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10 Songs That Were Once Banned From The Airwaves

FUN FACTS June 22, 2016 By Vincent

In an internet age where information is king and almost anything can be found, censorship has become a hot topic, and how to achieve it, even more so. When traditional media was king however, censorship was a big deal and especially on radio.

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Here we look at 10 classic tracks that were, at one point or another, banned from the airwaves.


I'm Always Chasing Rainbows - All Versions

With no overtly offensive or obscene content, this sickly sweet tune may seem an odd choice for censorship but it was exactly that which prevented it from hitting the airwaves. In 1942, a BBC directive read, this song featured ‘sickly sentimentality’ which ‘can become nauseating,’ and therefore was bad for morale during wartime as such, it didn't get much airplay at all.

This directive was widely ignored by the end of the war however and has since ceased to exist.


Lola - The Kinks

You'd think a song about gender ambiguity and possible transgender issues may raise a few voices of dissent but it wasn't this that stopped it being played on the BBC but rather a reference to Coca-Cola.

 

Being a public broadcaster, the BBC cannot be seen to give due prominence to any namesake or brand and so would not play it until the lyrics were changed to 'cherry cola' instead.


Atomic - Blondie

During the Gulf War, the BBC went through a spate of censorship, refusing to play anything with a reference to war, many protest songs to war and even songs with 'war' in the title.

 

These included Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar and Atomic by Blondie which has nothing to do with war and merely uses the word 'atomic' without any context whatsoever.


Everything by Rage Against The Machine

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, American radio stations were issued with a list of songs they could not play and these included anything referencing air travel such as Airplane by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fly Away By Lenny Kravitz.

 

Perhaps most harshly, the well-known protest band, Rage Against The Machine, who often take aim at American politics and governance, had all of their songs stopped from getting any radio play.


Ebenezer Goode - The Shamen

At the height of British rave culture in the 90s, the hysteria about drug use was high and when The Shamen released their ridiculously catchy dance tune with a painfully clunky, pro-drug chorus ("Eezer goode" of course sounding like "E's are good") it was met with shock and outrage and instantly slapped with a ban from the BBC.

 

Clubs, raves and discos across the country however, didn't feel so strongly about it and happily played it. It's now considered a bit of a cult classic.


Relax - Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Outright banned in a religiously conservative Ireland at the time, the song was famously stopped mid-way through by DJ Mike Reid when he realized that the song is about preventing premature ejaculation. Coupled with the openly gay lead singer, Holly Johnson and the overt references to gay culture in the video for the song it caused outrage subsequently getting banned by the BBC. This didn't stop it topping the charts for five consecutive weeks and ultimately becoming the seventh best-selling UK single of all time.

 

The band later repeated the trick with their follow up single Two Tribes which was a gleeful, nihilistic call for nuclear destruction. At the height of the cold war, broadcasters took a glib view of this and took special exception to the video which shows then US President Ronal Regan fighting former Soviet Premier  Konstantin Chernenko in a wrestling match. This also managed to make it to the No. 1 spot in Britain.


I Am The Walrus - The Beatles

The Beatles have had several songs banned in their homeland over the years including Back In The USSR during the gulf war period of not playing anything referencing war, Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds for apparent drug references and A Day In The Life for references to suicide but I Am The Walrus has to be the most bizarre of these.

 

A nonsense song with often indecipherable lyrics, lines like ‘pornographic priestess’ and ‘let your knickers down’ led to it being banned on sexual grounds.


Disarm - Smashing Pumpkins

A mournful, melancholic song about self-loathing and alienation it is an internalized monolog on dark and testing emotions but the BBC initially banned the song on the grounds that the lyric “Cut that little child” was inappropriate. Nearly a decade after it was released, the Smashing Pumpkins played an exclusive gig for the BBC and bitterly pointed out that this song was once banned by them before launching into it.

 

It made the cut for the final show on both radio and television, the corporation seemingly having rescinded their original ban.


God Save The Queen - The Sex Pistols

 An anti-royalist anthem that is an attack on elitism and the treatment of working class people, this became a defining moment in the British punk movement. The lyrics were so controversial at the time that it was banned by  both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

 

Despite this it still achieved phenomenal success and reached No. 1 on the NME charts and number 2 on the official charts which led to accusations of them being fixed so that it didn't hit number one.


 Maybellene - Chuck Berry

The BBC were not too fond of rock n' roll when it first came along, censoring Elvis Presley's gyrating hips from television screens as they were too racy and refusing to play the Chuck Berry hit Maybellene for the idea that it promoted infidelity.

 

It did not, of course, and was actually a song about a young man asking his lover why she can't be faithful but that didn't stop them ruling out playing it.

 


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