POPULAR music comes in many forms and genres - some naughty and some nice - but authorities must stop changing their titles and lyrics just because they are suggestive.
Last weekend was the daughter’s first ever camping trip with her scout troop but it was just at the schoolfield.
Of course, the wife and I were “slightly worried” as it was only the second time she was spending the night without us.
But her going camping brought back memories of my camping trips years ago, especially the campfires and the sing-along sessions.
One of the first songs that my friends and I sang at such a session was Puff, the Magic Dragon made popular by the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary.
It was one of the songs I’d learnt from either my brothers or sister but our group knew the song.
After our so-so performance, the song became popular again in our school until one day, one of us discovered that the song was banned by the Government and could not be played on air.
“Why?” was the unified cry and the reply was that the song signified drug taking.
It was most unfortunate that during my schooldays in the 1970s, one of the most popular ways of taking drugs was called “chasing the dragon”. It was a way of “smoking” heroin.
To most of us, it was just a kiddie song about a boy and his pet dragon, but to the adults it was something else.
To be fair, the song courted controversy not only in Malaysia but also in the United States and other Western countries despite protests from the songwriters and singers.
It did not help that the song was adopted as a theme by the hippies in the 1960s.
Although the song was never heard on radio during our time, it became one of the most performed in our school.
The irony of it was that in the 1980s, RTM showed a cartoon series based on the song and there was no uproar over this.
I cannot find any information on this but I believe till today Puff, the Magic Dragon is still banned on RTM airwaves.
The irony is that the song entitled Cocaine made popular by Eric Clapton has never been banned by anyone. Maybe it was because the song deals about the evils of the drug.
Clapton, commenting on the song, said: “It just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.”
I am sure that Puff, the Magic Dragon was not the only song banned because of what is implied rather than the lyrics. Some will blame the sensitivity and immaturity of the country in the 1970s and 1980s for such censorship of songs.
But that is not true.
Fast forward to today and things have not changed.
Take the song I kissed a girl by Katy Perry. It has been the number one song on the popular charts in almost every country.
In Malaysia and several other countries, the record label released a different version minus the word “girl” and changed the title of the song to I kissed a ...
The problem is again what the song implies - lesbianism.
Even my 12-year-old girl seems to agree that the song promotes lesbianism. It seem she is aware (thanks to E!News) of the controversy surrounding the song.
I am sure the Malay-sian Government did not force the record label to come up with a different version but it was done in anticipation of trouble.
It did not help that the song was widely criticised in the US by conservatives especially since Perry started off as a sugar-sweet church singer.
Yes, that maybe the problem because Madonna came out with a song with a similar title but nothing came out of it. We expect and accept the worst from Madonna.
I accept that the song is a wee bit naughty but to change its title is a bit too much. As the song goes:
“Us girls we are so magical,
Soft skin, red lips, so kissable,
Hard to resist so touchable,
Too good to deny it.
Ain’t no big deal, it’s innocent”
There are hundreds of other songs littered with four-letter words that deserve this kind of treatment but definitely not a ditty like this.
Another song that has been given such treatment is the latest by Avril Lavigne called The best damn thing.
Malaysian authorities, TV station operators and (I presume) the recording label have seen it fit to change the title of the song. It is now called The best DEM thing.
Just changing the way one spells a word does not change the song at all. So why bother? The word damn is not a polite way of saying something but calling something The best damn thing is praise.
Again my daughter, when asked what she thought about the change, shrugged her shoulders nonchalantly.
Do not kill the innocence of popular music by reading more than there is into it. Let the younger generation have their youth and their songs, otherwise we will be responsible for what Don McLean sang in American Pie: “The day the music died.”