Nov 022010

Off-mic, rockers are probably just as foul-mouthed as the average person, if not more so, but for various reasons expletives are not used in recorded rock all that often. If nothing else, it hinders the likelihood of a song getting airplay. Still, there are plenty of notable exceptions, good and bad, of rock expletives that made it onto the record. What are your favorite examples?

I’ll start things off with these two. First: I am curious if anyone knows whether Roger Daltrey‘s “who the fuck are you?” was part of the penned Pete Townshend lyric for “Who Are You” or just ad-libbed at the mic.

Second: Warren Zevon‘s “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Zevon gets extra credit for using two high-scoring expletives, putting them right there in the song title, and not using them just for a joke, but also for something serious. It’s all the more poignant to watch this video now, given his untimely death just 3 years later, when his shit got incurably fucked up.



  32 Responses to “Notable Non-Deleted Rock Expletives”

  1. The great Bon Scott had several mentions of the “s” word:

    “You can stick your nine to five livin’
    And your collar and your tie
    And stick your moral standards
    ‘Cause it’s all a dirty lie
    You can stick your golden handshake
    And you can stick your silly rules
    And all the other shit
    That they teach to kids in school
    ‘Cause I ain’t no fool.
    * Rock & Roll Singer

    “It’s animal … livin’ in a human zoo. Animal … the shit that they toss to you.”
    * If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)

  2. John Lennon can be caught effing and jeffing on Hey Jude

    And I’m sure Elvis ad-libs an expletive at 50 secs here, ‘wonder if you’ll ever ****ing make ends meet

  3. “Show biz kids making movies of themselves you know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else” -Steely Dan / “Show Biz kids”

    I was at this one!

  4. mockcarr

    A lot of punk songs need to be disqualified.

    There are those tits snuck into the Beatles’ Girl.

    Of course, Lennon’s Working Class Hero has ” you’re still f’n peasants as far as I can see”.

    The Who employ a bomb in However Much I Booze when Pete somehow is trying to make us feel sorry for someone “well-f’d”.

  5. My girlfriend Liz Phair should probably be DQ’d too.

  6. bostonhistorian

    The “funky shit going down in the city” line from Steve Miller’s Jet Airliner makes it onto the air sometimes.

  7. misterioso

    Dylan in “George Jackson” and “Hurricane”–it appears he only swears when he’s in protest mode.

    Elvis Costello in “Suit of Lights.”

    The Jam: “This Is the Modern World” and “Mr. Clean.”

    I can’t quote the lyrics ’cause they use naughty words.

  8. Not really an expletive, I guess, but Lou Reed getting away with “giving head” in “Walk on the Wild Side” still gives me a kick.

  9. Chrissie Hynde’s “fuck off” in The Pretenders’ “Precious” is a great, fairly mainstream example.

  10. Oh, and my favorite fist-raising expletive may be Aimee Mann’s “And you just cant get it through your head that no one else gives a fuck” in “It’s Not Safe.” I like the way the expletive is key to the lyric.

  11. pudman13

    I’m fascinated by early use of profanity in rock, back when it as still somewhat taboo, and in fact started a thread about it here sometime last year, but by now it’s most certainly become so overused and cliched that it no longer has any shock value at all. Zevon gets some credit, I guess, for using it seriously, but then again that’s what started the whole debate about it back in 1969 with Al Stewart and “Love Chronicles,” his attempt to use the f-word in an “artistic” sense.

  12. cherguevara

    Pink Floyd’s goody good bullshit in “Money” gets though sometimes, doesn’t it?

  13. “We’ve been up and down this highway haven’t seen a goddamn thing.” – Eagles / “Life In The Fast Lane”

  14. “I could really get off being in your shoes
    I used to be stone sold on rhythm and blues
    I heard of a place at the back of town
    Where you really kick the shit when the sun goes down”

    – Elton John / “Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll)” from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

  15. Just added a link to your old piece in the body of this thread, pudman13. I meant to do that this morning, but forgot.

  16. Jefferson Airplane: “Up against the wall, motherfucker/Tear down the wall.” From “We Can Be Together”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I used to hear it said that this was the first instance of an expletive used in a widely played rock song.

  17. pudman13

    They actually played it on TV, on the Dick Cavett show, and somehow it slipped by without the authorities noticing.

    The lyric sheet replaced the f-word (twice, also eariler in the song) with the word “fred,” for some reason.

  18. plasticsun

    I am very conscious of this topic as I am frequently listening to music in my car while my two children sit in the back seat. One song that comes to mind (from experience) is Death or Glory by the Clash – the line “he who fucks nuns will later join the church”. My then 9 year old son exclaimed “what?what did he just say? He said fuck didn’t he?” I denied it, saying that Joe Strummer, the singer, often slurred a bit and it’s difficult to understand him. I don’t think he believed me.

  19. underthefloat

    I don’t know if it’s my fav but Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” uses one few would dare…

    Hey, that c*nt’s not breathing
    I think she’s had too much
    Of something or other, hey, man, you know what I mean?

  20. shawnkilroy

    “you know that bitch’ll never fuck again”
    something like that right?

  21. cherguevara

    I played The Who’s “Doctor Jimmy” for a friend of mine, I was 11 or 12, perhaps. I was so excited to play him the f-bomb but he understood the lyric that preceded it, “they say she’s a virgin, I’m gonna be the first in.” Realizing only then what I had missed, it pretty much took the wind out of my sails. Oh well…

  22. Good one…as naughty lyrics go!

  23. YES! That’s a moment when I need to cough for the sake of my boys’ ears.

  24. underthefloat

    Exactly. Great add on to the lyric. I somehow left the even nastier part of the lyric off.

    Yeah, I think the line you added follows him singing “your the one who brought her and your the one that will have to take her when you leave”…and also something about “grab her by the feet and drag her into the street and by the morning she’s just another hit and run” and then as if to justify it all he ends with the line you mentioned.

  25. trigmogigmo

    Love that one. Man, that record is rock solid.

  26. trigmogigmo

    And here I always heard it as “funky kicks” or “funky chicks”!

  27. trigmogigmo

    Nine Inch Nails “Closer” certainly can’t be played in polite company. And the expletive deleted version for broadcast only barely tones it down. (That song has got an amazing mix and instrumentation.)

  28. bostonhistorian

    My guess is that the vinyl single had a radio edit but when put on CD the album version with shit was used and then played when stations stopped with vinyl

  29. hrrundivbakshi

    “Talkin’ ’bout the midnight…. SHIT!”

    That is what Mick says, isn’t it?

    BTW, on the topic of the Stones, I’m about halfway through the Keef autobio, and I’ll be darned if it isn’t a charming book. Good stuff, and it makes me like the dude even more!

  30. Me too: a little more than halfway through the Keef book, that is, and I agree! Wish there was more music talk though, but that’s always something lacking in the Stones’ legacy.

  31. I’m pretty sure that Steely Dan’s Showbiz Kids “…makin’ movies of themselves / ya know they don’t give an F about anybody else” was played unedited by commercial rock radio.

    I’ve never heard Neil Young’s F’in Up broadcast, but there it is.

  32. shawnkilroy

    “Yo Yo She make a dead man cum.”

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