Censorship! A word that strikes terror in the hearts of the lovers of the arts everywhere. When I was a teenager and becoming aware of pop culture, censorship in Singapore was part and parcel of life. In the 70s, rock music was deemed by the Singapore Government as undesirable decadent Western influence especially the free sex and drugs hippie culture. Thus, anything associated with that, including long hair and rock music, was strictly frowned upon.

Yeah, it seems ridiculous now but take a look at what songs were banned back in the day.

Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul & Mary

Ostensibly a children’s song, the Government was of the view that the eponymous dragon was actually marijuana! How insidious of these evil musicians who seek to corrupt our innocent young children.

Download Puff, The Magic Dragon

Yellow Submarine – The Beatles

Yet another children’s song mistaken for a drug-related one! Where’s the drug reference, I wonder? Those civil servants had vivid imaginations for sure. All told, the Singapore Government also banned With A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and A Day in the Life!

Buy Yellow Submarine (Remastered)

Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Incredibly, this song – written by John Fogerty – also met with objections from Singapore censors! Well, y’know, boys and girls “Mary” is slang for marijuana and before you smoke it, you need to ROLL it. Hence “Mary” plus “rolling” equals evil drug song! Preposterous! But there you go… the Singapore censors did not understand pop culture and they did not care…

Download CCR’s Greatest Hits

Body Language – Queen

Enough about drugs! How about good old sex? Well, that’s what got Queen’s Body Language (off 1981′s Hot Space) into trouble. In fact, I remember buying the album at a record store and the salesman recommending that I pick it up quickly as the album had just been banned and the Singapore censors were coming to confiscate all copies. So I did. Seems rather tame compared to the hip hop music I hear nowadays eh?

Buy Hot Space

Born in the USA – Bruce Springsteen

Well, not strictly banned but the national radio stations refused to play it due to the line – “to go and kill the yellow man” being considered offensive and the perceived jingoistic tone of the song. Of course, the meaning behind the track – an inditement on the USA (“nowhere to run/nowhere to go” – was completely lost on the radio heads. Hurm.

Buy Born in the Usa

I’m sure there’s more examples out there. Those old enough to remember, please pitch in. C’mon!


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