Music

The 5 greatest songs banned by the BBC – ‘Sickly sentimentality’


The BBC was founded almost 100 years ago and established itself as an upholder of morals for the country. To that end, the broadcaster banned songs which were deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and some of the greatest artists ever known are among the list. Express.co.uk breaks down five of the most iconic tracks which suffered the wrath of the BBC.

The BBC’s banning of tracks was varied and encompassed different issues over the years.

In 1942, a directive was released which revealed the types of songs which at the time, were not to make the airwaves.

The directive said: “We have recently adopted a policy of excluding sickly sentimentality which, particularly when sung by certain vocalists, can become nauseating and not at all in keeping with what we feel to be the need of the public in this country in the fourth year of war.”

In the following decade, this changed, with Radio Merseyside DJ Spencer Leigh recalling a run-in with the head of religious broadcasting of the time, who he named a ‘tyrant.’

Spencer told The Times: “The head of religious broadcasting was a bit of a tyrant.

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“Don Cornell’s Hold My Hand, which was a No 1 in 1954, was banned because he didn’t think a relationship with a girl could be likened to the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’.

“So when Cornell came to the UK, and the BBC wanted to record him in concert, the HRB rewrote the offending lines himself.

“Cornell sang ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ anyway, and the committee was mortified.”

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As time went on, in the era of DJ Mike Read, a four-word motto was given as the reasons for banning songs: death, drugs, sex and swearing.

Here are some of the most iconic tracks to be forced out by the BBC:

Hard Headed Woman – Elvis Presley

This 1958 song was recorded by Elvis after having been written by songwriter Claude Demetrius.

The song was included as part of the soundtrack of Elvis’ film from the same year, King Creole.

It has been reported the song was banned due to Biblical references to Adam and Eve, and Samson and Delilah, and was only allowed to be played by special permission.

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A Day in the Life – The Beatles

This was one of the many songs The Beatles saw banned by the BBC and was one of three which were reported to have been banned in 1967.

The others were Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, I Am the Walrus and in 1970, Come Together.

Despite The Beatles complaining and fighting this ban, which was eventually lifted in 1972, the spokesperson for the BBC at the time said: “We have listened to this song over and over again.

“And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking.”

God Save the Queen – The Sex Pistols

This may not come as a surprise to many that the anti-monarchy song, which was released to coincide with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, was banned by the public broadcaster.

The band attempted to perform the song on a boat called The Queen Elizabeth on the Thames on the day of the jubilee but were arrested when the boat docked.

The song was banned by a number of retailers and even independent broadcasters but is still believed to have been the highest-selling single of the week, despite it only reaching Number Two in the chart.

Lola – The Kinks

The 1970 song by The Kinks was banned by multiple outlets for various reasons, and not entirely to do with its propriety.

Lola was banned by the BBC as it was believed to include product placement of Coca-Cola, which was against the broadcaster’s policy.

The lyrics were changed to ‘cherry cola’ and it was allowed to be released.

In Australia, the song was banned because of its ‘controversial subject matter’ to do with Lola’s sex.

Ray Davies said of the song: “It really doesn’t matter what sex Lola is, I think she’s all right.”

I’m Always Chasing Rainbows – Ken Dodd

This is a rather odd one, as the reason for banning this comic vaudeville classic was to do with Ken’s use of a Chopin melody.

Perry Como’s version was banned in 1946 because the BBC said: “This is a bad perversion of a Chopin melody and should be barred.”

When Ken came out with the same song in 1963, the BBC stopped his version from being broadcast as well, likely for the same bizarre reason.





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