It doesn’t take all that much to get banned from the radio. The easiest way has always been to include one of the FCC-restricted words in the body of a song; even with the ability to “blank” a word by the DJ, few radio personalities wanted to hover over their microphone button and try to time their override just right. Far easier to simply not play the offending song.
There’s also the inclusion of questionable words. The Charlie Daniels Band released two singles of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, one of which called the devil a “son of a gun” while the other called him a “son of a bitch”. In markets where the “bitch” might reasonably prompt an angry response from listeners, the radio hosts could substitute the “gun” version. For songs that didn’t provide alternate cuts, they’d often simply get no play in that market.
Rumble took the notion of being banned to another level; it was banned because the music itself was considered too suggestive; the removal had nothing to do with the lyrics. This can be stated definitively, because Rumble by Link Wray remains the only song to be banned from radio play… as an instrumental.
With its march-reminiscent beat, its early adoption of power chords and a title that mirrored popular slang for a gang fight, disk jockeys in major cities were concerned that playing it might encourage youth to take the song as a call to violence.
It was a national hit, but couldn’t get played in New York City or Boston. Some claimed the tune was too seductive. If it’s true that some people are attracted to rebels who are being suppressed by “the system”, then those claims were probably right.
The tune has flourished, despite the radio snub. In 2018 it was one of the first six songs inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame under a new category of “Singles”, and it’s currently in use by Jack Daniels in their commercials. Not bad for a song without any lyrics.
Question of the night: What’s an instrumental you enjoy?