Too Rough for Radio - Our Favourite Banned Singles
Published on 27 May 2021
It’s funny how times change. Long before the days of Marylin Manson gurgling blood, or indeed Cardi B’s oh so graphic WAP (we’ll let you guys look into that in your own time), Elvis Presley’s exuberant hip thrusting was the most controversial musical spectacle on the planet. As society got less and less prudish, music moved along with it, finding new more graphic, aggressive or sometimes even downright silly ways to get the artists in trouble. Today marks the release of the Sex Pistols God Save the Queen so we thought we’d use the anniversary to check out a few of our favourite songs that were given the honour of being banned from radio!
Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen
The Pistols are a shoe-in for any list of banned music. Dropping their iconic Nevermind the Bollocks album in 1977, the band quickly gained notoriety for their foul language, controversial themes and for generally being total delinquents. However, it was the track God Save the Queen that really turned heads!
Denouncing the British royalty as a fascist regime, there was absolutely no chance this track was going to get played on the BBC. It was (apparently coincidently) released alongside the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and as you can imagine, the tabloids had an absolute field day, even going as far as to call the band ‘treasonous’. This, of course, only fuelled the group’s reputation and to this day the track remains a punk classic. To quote the great John Lydon, ‘“There are not many songs written over baked beans at the breakfast table that went on to divide a nation and force a change in popular culture”. Well put John!
The Who - My Generation
The Pistols may have been one of the most notable acts to be banned from radio but they were by no means the first. When the Who burst onto the scene, they marked a change in popular music. Their rowdy behaviour matched with songs based around youth and mod culture must have terrified the more conventional music listeners and led to their classic My Generation earning itself a ban from BBC radio.
Now why could that be? Well, at the time frontman Roger Daltry’s stuttering vocals were deemed as potentially offensive to people who had genuine stutters! In fairness, this actually holds up better than most of the bans on this list but thankfully, the station eventually backed down and the anthem got the airplay it deserved.
The Kinks - Lola
Ray Davies has always been one to push boundaries and think outside of the box. The Kink’s track Lola is the perfect example of how ambitious his writing was, building its lyrics around the story of a young man meeting a cross dresser. This was a pretty out there theme for 1970 and one that was sure to draw attention from radio stations who weren’t keen to offend.
That said, while it was banned in Australia and several stations faded it out before its final verse, the BBC wouldn’t play the record for a much more boring reason… Ray sings repeatedly about Coca Cola throughout and this violated the station's rules on product placement! As daft as that sounds, it led to the singer flying from New York to London and back mid tour to re-record his vocals, opting to use “cherry cola” instead. This is an all time great pop track which was way beyond its time. You can always count on the Davies brothers to deliver something different!
The Doors - Love Me Two Times
When you think about it, why wouldn’t the shirtless, acid eating, rain dancing Jim Morrison have a track banned from radio? The charismatic frontman was never one to shy away from controversy with out-there lyrics that challenged conventional thinking. There has never been a performer before or since with quite the same energy and to many, this was shocking and even offensive.
The track Love Me Two Times raw sexuality was too much for several radio stations and led to a number of bans. However, that’s not where it ended. As mad as it sounds, Morrison was actually arrested during a performance in New Haven, Connecticut while performing the song. His charges were for incitement to riot and obscenity. I wonder what they’d make of the music we listen to today…
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax
This track is an absolute banger, there is no doubt about it. In fact, it actually stayed in the UK top 40 for a whopping 37 consecutive weeks. However, for 35 of those it was banned by the BBC! Despite how catchy and instantly likeable the track was, it’s overly sexual lyrics caused a stir in the station and became something of a sticking point for DJs at the time.
Even when it was announced as Number 1 on Top of the Pops, the track wasn’t played and the band weren’t asked to perform. Thankfully though, the station eventually came around, although this was mostly due to the fact that every other station in the UK was still playing it and they were missing out on the listeners! It’s mad to think about how much of a stir music like this caused and what is on the air these days in comparison.
Each of the tracks we’ve mentioned no doubt became more popular due to their notoriety. Bands like the Sex Pistols thrived on the negative attention and used it to their advantage. With all we hear on the radio these days, we reckon music would have to be pretty graphic to get a ban but we’ve no doubt there are some young punks out there trying to write the next controversial bit of carnage to earn the title! We’d love to hear some of your favourite tracks that got the same treatment so drop us a comment on our social media pages and let's check em out!