Songs You Didn't Know Were Censored

There are some censored songs where the censorship is abundantly clear, what with bleeps, record scratches, random noises, or silence hiding clear references to guns, drugs, and naughty, naughty words. But with other songs, you may have been listening to them for decades without ever knowing it was a censored cut. Here are some beloved tracks you probably never knew weren't the "real thing."

Paul Simon - Kodachrome

If you listened to top 40 radio stations in the 1970s, keen on bowdlerizing songs with supposedly unsavory content, you might not know that Paul Simon's 1973 hit "Kodachrome" has the dubious distinction of being both the first top 40 hit to feature the word "crap" and the first top 40 hit to be censored for featuring the word "crap." What the crap?

Here's the offending opening line, in case you missed it: "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school / it's a wonder I can think at all." It's not exactly "Cop Killer," but plenty of stations were offended enough by Simon's "crap" to take action.

Some simply cut "the crap," making the line sound like "all ... I learned in high school," as if Simon moved away from the microphone to mute a particularly sneaky burp. Others bleeped it, leaving listeners to fill in the blank with words far worse than crap, like "doodie," "poo-poo," or "ca-ca." Simon's 1986 hit "You Can Call Me Crap," however, was played nationwide sans censorship, a testament to how far we had come as a nation.

The Kinks - Lola

The version of The Kinks' 1970 boy-meets-transvestite hit "Lola" you're likely most familiar with opens with the line,"I met her in a club down in old Soho / where they drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry cola." It's an evocative, iconic line that also happens to be the result of corporate censorship from an ad-free musical monopoly overzealously encouraging fair play. Or some CEO who hates cherry-flavored soda, either or.

BBC Radio, surprisingly unconcerned with the song's kinky (geddit?) subject matter, instead, took aim at the product placement in the original line: "I met her in a club down in old Soho where they drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola." BBC Radio was the only UK radio game, and thus didn't allow commercial advertising, putting The Kinks in a bind.

Lead singer Ray Davies, in a refreshingly brazen attempt to ensure he would create a hit song that would "sell in the first five seconds," according to his autobiography, ending up flying across the Atlantic twice just to properly record the "cherry cola" take we all know and love and satisfy the Beeb. The rest is history: the song was a huge hit across the globe and Coca-Cola managed, somehow, to land on its feet and turn a profit, despite the lack of exposure.

Kanye West - Gold Digger

It may sound ridiculous to rap fans, but some people are totally unaware of the existence of the album cut of Kanye West's 2005 hit "Gold Digger." ABC sitcom Black-ish hilariously pointed this phenomenon out in its season two premiere, when six-year-old Jack was given the greenlight to perform it at a school talent show, before getting shut down by his clueless teachers after uttering the obvious, uncensored conclusion to the line, "I ain't sayin' she a gold digger / but she ain't messin' with no broke n-" Oops!

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin also apparently thought the "clean" version of the track — which covers the N-word by just repeating the word "broke" – was the only iteration out there. In December 2016, she threw some frosty Wasilla shade at the New York Times on Facebook, linking to an article about the paper's plans to downsize with the following commentary: "NYT, I ain't saying [sic] you a golddigger [sic], but there's a reason you [sic] messin' with broke, broke, broke." Sic burn, Sarah.

The famously gaffe-prone Palin likely wasn't implying The Gray Lady was actually messing with "broke n****s," thus leading to its supposed financial woes — the former governor, like many Americans, more likely first heard the song on Glee in 2009, where it was pruned and polished to a Mickey Mouse Club shine. It's okay, Sarah: a room full of pimple-faced crooners hollering "We want prenup!" disoriented us all, too.

Groove Armada - I See You Baby

When "I See You Baby" started popping up in Toyota commercials in 1999, a line was drawn between those who knew the naughty truth behind the track, and the clueless rubes tapping their toes to the neutered version. Everyone knew what the commercials were really about, and by extension, assumed that was all Groove Armada was really about, relegating the duo to novelty one-hit-wonder status. As music critic Tom Ewing put it in 2008: "the sum total of [Groove Armada's] pop culture impact has been a car advert about waggling bottoms."

Yes, bottoms: the uncensored hook to Groove Armada's famous earworm is actually "I see you baby / shakin' that ass," not the Toyota-friendly "shakin' that thang." In the UK and Ireland, however, carmaker Renault used the uncensored version of the song to promote its Megane hatchback and its "distinctive rear end." That's right: they wanted motorists to know this car could both honk and had a tremendous badonkadonk.

The Doors - Break On Through (To the Other Side)

Casual fans are likely unaware, but the famously bass-less band reluctantly agreed to remove the "She gets high!" refrain from "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" to ensure they'd get airplay. The cut most people have heard omits the word "high," to a very weird effect.

In a rare defense of 1960s corporate censorship, many rock purists — according to Rolling Stone — threw a fit when the full "She gets high!" phrase the band intended was restored to the track in a 1999 remaster. Doors super-fans, it appears, aren't interested in restoring meaning to the song if it means messing with the original version they know and love. A song which, let's not forget, features Jim Morrison chanting "She get!" over and over, like he's a malfunctioning Westworld host.

Black Eyed Peas - Let's Get It Started

Let's not mince words here: in 2003, the Black Eyed Peas released "Let's Get It Started," a censored version of Elephunk album cut "Let's Get Retarded." We repeat: they actually recorded a song called "Let's Get Retarded," in the year 2003, censored it, and got away with it.

Ask your co-workers tomorrow about "Let's Get It Started" and they'll probably roll their eyes or hum the chorus knowingly. What they aren't likely to do is turn red-faced from outrage, which is the appropriate reaction to being aware of the existence of "Let's Get Retarded." People are so oblivious about this wretched song, it won the Black Eyed Peas a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in its censored form.

Think back to all those times you heard "Let's Get It Started," which was absolutely everywhere: what you were actually hearing, as far as head Black Eyed Pea and his crew were concerned, was a safe, watered-down track recorded to be politically correct so the NBA could use it during broadcasts. There were still hints about the track's true nature, even in the censored version: the song is littered with references to "getting stupid" or "losing all intellect" or some such trash. "Bob your head like epilepsy" is another charming line.

If you think "Let's Get Retarded" is all innocent fun, consider's planned dance to accompany the song, according to author, comedian, and rapper Jensen Karp, who knew back in the day:

"The dance was him hitting his hand against his heart ... the way that kids back in the day would say 'You're retarded' to mean 'You're dumb.' I remember saying, 'That's the most offensive dance I've ever seen,' and him responding, 'It's gonna sweep the nation.' ... thought that dance was going to become ... the politically incorrect Macarena. He would do it at clubs and stuff."

Sounds like was the one getting stupid.

Steve Miller Band - Jet Airliner

Considering Steve Miller is the man who famously stuck the borrowed nonsense word "pompatus" into his most beloved song, his adding to another hit song "Jet Airliner" the phrase "funky kicks going down in the city" — implying, what, that everybody was kung fu fighting? — doesn't sound that odd.

But that's only in the single version: the original album cut, embedded above, has Miller singing about "funky sh*t going down in the city." You have to admit, that sounds like a much better time, and way healthier for your body.

Dire Straits - Money for Nothing

Dire Straits fans are well aware of the controversy surrounding "Money For Nothing," but to most casual listeners and admirers of the group's groundbreaking CGI music video, this one's hard to believe. See, the word "f****t" appears three times in the album cut, spoken by the unsympathetic talk-singing narrator who thinks the "little f****t" playing guitars on MTV "ain't workin'."

This version has been banned in Canada, removed from Dire Strait's greatest hits compilation—named for the song, by the way—and re-recorded with "mother" replacing the offending word, as in "the little mother got his own jet airplane." That probably got Mark Knopfler in trouble at Christmas, unless he actually did buy his mom a plane.

Sarah McLachlan - Building a Mystery

Casual listeners are likely unaware, but to fans, it's no mystery why Sarah McLachlan's soft-rock smash "Building a Mystery" needed to be censored for the radio. McLachlan sings about a "beautiful f*cked up man" in the album version embedded above, but "messed up man" or just tasteful silence typically replaces it on the radio.

This makes the track perhaps the only song utilizing what Boston Globe music critic Marc Hirsh calls the "Sensitive Female Chord Progression" (Am-F-C-G) to also drop a big fat F-bomb (Joan Osborne's "One of Us," Jewel's "Hands," and Natasha Bedingfield's "Angel," just to name a few other examples, are woefully F-bomb-free).

Akon - I Wanna Love You

If you never heard Akon's strip-club anthem "I Wanna Love You" in an actual strip club, then you're forgiven for not knowing that the album version of this Snoop Dogg-featuring smash from 2006 is simply, and brazenly, called "I Wanna F*** You." Subtle!

Akon, to his credit, appears aware of his odd, robotic horndog persona: in 2011, he appeared on the track "I Just Had Sex" by comedy hip-hop group, and former Saturday Night Live writers/performers The Lonely Island, crooning hilariously about how he'll "never go back to the not-having-sex ways of the past."

The album cut of "I Wanna Love You" switched the "loves" to "f***s," obviously, but also confusingly changed "I see you winding and grinding, up on that pole" to "I see you winding and grinding, up on the floor." That just makes it sound like the poor girl is stripping in an M.C. Escher drawing. Hope she brought a helmet.