GOOD SHOW, OLD CHAPS…MOSTLY
On this day in 1922, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began radio service in the England. No matter where one finds themselves in the world, the letters BBC form a crucial shorthand for serious radio work that ultimately helped usher the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and endless others onto the world stage. Without BBC Radio we might not have known John Peel, and that alone would have greatly altered the world of hip, ear-to-the-ground music lovers everywhere.
However, like all giant, high-minded entities, the BBC has from time to time yanked songs from its airwaves because they were deemed too controversial, too sexual, etc. So, as we salute the BBC for the many good things they've done, we also pause to remind ourselves that when there's just one authority dishing up cultural goods they sometimes think they know better than the populace. And this weekend's U.S. opening of the film Pirate Radio (titled The Boat That Rocked for its UK release earlier this year) also inspired us to dig into the tunes the BBC has banned for one reason or another. It's a good thing to remember what was once forbidden simply because it made certain people uncomfortable. Viva, free speech!
While this selection of clips is far from inclusive, it does offer a small cross-section of the salacious, political, and social bugaboos that once troubled the BBC. Most, if not all, have had the ban lifted over time, which is a hopeful reminder that societies can and do change, just not as swiftly as some of us might like.
It was the first Gulf War that got The Cure kicked off.
Rock's precursor in England, skiffle, introduced some earthy old American blues tunes to the English airwaves. And for some reason, this Lonnie Donegan number was declared unfit for broadcast. It's just about potatoes, right?
For obvious reasons in 1972, the British government didn't want a Beatle encouraging England to "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" so the single was yanked. The sound on this rehearsal footage is abysmal but it's fun to watch Macca work. But, we've included a clip of the original track off Wings' Wild Life so you can check out the lyrics properly.
We're guessing they thought this ode to air travel was about drugs or something when they banned it. Here's The Byrds with a jammed out rendition.
Not sure why Jose Feliciano's version of "Light My Fire" got the axe and not The Doors' original, but it is undeniably suggestive. Admittedly, this version below with Minnie Ripperton singing with Jose is pretty dirty.
Though rumored to be a commentary on the Falklands War, this Split Enz single wasn't but got pushed off the air just the same.
For obvious reasons, both the Sex Pistols and Anti-Nowhere League failed to find programming time for their negative takes on jolly old England. Two punk classics that spit in the eye of things.
It ain't easy being gay in England (and surely no cakewalk in the U.S. either…), and the oddly affectionate tone of Ray Davies encounter with a lovely 'lady' that talks like a man just didn't sit well with the BBC. We leave you with two versions, one from Top of the Pops and a nifty live take.