Auntie Beeb Knows Best: Songs Banned by the BBC

1191592_f520Please visit the source of this image for an excellent blog about censorship.

BBC4 recently broadcast a documentary about BBC censorship, Britain’s Most Dangerous Songs: Listen to the Banned. All in our own best interests, of course, as a kindly moral guardian. Looking back with hindsight, their reasons now seem a little threadbare, tending towards the maintenance of the social and political status quo. Here’s a full list of songs banned by the BBC.

This isn’t a review, but I do want to post videos of the songs that interest me most.

I’ve always liked George Formby, a serial offender in the 1930s with his cheeky innuendo, outrageous double-entendres and rampant ukelele. Not only did he offend the middle class Home Counties audience catered to by the BBC, he had the audacity to be northern.

Here he is with his Little Stick of Blackpool Rock.

Louis Armstrong’s cover of Mack the Knife, from The Threepenny Opera was banned in 1956 for its portrayal of the serial killer, MacHeath. I actually prefer the film version, but Armstrong’s cover made the song a popular success, and it is good.

I remember seeing the The Shangri-Las on television, with Leader of the Pack, banned in 1965. The song had teenage rebellion, motorbikes, sudden death, against a backdrop of violence between mods and rockers at British seaside resorts – no wonder the BBC hated it.

The BBC were particularly clueless about the songs on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, missing the drug references in everything except A Day in the Life, banned in 1967.

And now for something completely different – the Sex Pistol’s vicious assault on the monarchy in the year of the Silver Jubilee, 1977. At least that’s how the BBC saw it.

And finally to the latest furore from April last year when Margaret Thatcher died, her name so reviled in certain parts of the UK that street parties were held to celebrate the event, even while the Establishment gave her a state funeral. I was one of the people cheering.

A media campaign had been planned as early 2007 to send Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead to the top of the pop charts. It succeeded. This time the BBC didn’t ban the song outright. They played only the first 5 seconds.

Here is the clip from the Wizard of Oz.