Listen To The Banned


The British Broadcasting Corporation has banned a lot of songs over the years. I played some of them on the air on BBC Radio Merseyside recently in a feature called, “Listen To The Banned”. When I delved into it, I was surprised by what was forbidden, the reasons why and the songs they didn’t ban but maybe should have.

In 1976, ‘Love To Love You Baby’ by Donna Summer was banned because the lyrics were deemed too suggestive. Maybe the BBC should have issued a warning that you could only listen to it on radios that were at least 18 years old!

In 1970 ‘Lola’ by The Kinks, was banned because “Coca Cola” was in the lyrics and the BBC was worried about product placement. Ray Davies had to fly back to London in the middle of a tour of America to re-record the vocal for the single as “Cherry Cola” so a “radio edit” could be played. There was no such thing as Cherry Cola at the time but in 1985 Coca Cola released “Cherry Cola”, so the Kinks accidentally invented Coke’s new drink and the BBC’s ban on advertising gave the new flavour fifteen years of advanced marketing!

Another one banned for product placement was ‘All The Young Dudes’ by Mott The Hoople in 1972. The problem was the line “…stealing clothes from Marks & Sparks”, even though that’s not exactly the name of the shop.

In 1967, ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ by The Beatles was banned because of the initials LSD.

John Lennon said it had nothing to do with drugs.

‘Atomic’ by Blondie was played on the BBC from when it was released in 1979 until the start of the Gulf War in 1990 when it was banned.

Sixty-eight songs in total were banned at that time including, ‘Just Died In Your Arms’ by Cutting Crew…

…and ‘Brothers In Arms’ by Dire Straits.

Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ was banned when it came out in 1955 because it was about cheating (“Oh Maybellene why can’t you be true?”). Although it isn’t spelled the same, now that Maybelline is a major American makeup brand sold worldwide, these days it could be banned for product placement!

‘Leader Of The Pack’ by The Shangri-Las from 1964 was banned because they thought it might encourage violence between Mods and Rockers.

‘Kodachrome’ by Paul Simon got banned in 1973. It was a huge hit in the USA but not here because the BBC wouldn’t play it. They could have banned it because it had the word “crap” in the opening line but it was banned because Kodachrome is a brand name owned by Kodak.

These days when he sings it live, instead of “Nikon camera” he sings, “iPhone camera”, so there’s even more product placement in the song now.

Songs that weren’t banned:

Some songs got in under the radar like, Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on The Wild Side’ (she never lost her head…), it was never banned.

The BBC didn’t have a problem with The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ even though it’s about heroine (in his book, ‘The Stranglers Song By Song’, the writer and lead vocalist, Hugh Cornwell states “‘Golden Brown’ works on two levels. It’s about heroin and also about a girl”).

‘Chain Reaction’ by Diana Ross didn’t get banned but the lyrics are pretty explicit.

‘Cool For Cats’ by Squeeze escaped a ban even with the line “I gave the dog a bone”.

The BBC had banned Dire Straits ‘Brothers In Arms’ in 1990 when the first Gulf War started but five years earlier had no problem with the band’s ‘Money For Nothing’, even though the song mentions the word “faggot” twice and is not referring to seasoned chopped liver.

Another artist that had one song banned, had another one slip passed the censors. Chuck Berry’s ‘Maybellene’ was banned in 1955 because it mentioned infidelity but in 1972, ‘My Ding-a-ling’ wasn’t banned by the BBC, even though it’s clearly about his ding-a-ling! Ironically, with what we know now, the person the Beeb chose to illustrate how “innocent” the song was on Top of The Pops was Rolf Harris.

Craic on!

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