Radio airplay censorship  

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broadcasting, censorship, Censorship of music

Airplay censorship

An early example of censorship of music on the radio is from the 1940s. George Formby's "When I'm Cleaning Windows" was banned from BBC radio due to the "smutty lyrics", though his wife Beryl managed to change BBC's opinion. The ostensibly offending lyrics were:

The blushing bride she looks divine
The bridegroom he is doing fine
I'd rather have his job than mine
When I'm cleaning windows

A classic example of censorship is when in 1956 ABC radio refused to play Billie Holiday's "Love for Sale" because the lyrics are about prostitution, but Love For Sale would be on the radio again. They also forced Cole Porter to change the lyric of "I Get a Kick Out of You", which was a hit for Frank Sinatra. Porter's original stated "I get no kick from cocaine". The cleaned-up version was "I get perfume from SPAIN".

The BBC banned the airplay of Come Together by the Beatles and the original version of Lola by The Kinks, as it believed that the two songs contained what might be construed as an advertisement for Coca-Cola.

Another example of partial censorship in the UK was over BBC Radio play of the Sex Pistols single "God Save the Queen" released by Virgin Records on 27 May 1977 to coincide with the Queen's silver jubilee celebrations. Sales of the single were not banned, but BBC's Radio 1 barred it from airplay. It had reached number two in the BBC's own charts, but the public service broadcaster — at that time the BBCs most popular radio channel — censored it because of its lyrics. It actually reached number one on the NME chart. The band was harassed by police when it (loudly) performed the song from a boat on the Thames. (See the entry for Sid Vicious and God Save the Queen on the Sex Pistols page.)

"God save the Queen / The fascist regime."

In 1981, the International Year of Disabled People, saw the BBC ban airplay of Ian Dury's "Spasticus Autisticus" until after dark. Dury, who had suffered from polio, intended the song to be a positive message for people with disabilities. The chorus' refrain "I'm spasticus, autisticus" was inspired by the response of the rebelling gladiators of Rome, who — at least in the version of the story portrayed in the Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus — answered to the name of their leader, "I am Spartacus", to protect him.

Radio 1 in 1984 banned "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Radio 1 had concluded that the lyric "when you're gonna come" referred to sexual climax. In a famous incident, Radio 1 disc jockey Mike Read took the record off the turntable and broke it in two. After this, but without consulting Read, Radio 1 decided to ban the record — which sent the record straight to number one for a five week stay.

The Beastie Boys received substantial publicity when they arrived in the UK in 1987. Headline stories of their activities in bars and hotel rooms, along with a tour featuring dancers in cages and a large inflatable penis, led to massive sales of "Fight for your Right to Party". A video showing the three bandmembers invade and trash a party was subsequently banned by Top of the Pops due to its portrayal of "loutish behaviour".

An interesting example of airplay censorship is Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels". The censored line is "Let's roll another joint". In the radio version the word joint is kept, but the line is changed to "Let's hit another joint". Therefore, instead of smoking marijuana, the song's couple are traveling to bars.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Radio airplay censorship" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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