Banned Songs

The list so far of records banned by the BBC - plus "justification"
I know many records should be banned because they are crap, but we are looking for records that the BBC or any other organization world wide have banned along the lines listed below.
NOTE! From NME 13th Sept 1997- A BBC spokesman said commenting on the lack of airplay for the new Prodigy single - Smack My Bitch, "We just don't ban records any more". KEEP LISTENING! Last Updated:26 April 2002 Please Email me your entries. Thanks to Geoffrey Corner of Philadelphia for starting the list in April 1996.


Other Resources:-

For a comprehensive list of US Banned recordings:

For a detailed account of the recordings listed here and more, in November 1998 a book titled Smashed Hits was published by The Freedom of speech Group.

More stuff on "bans" in the UK can be found in the book "Banned!  Censorship of Popular Music in Britain: 1967-1992"  by Martin Cloonan (Arena, Aldershot, UK, 1996).

NOTE! The ban on many of the records has subsequently been lifted and some only carried a daytime ban. Banned by the BBC
  • Sexual

  • Jane Birkin - Je T’aime - Maybe it wasn't helped by Serge Gainsbourg singing about the joys of going "entre tes reins" - between your kidneys - i.e. up your bum (alledgedly). On top of the pops an instrumental version by "Sounds Nice" was used - 1969 & 1974
  • Frankie goes to Hollywood - Relax - Sexual references - 1983
  • The Au Pairs - Come Again - Referred to orgasm - 1981
  • Lil Louis - French Kiss - "Heavy breathing" - 1989
  • The New Yorkers - Love For Sale - "Sexual" content - 1930??
  • Judge Dread - Several records with titles as Big 6, Big 7,Big 8, 10 etc - "Sexual" content - 1972 - 1975
  • Ivor Biggun - The winker's song (misprint) - Sexually explicit - 1978
  • Troggs - I Can’t Control Myself - The sound Reg Presley makes at the end of the song  was said to be like someone climaxing. - 1966
  • Rolling Stones - Lets spend the night together - Promoted promiscuity - 1967
  • Cliff Richard - Honky tonk angel - Self imposed ban as "saint" Cliff didn’t know that a Honky tonk angel was a Hooker! circa ‘72 -’73.
  • Adam Faith - Made You - Banned for lewdness/Sexual Content Double A-Side with "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" - 1960
  • The Stranglers - Peaches - Considered "woman baiting" - 1977
  • Scott Walker - Jackie - Reference to "authentic queers" - 1967
  • George Michael - I Want Your Sex - banned only before the "watershed" - 1987
  • Paul McCarney & Wings - Hi Hi Hi - Banned, not due to drug references but to explicit sexual lyrics - 1972
  • Joe Brown & The Bruvvers' revival of George Formby's "My Little Ukelele" (1963, Piccadilly/Pye) was banned as "too risque"
  • Max Romeo - Wet Dream - A song about his bedroom ceiling. No the BBC wouldn't buy that - 1969
  • Donna Summer - Love to love you - Groans & heavy breathing secured the ban - 1976
  • The Prodigy - Smack my bitch up - Despite denials, this single was never herd during the day - 1997
  • Pete Shelley - Homosapien  -  "SPIN Alternative Record Guide." The book claims "Homosapien" was banned for containing the line "Homo superior in my interior."(About 1982)
  • Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band - Open Your Box -  From the album of the same name and B side of a single, it was banned for containing the lyric "open your legs" - 1970


  • Marxman - Sad Affair - Contained IRA slogan - 1993
  • Police - Invisible Sun was banned (certainly by R1/TOTP, maybe others)
    references to Northern Ireland (Barrel of an Armalite, etc.) - 1981
  • Paul McCartney - Give Ireland Back to the Irish - Obvious - 1972
  • Johnny Horton - Battle of New Orleans - Reference to "Bloody British" - 1959
  • Hawkwind - "Urban Guerrila" - early 1970's. Banned due to mainland UK terrorist attacks at the time.
  • Sex Pistols - God Save the Queen - Anti monarchy - 1977
  • Blow Monkeys - The Day After You - Anti Margaret Thatcher - 1987
  • Split Enz - Six Months In A Leaky Boat - Too provocative (Falklands) - 1980
  • Elaine Page/Julie Covington "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" Falklands Crisis - 1980
  • McGuiness Flint - Let the people go - Government policy on the IRA - 1975
  • Heaven 17 - (We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" - The "All-Music Guide"  says  "Fascist Groove Thang" was banned by the BBC for its overtly political nature. (About 1981)
  • Six Months In A Leaky Boat. - 'Split Enz' 1984 - During the Falklands war, their song that went 'I just spent six months
    in a leaky boat, Lucky just to keep afloat.'

I think that you might have to be careful about using the term "banned". E.g. During the Falklands those records were not banned as such, but local BBC radio DJs were asked to think carefully about what to play - especially close to news bulletins on the war. Martin Cloonan

Political 2 - The Gulf War

All these recordings were banned during the gulf war in 1990.

  • Jose Felicano & The Doors - Light My Fire
  • Something Happens - "Parachute"
  • The Cure - Killing an Arab
  • Little angels - Bone yard
  • Massive Attack had the word "attack"  dropped during the gulf war.
  • Bomb the Bass also suffered during this period.

‘The Word,’ listed 64 songs on its February 1st program that BBC Radio have deemed "unsuitable" to play during the Gulf Crisis:  Lee McMurray  

  • Abba Waterloo

  • A-ha Hunting High And Low

  • Alarm 68 Guns

  • Animals We Got To Get Out Of This Place 5.

  • Arrival I Will Survive 6.

  • Joan Baez The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down 7.

  • Bangles Walk Like An Egyptian 8.

  • The Beatles Back In The USSR 9.

  • Pat Benetar Love Is A Battlefield

  • Big Country Fields Of Fire

  • Blondie Atomic

  • Boomtown Rats Don't Like Mondays

  • Brook Bros. Warpaint

  • Arthur Brown Fire

  • Kate Bush Army Dreamers

  • Cher Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

  • Eric Clapton I Shot The Sheriff

  • Phil Collins In The Air Tonight

  • Cutting Crew I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight

  • Skeeter Davies End Of The World

  • Desmond Dekker Israelites

  • Dire Straits Brothers In Arms

  • Duran Duran View To A Kill

  • Jose Feliciano Light My Fire

  • First Choice Armed And Extremely Dangerous

  • Roberta Flack Killing Me Softly

  • Frankie Goes To Hollywood Two Tribes

  • Eddie Grant Living On The Frontline

  • Eddie Grant Give Me Hope Joanna

  • Elton John Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting

  • Johnny Hates Jazz I Don't Want To Be A Hero

  • John Lennon Give Peace A Chance

  • John Lennon Imagine

  • Jona Louis Stop The Cavalry

  • Lulu Boom Bang A Bang

  • McGuinness Flint When I'm Dead And Gone

  • Bob Marley Buffalo Soldier

  • Maria Muldaur Midnight At The Oasis

  • M*A*S*H Suicide Is Painless

  • Mike And The Mechanics Silent Running

  • Rick Nelson Fools Rush In

  • Nicole A Little Peace

  • Billy Ocean When The Going Gets Tough

  • Donny Osmond Soldier Of Love

  • Paper Lace Billy Don't Be A Hero

  • Queen Killer Queen

  • Queen Flash

  • Martha Reeves Forget Me Not

  •  B.A. Robertson Bang Bang

  •  Tom Robinson War Baby

  •  Kenny Rogers Ruby (Don't Take Your Love To Town)

  •  Spandau Ballet I'll Fly For You

  •  Specials Ghost Town

  •  Bruce Springsteen I'm On Fire

  •  Edwin Starr War

  •  Status Quo In The Army Now

  •  Status Quo Burning Bridges

  •  Cat Stevens I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun

  •  Rod Stewart Sailing

  •  Donna Summer State Of Independence

  •  Tears For Fears Everybody Wants To Rule The World

  •  Temptations Ball Of Confusion

  •  10 CC Rubber Bullets

  •  Stevie Wonder Heaven Help Us All



  • The Moontrekkers - Night Of The Vampire - morbid /"scary" content (backing group to Rod Stewart, produced by Joe Meek - 1961
  • Sam M.Lewis - Gloomy Sunday - Too mournful - 1930??
  • Mike Berry & The Outlaws - Tribute To Buddy Holly -"morbid concern" for a dead teenage idol - A Joe Meek masterpiece - 1961
  • Ricky Valance - Tell Laura I love her - banned because of the reference to dying in a stock car race? - 1960
  • The Downliners Sect's 1965 EP, "THE SECT SING SICK SONGS" was banned for poor taste/morbidity; it included a cover of Jimmy Cross' - I WANT MY BABY BACK (where a necrophiliac boyfriend digs up & jumps in his girlfriend's coffin)
  • Napoleon XIV - They're coming to take me away ha-haaaa - Preceded rap by some 25 years. Man going bonkers over lost dog - 1966


  • Paul Simon - Kodachrome - Advertising - 197?
  • The Kinks - Lola - was originally banned because it mentioned Coca-Cola, was later changed to Cherry Cola to get airplay. - 1970
  • Paul Simon - Me and Julio - Originally banned for referring to Newsweek magazine. - 1972
  • Dr Hook & the Medicine show - The cover of Rolling Stone - Advertising - 1972
  • Dr Hook & the Medicine show - The Cover of the Radio Times - Tried to get around the ban by sucking up to the BBC with this version! - 1972
  • Danny Williams - "You're Fabulous Babe" - 1977. Banned due to advertising. Babe was a perfume.
  • Pink Floyd  - IT WOULD BE SO NICE,  April  1968. The lyrics mentioned the British newspaper The Evening Standard. The record could not be played on UK radio. As a result,  Pink Floyd had to spend about $1000 to replace the Evening Standard with Daily Standard to appease the BBC. The record failed in the charts despite the touch of controversy. Another thing, the copies sold in shops were the Evening Standard version,  but all releases available now are the corrected version.


    F Word - Part 1

    In resent years this category would be overflowing - here are a few key offenders.

  • Super furry animals - The man don't give a fuck - 50 odd uses of the F word - 1996
  • John Lennon - Working Class Hero - 1970
  • Ian Dury - "Fucking Ada" - 1980 - Use of F word?
  • Black Grape - "Shake your money" - 1995 Use of F word.
  • The Dead Kennedys - Too Drunk To Fuck - Can't think why this should receive a ban?
  • Neil Young - Fucking up - 1990
  • Fatboy Slim  - Fucking in heaven - 108 uses of the F word! - 1998
  • Linda McCarytney - The light comes from within - Even the inclusion of the F word & being dead  she can't get a hit! - 1999
  • Richie Kavanagh  - "Aon Focal Eile"   Banned in Britain because first  syllable of  "Focal", (the Irish for "Word") sounded too much like "Fuck"...
  • The Rolling Stones - Star Star.  Despite the title being changed, the words star fucker (repeated dozens of times) could still be herd in the chorus! - 1973 


Banned but saved by the radio edit - F word part 2

  • Radiohead - Creep - Edited to make the F word disappear - 1992
  • Beautiful South - Don't marry her have me - Originally titled and contained the line "Don't marry her fuck me" - 1996
  • Prince's "Sexy Motherfucker" which was renamed "Sexy MF" 1992
  • The Stranglers - "Peaches" The lyrics were changed for radio. 1977
  • XTC - "Respectable Street", from '82, lyrics about abortion, sex positions, and neighbors retching over each other's fences were replaced.
  • Monty Python's "Always look on the bright side of life" where "Life's a piece of shit / when you think of it" was replaced to suit the BBC's tastes. 

Thanks to Liam O'Brien for reminding me of the following...

  • Lemonheads-"Big Gay Heart". Lyrics changed from "suck my dick" to (comically) "duck my sick" for radio play. Also "piss me off" to "tick me off"
  • Smashing Pumpkins-"Vieuphoria" (video) on back cover  "Silverfuck" re-named "Silvercrank".
  • Puff Daddy & Jimmy Page "Come To Me", obviously all single versions had F-word deleted, but the Japanese Import single had Godzilla roars over the swearing moments.
  • Marilyn Manson-"Beautiful People". They rerecorded a version  substituting "every other hater" for "every mother fucker", but left the word "shit" on their that had to be blanked out when played.
  •  MC5's-"Kick Out The Jams", first recorded use  of motherfucker, banned by major chain in US (can't remember  who, might be Wal*Mart) so the band ran a full page advert in mags  saying FUCK...(whoever it was). Fucking Heroes ay? Then they got  dropped by the record company, SPINELESS BASTARDS!!!
  • And finally when the Sex Pistols were taken to court for their album title "Never Mind The Bollocks" and the judge decreed that  "Bollocks" isn't a swear word. HOORAY!!!


  • Nero & The Gladiators' - "Hall Of The Mountain King" was banned for its spoken intro-a short beatnik query about the location of "the king's pad" - 1961
  • Roberta Flack - Killing me softly - Reason Unknown - 1973
  • Mungo Jerry - Have a Whiff on Me - Drug references - 1971

Banned by "Top of the Pops" (BBC)

  • D-Mob - We Call It Acieed - Drug reference - 1988
  • The Pouges - A pair of brown eyes - Video ban - 1985
  • Bjork - Alarm Call - For her animated nipples! - 1998


Lonnie Donegan - Digging my Potatoes -   1956

This song seems to be generating more discussion than any other banned recording....

  • Lonnie Donegan's single "Digging My Potatoes" was banned in the UK and US on its release in 1956 for lyrical references to sex, including the
    following (from memory so approx.):

    "suck on my [sweet?] bone"
    "I thought you was [sic] my friend until I caught you in my bed"
    "I love you best between the sheets"

    Given the above I think it's remarkable that Decca chose to release it on any format, let alone as a follow up to the transatlantic hit "Rock Island

    Hope this helps... Andrew Rose
  • The Lonnie Donegan song "Diggin' My Potatoes" was banned in 1955. The reason was that it included the line, "Thought you were my friend till I caught you in my bed". The "bed" in the song is another word for "garden". Also the verse, "Love you in the winter/ Love you in the fall/ But in between them blankets, baby/ I love you best of all". It was to be issued as a single that year, but after the ban it wasn't. It is only availible on EP's. Many mothers broke the EP's when the children bought them. A few still survive.

This song was on the same EP as his two smash hits "John Henry" and "The Rock Island Line". The banned song didn't hurt Lonnie's popularity, though. He had hits on the charts until the Beatles (his own followers) took over the charts.

Sean Gaston

  • Lonnie Donegan's "Digging my potatoes" was certainly issued in UK as a
    single on the Decca Jazz label, with "Bury my body" on the flip side. I once
    owned this record on a 10 inch 78 rpm record.


Banned in the USA (Probably UK)

  • The Beatles - A day in the life - Banned in the '60's for drug references - 1967
  • Rolling Stones - Stoned - Original B side to I Wanna be your man - Drug references - 1964
  • Ten Years After - Good morning Little Schoolgirl - Under age sexual references - 1969
  • Chumbawamba - We Are the World - Explicit direct action support - 1985
  • Junior Delgardo - Broadwater Farm - Prophecising riots - 1985
  • Mark Dinning - Teen Angel - Called a "death disk" - 1960
  • Falco - Psycho Terror - Line "all Vienna is on heroine" - 1979
  • The Heptones - Fattie Fattie - Lewd and suggestive
  • Napolean XII - There Coming to Take me Away - Reference "mentally challenged" - 1966
  • Smoke - My Friend Jack - Was indeed banned because of drugs refs (my friend Jack eats sugar lumps, my friend Jack eats sugar lumps ... he's been travelling everywhere) - 1967
  • Eurythmics - Sex Crime (1994) - Reapeated use of the words 'Sex' & 'Crime' - 1984
  • Chef - Chocolate salty balls - 1998 -Apparently the US public have filthy minds!


Other Mentions

  • Although the Marvin Gaye Record Sexual Healing was not banned, The DJ’s On UK's national "Radio One" had to drop the word "sexual" from the title!
  • Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" was censored on MTV so that the line "let's roll another joint" became "lets hit another joint."
    When the video is shown on VH1, "roll" is left in, but the word "joint" is mangled so that it is impossible to make out (it sounds like the word is being played backwards).
  • Brian Eno's Album "My life in the bush of ghosts" now exclude the track "Qu'ran" (in the UK) due to serious fatwahs from Islamic fundamentalists.


Up For Discussion

As the BBC won't admit to even having a banned list, here are some of the candidates that I have received. Some of these suggestions may have been banned at some time.

  • "I Love a Man in a Uniform" by The Gang of Four came close to being banned -- if not banned for a time -- because of its overt criticism of the Falklands War.  Mike O'Hara

  • Did not Frank Zappa get banned because of his single - Bobby Brown?!
  • I believe that Carter USM's "Bloodsport For All" was also banned by Radio One at the time of the Gulf War -  Mike Hartland
  • I agree with Mike Hartland. I distinctly remember Bloodsport for All by Carter USM being banned during the Gulf War. I think several record shops also refused to stock it.
    Dan Carney
  • The Beatle's song I Am The Walrus was banned from BBC radio because it contained the word 'knickers' Steve Farrell
  • Banned in Australia & possiblly elswhere - The Royal Guardsmen's "Snoopy vs the Red Baron" (1967) was played on radio with the word "bloody" beeped out: "The (beep) Red Baron of Germany". It sounded ridiculous, but it was a No. 1 hit here.
  • The Beatles' "Ballad of John & Yoko" (1969) was played on radio with the word "Christ" edited out of the chorus; another No. 1 hit.
  • The Troggs' "I Can't Control Myself" (1966) was banned for radio airplay. The single was, for example, a Top 20 hit in Sydney. Lindsay Martin
  • As I understand it, Tina Turner's song "Private Dancer" had to be edited before the BBC would play it--not because of references to prostitution, but rather because it contained a reference to American Express, which went against the Beeb's ban on advertising.  I believe the offending phrase was changed to "pounds sterling."  (I may be wrong, of course; I wasn't in the UK at the time, and I only heard about it in the US press.) Terence Foraker
  • I'm not sure, but wasn't "Eight miles high" by the Byrds also banned, due
    to drug reference? Tobias Andrasson
  • During the gulf war I remember Simon Bates at the birthday spot for Edwin Starr playing a song other than War, because he it was 'inappropriate'. He sounded apologetic about this so it may not have been his idea to play something else.
    Gordon Taylor
  • The Beatles  - "Come together" was banned by the BBC for the words coca cola. David Campbell
  • "3 am Eternal" by the KLF had a section  at the start of the record taken out by Radio 1 during the Gulf War. It was the sound of a machine gun being fired. Richard Doy
  • I didn't see the song/album listed by the artist Ice T. I know that it was banned for the song "Cop Killer". adecker


  • Radio One wouldn't play Deeper or Promise by Delirious, because they are a 'religious band'. The obviously didn't catch on that so were Sixpence None The Richer.
    Also, Cliff was temporarily banned with his 'Millennium Prayer' single, again because it was Christian.  Ewan Jones

    Sorry to disagree, but the Cliff record was not banned, but simply not played because it was a dreadful record! JW.


  • Sorry to stick my nose in but didn't some of the songs like Terry by Twinkle, Leader of the Pack by the Shangri-Las and Pipeline by The Ventures also get banned at one time???
    Obviously Terry and LOTP was due to the dumped lad riding off and "deliberately" crashing their motorbikes but I heard that Pipeline was banned because it was a slang term for a comdom in the States, but I don't know that one for sure.
    Also what about Gary Gilmores Eyes by The Adverts, brill track.

    Another song brought to mind by your brilliant (& nostalgic) page is "Moratorium" by Buffy Sainte Marie, on the flip side of the Soldier Blue single. It was a juke box hit here in Gt Yarmouth because it contained the words "fuck the War and bring all our brothers back home again", naturally in 1972(ish) all us teenagers would quite happily sing along to this at the top of our voices. 

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