As the torchbearer for impartiality and decency, the British Broadcasting Corporation has struck off a number of tracks from its airways. Some of these bans have been understandable in regard to modesty (such as “Smack My Bitch Up”) or political reasons (like “Prince Andrew Is A Sweaty Nonce”) but the following had their rights of airplay revoked for the most bizarre of reasons. 

    1. The Gulf War Bans (Various)

    “Atomic” by Blondie was just one of many tracks that fell foul of sweeping BBC bans amid the Gulf War.

    In 1990, the Gulf War broke out as Britain sided with the United States in warfare against Iraqi forces. The National Army Museum notes how the conflict saw “the largest single deployment of British troops since the Second World War.” 

    This combat seems to have triggered the BBC into an expansive and almost paranoid censorship of dozens of tracks that had any association with war. The list included anti-war tracks, songs specifically about wars, or just those mentioning warfare yet there were far more outlandish ones to boot. 

    Amongst the strangest were “Sailing” (Rod Stewart), “Waterloo” (ABBA), “Atomic” (Blondie), “Walk Like An Egyptian (The Bangles), “Everybody Wants To Rule The Word” (Tears for Fears), “Ghost Town” (The Specials), “When The Tough Gets Going, The Going Gets Tough” (Billy Ocean)”, and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” (Robert Flack). 

    In all, 67 songs were outlawed from BBC radio. 

    2. “Saturday Night At The Duck Pond” (The Cougars)

    In 1963, the Bristol-formed band The Cougars released the Shadows-inspired “Saturday Night At The Duck Pond”.  

    The sub-two-minute instrumental spent several weeks in the chart, even in spite of a BBC airplay ban on the single. 

    Why? Well, the Beeb put it on its extensive list of tracks banned for the “distortion of melody, harmony, and rhythm” of classical compositions. The committee ruled that this fell into the category for its modification of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake”. 

    It was further labelled as being “a travesty of a major classical work.” 

    It is one thing for a song to be banned for swearing or promiscuous lyrics but to ban an instrumental track for making a mockery of classical works does little to reduce the image of BBC high-class snobbery. 

    3. “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” (Perry Como et al.)

    “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows” has been covered by a who’s who of music, starting as a popular Vaudeville tune at the turn of the 20th century.  

    When performed by crooner Perry Como, the track was met with BBC opposition at the hands of the Dance Music Policy Committee’s Sir Arthur Bliss due to the song’s rendition of Chopin’s “Fantasie Impromptu in C Sharp Minor”. The BBC labelled the track as “a bad perversion of a Chopin melody”, and one that should be barred from airwaves.  

    A later cover by Ken Dodd was too banned. 

    Another reason for its ban comes from a 1942 BBC directive. The single was labelled as “sickly sentimental” and a potential hindrance to the upbeat morale of the nation amidst World War Two. 

    4. “Hold My Hand” (Don Cornell)

    The BBC were also very squeamish about religious overtones, with legendary artists from Bob Dylan to Johnny Cash to Elvis having their music censored. 

    One infamous example was 1954 number one single “Hold My Hand” by Don Cornell.  

    One lyric, which compares a relationship with “the kingdom of Heaven” was particularly troublesome and led to the Head of Religious Broadcasting (HRB) objecting. The HRB stated that a relationship with a girl could not be compared to the kingdom of Heaven, with Cornell also having to change the lyrics for live performances. 

    Cornell also sent the track to the Archbishop of Canterbury. His Grace responded by stating: “the words of this song would, in my own judgement, be found somewhat discordant when heard out of a religious context, and even in a religious context they would hardly accord with taste in this country.” 

    5. “All The Young Dudes” (Mott The Hoople)

    Described by Rolling Stone as a “call-to-arms glam-rock anthem,” Mott The Hoople were gifted the track “All The Young Dudes” by David Bowie. Never in doubt that the track would be a massive single, it eventually reached number three. 

    This was despite the BBC not playing the track due to its violation of broadcasting impartiality regulations. In one line, the song mentions “Marks and Sparks,” a colloquial name for the popular British retail chain Marks & Spencer. Seen as advertising, it was a no-go for the Beeb even if mentioned only in passing. 

    Eventually, a version with modified lyrics was released with Mott The Hoople leader singer Ian Hunter flown in from New York to replace “Marks and Sparks” with “unlocked cars.” 

    In the eyes of the BBC: advertising – no, criminality – yes. 

    6. “Come Together” (The Beatles)

    Another song banned for mentioning a brand name, The Beatles were no stranger to the BBC cold shoulder. Indeed, despite their fame, some of their tracks were rejected, whether for allusions to drugs in “A Day In The Life” or sexual imagery in “I Am The Eggman”. One less obvious song up for the chop was penultimate single “Come Together”.

    [SIMILAR: Music: The Beatles “Now And Then” Review (]

    One of the band’s rockier compositions, “Come Together” is today one of the band’s most playable tracks with a modern electronic sound and alternative lyric work. At the time however, the mention of Coca-Cola saw the track land in the doghouse. 

    The next year, The Kinks had their song “Lola” banned on similar grounds. In the end, they changed the lyric from “Coca-Cola” to the non-brand-specific “cherry cola.” 

    7. “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” (Bing Crosby)

    Few artists could be as inoffensive as Bing Crosby but his work “Deep In The Heart Of Texas” was nonetheless banned for being too jaunty.  

    Released in 1942, the track features notable clapping patterns in a sequence that caught on with workers.  

    From 1940, the BBC introduced the Music While You Work programme, aimed at improving worker morale. Yet Crosby’s cheery tune was banned by the organisation in the belief that the infectious beat, including the handclaps, would cause listening factory workers to clap along, lowering productivity and neglecting their tools. 

    One newspaper noted: “At the place in the chorus where people are supposed to clap hands, workers all over Britain got in trouble…[some] were so bury clapping they forgot to perform some essential operation [sic.] as the assembly belt went by.” 

    8. “The Man With The Golden Arm” (Billy May et al.)

    Today, the soundtracks to popular hit films tend to find commercial success, with the James Bond franchise, Barbie, and The Greatest Showman seeing their singles obtain notable fame. However, the BBC were reticent to the theme from The Man With The Golden Arm in 1956.  

    Despite seeming on the surface to be a perfectly innocent instrumental effort, the composition was banned by the BBC. A spokesperson for the organisation cited its ban as due to “connection with a film about drugs.” The film of the same name starred Frank Sinatra and featured themes of heroin addiction. 

    Later versions by Eddie Calvert and Ted Heath (no, not that one) were too banned although Billy May’s original was apparently approved after the title was changed to “Main Theme” to distance itself from the title film. 

    9. “My Generation” (The Who)

    Few songs quite captured the zeitgeist of the rebellious younger generation as much as The Who’s classic “My Generation”.  

    Not that you would know this if you were a BBC listener as the song was banned. This was due to the track’s signature stutter being deemed as potentially offensive to sufferers. The stutter itself has been theorised as everything from the effects of speed to hinted profanity. 

    The ban would not stick however. The track, which peaked at number two in the charts behind The Seekers’s “The Carnival Is Over” – still one of the UK’s best-selling tracks. Having gained traction through play on pirate radio stations and sold over 300,000 copies, the BBC eventually backed down and u-turned on its position.  

    The now-iconic single has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and ranked as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. 

    10. “Monster Mash” (Bobby Pickett)

    Bobby Pickett and The Crypt-Kickers’s novelty hit “Monster Mash” is a tune that exemplifies the camp bombastic of 1960s but apparently Britain’s oldest broadcasting did not think so. 

    The 1962 song was given the thumbs down by the corporation, being listed as “too morbid” for airplay. This is because the song, which was written in under an hour, touches on taboo themes such as funerals and festooned with zombies, vampires, and werewolves. It does have a dark overtone with Pickett’s deep, booming voice, reminiscent of Frankenstein actor Boris Karloff. 

    It took 11 years for the BBC to backtrack and finally give the track radio play. It subsequently caught on in a flash, propelling the single up the charts. 

    Today the song is a staple of the Halloween season, proving its status as a graveyard smash.