The BBC is in a strange place in British culture where it must protect free speech but also protect us from less desirable ideas like free commercials for soft drinks, speech impediments or anything of a sexual nature.
This isn't a critique of BBC policy just a collection of some of the more ridiculous songs considered to dangerous for your ears Britain.
Lola – The Kinks
Written by Ray Davies this proved to be a big hit for the Muswell Hill band reaching number 2 in the UK singles charts but why was it banned?
Was it because of the songs subject matter which seems to suggest a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible cross-dresser or trans person which at the time of release were considered very controversial subjects.
With lyrics like Well, I'm not dumb but I can't understand, Why she walked like a woman but talked like a man.
But the song escaped any censoring it was actually use of a well known drink that got it banned, much like The Beatles track come together it make reference to Coca Cola which in the BBC’s eyes is seen as advertising so banned!
This song is played today on the BBC and there is an alternative version with Cherry Cola as a lyric
My Generation – The Who
Released in 1965 and much like our previous entry My Generation reached number 2 in the UK charts however it’s banning was for very different reasons.
Featured on the album My Generation this track was named by Rolling Stone magazine as the eleventh greatest rock song of all time, so why was it banned?
Well it has everything to do with a stutter in the song and a fear of offending people with stutters, the lyric “Why don’t you all f-fade away” seems to have waved some red flags for the BBC at the time although they later backed down.
Waterloo – Abba
I know what you’re thinking I hear Abba on the BBC all the time so how is this song banned, well it was for a brief period of time.
When this song was released for the 1974 Eurovision song contest it reached number 1 in the UK charts and went on to win that years Eurovision for Abba, so why was it banned?
Well I have to clarify that it wasn’t banned in 1974 but rather 1990 long after it had been number 1 why was this? It all has to do with the state of the world at the time, because this was the Gulf War when Iraq invaded Kuwait with the UK, USA, Saudi, Egypt and France coming to Kuwait’s defence, so the BBC banned 67 songs featuring even the vaguest and metaphorical references to armies, wars, killing, or references to the Middle East (So Long Rock The Casbah) but we’ll stay in 1990 for our Next entry.
Atomic – Blondie
Yes banned for the same reasons that Waterloo was in 1990 the Gulf War, Atomic is a 1980 released song from the 1979 album ‘Eat To The Beat’ reaching number 1 in the UK charts.
It was banned for just using the word ‘Atomic’ because it might reference the bomb which let’s be honest neither Iraq or Kuwait had, the only one who had atomic weapons in that war were the Americans, British and French and they were all on the same side.
Other blacklisted songs include Give Piece a Chance, Edwin Starr’s War, even Pat Benatar’s ‘Love is a battlefield’ this is the BBC at it’s finest.
Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead – The Wizard of Oz
You might find it a bit strange for a song from a film in 1939 to end up being banned by the BBC but when I give you the context you’ll either find it funny or in poor taste.
In 2013 former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died, she was the Marmite of Prime Minister’s except most people despised her, whether it was closing the mines to destroy the powerful miners union, brining back the frankly pre-historic idea of a Poll Tax which many working class people couldn’t pay, literally burying the truth about the Hillsborough football tragedy because she hated the city of Liverpool or taking Milk from school children.
After all that it’s really quite hard to see why so many people campaigned for ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead’ to reach the UK number 1.
The then controller of Radio 1 decided the chart show would play a five second clip of the song with a new reader explaining why it was there and why the BBC wouldn’t be playing it.
Free speech vs respect for someone who had just died.
Well it could have been worse it could have been the excellent ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ by Elvis Costello or the equally as good ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ by Morrissey (which made him the subject of a police investigation)
Sticking with conservative political figures cause why not the next entry on our list is
(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang – Heaven 17
Now the stars of Plus Net adverts but back in 1981 synth-pop band Heaven 17 released this there debut single and the lead from their first album “Penthouse and Pavement”.
Utilising the instrumental ‘Groove Thang’ which Heaven 17 members Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh released under the name British Electric Foundation, the song references ‘Evil men with racist views, Spreading all across the land’.
That’s not why it was banned though, it was banned because of its reference to Ronald Regan the then newly elected President of the United States, using lyrics such as ‘Democrats are out of power, Across that great wide ocean, Reagan's president elect, Fascist god in motion’.
The BBC allegedly feared a libel suit could come there way if the song was played, it is however unbanned today and Heaven 17 even performed the song for BBC Radio 6 Music.
Love to Love You Baby – Donna Summer
One of the greatest records ever made Donna Summer’s classic is to point frankly was scandalous, well get to that in a moment but before that.
Released in 1975 on the album of the same name it was produced by Italian Musician Giorgio Moroder and reached number 4 in the UK charts that despite it being banned by the BBC why?
Well the song contains “simulated sex noises” earning Summer the title the First Lady of Lust, in an interview with the Guardian Summer said she was alone in the studio at the time with her hand on her knee thinking about her boyfriend.
I can never listen to this song ever again without thinking about that.
Another song which has simulations of erotic sounds is the 1989 acid house classic French Kiss by Lil Louis which wasn’t just banned by the BBC but continues to be frowned upon by the media regulator Ofcom for day time play so if you’re a day time radio presenter and want an Ofcom complaint that is how you can get one, just don’t blame me when you get thrown off air.
We’ve tried to avoid the obvious ones like God Save The Queen, Smack My Bitch Up, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, because well their obvious one’s about the monarch, the other suggests domestic abuse and the last one is about the drug LSD.
But we had to include this one because it’s the most famous record banned from the BBC but at least half of it got played by Radio 1, of course I’m talking about the 1983 classic.
Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood
From the 1984 album ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ enter stage left Radio 1 Dj Mike Read who objected to the artwork on the album and of course the lyrics and pulled (giggidy) the record off the air halfway through the song.
Or was it? Because Mike Read in an interview for the Huffington Post said that the record was always going to get dropped because Radio 1 only had the 12 inch version of the vinyl and not enough time to play the whole thing. Read goes onto say in the interview that he didn’t have the power to ban a record and that Frankie’s band manager capitalized on the situation very well to get the song to number 1 it had been number 3 at the time.
Whilst nowadays you can’t listen to BBC Radio 2 without a little bit of Frankie this is the best example of Brits being sort of uptight about sex because whilst controversial in the UK in the US they didn’t care.
Despite the ban the song reached number 1 and the BBC had to repent and lift the ban in December of 1984.
That's our list let us know of other songs you thought we should have included on this list in the comments.