Kiss off: the hit too rude for the radio
These days it’s easily replicated by accidentally leaving two tabs open in your browser window, but 30 years ago it fell to Chicago house practitioner Lil’ Louis to collide wobbly techno and orgasmic moaning, and in doing so he landed an international hit with the acid house belter French Kiss.
The track was played on radio at the time, but if you’re a DJ thinking of dropping it in 2018: don’t. This week, the music blog Chart Watch UK pointed out that Ofcom censured the London digital station 883 Centreforce after a complaint about “sexual noises” in a midday show broadcast during the school summer holidays.
As well as French Kiss, the segment had included a Frankie Knuckles track featuring sex noises, which may have been the cause of the complaint. But the long and short of it is that French Kiss, which was routinely broadcast unedited on the radio in the late 80s, is deemed no longer acceptable for daytime radio. Does Ofcom’s ruling represent a step back for pop; a regressive move that suggests prudishness has won out?
As radio stations switch to their festive playlists, we are being treated to the very modern Christmas tradition that is the annual debate over another song from three decades ago – the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York. Defenders say the song’s pejorative use of the word “faggot” was fine in the good old days and should therefore be fine now, too, even if by “the good old days” they mean that point in the 80s when section 28 and Aids hysteria led to demonisation of the gay community. In any case, you would struggle to find an unedited version of the song being played on the radio in 2018.
It does seem silly that the once-permitted sound of a lady enjoying herself is tacitly banned from daytime radio, and it’s plainly wrong to view that as comparable to language that modern audiences generally agree is homophobic. But reassessing pop culture is an important part of pop culture progressing, and invoking what those in the legal profession refer to as the Calvin Harris defence (“it was acceptable in the 80s!”) is no defence at all.