Why Queen Was Banned In MTV
Queen - The Beat Goes On /YouTube
Back in the early days of MTV, Queen, the famous British rock band, stirred up trouble. Why? Well, it all boiled down to their music video for “Body Language,” a song from their 10th album, Hot Space. This unexpected clash with MTV’s rules led to the first-ever ban on the network, briefly keeping Queen off the screen.
Hot Space, a departure from Queen’s traditional sound, delved into disco and R&B influences.
With the success of “Another One Bites the Dust” and the collaboration with David Bowie on “Under Pressure,” the album had its share of highs. However, it faced backlash from hardcore European fans who were not enamored with the disco vibe. The Americans, on the other hand, embraced it, propelling the album to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The infamous “Body Language” video, directed by Mike Hodges, became the epicenter of the controversy. MTV, known for its relatively tame content compared to today, banned the video, earning it the title of the First Music Video Banned by MTV, as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. The reason? According to MTV, the video contained ‘homoerotic undertones’ and the presence of human flesh.
Describing the banned video, the Guinness entry paints a vivid picture:
“The video was shot in a dimly lit steam room and featured sweaty, writhing, Lycra-clad bodies, with Queen’s bespectacled frontman, Freddie Mercury, observing the scene from close quarters.”
View this post on Instagram
Despite the ban, the video itself did not depict nudity or explicit sexual content.
It featured leather-clad Freddie Mercury navigating through a steam room filled with men and women in black underwear, engaging in suggestive activities. The visuals, with their heavy shadows and sensual atmosphere, prompted MTV’s decision in a different era of television standards.
Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, has since recalled debates with Mercury about perceived overtly gay sexual references in some of the album’s lyrics. Nevertheless, “Body Language” seems to resonate universally, reflecting Mercury’s bisexuality and pushing boundaries in its own right.
Interestingly, Queen found themselves in hot water with MTV once again two years later for the video of “I Want to Break Free,” where all band members dressed in drag. That, however, is a story for another time.
“Body Language” has stood the test of time
Becoming a popular choice for dance routines and making appearances in various forms of media. The song’s influence extends to unexpected places, with the Foo Fighters using it in their 2011 video “Hot Buns,” which humorously countered homophobic sentiments.
The Hot Space album, despite initial mixed reactions, has proven influential in unexpected ways. Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt credits the album with teaching him more about playing guitar, while Michael Jackson cited it as an influence on his blockbuster Thriller album. Queen’s bold move to explore new musical territories in Hot Space demonstrated that taking risks, even when not immediately rewarded, can leave a lasting impact.
In the end, MTV banning Queen’s “Body Language” reminds us that entertainment rules change, and even big bands can end up in surprising controversies.