It's been nearly 30 years since MTV launched by airing footage of the Apollo 11 landing and the video for the Buggles' "Video Killed a Radio Star" at 12:01 a.m. on August 1, 1981. Though it was founded with the intent of streaming music videos 24 hours a day, the station quickly became a tool for powerful record labels and started featuring heavily commercialized music. These days the main MTV channel rarely plays full music videos in lieu of broadcasting a smattering of reality TV shows and other ratings-hungry gimmicks.
Though it can be hard now to even recall a time when music videos were MTV's prime focus, even that period was not without its share of controversy. In honor of the station's 30th anniversary, we took a look back at 10 music videos that were either banned entirely or censored by the station over the years, from the blatantly sexualized to the just plain bizarre.
[jump] 10. Foo Fighters, "Low"
Even Foo Fighters managed to get banned for their video of "Low," which starred Dave Grohl and comedian Jack Black as two pickup-driving headbangers who spend a wild night in a seedy motel getting drunk, trashing their room, dressing in drag, and crapping and puking in the toilet.
9. Queen, "Body Language"
Said to be the first video ever banned by MTV, Queen's "Body Language" seems tame by today's standards, but the shadowy images of sweaty, bikini-clad bodies writhing and groping one another in a sauna room was a little too steamy for the network in 1982.
8. Vanilla Ice, "Ice, Ice Baby"
While "Ice Ice Baby" was never formally banned, in 1999, MTV aired a program called "25 Lamest," a celebration of the worst music videos of all time with comedians Dennis Leary, Janeane Garafalo and Chris Kattan. The comedians voted to "retire" the video and invited Robert Van Winkle, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice, on the air to destroy it. To prove he was "out with the old, in with the new," Van Winkle waived off a hammer and went at his hit video with a baseball bat, before losing it entirely and smashing the entire set.
7. Maroon 5, "This Love"
Even Maroon 5 was too controversial for MTV in 2002. The station edited two lines in their song "This Love," taking the word "coming" out of the line "keep her coming every night" and the word "sinking" out of "sinking my fingertips." When lead singer and songwriter Adam Levine found out about the edits, he was livid. "It's like fucking communist China," he told Rolling Stone. "It's totally bizarre."
6. Mistah F.A.B., "Ghost Ride It"
The ghost riding trend is a little like the planking trend, only far more stupid. For those who are unfamiliar, ghost riding involves blasting hyphy out your speakers, getting your car going as slowly as possible, exiting, it and walking alongside it rolls on down the street. To make the trend even more dumb, people usually recording the act for YouTube. In 2006, Bay Area rapper Mistah F.A.B. recorded a song and video paying tribute to the fad and giving step-by-step instructions on how to partake. MTV played the video for awhile, then banned it after people started dying while ghost riding (Darwin award candidates, anyone?). The video was throttled into further obscurity when Columbia Pictures claimed copyright infringement for it's use of Ray Parker Jr.'s classic hit, "Ghostbusters."
5. Skinny Puppy, "Worlock"
Honestly, there no reason Skinny Puppy's horror collage for their 1990 song "Worlock" wouldn't get banned from pretty much everywhere. Content aside (eyeballs getting popped out, Mortal Kombat spinal cord rippage), the video is a copyright nightmare, containing footage from no less than sixteen different horror movies from the 70s and 80s, a (very brief) sample of The Beatles' "Helter Skelter," and a snippet of Charles Manson's voice interspersed throughout. Canada's industrial demigods, surprising no one.
4. Nine Inch Nails, "Closer"
"Closer" provided Trent Reznor with an unlikely hit in the summer of 1994, highlighted as it was by the quaint little refrain, "I want to fuck you like an animal." Not too surprisingly, the song's equally provocative video was frowned upon by the uptight powers-that-be: No doubt they took issue with all the bondage imagery and all around Francis Bacon-esque vibe, but they drew the line on the profanity and the full frontal nudity. The solution--making the video skip along with the edited music and throwing up "Scene Missing" title cards--was a neat little solution that probably actually enhanced "Closer's" eeriness factor.
3. Prodigy, "Smack My Bitch Up"
The English elctro-punk-rappers' video featured disturbing amounts of drinking and sexual harassment from a first-person perspective. The joke is on the viewer when a surprising ending reveals the subject to be a blonde woman.
2. Rick James, "Super Freak"
Believe it or not, but back when MTV first hit the air they had a very strict idea of what their programming should look like. So strict, in fact, that there was hardly any room for black artists. When "Super Freak" came along, the execs refused to air it, claiming that it didn't suit their "rock format" and that, with its glidder, limo rides, and dancing babes, it was "too over the top." Rick James' response? He accused MTV of "blatant racism." Sadly, it was two more years before "Billie Jean" made it impossible to maintain such a shady policy.
1. Madonna, "Justify my Love"
BDSM and chicks with penciled mustaches: how a music video gets banned in 1990. The black and white video for Justify my Love was censored due to a sadomasochist scene where a woman pulls a man up by the hair. Madonna went on Nightline after MTV nixed the video to defend herself. When an interviewer pointed out that the video would make her much more money sold privately than aired on MTV, she sarcastically answered, "Yeah, so? Lucky me." He was right of course: the video single is still the best-selling of all-time.
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