During ESPN’s Sunday evening premiere of “Season On The Brink” – chronicling basketball coach Bob Knight’s embattled 1985-86 season at Indiana – actor Brian Dennehey as Knight dropped more F-bombs than Archie Bunker at a Village People gig. Meanwhile, on CBS, the network ran onsite footage from the 9/11 disaster with unedited audio. Finally, HBO continued its fine tradition of extreme cursing: The characters in “Six Feet Under” seemingly added the Darkest Expletive to each exchange of dialogue. Three different networks, three very different programs, unified by one word. However, the use of Fuck in “Six Feet Under” was not excessive; rather, it was realistic. This was proven by the frequency with which the word was uttered in real life, by firefighters, victims, and the filmmakers, during CBS’ 9/11 special. But Fuck’s appearance on ESPN is what’s at issue. It marks the debut of the F-word on an advertiser-supported broadcast or cable network. And it suggests that network television’s continued flirtation with rough language – “NYPD Blue”; “The West Wing” – will only inch further down the blue path. But don’t mistake Glorious Noise as a voice of concern for the gentle ears of impressionable children. What’s at stake here is far more important. If regular broadcast television takes a blasé attitude toward Fuck, what happens to the nature, enjoyment, and power of saying it in the first place?


Jon Spencer swears creatively. Yelping the above line at the beginning of his sexified rocker “Full Grown” (from 1994’s Orange), Spencer’s observation is affirmed by bandmates Judah Bauer and Russell Simins’ off-mic hollering of the Infamous Cuss. The song even ends with one long scream of the word. “Full Grown” is a rollicking, sloe-eyed rant about Spencer’s desire for an experienced bedmate. There’s no pretense in what he’s suggesting – “Take a whiff of my pant leg, baby” – and saying Fuck so much illustrates his point. “Baby Baby Baby you sure like to get busy” just doesn’t have the same vitality. So that’s creative cussing. And that’s rock and roll. It’s part of what makes rock – even in this day and age – rebellious and cool. After all, until Sunday evening, you weren’t allowed to say Fuck on regular TV. You still can’t say it on the radio. (Just ask Howard Stern or Chicago’s Z-grade worm shock monkey Mancow Muller, who’s been fined over $30,000 by the FCC for language indiscretions). No matter what you think of Fred Durst and Limp Bizkit, their cover of “Faith” is a whole lot cooler with Fred’s “Get the Fuck out!” line left intact. Similarly, have you ever tried to listen to a “clean” version of your favorite hip-hop album? Get the fuck out, indeed.

This is what we’re in danger of losing – the power and pleasure of saying or singing the word Fuck. For the relationship of rock music and swearing will be forever changed if the taboo is removed from the F-word. And “crunk,” the emerging slang term favored by tastemakers such as Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, is NOT a valid replacement. Because replacement is impossible. Fuck is a non-renewable resource – it has continued to reverberate in human culture since the word’s inception, continually finding new ways to wend its way into the speech patterns of everyday life. (The late 20th century popularization of the multi-syllabic drop-in comes to mind – e.g., “Do I want another beer? Abso-fucking-lutely.”) To hear this most famous of invectives uttered with casual frequency on major network shows – “Everybody Fucking Loves Raymond!” – would destroy a forbidden currency that helps keep rock and roll alive.

As an impressionable teenager, I can remember buying a Guns N’ Roses single during the Appetite days – maybe it was “Paradise City” – which featured the album track “Mr Brownstone” as its B-side. Each night, I’d listen to that song, anxiously awaiting the part towards the end when Axl refers to Mr Brownstone as “that old man, he’s a mean motherfucker.” Of course I’d heard the term before. But it was boring when the right fielder on my little league team said it. Headphones on, sound turned to 11, to hear a rock and roller swear with such mirth on something that I could buy at the store was powerful to me. And it makes the music more powerful, as well. Parental Advisory labels have done nothing to hinder the sale of albums with curse words. For many artists, the stickers are worn as a badge of honor. And when swearing’s done correctly, by guys like Jon Spencer or Ice Cube, the word and song take on new resonance.

Rock and roll – the term itself – has never been made of candyfloss and pixie sticks. It encapsulates everything dirty and sexy about the music in a simple phrase, built from the ground up to piss off parents and priests. Throwing an F-bomb into the mix is the equivalent of lighting up in church. After all, what else can you say when you watch Jack White tear off power chords as Meg pounds the shit out of her kit? “Fuck.” What word are your lips going to form when you see footage of the Rolling Stones in their prime, diluting sexual chemistry into pure rock heaven? “Fuck.” In one syllable, it represents and summarizes the over 50 years of history behind the phrase Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll. And if it, as just another “jag off” or “damn” or “asshole,” becomes Andy Sipowiz’s new favorite epithet, rock’s in trouble. Signs are suggesting real rock and roll will again become a viable economy in Pop Music, 2002. If Fuck – in all its simplistic, gutteral, and rebel glory – isn’t in its arsenal, then we’re in trouble.

And somewhere, Billy Idol will retire his sneer in dejected sadness.


16 thoughts on “WHAT DID YOU FUCKING SAY?”

  1. It’s nice to hear someone else praise the ability of JSBX’s creative cursing!Also, it’s the b-side to Welcome to the Jungle on the 45 anyway. I actually just bought it!

  2. Thanks, Prop. I couldn’t remember if it was “Paradise City” “Jungle.” I’m pretty sure I had them both — gotta get my 7″‘s out of storage…

  3. “I’m gonna treat ya’. . .. . . like a stepchild!”I just bought tix to see JSBX in Chicago in May. God damn, they are the best rock & roll show I’ve ever scene. They’re show reminds me of watching the Rolling Stones ’69 Madison Square Garden show in fast forward.

  4. F – ForU – UncommonC – CarnalK – KnowledgeThe term actually originates from the Naval laws against buggery. Seems that back in the day, when the Navy had to record why they were locking up certain seamen during trans-Atlantic journeys, they’d abbreviate “For uncommon carnal knowledge” as “FUCK.” At least that’s what I learned at some point in time in my nearly-worthless matriculation at U-M.

  5. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition (20-volume set):fuck (fVk), v. Also 6 fuk, 7- f-k, etc. [Early mod.E fuck, fuk, answering to a ME. type *fuken (wk. vb.) not found; ulterior etym. unknown. Synonymous G. ficken cannot be shown to be related.] For centuries, and still by the great majority, regarded as a taboo-word; until recent times not often recorded in print but frequent in coarse speech. 1 intr. To copulate. trans. (Rarely used with female subject.) To copulate with; to have sexual connection with.A. 1503 Dunbar Poems lxxv. 13 Be his feiris he wald haue fukkit. 1535 Lyndesay Satyre 1363 Bischops..may fuck thair fill and be vnmaryit. 1535-36 Lyndesay Answer to Kingis Flyting 49 Ay fukkand lyke ane furious Fornicatour. 1598 Florio Worlde of Wordes 137/1 Fottere, to iape, to sard, to fucke, to swive, to occupy. C. 1650 in Hales & Furnivall Percy’s Folio MS. (1867) 90 Which made him to haue a mighty mind To clipp, kisse, & to ffuck. 1680 Rochester Poems on Several Occasions (1950) 14 Much Wine had past with grave discourse, Of who Fucks who, and who does worse. C. 1684 Sodom II. 30 Hee Fucks to please his will, but I for need. 1707 ‘Madam B[ran]le’ Fifteen Plagues of Maidenhead 4 But I poor Virgin never shall be F-. A. 1750 A. Robertson Poems (1750) 256 But she gave proof that she could f-k. C. 1800 Burns Merry Muses (1911) 71 You can f-k where’er you please. C. 1863 Philo cunnus Festival of Passions II. 54 That female nation who being encamped near their enemies were fucked, during a truce, by the hostile party. 1869 Rossetti Let. 15 Sept. (1965) II. 743 If Byron f-d his sister he f-d her and there an end. C. 1888-94 My Secret Life IV. 64 Then a dread came over me. I had fucked a common street nymph. 1922 Joyce Ulysses 765 His wife is fucked yes and damn well fucked too. 1928 D. H. Lawrence Lady Chatterley iv. 44 Fellows with swaying waists fucking little jazz girls. 1967 D. Wright tr. R. Queneau’s Between Blue & Blue v. 48 `Well, Lamélie,’ says Cidrolin, `while you’re waiting to get married, do you want to be entertained or educated?’ `No, Dad, what I want to do is to fuck.’ 1971 Ink 19 Oct. 15/3, I don’t want to fuck anyone, and I don’t want to be fucked either.

  6. What the Fuck are you guys talking about?! I can never understand a fucking thing on this motherfucking site, that’s why fucking don’t write. Fuckers.

  7. Actually, this is not the first time “fuck” has been uttered on commercial TV. MTV ran some special about prisons a few years back (true life?) which contained the f word once every 10 seconds or so. It did have a disclaimer with every commercial break though. Anyway, you should check your facts, dummy.

  8. Recalling my Catholic schoolgirl days, I believe the church has its own definition of the naughty anagram: Fornication Under Carnal Knowledge. At least, that’s what Sister Ignatius taught me…she was a nice lady. That’s not to say the navy isn’t entitled to their own interpretation. I say, let everyone have their own interpretation of the word FUCK, otherwise, fucking won’t be much fun.

  9. K-rock – would you like to work for Glorious Noise as our fact checker? We’ll pay you…nothing. Thanks for the info; that’s what this discussion area is all about, yo.

  10. One of my favorites is to listen to music that boisterously uses “fuck”, like JSBX, while I’m in the parking lot at my fabulously boring bank job.It some how villifies me to see my boring co-workers turn and stare with this look of complete insult on their face.

  11. I like to yell “FUCK” in parking lots, like last week when I locked my keys in my car, and give everybody staring at me like I’m some crazy person a “what the fuck are you looking at” look…makes a fuckin’ bad situation a little more bearable…

  12. Sign me up as a fact checker! Although I’m not sure there is a data base of “fuck” and it’s appearances on national TV. But there should be, god fucking damn it!

  13. Fuck yeah. Right on brotha. Go tell it on the mountain! A favorite usage of mine for that wonderful F word is “What the fuuuck!” or “What the fuuuck?” Being a true Philadelphian i sometimes prefer the phrase, “Fuckin’, yo!”….JSBX rule too. They have a new one coming out soon & on doulbe lp w/ extra trax. Fuck yeah. Take a wiff of MY pant leg baby.

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