Blasphemy!

This mixtape focuses on songs banned by the apartheid government’s central censorship board because they were deemed blasphemous.

The apartheid government propagated a form of Calvinism so conservative and tainted that it justified apartheid, restricted nudity and sex to the procreative bedroom and exalted a bigoted and prudish god, whose sabbath was kept boringly sacred. It comes as no surprise therefore, that the central apartheid censors took a dim view on any song that undermined their narrow view of god, ridiculed Christians and, even worse, promoted Satan.

John Lennon’s “God” was banned simply because John Lennon stated that God is a concept and that he didn’t believe in the bible and Jesus.  Meanwhile Chris De Burgh’s song “Spanish Train” was viewed as blasphemous because in the song God and the devil play chess and poker over the souls of the dead, and the devil cheats and wins more souls, without God realising.

Both Peter Sarstedt’s “Take Off Your Clothes” and Glenda Kemp’s “Strip Tea” raised the ire of the censors because they brought into disrepute men of the cloth, especially in a sexual context. In the former, because the protagonist’s “daddy is the pope you know, and I just want to grope you know” while in the latter, Glenda Kemp’s vicar comes to visit for a pastoral cup of tea but ends up partaking in an unexpected “Strip Tea”.

Don McLean’s “American Pie” offended the censors because of lines like: “No angel born in hell could break that Satan’s spell; And as the flames climbed high into the night; To light the sacrificial rite, I saw Satan laughing with delight” and “The father, son and holy ghost, they caught the last train for the coast.”

Two musicals based on the life of Jesus – Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell – were controversially received by some Christians far and wide. The South African censors were no exception. They objected to the way Mary Magdalene tried to seduce Jesus on both soundtracks: Yvonne Elliman’s sensual “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar and Sonia Manzano’s burlesque-style “Turn Back, O Man” from Godspell, with the provocative line “C’mere Jesus, I’ve got something to show ya!” The theme song, “Superstar” from the former show, sung by Murray Head and the Trinidad Singers, was viewed as blasphemous for calling Jesus a superstar, banned by way of being a song on the album but also as a single.

The censors thought that Des & Dawn’s humorous treatment of ‘Dese Bones Gonna Rose Again” was unacceptable, and that the Kalahari Surfers’ protest about the SADF Maseru cross-border raid, through adapting the words to the Christian “Lord’s Prayer”, was equally unacceptable. Similarly, “Prayer” by Spooky Tooth and Pierre Henry was deemed undesirable by the censors, because of its use of the same prayer in a progressive rock context.

The censors strongly objected to Christ The Album by Crass; believing the album title was blasphemous, as were lyrics to the song “I Know There Is Love” which was critical of the role of Christianity in propagating war: “You’ve … thrust in my hands your gun and your bible, you told me to kill for the lord up above.”

“Ishmael” by Abdullah Ibrahim was the only song banned by the Directorate of Publications for reasons of blasphemy according to a religion other than Christianity. In this instance, the Muslim Judicial Council objected to Abdullah Ibrahim putting words from the Koran to a musical backing, an act which they deemed blasphemous, and which was upheld by the state censors.

The censors also objected to the name of a group called Satan and banned their album Court In The Act because of songs like “Hunt You Down”, which they argued promoted the power of Satan. Likewise, Mercyful Faith’s “The Oath” and “Mark Of The Beast” by The Sinyx (off the Crass Records Bullshit Detector compilation) were regarded as anti-Christian by means of promoting Satan. Finally, Diamanda Gala’s “The Litanies Of Satan”, affronted the censors, who objected to what she looked like on the cover, what she sounded like on the record and the fact that she prayed to Satan. The song and album were promptly banned.

Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll!

In 1963 the South African apartheid government passed the Publications and Entertainments Act of 1963 which led to the establishment of South Africa’s first central government censorship board. Although its name and various regulations changed over the years, the censorship board went on to ban well over one hundred music albums and singles over the next three decades. One of the categories of censorship was obscenity, which included sex, drugs and bad language.

This mixtape focuses on examples of songs banned for the first two of these criteria: they promoted sex or they promoted drug use.

Several vaudeville-type songs were banned in the 1960s and early 1970s because they promoted sex. These included entire albums by Oscar Brand (Bawdy Western Songs), the Jock Strappe Ensemble (Why Was He Born So Beautiful And Other Traditional Rugby Songs), Glenda Kemp (Both Sides of Glenda Kemp) and Ivor Biggun (More Filth! Dirt Cheap …). For this mixtape Oscar Brand’s “Charlotte the Harlot”, The Jock Strappe Ensemble’s “The Mayor of Bayswater”, Ivor Biggun’s “Wanking Your Blues Away” (printed on record sleeves as “Winking Your Blues Away”) and Glenda Kemp’s “Strike Buster” have been chosen as good examples of the sorts of things which got the censors hot under the collar.

Other albums from the same era which were banned included Chuck Berry’s London Sessions, the original cast recordings of the musicals, Let My People Come and Hair from which “My Ding A Ling”, “Choir Practice” and “Sodomy” have been selected respectively.

During the late 1960s and into the 1970s a trend set in whereby recorded popular featured the sound of orgasm(s), mostly to titillate the listener but sometimes to provide additional sensual vocals to otherwise potentially monotonous long disco tracks. The apartheid censors regularly censored such music, including the following songs included on this mixtape: “Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer, “Slow Blow” by Hot R.S., “Je T’aime .. .. .. Moi Non Plus” by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, “Airport Love Theme” by Super Erotica and “Cruisin’ The Streets” by Boys Town Gang. Whereas it was typical for women to be making the sensual sounds in such songs, “Slow Blow” and “Cruisin’ The Streets” feature males making orgasmic sounds; the latter song was even more controversial for apartheid-era censors because the men in question were pleasuring each other.

Some songs were banned because they were deemed to promote sex in a particularly (for the censors) lewd fashion, such as Blowfly’s “The Girl Wants To Fuck”, Celi Bee and the Buzzy Bunch’s “Superman”, Frank Zappa and the Mothers’ “Dinah-Moe-Hum”, George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex” and “Hlope Jive” by the Naledi Boys. The last of these was banned because of a spoken dialogue at the outset, supposedly between a brother and sister who discuss an unpleasant oral sexual exchange they have shared.

The censors also thought that Des & Dawn’s spoken word humorous piece about “The Pill” was too immoral for 1960s South Africa. And Blue Mink’s “Melting Pot” was far too scandalous in apartheid South Africa, suggesting that people of different races get together to produce “coffee-coloured people by the score”. On a bizarre note, Patti Smith’s “Pissing In A River” off the Times Square film soundtrack was banned for promoting sex because the censor transcribed “Come for me” as “Come fuck me”.

Several albums were banned because they featured images of marijuana on the front cover, including Culture’s International Herb and U-Roy’s Dread In Babylon. Songs which were banned for the same reason included “Legalize It” by Peter Tosh (including the album because of the cover) and “Show Me The Way To Get Stoned” by David Peel & the Lower East Side, whose entire Have A Marijuana album was banned.