There’s a rule in popular music. If your song has a curse word or a barnyard expletive in it – if it’s one of those words George Carlin says you can’t say on television – then you must record an alternate version of the song, either with the offensive word removed, or with an alternate lyric. That’s how we get clean versions of Radiohead’s “Creep” and the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” and bleeped versions of Pink Floyd’s “Money” and the Isley Brothers’ “Fight the Power.”
But what if some songs actually DID contain curse words, words that were either accidentally caught in the recording session, or lyrics that are said so fast that your brain tells you you heard something different?
I have three examples here. Including songs you didn’t expect had curse words in them, and once you know they’re there, you’re going to hear them every time the song plays on your radio. Trust me on this.
The urban legend is that at approximately 3:00 of the song, John Lennon hits a wrong note, and can clearly be heard saying “Oh! Fucking hell!” But at the same time, Paul McCartney is singing the lyric, “Don’t let her under your skin // then you’ll begin…”
Here’s a YouTube video that explains where the song’s curse word shows up.
This is the song that went through Congressional hearings, where crusty old elected officials tried to decipher whether the Kingsmen’s lyrics were dirty or profane. Like maybe if they heard a mondegreen of “I shot a load into her hair” as opposed to “I smelled a rose in her hair,” that kind of thing.
What they missed entirely is that at approximately 0:50 of the song, the drummer drops one of his drumsticks in mid-recording, shouts out a very audible “FUCK!”, grabs his drumstick from the floor, and keeps going. And that one take got pressed and sold nationally and is still heard on oldies stations today. Yeps. There’s profanity there, the Congressmen were just looking in the wrong place.
Even Lady Gaga has admitted that she intentionally slipped in a few curse words into the bridge of her song “Poker Face.” She’s actually singing, “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Poker Face, Pa-Fa-Fuck her face.” No, really. Listen. I’m not making this up. Some radio stations got wise to this and created their own edits to remove the profanity, while others were just straight-up oblivious and never truly “heard” the cursing.
Now I know there’s others out there, and we’re not talking about the obvious ones. I’m talking about the ones where the curse word is either hidden as an accidental utterance and nearly covered up by a guitar riff or a cymbal or another vocal; or, like Lady Gaga’s track, a song where the words are clearly heard but they’re sung in such a way that you think some other words is being used.
Just so you can hear those songs in … shall we say … a different moment. 😀