Whether they were singing about sex, the Royal Family or drugs, more than a few bands got into scalding hot water when the bigwigs of the BBC, Radio 1 and Top of the Pops got all bent out of shape by lyrics that the kids loved, but with which the old brigade were far less pleased. Frankie Goes To Hollywood, the Sex Pistols and even Lulu incurred the wrath of the men in black suits.
Banning the band
"She ain't no human being," snarled Johnny Rotten on the Sex Pistols' classic 1977 homage to the Queen's silver-jubilee. The kids loved God Save The Queen. The BBC did not. They banned it. Officially, the record failed to reach the number-one slot, stalled at number-two, and was outsold by Rod Stewart. Really? With punk-rock at its height all across the UK, Rod saved the day for Queen and country? To this day, conspiratorial rumours persist that the charts were rigged that week and, under no circumstances, could the BBC allow the London punks to hit the top of the charts.
The Eurovision Song Contest hardly defines rock and roll rebellion. So why was the British entry of 1969 banned more than two decades later? The answer is truly bizarre. Sung by Lulu, it went by the title of Boom Bang-a-Bang. And that was the problem. During the first Gulf War, in 1991, the BBC drew up a list of songs they concluded might cause offence if played on the radio. "Boom" and "Bang" were among the words the Beeb didn't want broadcasting while the nation was at war. And so Lulu's booming and banging was briefly brought to a halt.
Frankie says "Censorship!"
Banning a record - any record - from the airwaves is a pointless task, as all it does is make people (a) wonder what all the fuss is about and (b) go out and buy the thing! A perfect case in point: Frankie Goes To Hollywood's monster-sized hit of 1984, Relax. When Radio 1 disc-jockey Mike Read vowed not to play the song because of the controversial words, the BBC followed suit. Widespread excitement spread amongst teenagers all across the UK. Why? Because buying a banned single was seen as rebellious and dangerous. The result: Frankie shot to Number One.
Clamping down on love
"Je t'aime…moi non plus" - or "I love you...me neither" in English - was a smash-hit in 1969 for Serge Gainsbourg and his then-girlfriend, UK actress Jane Berkin. Sultry, smouldering and bristling with sexual tension, the single was frowned upon by outraged oldies who did all they could to silence it. Yep, yet again Auntie Beeb ensured censorship was the order of the day. And, once more, a banned song sky-rocketed. Even the Vatican got in a tizzy - something which led Gainsbourg to astutely and amusingly comment that the Pope had been his and Berkin's "greatest PR man."
Not so good for Ebeneezer
"Eezer Goode, Eezer Goode, He's Ebeneezer Goode," sang the Shamen in September 1992. And nationwide fury and outrage soon followed. The main reason being that some saw "Eezer Goode" as a thinly-veiled cover for "E's are good." And with "E" being street-talk for Ecstasy, a drug that was big and controversial news at the time, all hell quickly broke loose. Briefly banned by the powers that be at the BBC, the Shamen were finally allowed to perform the song on Top of the Pops and went on to sell nearly 300,000 copies of the innuendo-filled hit.
Cher is made to shut up
In much the same way that Lulu was silenced during the Gulf War of 1991, so was American singer, Cher. Yep, the BBC's ban that ensured certain songs did not get any airplay in the UK during the hostilities even included those performed by non-Brits. Cher's only crime: to have sung and recorded Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). That the 1966 tune that had nothing whatsoever to do with war - it was actually a sad ode to childhood and lost love - was totally lost on the BBC who somehow concluded that national security was at stake.
Saying "no" to the Fab Four
Not even John, Paul, George and Ringo could escape the wrath of those at the BBC that obsessively scrutinised just about every song lyric that crossed their desks. A Day in the Life - from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album - fell victim to the Beeb's axe. But, it was all very much a storm in the proverbial tea-cup. Rather amazingly, the BBC objected to the line "I'd love to turn you on," which was interpreted as having the ability to turn the nation's youths into raving drug addicts. The Fab Four denied the accusations and record sales blossomed.
The Pogues get bleeped
When Irish folk-rockers the Pogues hooked up with the late Kirsty MacColl in 1987 for their hit song, Fairytale of New York, few anticipated it would result in the bleep-button being utilised on more than one occasion. But, that's exactly what happened. Granted, a lot of people may have found the song's use of the words "faggot" and "slut" offensive. But, the BBC never learns. When you ban or silence something, it always draws attention to it, rather than the opposite. And when MacColl's mother, among many others, joined in to criticise the BBC, Radio 1 finally relented.
Policing the airwaves
One of the biggest bands in the history of the UK rock music scene, the Police were famous for such massive new-wave hits as Roxanne, Can't Stand Losing You, Walking on the Moon, and Every Breath You Take. But it was 1981's Invisible Sun that caused more than a problem or several for the trio of Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland. With lyrics that referenced ArmaLite rifles and an accompanying video that showed shots of battle-scarred Northern Ireland, Invisible Sun proved too much for the BBC. The song was banned.
Playing with his instrument
It seems laughable today to imagine that a song titled With My Little Ukulele In Hand could end up banned. A few knowing laughs at the innuendo-filled song is probably about all that you could expect in 2012. Not so way back in 1933, however. Most well known for his song, When I'm Cleaning Windows, George Formby found himself silenced, shut down, and his little ukulele put back in its box when the humourless souls at the BBC frowned on what they saw as a camouflaged tribute to the benefits of, ahem, self-stimulation. George was not happy being jerked around.