Beginning in the early 1950s as the first "white" cover versions of "raunchy" black hits hit the scene, artists, radio stations and record companies have occasionally been forced to change the lyrics of a given song to ensure airplay on Pop radio. This is just a sampling of the 45s that have been censored over the years to either "bleep" out offensive words or have the artist record a "clean" vocal track to replace the one that appeared on corresponding LPs.
Note: This is a partial list that is still being fleshed out. If you know of a record that should be here, send me a note through the Classic 45s Contacts page. The records are presented in rough chronological order. Last Updated 10/18/16, this page shows about about 25 45s.
Bill Haley and His Comets
Haley's version contains many changes to the lyrics to make them "less offensive" to "white ears". This kind of censorship was common among white acts covering black artists and songs in the 1950s. In these cases, the 45 did not necessarily differ from the version that appeared on a corresponding LP.
This is the original issue with the "raunchy" lyrics about Mr. Lee and Billy playing cards in an alley. A "cleaned-up" version was later released, but by then the "offensive" version was in wide circulation.
The A side was lightly censored to change the line "lies one hell of a man" to "lies a big, big man."
This is the first pressing with the "making out in the rain" lyric. This release was later pulled and the lyric changed to the squeaky clean "fell in love in the rain."
The original release on 4 Sale Records and some Smash releases have the "dirty lyrics." The record company requested that the lines "Woke up this morning, my head hurt so bad/ The worst hangover that I ever had," be changed to "Worst morning after that I ever had." The line, "She loved me so long, and she loved me so hard" was also considered too risqué and was changed to, "She kissed me so long, and she kissed me so hard".
Mitch Ryder & Detroit Wheels
New Voice 820
This is the somewhat scandalous version where Mitch sings, somewhat inarticulately, "Feels like a PUNCH." Hard to believe today, I know, but in 1967 this was thought to be inappropriate, since it sorta sounded like something else. So they rerecorded that line so the lyric "Hits me like a PUNCH" is quite clearly stated. :-)
This tune caused consternation at some radio stations of the day, because of the lyrics "making love in the green grass" in the last verse, and the offending lyrics were replaced with "laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey" from a previous verse. Many copies have the full, un-censored lyrics.
Curiously, this song has a couple of censored spots: In addition to the bleeping of "s.o.b.", the last line on the LP ("Any damn thing but Sue!") was changed to remove the offensive word "damn".
This 45 was considered to have "gross" lyrics that were cleaned up, though the cleaned up version is thought to only appear on Scepter promos. To appease the stations that banned the song, Scepter created two promos with the original version on the A-sides and one of two differently edited versions on the B-sides. One edit revises the lyric "My stomach was full as it could be" to "Both of us fine as we could be". The second version includes the "stomach" lyric but bleeps out the word "hell" in the second verse.
Kama Sutra 576
The 45 version "bleeps out" the potentially offensive word in the line “like their heads were on fire and their asses was catching.”
Unlike the album cut, this 45 censors out the word "sh*t" from the sung lyrics.
The Steve Miller Band
Besides editing out the dreck at the beginning of the track, the 45 also changed some potentially offensive lyrics: Instead of "I don’t want to get caught up in any of that funky sh*t goin' down in the city" to "funky kicks goin’ down in the city," which is actually an improvement from a poetic point of view.
The 45 censors a nasty word in the LP version, replacing it with "hell" as in "who the hell are you?"
The single contains a bit of lyrical censorship, as the LP line "I done told you once, you son of a bitch..." to "I done told you once, you son of a gun,” which some feel blunts the song's emotional message.
In a notorious bit of censorship, this song was edited twice: First, to replace the line "Wishin' you could get inside her pants" with "Wishin' she was givin' you a chance," and second, "till she's sittin' on your face" with "till she puts you in your place."
The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones 21001
This special promo has the "God Damn Version" (presumably the album cut?) on one side, and the "Cleaned Up Version" on the other. The retail release has the "cleaned" version only.
This live version of the the song is marked as "Clean," implying a "dirty" LP version.
Kool Moe Dee
The rapper's first chart single notes that it contains the "Clean Version" of the album cut.
Ugly Kid Joe
The label indicates this is the "Clean Edit" of the LP cut.
This single has a "Clean Version" of the song. I don't know the exact changes.
Tommy Boy 721
Another instance where the label indicates this is the "Clean" version.
Both sides of this single are marked as the "Clean Version" of the tunes.
Do Or Die
The A side is the "clean version", implying that the language is a censored version of the album cut.
Both sides indicate that these are "clean" versions of the respective album cuts.
Star Trak 80005635
In this case, the 45 contains both versions: The A side is the "Clean" version, and the B side is the "Dirty" version.