BOOK REVIEW: Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs

By Annamarya Scaccia (SexHerald.com, 2005)

Title: Taboo Tunes
Author: Peter Blecha
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Publish Date: 2004
Pages: 214
Genres:Compilation

Imagine this: two gladiators in a pit full of snakes. The first gladiator, with the long, satin red robe and dark silky hair, we will call the first amendment. The second, proudly clad in full body armor, we will call censorship. Picture them pitted against each other in the name of morality and justice. Now envision a really, really boring book written about it.

Thanks to Peter Blecha, the battle between our freedom of speech and protecting the world for the infamous “devil” is now documented in a 214 page snore of a book properly titled Taboo Tunes: a History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs. Complete with hypocritical biasness, temper-tantrums and a single man’s fight against the right, Taboo Tunes is nothing more than an over-exasperated rant about being censored. “Stop me ooo stop me. Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before…”1

Beginning with a foreword by Krist Novoselic, former bassist for the smutty and dingy rock group Nirvana, that discusses “corruption, lack of democracy” and “a pro-Establishment” media that “plagues” the United States, the book already begins with sleepy eyes. How many more times can we hear the phrases “down with the man” or “the right is out to get us” without our heads exploding into a million pieces? We get, we’re censored. It’s frustrating. We’ll fight it to the death. But seriously, do you have to whine?

As informative as Peter Blecha, musician and board member of Joint Artists and Music Promotions Political Actions Committee (JAMPAC), allows Taboo Tunes to be, it is only a poor excuse for a written documentary. It is understandable one’s frustration with being suppressed by the good ol’ soldiers of the right trying to keep morality in tact, but to try and hide it underneath lines of history and academic research does injustice to those who actually study censorship and the first amendment. Taboo Tunes does indeed inform you of President Wilson’s public war on the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the debate that surrounded Madonna’s hit song “Papa Don’t Preach,” a song about a pregnant youth’s desire to keep her unborn child, and “the war on smut”, defending sexually explicit songs that, more often than not, are the spotlight for controversy (such as Little Richard’s sexy number “Tutti Frutti”).However, Blecha, behind the smirk, accidentally, or maybe on purpose perhaps, lets his red-eyed monster emerge and attacks the “moral right” for banning “unacceptable” topics from the airwaves. Ah, the everlasting verbal war.

To Blecha’s credit, the book is easily structured. Coming complete with a table of contents, notes & sources and an index, it is effortless simple to find whatever information you need in the book without having to read it word for word. Taboo Tunes also includes a few well-executed interviews with renowned musicians such as Jeff Simmons and Don Wilson, and extensively researched facts that not only include the mainstream corporate battles but also the shy underground scene, as well as a few other highlights. Chapter five “Let’s Talk About Sex” and chapter seven “Find the Cost of Freedom” are definitely in need of an eyeful glance due to their contents. Overfilled with sad, exposed truths that not only document the less than questionable songs censored for their barely suggestive lyrics, like Rosemary Clooney’s ‘Mambo Italiano’, but also the bloody mêlée between the government and blue-collar workers that feeds the fire of radicals and politicians, these two chapters would warrant a mere lift of this historical presentation. However, Blecha’s constant babbling about how we “gotta get the man” and how the religious right is trying to stifle our freedom makes Taboo Tunes a complete bore. Yes, he may be fighting the good fight, but this is a difficult task to incur when people such as Blecha engage in hissy-fits with the enemy of the first amendment. Why must words be thrown and names called when history can speak for itself?

Then again, we don’t give history the chance to speak for itself.

1 Song lyric from the Smiths “Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before.”

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