We love you Tipper Gore! Profanity in Modern Music

January 17th, 2014

03 1977 - Fee Waybill - The Tubes
Profanity in modern music.
How many times have you been with a group of resentful old musicians when one of them pipes up and says, “ Six strings? You were lucky!  Why when I was a lad we only had one string for our handmade guitar made out of rusty razorblades and every time we went from the E string to the G we’d have to restring it! “

Hopefully you have been spared.

Back when I was a lad, there was no profanity in popular music. It’s true! There might have been a shit or damn here and there and of course Rock and Roll has always been about sex but back in the day – it was hidden in veiled lyrics.

My how things have changed! (takes out his snuff box and inhales a pinch)
Profanity is rampant nowadays and is so common place that it’s just not interesting or effective anymore.
(clock ticks backward very fast)
The year was 1976 and The Tubes had just released their first album, “ Young and Rich “. Everyone was abuzz at this new advant garde rock group who poked fun at just about everything and everyone but the major hubbub was about the song, “ White Punks on Dope “ . A great song, well written with frequent time changes and as far as I know the first time the word “ Fuck “ appeared on a major label record release. Of course, I ran out and bought it and played it in secret so my Mom wouldn’t find out.

There was time when profanity was used sparingly and usually not in mixed company. So when someone let go a string of profane words – it had an impact.
Not so today however and one just has to look at popular television shows to get ones daily dose of swearing. There is no other form of creative expression that uses profanity more than popular music. I find it hilarious that radio stations and music video television stations still have to censor the use of profanity by beeps, ducking or actually getting the artist to cut two versions of the same song.

A quick Internet search reveals at least 20 songs with the word fuck in the title! Here are three examples of very popular songs from three different musical genres.

Example one: Fatboy Slim – techno big beat


Example two: Lilly Allen – pop


Example three: Cee Lo Green – R and B


So after about a minute, I’m bored! The profanity has lost all impact and what was cute to begin with quickly becomes lame. Let’s face it – these songs are shite! Poorly written and lazy and cashing in on the fact that they’ll sell because “ fuck “ is in the title. Yawns! But where’s the rap and the hip hop? Those genres were too obvious and if I had a nickel for every “ mofo “ and “ bitch “ that I’ve heard over the years I would be a very rich man indeed.

What’s the motivation? It can’t be shock factor because the use of profanity is so commonplace. Perhaps these famous artists think they’ll get some street cred by dropping the f bomb now and again. I could see someone like Cee Lo Green thinking this – I mean c’mon – a pink suit!!!

Let me go back to The Tubes song. Did they really need to use the lyrics “ so fucking rich “? No of course not. They decided to see if they could get away with it and shock the mainstream. And why did I buy the album? Well at the time I was a teenage boy and like all teenage boys I thought potty humor was hilarious! So maybe this is the key. Perhaps society is so immature that it has the mindset of a teenage boy and all this “ mofo “, “ bitch “ and “ fuck “ is hilarious! Makes sense!

I’m not against the use of profanity. As a scriptwriter, profanity can be a useful tool but only if it’s used sparingly and wisely and to create an impact. For example, a God fearing man of the church is faced with tragedy and swears for the first time in his life. See what I mean. However in the arts, overuse of profanity speaks volumes about the artist but not the way they intended.

“ profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple “
David Keuck

A rather devilish voiceover

January 8th, 2014

Happy New Year and welcome to the first odd audio blog of 2014 – the art of the voiceover.

Many years ago, I sound designed a feature film with Jeremy John Butler called  “ Savage Island “. It was a nightmare is terms of location sound. Most of the dialogue was distorted and unusable and we convinced director Jeffrey Lando to ADR the entire film. A huge undertaking that took about six months to complete working on a part time basis. ADR is quite normal on features these days and part of an actors contract stipulates that he or she will go into the studio after filming for ADR. “ Savage Island “ was a rather special case as the film had been shot 4 years previous and some of the actors no longer wanted to be part of the project. However with some recasting and schedule juggling we got it done and the results were amazing.

Here’s a short clip, scroll down to Savage Island


Unfortunately I don’t have a before and after clip for that film but I do have one for a very famous film that may have scared the daylights out of you especially if you were/are Catholic.

But first meet Mercedes McCambridge.


From Wikipedia…

Mercedes McCambridge was an American actress of radio, stage, film, and television. Orson Welles called her “the world’s greatest living radio actress.”[2] She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for All the King’s Men (1949) and was nominated in the same category for Giant (1956].

I’ll come back to Mercedes in a moment.

But first here is a scene from “ The Exorcist “ featuring the adorable Linda Blair.


Not very scary is it?

Now here is the same scene with the voiceover of Mercedes McCambridge.


That is just so freakin cool!!! An amazing performance and one that required great physical stress, abuse and endurance. But why not let Mercedes tell the story…


The importance and power of sound design can never be overlooked and what a way to start the New Year – an odd audio blog and a good ole fashioned exorcism!


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