WWhile it’s easy enough to excise an expletive from a song, there are many other reasons a track could violate broadcast standards. Some songs have been banned for being drug-related, others for attacking the monarchy. Some were banned because people believed them implies something sexual, although it is not said directly.
From stuttering to sexual moans, and from compulsive humming to space disaster, here are eight songs that have been banned, at least temporarily, from airplay.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood, “Relax” (1984)
An otherwise relaxed Wednesday morning was dramatically disrupted when Mike Read, presenter of BBC Radio 1’s breakfast show, made a terrifying revelation.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s debut single “Relax” ran. The story goes that as Read wrote over the line “If you want to come,” he lifted the needle on the record and stopped it halfway.
The enraged presenter then announced that he would refuse to play the synth-pop tune because of its “obscene” lyrical content. The BBC followed suit and banned the title from radio and television.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood capitalized on this “prude” response but denied the lyrics were a sexual innuendo and sold two million copies of the single in the UK.
Read has since expressed that he actually thinks the song is “a great dance track” and overturned his personal ban.
Robin Thicke ft TI & Pharrell, “Blurred Lines” (2013)
Robin Thicke’s 2013 pop song was the subject of a high-profile copyright lawsuit, but it also drew controversy for its lyrical content.
Despite being nominated for multiple awards, a Rape Crisis spokesperson said of the song, “Certain lyrics are explicitly sexually violent and seem to reinforce myths about rape blame, for example, about women being affected by their clothing or their behavior’ mixed signals’.”
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Featuring lines like “You know you want it,” the tune received negative reviews from critics and has been accused of glorifying rape culture. It has been banned by several student unions and their radio stations.
David Bowie, “Space Oddity” (1969)
David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” was originally picked up by the BBC, which used it to set the 1969 launch of the Apollo XI lunar mission to music. Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The song was released earlier this year.
Although he was pleased his song was chosen to accompany the moon landing broadcast, Bowie said the producers seemed to have overlooked the song’s importance.
“I’m sure they didn’t listen to the lyrics at all; it was not a pleasant thing to face a moon landing,” he said in a 2003 interview. “Obviously I was over the moon that they did it… Nobody had the heart to say to the producer, ‘Erm… but he’s stranded in space, sir.'”
When the BBC realized the lyrics were floating Major Tom into the abyss, they banned the song from playing until the astronauts returned from their mission.
Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus (1969)
It’s hard to believe that a song that caused such widespread scandal would one day accompany pouring chocolate sauce over M&S fondants, but here we are.
“Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus” was the first foreign language song to reach number 1 in the UK Singles Chart, but also the first number 1 to be eliminated from radio play. It was condemned by the Vatican and the song was also banned in Sweden, Spain and Italy, while in France it was only allowed to be played after 11pm.
Written as a love song for Brigitte Bardot, the song features the scandalous sounds of Jane Birkin moaning and breathing heavily. A rumor circulated that Birkin and Gainsbourg placed a microphone under their bed, although this rumor has been dispelled.
Donna Summer, “Love To Love You Baby” (1975)
The late Donna Summer’s iconic disco track was inspired by “Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus” and certainly replicates the euphoric moans.
The song is so explicit that the BBC refused to play or promote it, and time The magazine claimed the entire 17-minute recording was “a marathon of 22 orgasms.”
Summer, dubbed the “First Lady of Love” because of this song, apparently recorded the chant spreading across the floor of a dark room pretending to be Marilyn Monroe in a sex scene.
“Everyone’s asking… did you touch yourself? Yeah, actually I had my hand on my knee,” Summer said when she was 26.
However, Summer later said she wished she wasn’t the one to perform the controversial song: “I love the music, I just wish I hadn’t sung it. But it doesn’t bother me anymore.”
The Who, “My Generation” (1965)
The Who’s “My Generation” was not banned because it encouraged a rebellious attitude among sixties teenagers. No swear words were used. But the BBC banned this song anyway because of Roger Daltrey’s stuttering in the lyrics: “Why don’t you all f-fade away.”
Apparently, the broadcaster feared that it might offend people with a more enjoyable stutter. However, the BBC lifted its ban as the song grew in popularity.
In 2006 “My Generation” was named by Rolling Stone as the 11th best song of all time.
The Sex Pistols, “God Save the Queen” (1977)
The Sex Pistols’ anarchist anthem “God Save the Queen” was quickly banned from radio when it threatened to take the number one spot in Britain during the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations in June 1977. The song was also banned by the Independent Broadcasting Agency, which regulated local radio stations of the time.
The song was heading for number one on the charts, but Rod Stewart managed to get the Pistols into it with “I Don’t Want to Talk About It.” This led to some conspiracy theorists stating that the diagram was a solution.
The song was re-released in 2002 with the intention of taking the number one spot this time for the Golden Jubilee.
Lead singer John Lydon addressed the criticism from Queen supporters, telling an interviewer: “I never said I didn’t, I just don’t like the institution.”
George Michael, “I Want Your Sex” (1987)
This George Michael tune has the lyrics “Sex is natural, sex is fun” and has only been restricted to post-watershed plays by the BBC. The broadcaster feared the song would encourage casual sex and therefore be counterproductive to efforts to stem the spread of AIDS.
Michael opposed this reading of the song, insisting it was about “tying lust to love, not just strangers.”
In a 2008 interview, Michael spoke about how frustrated he had been with the ban. “I didn’t expect the blanket ban,” he said.
“I think it’s unfair because it’s the first ban of its kind in a long time and I think if I wasn’t George Michael I wouldn’t have a problem being played on these channels. And it’s incredibly jarring to have a record out for a couple of weeks and know people haven’t heard it.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/banned-songs-famous-censored-lyrics-b2056443.html 8 famous songs that have been banned from radio