Why Queen Was Banned In MTV

In the early MTV era, Queen, the renowned British rock band, found themselves at the center of controversy, courtesy of their music video for “Body Language,” a track from their 10th album, Hot Space. This unexpected clash led to the network’s first-ever ban, briefly removing Queen from the MTV screen.

Hot Space, a departure from Queen’s traditional sound, delved into disco and R&B influences, marking a significant shift for the band. While the album achieved success with hits like “Another One Bites the Dust” and the collaboration with David Bowie on “Under Pressure,” it faced backlash from hardcore European fans uncomfortable with the disco vibe. Conversely, American audiences embraced it, propelling the album to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100.

At the epicenter of the controversy was the “Body Language” video, directed by Mike Hodges. MTV, known for its relatively conservative content at the time, banned the video, earning it the distinction of being the First Music Video Banned by MTV, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The reason cited by MTV was the video’s perceived ‘homoerotic undertones’ and the presence of human flesh.

Describing the banned video, the Guinness entry vividly captures the scene:

“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.”

Despite the ban, the video itself did not depict nudity or explicit sexual content. It featured Freddie Mercury, clad in leather, 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, reflecting the different standards prevalent in that era of television.

Brian May, Queen’s guitarist, later recalled debates with Freddie Mercury about perceived overtly gay sexual references in some of the album’s lyrics. Nevertheless, “Body Language” resonates universally, reflecting Mercury’s bisexuality and pushing boundaries.

Interestingly, Queen faced MTV controversy once again two years later with the video for “I Want to Break Free,” where all band members dressed in drag – a tale for another time.

Over time, “Body Language” has stood the test, becoming a popular choice for dance routines and making appearances in various media. The song’s influence extends unexpectedly, with the Foo Fighters using it in their 2011 video “Hot Buns,” humorously countering homophobic sentiments.

Despite initial mixed reactions, the Hot Space album has proven influential. 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 exploration of new musical territories in Hot Space demonstrated that taking risks, even without immediate rewards, can leave a lasting impact.

In the end, the ban on Queen’s “Body Language” by MTV serves as a reminder that entertainment rules evolve, and even prominent bands can find themselves embroiled in unexpected controversies.

You Can Watch The Music Video Below:

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