The British Broadcasting Corporation also known as the BBC is a public broadcasting corporation. Therefore, it allows itself to ban materials that deviate from certain standards of civility. During the years, many singles that were seen as too explicit, distasteful or bear the potential for offending the British public were banned from BBC airplay. Here you can read about some of them.
In 1977, when England was celebrating the Queens Jubilee, the Sex Pistols had released their second single titled God Save the Queen. The single includes controversial lyrics that rhyme the national anthem title with fascist regime. Moreover, the record cover displayed a picture of the Queen with a safety pin stuck in her nose.
The single was found to offensive to be air played by the BBC, but it did not stop it from reaching number two on the BBC official singles chart. According to the myth, God Save the Queen was the top selling single in the UK at the time, but it was held back of number one to avoid controversies.
Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin scandalous duet Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus, translated: I love you… me neither, was the first ever number one hit to be banned by the BBC. Although at the time of its release, in 1969, the sexual revolution was celebrated, the British radio still was not able to cope with such explicit lyrics, not to mention Birkin’s moans and groans.
The BBC ban and The Vatican denounce, did not stop Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus from being a top selling single in the UK and worldwide. In October 7, 1969, the single reached number one in the BBC official singles chart. At the same time, it had reached number 69 at the US singles chart.
Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus was a major influence on another BBC banned single, Donna Summers disco pioneer from 1976 titled Love to Love You Baby. After counting 23 faked orgasms performed by Summer in Love to Love You Baby, the British Broadcasting Corporation banned the song. However, it did not stop it from becoming a massive hit. Love to Love You Baby reached number four on the UK single charts but peaked to number two on the Billboard pop chart.
Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is one of the most controversial singles as well as commercially successful singles in history. The BBC did not only ban the song it also did not stop BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read to publicly express his feelings of disgust from the single’s explicit lyrics. In 1984, Relax stayed in the UK singles charts for 42 weeks. In five of them, it stayed in number one. By the end of 1984, embarrassed Auntie Beeb removed the ban. Relax is still very popular worldwide and it is one of the most recognized symbols of the era. The arguments on whether it gained such a huge success despite the BBC ban or the BBC ban helped promoting it have not been settled yet.
Paul McCartney and the Wings response to the 1972 Bloody Sunday events titled Give Ireland Back to the Irish, was banned by every media resource in the UK. It was forbidden from being broadcast by the BBC, Radio Luxembourg and the Independent Television Authority. In addition, the song title was not allowed to be pronounced on the air, so when it arrived to the BBC Radio 1 chart show it was presented as a record by the group Wings. However, Give Ireland Back to the Irish hit the top of the Irish singles charts.