Because society forever teeters on the brink of social, moral and political collapse, we, as the citizens of this society, cannot be trusted to think for ourselves. Because of this we have always looked to the authorities to protect us from dangerous ideas, concepts and ideals, and for many years the BBC was as the frontline, leading the crusade by fighting evil with a big stick, and a sock full of gravel. Though BBC Radio no longer officially “bans” a single when it has the potential to outrage public decency, it will instead quietly keep it off of the playlists.

Recent examples of such soft-banning have included The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up, in which the band implored you to smack their bitch up, and Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer, in which he effectively implored listeners to smack him up, the bitch. Astonishingly, the risible God-cash-in wasn’t the first Cliff record to be banned. His 1972 single Honky Tonk Angel was removed from playlists at the behest of Cliff himself, after he discovered that the title and lyrics referred to prostitution. Clearly, when agreeing to record the song Cliff hadn’t realised that this was the sort of angel who charged money to let you through her pearly gates and play her harp… Status Quo were so outraged when their appalling cover version of the Beach Boys’ Fun Fun Fun failed to make playlists in 1995 that they unsuccessfully attempted to sue the BBC for being “ageist”. Surprisingly, the high-profile court battle isn’t mentioned on the otherwise comprehensive band history to be found on the official Quo website.

Possibly most famous example of Radio One-bannage was Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg’s J’Taime, in 1969. Aside from the song’s suggestive heavy breathing, Gainsbourg urging the listener to go “entre tes reins” (between your kidneys) was considered by the moral watchdogs to be a reference to anal sex. And they were probably right. Likewise, Pete Shelley’s Homosapien was excluded from the playlist in the early 80s for the line “Homo Superior in my interior”, and Scott Walker’s Jackie outraged BBC bosses, who were clearly personally offended by references to “Authentic queers”.

Famously, in 1983 Radio One DJ Mike “Myfanwy” Read sussed the worst-kept non-secret in music. Having just played Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Relax, the red-faced and fuming twat apologised to listeners for not realising that the lyrics “Relax, just do it, when you want to suck to it, Relax, just do it, when you want to come,” were a reference to ejaculation and possible homosexual activities, such as bum-ups, men-touch and knob-knob-suck-suck (the outraged Read being a fine one to talk, given that, according to a national newspaper some years later, he liked to bed impressionable young fans while listening to The Icicle Works). By the time the BBC got around to banning Relax it had already been performed on Top Of The Pops, and was at number two in the charts. The resultant publicity surrounding the ban propelled it to number one.

Others were less fortunate. Years earlier The Au Pairs’ Come Again disappeared without a trace following a ban, as did Ivor Biggun’s The Winker’s Song (Misprint), in 1978. However, Biggun later achieved notoriety on Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life as Doctor Cox, replacing cross-eyed eldster Cyril Fletcher in the show’s regular “rude vegetable” slot. It wasn’t carrots shaped like penises which led to the banning of The Trogg’s I Can’t Control Myself, in 1966, but a combination of the suggestive title, and a dirty noise made by Reg Presley. Likewise The Rolling Stones’ Let’s Spend The Night Together, which was alleged – not without good reason – to promote the evil of promiscuity. More shockingly still, The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus was considered too risqué to broadcast, due to its use of the line “Boy, you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down”.

Of course, profanity is an immediate no-no when it comes to choosing BBC playlists, and so The Super Furry Animals’ The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, The Dead Kennedys’ Too Drunk To Fuck, Fatboy Slim’s Fucking In Heaven, Neil Young’s Fucking Up, Ian Dury’s Fucking Ada, and Oasis’s forthcoming Fuckin’ In The Bushes have never been candidates for airplay. Stupidly, Richie Kavanagh’s folky Aon Focal Eile was banned because the first syllable of “focal” – Celtic for “word” – was considered to sound too much like “fuck”. Others made it through with edits. Prince’s Sexy Motherfucker was renamed Sexy MF and bleeped, as was Radiohead’s Creep (the line “You’re so fucking special” getting the censorship treatment), while Beautiful South’s Don’t Marry Her Have Me was originally titled Don’t Marry Her Fuck Me.

Sex and swearing aren’t the only reasons for the BBC to ban records; the allegedly neutral Kommandant Beeb can’t be seen to promote any sort of political opinion, and so records containing apparently pro-IRA sentiments such as Paul McCartney’s self-explanatory Give Ireland Back To The Irish, Marxman’s Sad Affair, McGuinness Flint’s Let The People Go and The Police’s Invisible Sun, were all kept from broadcast. The Sex Pistols’ anti-royalist God Save The Queen was likewise kept from the ears of BBC Radio listeners for being rude about Her Maj’ The Vag’ (our term, not theirs). Former Marillion frontman Fish got off to a bad start with his solo career (and it all went downhill from there) by opening his 1989 debut solo single, State Of Mind, with the line “I don’t trust the government” (Marillion’s first single, Market Square Heroes survived a ban in 1983 by changing a reference to “Anti-Christ” to “battle priest”… no, really).

As everyone who lived through it remembers, the Gulf War was great. However, BBC schedulers had to be particularly sensitive to ensure no listening Iraqis were offended by the playlist. Among the songs banned for the duration of the war were anything by Bomb The Bass and Massive Attack, The Cure’s Killing An Arab, The Doors’ Light My Fire, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine’s Bloodsport For All, Status Quo’s In The Army, Lulu’s Boom Bang A Bang, and any song with “War” in the title. The KLF’s 3am Eternal was deemed inappropriate, as it opened with the sound of machinegun fire.  Less justifiable were Gulf War bans on A-Ha’s Hunting High And Low, and, most astonishingly of all, Eurovision award winner Nicole’s A Little Peace.

So you see, were it not for the moral guardians of taste and decency at the BBC, our world would be awash with filth and depravity of the unholiest kind.

They may not always get it right (they failed to ban George Michael’s I Want Your Sex, instead committing to post-watershed airplay only), but they kept Cliff’s Christian rallying cry off number one at Christmas. And for that, we should all be thankful.

This site is copyright  © Limited 1999, 2000
and its respective copyright owners, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

Buy badges, shirts and more
Bubblegun Badges and more...
For the best florist in Bedford please visit April Flowers