial titles was Pulp’s ‘Sorted For E’s and Wizz’, which referenced ecstasy and speed.

This attracted plenty of tabloid attention; mostly due to its CD sleeve, which gave step-by-step instructions on how to make a paper wallet that could be used to smuggle drugs.

Despite the Daily Mirror’s campaign [led by Kate Thornton – this information has come via Sport is a TV Show] to ban the release, it did nothing to discredit Pulp’s popularity; the song stayed at Number 2 for a fortnight in October 1995.

Shut Up and Dance’s single ‘Autobiography of a Crackhead’, which criticised the crack cocaine scene in London, became a modest Top 50 hit in February 1992.

They also attracted controversy when their most famous hit ‘Raving I’m Raving’, which slammed ecstasy use, reached Number 2 in its first week.

Their emphasis on sampling, though, led to lawsuits by at least six major record labels and the track was promptly deleted.

‘Raving I’m Raving’ only spent two weeks in the top 75 and, as a result of this, is one of the shortest stays of any Number 2 hit.

The Dandy Warhols’ ‘Not if You Were the Last Junkie On Earth’ – with the famous lyric “heroin is so passé” – and ‘Illegal Gunshot/Spliffhead’ by the Ragga Twins also charted in the Top 75 with controversial titles.

Urban Hype’s ‘A Trip to Trumpton’ – which sampled the children’s show ‘Trumpton’ – was a popular track that had a double-meaning, as it was heavily associated with the early 1990s rave scene.

The most serial offenders of sexual innuendo in single titles was the 1990s dance act, Sleazesisters.

Peter Martine, the man behind Sleazesisters, was already well-known in clubbing circles but he gained chart notoriety for his inappropriately titled tracks including ‘Let’s Whip It Up (You Go Girl)’ and ‘Sex’.

The Flasher’ by Mistura featuring Lloyd Michels, ‘Can Your Pussy Do the Dog’ by the Cramps and Joe Tex’s ‘Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)’ were also titles that contained sexual innuendo.

Murder, she wrote

While the minor hit, ‘Murder She Wrote’ by Chaka Demus and Pliers, only shared the same title with a television show by coincidence, others have attracted more attention.

The reggae band Steel Pulse referenced the Ku Klux Klan, for example, in their single ‘Ku Klux Klan’.

The track attacked racism and mocked the Ku Klux Klan, as the band often dressed dressing up as them during live performances.

It peaked at Number 41 in April 1978, while the musical and lyrical content of Primal Scream’s ‘Kill All Hippies’ was also far less controversial than the title suggested.

The lyrical content and title of one single was so controversial, though, the song was immediately banned.

Punk act S*M*A*S*H were given a raft of publicity by the NME, after being heralded as kings of the New Wave of New Wave scene alongside These Animal Men.

After becoming the first band to appear on ‘Top of the Pops’ without releasing a single – their début EP was technically classed as an album – they tested their luck by releasing ‘(I Want To) Kill Somebody’ in July 1994.

The lyrics, which hinted at the band’s desire to kill Conservative politicians, was too controversial, and the single was banned from shops and several radio stations after its first day of release.

The song and the video, which also showed the bassist biting off a version of the Prime Minister’s penis, still attracted enough fans to reach Number 26 in the UK Singles Chart.

Its notoriety may never be matched.

If you want to read more about S*M*A*S*H’s ‘(I Want To) Kill Somebody’, please read this superb piece by Rhian Jones on the Velvet Coalmine blog.


14 Responses to “Music’s most controversial single titles”

  1. December 20, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Kiss your mother with that mouth ?

    Also what about a mention for Cee Lo Green’s Fuck You, contender for song of the year.

  2. 5 Rhian Jones
    December 20, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Aw, great post and bless you for the link!

    I think S*M*A*S*H were the kind of band only a snotty thirteen-year-old in 1994 could love, and then only for this song, although I’ve still got a soft spot for it :). ‘Fuck the Millennium’ and the Super Furries bring back some memories too.

    • December 20, 2010 at 11:09 pm

      Thanks Rhian for your kind words – glad you enjoyed the post too!

      Agreed on S*M*A*S*H, they were the band only someone of a certain age could love. I have to admit that I was far too young, at the time, to get into them. SFA and 2K bring back some fond memories, too, though!

  3. December 24, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Great post, not least for namechecking Velvet Coalmine which I had not come across before. Contrary to Rhian, I was already 25 when S*M*A*S*H were strutting their stuff alongside These Animal Men and others (and working in the epicentre of it all in Camden Town). I should therefore have known better.

    Many initiallly misread the Mirror’s Ban this Sick Stunt headline that met Pulp’s legendary ditty – I remember someone (it may have been Noel Gallagher) reflecting that although he was no fan of Jarvis Cocker, he thought this was quite an extreme way to address an individual before re-reading the large print and being reassured.

    • January 1, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Thanks for the comment Lanterne – glad you liked the article and the Velvet Coalmine site!

      Great anecdote about Gallagher and Cocker, too. I have the feeling that, even without mis-reading the Mirror’s title, the backlash was a little extreme. Although controversial, the cover was more tongue-in-check than advocating drugs…

  4. 11 anon
    December 31, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Although none of the songs from this album were singles, you must check out the song titles from Anal Cunt’s magnum opus ‘It Just Gets Worse’… song titles and lyrics are all tongue in cheek of course and offensive for the sake of being offensive but I’m not sure anything else in modern music can match it for obscenity levels!

  5. January 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Great post! I’m going to see Pulp this year, I can’t wait!

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