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Why Was Billy Idol’s Cover of Mony Mony Banned at High School Dances in the United States?

Billy Idol was one of the most iconic artists who pioneered punk music in the late seventies. He is credited for many classic songs like White Wedding and Mony Mony. But why was the song Mony Mony forbidden to be played in High School Dances in the US?

Billy Idol’s version of “Mony Mony” was often thought of as a reference to sexual acts and lewdness. Audiences would often shout explicit language when the song was played, which led to it being banned in American high school dances.

What was Mony Mony About?

Mony Mony was a song originally written and recorded by Tommy James & the Shondells in 1968. In an interview with Tommy James, he and his songwriting partner Ritchie Cordell were in his apartment in New York trying to develop a song. They wanted the song to be catchy, and its beat was danceable.

After several attempts in creating a song and failing, the duo went for a cigarette on James’ apartment terrace. While smoking, something caught the eye of the two, which sparked their creativity. The sign of the Mutual of New York Insurance Company inspired them. James recalls that he had been looking at it for years, and they both felt that the acronym MONY would be perfect for their song. (Source: Medium)

The two laughed about the idea but then wrote the song, using Mony as the title. There was no deep or hidden meaning to the title. It just felt right, according to James. The song became the best-selling single and was covered by many artists and bands in the years like the Ricardo Ray Orchestra, The Surfers, The Hollywood Youngsters, Celia and the Mutations, and Flintlock. (Source: Secondhand Songs)

Billy Idol’s Version of the Song

One of the artists who covered the famous song was the British punk rocker, Billy Idol. He recorded it in 1981, just after leaving his first band, Generation X. Idol’s cover was unsuccessful. It only reached 107th on the Billboard Top 100. But that changed after six years when Idol released a live version of the song.

According to music historians and researchers, an inexplicable phenomenon formed whenever Idol’s version of the song was performed live or played in clubs, dances, and even wedding receptions. According to them, there was an obscene call-and-response chant audience shouted out in between the lines of the verses.

Researchers could not precisely pinpoint how the chanting began, but they were certain it couldn’t have come from the radio or MTV, or MuchMusic because the chant contained vulgarities. Another exciting discovery uncovered is that the chant was primarily observed in North American audiences.(Source: Medium)

Idol and his producer Keith Forsey thought that the song was due to a dance-rock cover. Idol said that Mony Mony had a special significance to him in an interview. He first heard it when he was thirteen, and he loved its repetitive groove. Idol wanted to remake it into something that would keep people dancing all night long in the New York clubs he frequented. (Source: Diffuser)

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