Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Censorship at the Beeb (1930 -1979)

The BBC has always held standards of taste and decency and taken direct action to ban or restrict airplay anything they considered controversial or in bad taste. From the 1931 and the establishment of the Dance Music Policy Committee, the Beeb exercised censorship. Some songs had complete blanket bans whereas others were placed on the Beeb’s "restricted" list. These could not be played on "general entertainment programmes” but with special permission could be broadcast on niche interest programmes e.g. folk music.

Changing social mores meant the action of the BBC was viewed by most as supercilious and pointless particularly since many of the records became hits anyway. More often than not the airwave bans were lifted with the passage of time anyway but some artists rerecord modified versions or record companies re-edited the originals to get airplay.

The committee was kept busy because the lyrics of much of the popular music-hall songs and American blues were packed with double entendres and/or innuendo. One of the first songs to be banned was Cole Porter's, "Love for Sale" because the title referred to prostitution. Wartime too gave the committee a sharp focus and all ‘in the national interest' song were censored. The two main criteria were overly sentimental song (considered bad for morale) and vulgarised "pop" versions of classical works. The ban on overly sentimental songs was rarely used but did exist for some years after the war. "Crying in the Chapel" by Lee Lawrence in 1959 fell fowl of the "nauseating" category and was eventually banned because it was considered "theologically unexceptional".

Any ‘inappropriate’ reference to religion was taboo and in 1953 the BBC refused to play Frankie Laine’s, love song "Answer Me" because it was considered a mockery of Christian prayer. A year later Don Cornell's "Hold My Hand" was also banned because BBC’s Head of Religious Broadcasting considered relationships could not be likened to "the kingdom of heaven". The song went onto top of the charts. Billy Fury's "My Christmas Prayer" in 1959 was also banned on religious grounds. Bob Dylan's first ban came in 1962 with "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down" as it included the phrase, "God-almighty world".

Aunty’s dislike for any attempt to mutilate the classics led to many record to be banned. They considered these modern reworking distorted melody, harmony and rhythm and as such took care to not promote them on the airwaves.

The list of songs which fell into this category are endless but three of the more memorable are The Cougars' version of Swan Lake, "Saturday Night At The Duckpond"; the Fabulous Flee-Rekkers' hit single, "Green Jeans" (adaptation of trad. Green Sleeves); and Bobby Darin’s brilliant interpretation of The Threepenny Opera, "Mack the Knife" stand out.

At first America slang terms perplexed the committee and many of the new rock’n’roll song came in for close scrutiny. The Coasters “Charlie Brown” was banned because the Committee regarded "spitball" (American slang for peashooter) as a "disgusting, delinquent word".

As the 60s progressed other ban criteria were used as drug references, foul language and sexual content became part of the modern pop musical genre. Controversial political comment, satire or overt advertising were also reason to ban records. By this time, the committee was an anachronism and had been scaled down. Soon the choice of songs would be left to individual producers, with only a few blanket bans. More often than not individual DJs exercised discretion by not promoting certain titles if they were provocative. Max Romeo’s hit “Wet Dream” (1969) was referred on air as "a record by Max Romeo". In the same year, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg "Je T'Aime... Moi Non Plus" had a blanket ban. Very little is banned today, and producers have guidelines suited to their programmes demographic. The ban on many of the records has subsequently been lifted. By the eighties some BBC DJs imposed individual bans on particular songs because of their own beliefs but their colleagues who did not share the same belief continued to play the songs on the BBC.

Here is some of the banned list - worth a listen

Josephine Baker
La Petite Tokinoise (1930)
Sexual content

Cab Calloway
Minnie The Moocher (1931)
Drug references

George Formby
When I'm Cleaning Windows (1937/1950)
Smutty innuendo

Billie Holliday
Gloomy Sunday (1941)
Morbid death and suicide

Libby Holman
Love For Sale (1941)
Considered libidinous

Noel Coward
Don't Let's Be Beastly to the Germans (1943)

Mills Brothers
Paper Doll (1943)
Dealt with female infidelity

Deanna Durbin
Say A Prayer For The Boys Over There (1943)
Bad for wartime morale

Bing Crosby
I'll Be Home For Christmas (1943)
Bad for wartime morale

Andrews Sisters
Rum And Coca Cola (1945)
The song deals with alcohol and prostitution but was banned for advertising

Perry Como
I'm Always Chasing Rainbows (1946)
Vulgarisation of classical music

Josh White
House Of The Rising Sun (1947)
About a brothel

Peter Pears
Foggy Foggy Dew
A bawdy song which had only restricted airplay

T. Texas Tyler
Deck Of Cards (1948)
Religiously inappropriate

Perry Como
I’m always chasing rainbows (1949)
Considered a faux classic 

Kitty Wells
It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels (1952)
Deals with infidelity

Frankie Laine
Answer Me (1953)
Religiously inappropriate

The Four Aces
Stranger in Paradise (1953)
Religiously inappropriate

Johnny Ray
Such a Night (1954)
Too sexual

Four Aces
Stranger In Paradise (1954)
Vulgarisation of a classic

Eartha Kitt
Heel (1955)
Deals with prostitution

Lonnie Donegan
Digging my potatoes (1955)
Sexual innuendo

Billy May Orchestra
Man With The Golden Arm (1955)
Reference to a film about a drug addict

Ella Fitgerald
Bewitched (1956)
Overt sexuality

Shirley Bassey
Burn The Candle (1956)
Suggestive lyrics

Frankie Vaughan
Garden Of Eden (1956)
Religiously inappropriate

Mickey and Sylvia
Love Is Strange (1957)

Jimmie Rodgers
Honeycomb (1957)

Johnny Horton
Battle of New Orleans (1959)
Reference to "Bloody British"

Bobby Darin
Mack the Knife (1959)
Bastardisation of a classic

Lee Lawrence
Crying In The Chapel (1959)
Too sentimental

Mark Dinning
Teen Angel (1960)
Banned because it was considered a death record.

Ricky Valance
Tell Laura I love her (1960)
Death record.

Adam Faith
Made You (1960)
Banned for lewdness/Sexual Content.
The Moontrekkers
Night Of The Vampire (1961)

Nero & The Gladiators
Hall Of The Mountain King (1961)
Banned because it was considered a vulgarised rendition of the classics.

Mike Berry & The Outlaws
Tribute To Buddy Holly (1961)

John Leyton
Johnny Remember Me (1961)

The Everly Brothers
Ebony Eyes (1961)
Death Record

Joe Brown & The Bruvvers'
Revival of George Formby's "My Little Ukelele"
Sexual innuendo

The Cougars
Saturday Nite at the Duckpond (1963)

Rolling Stones
Stoned (1964)
Banned for drug references
Lets spend the night together (1967)
Considered to promoted promiscuity
Star Star (1977)
Contains obscenity.

Leader of the Pack (1964)
Death record

Terry (1964)
Death record

The Downliners Sect
The Sect sings sick songs (1965)
Poor taste and nacrophilia.

The Who
My Generation (1965)
Refused airplay in case it gave offence to people with speech impediments.

Barry McGuire
Eve of Destruction (1965)
Anti war propoganda

The Troggs
I Can't Control Myself (1966)
Banned for sexual innuendo.

The Beach Boys
God Only Knows (1966)
Banned because it contained the word “God” in the title.

Napolean XII
There Coming to Take me Away (1966)
Banned because of the reference to a mentally challenged state.

Scott Walker
Jackie (1967)
Reference to "authentic queers"

My Friend Jack (eats sugar lumps) (1967)
Banned for drug references.

Van Morrison
Brown Eyed Girl (1967)
Banned for sexual content.

The Beatles
A day in the life (1967)
Banned for drug references
Come together
Banned for the words ‘Coca Cola.’
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (1967)
Drug references
I Am the Walrus (1967)
Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968)
Banned for sexual content – ‘A penis’ is a warm gun.

Jose Feliciano
Light My Fire (1968)

Max Romeo
Wet Dream (1969)
Banned for sexual reference.

Ten Years After
Good morning Little Schoolgirl (1969)
Banned for reference to under age sex

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg
Je t'aime... moi non plus (1969)
Considered inappropriate groans and heavy breathing.

John Lennon
Working Class Hero (1970)
Contains the word ‘Fucken’

The Kinks
Lola (1970)
Banned for reference to Coca-Cola, later changed to Cherry Cola to get airplay.

Mungo Jerry
Have a Whiff on Me (1971)
Banned for drug references.

Paul McCarney & Wings
Hi Hi Hi (1972)
Banned for sexual reference although the lyric did refer to drug use.

Paul McCartney
Give Ireland Back to the Irish (1972)
Banned for political reasons i.e. Government policy on the IRA.

Paul Simon
Me and Julio (1972)
Banned for referring to Newsweek magazine.
Kodachrome (1973 )

Dr Hook & the Medicine Show
The cover of Rolling Stone (1972)
Advertising and Dr Hook & the Medicine Show rerecorded a version The Cover of the Radio Times.

Elton John
The Bitch Is Back (1974)
Banned for the word ‘bitch’ and slang reference to homosexualty.

Jimmy Buffett
Come Monday (1974)
Banned for the lyric "I've got my Hush Puppies on." Considered advertising and was re-recorded with line, "I've got my hiking shoes on."

McGuiness Flint
Let the people go (1975)
Banned for political reasons i.e. Government policy on the IRA.

Donna Summer
Love to love you (1976)
Sexual overtones i.e. groans & heavy breathing

Danny Williams
You're Fabulous Babe (1977)
Banned due to advertising. Babe was a perfume.

Sex Pistols
God Save the Queen (1977)
Anti monarchy

The Stranglers
Peaches (1977)
Considered woman bating

Ivor Biggun
The winker's song (misprint) (1978)
Sexually explicit

Tom Robinson Band
Glad to Be Gay (1978)
Reference to homosexulaity

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