10 famous songs that were censored or banned

11 January 2024, 09:00 | Updated: 11 January 2024, 11:15

Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their debut single Relax: too rude for radio?
Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their debut single Relax: too rude for radio? Picture: Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images/Alamy

All these famous tracks were either censored, suppressed, forbidden or messed around with? You'lll be surprised who's on the list. NSFW!

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  1. Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax

    Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax (ZTAS 1)

    The Liverpool band's  debut single was issued by ZTT Records at the tail end of 1983 and got a bit of airplay, including an appearance on Channel 4's The Tube and BBC-1's Top Of The Pops. That was, until Radio 1 DJ and Pops presenter Mike Read realised that the song had a rather risque lyric.

    Read announced he wouldn't be playing it and the BBC agreed with him - although jocks like David Jensen and John Peel still played it on their evening shows and good old commercial radio ignored the whole storm in a tea cup. The single, of course, went to No 1 a couple of weeks later and even appeared on the Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops.

  2. Rage Against The Machine - Killing In The Name

    Rage Against The Machine - Killing In the Name

    Obviously the refrain of "F**k you I won't do what you tell me" was unbroadcastable… apart from BBC Radio 5live, who asked the band to come into their studio to perform the song live when it made Christmas No 1 in 2009. They didn't perform the radio edit. Ooops.

  3. Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy

    Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy

    The Gulf War in 1991 caused a few nervous moments with some broadcasters, who pulled songs as innocuous as Walk Like An Egyptian in case they caused offence. Bristolian trip hop act Massive Attack had their name shortened to just Massive for a while to avoid any unpleasant associations with warfare.

  4. Paul McCartney & Wings - Give Ireland Back To The Irish

    Give Ireland Back To The Irish

    Macca got a firm slap on the wrist when his new band Wings' debut single was banned in February 1972 for being too political. It was written in response to Bloody Sunday - the incident on 30 January that year when British Troops opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry, Northern Ireland.

    Both McCartney and fellow former Beatle John Lennon had Irish roots and wrote songs in protest (John's was Luck Of The Irish). All radio and TV stations blacked out the song. In the intervening years, the Troubles escalated and EMI didn't include the track on his retrospective album Wingspan as the IRA had detonated a car bomb in Ealing, West London and the label didn't want to be seen to be supporting the terrorists with such an "inflammatory" song. Wonder if he'll play it at Glastonbury?

  5. Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen

    Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen

    John Lydon's rant against the fluffy daydream over the monarchy in an era of strikes, inflation and cuts was considered too near the knuckle to be the nation's No 1 hit in the Queen's Silver Jubilee week of June 1977, so (according to a long-standing rumour) the track was quietly "dropped" and Rod Stewart was allowed to ascend to the top of the chart instead.

  6. Radiohead - Creep

    Radiohead - Creep

    Thom Yorke drops the f-bomb in the band's 1993 classic, but the band recorded a radio-friendly version for delicate listeners.

  7. The Shamen - Ebeneezer Goode

    The Shamen - Ebeneezer Goode (1992)

    The BBC again got alarmed by this rave tune from the British band, in which Mr C chanted "Eezer Goode, Eezer Goode, he's Ebeneezer Goode" - which many thought to actual say "E's are good", ie "MDMA is great". The band were obviously taking the nicley and Mr C later claimed that he yelled "Got any underlay?" on Top Of The Pops, so someone would ask him if it was a "drug reference". No, he said - it was a "rug reference".

  8. The Beatles - I Am The Walrus

    I Am The Walrus

    Incredibly, this brilliant, brilliant Beatletune was given a BBC blackout because of the childish line "You've been a naughty girl / You let your knickers down". The Beeb weren't keen on A Day In The Life either, because they quickly sussed it was about drugs or something.

  9. D-Mob - We Call It Acieed

    D-Mob "We call it acieed"

    This top notch early rave tune that made number 3 in the UK charts soon found itself removed from radio play the minute that someone realised that Acid House equalled drug culture and "Get right on one matey" had a sinister meaning. The Sun, who had started selling smiley face t-shirts suddenly changed their tactics and ran headlines like "Evil Of Ecstasy". Other tabloids got a bit confused and thought "acid" meant the old fashioned LSD and not Es. See also...

  10. David Bowie - Space Oddity

    David Bowie – Space Oddity (Official Video)

    Bowie's existential version of the moon landings was intended to cash in on the Apollo XI mission to the stars in July 1969. However, the BBC didn't like the idea of playing a record that depicts an astronaut drifting off into space while there was a very real chance of a tragic fate befalling Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins in their lunar module. The song was quietly dropped from any airplay on the network and it was only after the Apollo XI astronauts were safely back on Earth that Bowie's single began to gain publicity, peaking at Number 5 in November 1969.