No. 33

May 01, 2016

Last month Bruce Dickinson addressed Iron Maiden's censorship by the Chinese government. The band landed a tour of shows in China where power metal is big and the band has a huge fanbase, but securing such a tour is a feat requiring government approval. To meet demands by the Chinese government, Iron Maiden had to agree to A) not to use their onstage pyrotechnics which usually included flames and smoke-bombs; B) During The Trooper, Dickinson was not able to wave a Union Jack, as he normally does; C) The lyrics of the song Powerslave were changed, so Dickinson had to replace the politically charged title "Powerslave" in the chorus, singing instead: “Tell me why I had to be a Wicker Man”; D) The band were not allowed to throw memorabilia into the crowd. Dickinson has always been defiant with regard to censorship of the bands music and living up to this he did so again at their recent show in Shanghai. While on stage, he addressed the issue by brashly saying "“It’s great to be here tonight. It’s great to be in China tonight, I tell ya. We ripped it up in Beijing, and we thought, ‘Ooh, that was a bit serious,’ you know. So they had a few rules, so we kind of stuck by the rules, and we didn’t do any swearing. You know what I mean? There’s another thing I can’t do. See if you can guess what it is later on. But we don’t really give a [ mouths the word ‘shit’ ] about all that kind of stuff, because, you know what? The most important thing is the music, the most important thing is that we are here, and you are here, and we are gonna have a great [ mouths the word ‘fucking’ ] time!” It came off a bit arrogant, but he made his point. The show went on without issue.

Censorship like this has been going on for decades in the music business and not just in China. It brings to mind the incident that the Doors faced when Ed Sullivan demanded they not use the word "higher" when singing their song "Light my Fire". The band agreed , then in definace frontman Jim Morrison made sure he said the word on broadcast television. The network was not happy. On both of their visits to China, the Rolling Stones had songs excised from their set, something Mick Jagger referred to from the stage during a 2014 show in Shanghai. “And now we’d usually play something like Honky Tonk Women … but it’s been vetoed,” he said. This isn't the first time that Bruce Dickinson has shown defiance in the face of censorship. In one of the most memorable incidents, the band was asked to perform "Wasted Years" on a German television program, giving them the perfect opportunity to show off their incredible live show. The show however wanted the whole band to fake playing, to lip-sync. The band was livid over the request but the venue stood firm with their demand. The band agreed to the request, took to the stage to perform to a soundtrack, then made a comedy spectacle out of the situation when all the band members kept switching instruments and vocalists. making it completely clear it was fake and not a live performance. Needless to say they were never asked back again by the TV program.

Chinese authorities clamp down on both political themes and vulgarity, expecting bands to submit details of their performance, and even their complete lyrics, before visiting the country. Despite their qualms, the Chinese authorities were happy for Iron Maiden to play a songs about Satan like "The Number of the Beast" and about the last hours of a man condemned to hang in "Hallowed Be thy Name". The album Chinese Democracy by American rock band Guns N' Roses is banned in China, reportedly due to supposed criticism in its title track of the government and a reference to the anti-government Falun Gong movement. The government said through a state controlled newspaper that it "turns its spear point on China". The track "Communist China" by British punk rock group Japan is also banned. Many pop artists like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, etc. are banned in China for their vulgarity. China will censor online streaming music from Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and others that will no doubt include Apple Music in 2016. This edict is the latest strike in a multi-year campaign to "cleanse" both the Internet and culture more broadly of material the ruling Communist Party might deem a threat to China's stability. The country already operates what experts say is one of the world's most sophisticated online censorship mechanisms.


Watch Iron Maiden Make A Comedy Out of Lip-Synching

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