Top 10 80s Songs Your Mom Forbade (and you listened to anyway!)

WARNING: LT80s tries to keep the site and our articles clean and quasi family-friendly whenever possible. However, the subject matter of this piece makes that impossible. Understand that this article contains content that is sexually explicit at times. If that is not something you want to read, hit the back button.

It is easy to think back on the 80s as a more innocent time – a time when middle school didn’t include sexting, girls weren’t supposed to call boys, and AIDS was scary enough to keep you in line (for a while). And while that innocence may be true in some ways, 80s music provided plenty of material to corrupt our not-always-so-wholesome minds. I know in my house, there were certain songs that my mother just wouldn’t tolerate. To my mom’s thinking, they weren’t “nice” and certainly weren’t “appropriate” for a 13 year old girl. But, man, that’s what made them so much fun. You’ll notice that most of these songs are clumped into a 3-5 year period in the early to mid 80s. The reason is simple: those were the years when I was old enough to be into music, but still young enough that Mom felt she had a say in the content.


Here is our run down of the top 10 songs that made 80s moms cringe. We won’t tell your mom, if you won’t tell ours.

Sugar Walls by Sheena Easton (1984). Written by Prince, this song made it into the list of the “Filthy Fifteen” developed by the PMRC (Parent Music Resource Center), a committee formed by Tipper Gore and others in 1985 to try to help parents control kids’ access to music they decided was inappropriate. I guess they didn’t want their little girls singing lyrics like, “blood races to my private spots.” At least we know what she was up to after her baby took the morning train!

Nasty Girl by Vanity 6 (1982). This song was strictly forbidden within ear shot of my mother. It was “filthy” and she didn’t need Tipper Gore to help her figure that out. Happily, my best friend was able to procure a copy of the entire album from her older sister, which we proceeded to listen to until we had the whole thing memorized. There’s just no denying that the beat in the opening bars is catchy. The mention of “7 inches or more,” I think, may have been the deal breaker for my mom. Just guessing.

Sex (I’m a . . .) by Berlin (1982). The first word of the song is “sex” and that just about sums it up. The offending lyrics in this one stretch from start to finish, and let’s face it, no one’s mom wants them singing about being a bitch, a bi, a geisha, a slut, a slave, or a one night stand. And, you can’t help singing it—it’s too great a song not to!

Sex (I'm a...) by Berlin

Like a Virgin by Madonna (1984). Probably the beginning of innumerable uncomfortable conversations between parents and younger children throughout the 1980s. Sample: “Mommy, what’s a virgin?” “As long as you stay one, darling, you never have to learn the words to ‘Papa Don’t Preach.’”

Like a Virgin by Madonna

Darling Nikki, Prince (1984). Prince was clearly responsible for much of the off-limits music in the 80s. He is the composer of 3 out of our 10 songs. Also on the “Filthy Fifteen,” and perhaps the song that initiated Gore’s campaign for advisory labels, Darling Nikki was steamy, explicit, and mentioned masturbation, which was weird, because that was something girls apparently never did until the mid-1990s when Seinfeld and the DiVinyls made it okay. By the way, when Nikki was in that hotel lobby masturbating with a magazine, was she looking at it; or was she masturbating with a magazine? Seems like a good way to get some nasty papercuts.

Physical by Olivia Newton-John (1981). No question about it, this was a side of ONJ that we hadn’t seen before when this hit the air waves in 1981. She was the sweet and innocent Sandy from Grease and sang all those wholesome 70s love songs like “I Honestly Love You.” And now, here she was inviting the listener to get physical in no uncertain terms. The song was wildly popular despite being censored and banned on some radio stations. It spent ten weeks at #1 in the US. While, the video tried to re-direct the meaning of the song by having it play out in a gym, I’m pretty sure that didn’t fool anyone.

Olivia Newton-John's Physical

Never Say Never by Romeo Void (1982). Anthem for toxic relationships everywhere. “I might like you better if we slept together.” Yeah, maybe. For, like 10 minutes; then I want you the hell out of my apartment. And don’t you dare try to steal any of my T-shirts.

Touch Me by Samantha Fox (1986). It was hard to choose between this and Naughty Girls Need Love Too. Ms. Fox’s 80s oeuvre offered much to make moms cringe. But, Touch Me is a little more direct in its purpose. “Like a tramp in the night, I’m begging for you to treat my body like you wanted to . . . , Touch Me, Touch Me, I want to feel your body.” Also, it is hard to deny the appeal of the simulated orgasmic grunts that she adds in for a little extra emphasis. You know, just in case you otherwise missed the point.

She Bop by Cyndi Lauper (1984). This song is a little more subtle in its approach. So subtle, in fact, that I didn’t know it was about masturbation until about 4 years ago. For some reason, I thought it was about dancing. Instead, it turns out to be about dancing with yourself (see, e.g., Idol, Billy). But, apparently I was the only one that didn’t get it because it also has the dubious honor of having been featured in the Filthy Fifteen. And, in polling readers of Like Totally 80s, there were plenty of parents out there that put this on the NO list. Those parents were fighting a losing battle, though, as the song hit #3 on the US charts.

She Bop by Cyndi Lauper

You Shook Me All Night Long by ACDC (1980). From their most successful album, Back in Black, this song is a classic. Angus Young is quoted as saying that they strived to make the video as “politically incorrect as possible.” Certainly, the mechanical bull riding doesn’t leave much to the imagination. And with lyrics that include, “Taking more than her share, had me fighting for air, she told me to come but I was already there,” we can certainly understand the parental hesitancy on this one.

Did we miss your favorite? Let us know which songs made your Mom fear for an entire generation.

User-Submitted Songs:

I Want Your Sex by George Michael (1987). C-c-c-c-c-c-come on! The video starts with a sexy black teddy and black satin sheets and proceeds to just come right out and state its intentions: I Want Your Sex. This song has all the hallmarks of a mom or dad’s worst nightmare for their daughter. The lyrics emphasize the whole struggle about giving it up, “you tell me you’re going regret it, I tell you that I love you, but you still say no.” How many times did you hear that speech from your dad, “they only want one thing; they’ll say anything to get it.” When controversy erupted over the video, Michael appended a kind of preface in which he assured viewers that the song wasn’t about casual sex. It was about monogamy. Judging from the video, it was also about light bondage and someone’s Asian fetish. And that great dance he does when he sings, “What’s your definition of dirty baby/What do you consider pornography?” The preface did nothing to assuage parental fears.

Me So Horny by 2 Live Crew (1989). 24 years ago (January of 1989), 2 Live Crew hit it big on the charts with “Me So Horny” (#1 on the rap charts and #26 on the Billboard Hot 100) and subsequently landed themselves in hot water with obscenity charges in Florida. And, if you listen to the song, you’ll understand why; it leaves so little to the imagination. Unlike other songs that had veiled references to sex (Think “Dress You Up” by Madonna. I always thought she wanted to take him shopping for better clothes!), “Me So Horny” put it right out there. In fact, the first line of the rap, “Sitting at home with d**k on hard,” makes it hard to veil what you’re rapping about. The whole song talks very openly about sex (“I know he’ll be disgusted when he sees your p***y busted”). Raps today pale in comparison when they talk about sex. Even now, at the ripe young age of 40, I still fear my mother’s wrath if I put this song on. Reader Contributed – By Gina M.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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  1. I love this site! I’ve got a song in my head that’s been driving me crazy for days and I’m not sure if you can help but I’m hoping you can. I’ve always gotten it confused with “touch me”. It is a woman that sings it and she talks about going down and what not. I was climbing into my truck the other day and I heard it but when I went to rewind it on my Sirius I changed the channel and couldn’t get it back. If you could help that would be fantastic. Thank you and I know I didn’t give you a lot to go with, sorry

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  2. Don’t forget “I touch myself” by The Divinyls !!
    (and FYI– Had NO IDEA She Bop was about Masturbation until I read this article and I’m 44 !!)

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  3. How about My Sharona? “I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind…”

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  4. I have worked in Top 40 radio during the 80s.
    The really funny thing about this article the nasty songs you did NOT include because Mom didn’t really understand the song. The one that immediately came to mind was Turning Japanese by The Vapors another song about Masturbation. Slow Hand by the Pointer Sisters…maybe listen a little closer next time you hear it.

    There are also the songs Mom thought she heard a bad word or a nasty innuendo. One hysterical song was Rapture by Blondy. My program director was totally convinced Blondy said Finger F#$*ing and not the real lyric Finger Popping. It is still funny how people hear things that aren’t there, and don’t have a clue about stuff that is played frequently.

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