This Date in Music History: April 3

Madonna and The Coasters create controversy and Social Distortion's Mike Ness turns 50

On this day in 1989, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson after complaints about her "blasphemous" video for the single (also used in the Pepsi commercial campaign) "Like A Prayer." The Vatican condemned the video for its imagery of burning crosses and Madonna kissing a black man, while religious groups called for a boycott of all Pepsi-affiliated products. The soft drink manufacturer caved and cut and run from the Pop princess. But Pepsi gave Madonna a nice parting gift — the company was so eager to get away from the controversy that they let her keep her $5 million (yes, million) advance.

Thirty years earlier, another music-related controversy erupted in the U.K. when the BBC decided that The Coasters' song "Charlie Brown" was not fit for airplay. Was it that the Peanuts comic strip was too controversial? Peppermint Patty's sexuality has always been a topic of debate. Were they afraid the youth of England would all mimic Charlie Brown's sparse curly-Q hairdo, essentially killing off the hair-care product industry? Was Pigpen's personal hygiene deficiency deemed a bad influence?

Nope — the BBC was worried about the song because it contained the word "spitball" and they were fearful kids all over would be inspired to destroy society with saliva-drenched missiles. Unlike Pepsi, the Beeb reversed its decision a couple of weeks later, apparently realizing how ridiculous the "ban" was.

Here are clips relating to both controversies. Watch at your own risk!

Click on for Born This Day featuring Richard Thompson, Sebastian Bach, Doris Day and Mike Ness.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 3 birthday include composer, arranger and studio musician (he played harpsichord on Rosemary Clooney's big hit, "Come on-a My House") Stan Freeman (1920); Cincinnati native and successful singer and actress Doris Day (1924); Country musician and songwriter ("Sweet Dreams," "I Can't Stop Loving You") Don Gibson (1928); legendary Jazz Hammond B-3 organist Jimmy McGriff (1936); half of Surf Pop singing duo Jan and Dean ("Surf City," "Dead Man's Curve"), Jan Berry (1941); Vegas lounge-lizard king Wayne Newton (1942); schmaltzy Pop star Tony Orlando (1944); British Folk legend Richard Thompson (1949); comedian and record-maker ("Party All the Time") Eddie Murphy (1961); former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Mother Truckin' Bach (1968); comic book artist and co-creator of cartoon band Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett (1968); Pop singer Leona Lewis (1985); and founder of Punk pioneers Social Distortion, Mike Ness (1962).

If Hollywood ever runs out of children's board games and old TV shows to make into big-budget motion pictures, they might want to look at the eventful life of the now-50-year-old Ness as possible script fodder (particularly during Social D's early years). Born in Massachusetts and raised in Orange County, Ness was kicked out of his house at 15 and became more deeply involved with the burgeoning SoCal Punk scene. He formed Social Distortion shortly after in 1978, the year after "Punk broke," making them true pioneers of West Coast Punk Rock. The band's first album, 1983's Mommy's Little Monster, remains an American Punk classic.

Ness developed a nasty heroin habit that he kicked in 1985 (he's been clean ever since, though he did develop an eyeliner addiction that he only more recently overcame). It took five years for Social D to follow up its debut (with 1988's Prison Bound). The band put out a trio of albums on Epic Records in the ’90s which helped the group crossover to the mainstream. In the mid-’90s, Ness co-founded Time Bomb Records, which reissued Mommy's Little Monster and Prison Bound, released a compilation of early singles and put out a couple of Country solo albums (as well as recordings by other artists). In 2000, Ness' longtime friend and Social Distortion cofounder/guitarist Dennis Danell died suddenly from a brain aneurysm at the age of 38, leaving Ness as the only original Social D member. In 2007, former bassist Brent Liles died after getting hit by a semi.

In 2010, Social Distortion signed with iconic Punk label Epitaph Records and released Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes a year later. Raise a toast to Ness as he reaches the half century mark and check out the Hard Times track "Machine Gun Blues" and its gangster-movie-inspired video below. Then, for a look at a much younger Ness, check out Another State of Mind, the cult classic documentary that followed Social D and Youth Brigade on an early ’80s cross-country tour.

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