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#RSFlashback: 45 Years Ago, A Song Got Banned For The Lyrics “Spread Your Wings And Let Me Come Inside”

It went on to become one of the biggest hits of the decade, courtesy of Rod Stewart

Amit Vaidya Nov 12, 2021
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“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” hit number one on the charts 45 years ago this week in America. The song, written and performed by Rod Stewart was a blockbuster hit, staying at the top for eight weeks, the longest since “Hey Jude” by The Beatles nearly a decade prior. The song ended up becoming the number one single of 1977 on Billboard as well as the best-selling single that year.

But the hit wasn’t without controversy. In fact, well before George Michael’s “I Want Your Sex,” 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny,” Madonna’s “Justify My Love” or even Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” ever got in trouble, Stewart’s hit got banned from BBC Radio.

In fact, since 1975 and in particular, the literal orgasmic-sounding smash “Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer hit airwaves, there was a growing emergence of “sex rock” as Time Magazine at the time defined the genre.

The issue – one particular line of the song goes: “Spread your wings and let me come inside.” The song, an ode to getting it on, was direct in its lyrics. Stewart makes it perfectly clear his intentions of bedding the young woman he’s courting “The secret is about to unfold, Upstairs before the night’s too old”. BBC objected to the content and quickly banned the song only to have to reverse their decision due to incredible public demand. The song quickly ascended to the Top 5 of the British charts and then made its way to the top of the US charts.

Of course, countless groups started protesting the hit including the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s organization Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity). He used the song as an example of the loosening of morals of younger people. Needless to say, even 45 years ago, sex sold and all the controversy ended up benefiting Stewart to have his biggest hit ever.

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While the song made it back on the radio, an “edited” version was played on numerous radio stations that omitted the French spoken word part by Swedish actress Britt Ekland, Stewart’s girlfriend at the time. In one of the first instances, the radio stations edited the track to suit their audiences without getting in trouble. Stewart spoke about how Ekland’s part came about in an interview with Mojo magazine in 1995. “I was going out with Britt Ekland. I’d just moved here. So that’s 20 years ago. I remember I got her drunk, pissed as a fart to sing that old French bollocks on the end, because she didn’t want to do it.”

One interesting note about the recording of the song was that the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section played on this song. Based in Alabama, they were four well-known, behind-the-scenes ace musicians who founded their own studio – Muscle Shoals Sound, after doing sessions at FAME studios for talents like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett. Upon arriving at the studio, Stewart was dumbfounded when he met them, unable to fathom the fact that the band wasn’t black. He had no idea the musicians he had listened to on his favorite soul records were in fact, four white guys.

While various artists over the years have done their own covers of the classic, one notable version was by Janet Jackson who redid the hit for her 1997 album The Velvet Rope. Jackson slightly alters the lyrics by adding at the beginning “This is just between me and you…and you”, implying that the song is about a threesome. She addresses each of the first two choruses to each one of her menage-a-trois members as she sings “cause I love boy” and then “cause I love you girl.” Many thought Jackson was using the opportunity to proclaim her bisexuality given so little was known in mainstream media about her personal life at the time. Others believed it was her nod to her gay fans who had been supporting her every step of the way till that point. Regardless of her intention, the song again pushed the sexual buttons, living up to the ruckus Stewart had originally caught with the song.

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It’s hard to believe that 45 years ago a song could create such controversy but then again sex has always sold, sold very well (case in point, current hitmakers Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Nas X, etc.). It didn’t hurt that the song was actually well crafted, had a super catchy chorus and we were hearing Stewart at his sex rock best, before he became the Adult Contemporary mainstay and then the “Covers The Classics” dude.

“Tonight’s The Night (Gonna Be Alright)” is forever part of Stewart’s musical legacy. With his other US number one hit, “Maggie May”, it’s the song he is most often requested to perform and it’s clear even after four and a half decades, “Ain’t nobody gonna stop us now.”

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