Censors on red alert as Stones get ready to rock in Shanghai

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The Independent Online

It's only rock'n'roll. But will they like it? The Rolling Stones could fall foul of China's beady-eyed censors when they play their first ever gig in China on Saturday. Unbridled lust and rock'n'roll decadence is still deemed too shocking for Chinese audiences, even in Shanghai, the country's most progressive city.

The British rock veterans are the biggest band ever to play in China, but they could be exiled on Main Street if they overdo the raunchy lyrics. So how dirty will the censors allow the Stones to get?

Last time they were supposed to play in China, in 2003, they were told they could not perform "Honky Tonk Women", "Brown Sugar", "Beast of Burden" and "Let's Spend the Night Together" because of fears the songs could upset delicate sensibilities. In the end the Sars epidemic meant the group's concert was cancelled anyway - not a great deal better than back in the 1970s when the Stones' first attempt to play in China failed to get off the ground.

But now the legendary band is hoping that it will be third time lucky - and that this weekend China will embrace rock'n'roll like never before.

The band arrived in Shanghai yesterday to prepare for the gig on Saturday night. Their chosen destination is China's biggest city and financial hub, which sees itself very much as the cosmopolitan heart of the country.

"I'm really excited. We all know that Shanghai is a big, important city, so we wanted to make sure it's on our itinerary. We don't want to leave it out," Mick Jagger told the Shanghai Daily, which said the concert marked a "spectacular pirouette on the international stage of the 21st century" for China.

"Keef" Richards said he was very grateful for being allowed in. "China will be a bit of an adventure for us, we've never been there before, it's a first and by now we don't get many firsts," Richards said in a voice the paper described as "Home Counties, eccentric and slightly squiffy uncle".

The promoters of the tour, which has the innocent moniker "A Bigger Bang", haven't said if the Stones will indeed be muzzled on Saturday when they play, although most people believe the band will tone it down so the censors will not feel the need to clamp down.

The Stones are no strangers to censorship. In 1967, they appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show singing "Let's Spend the Night Together", but Sullivan insisted they change the line to "Let's spend some time together", which Jagger did, registering his disdain with a salvo of pouts which did no harm to their bad-boy image in the US.

That appearance was on the same day as the first American Football Superbowl, and it was during this year's game in Detroit that the censor last had a close look at the Stones' lyrics. During their half-time show in February, two words were censored from "Start Me Up" and "Rough Justice", though it was not immediately clear if Mick Jagger did it himself or whether producers cut the words.

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