The Red Top 5 :Officially Banned Songs

By The Red Witch on 3:09 AM

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Today we're going to talk about songs. Banned songs, to be more precise. Songs which were banned at the time they came out, either because of their sexually suggestive or politically controversial lyrics, to be even more precise.

We aren't going to talk about music videos, because we want to list the 5 most popular songs which were banned because of their controversial content.

Songs have been denied airplay and banned as early as the 1930s, believe it or not. Such is the case of

#5 Love For Sale - written by Cole Porter, originally performed by Kathryn Crawford, from the musical The New Yorker, which premiered on Broadway on Dec 8th 1930

Why was it banned?

The song was banned from radio play because of its lyrics, considered scandalous at the time - it is written from the viewpoint of a prostitute offering all kinds of "love for sale":

Love for sale,
Appetizing young love for sale.
Love that's fresh and still unspoiled,
Love that's only slightly soiled,
Love for sale.
Who will buy?
Who would like to sample my supply?
Who's prepared to pay the price,
For a trip to paradise?
Love for sale
Let the poets pipe of love
in their childish way,
I know every type of love
Better far than they.
If you want the thrill of love,
I've been through the mill of love;
Old love, new love
Every love but true love
Love for sale.

Nowadays we may feel truly astounded that a song which did not contain neither any F words, or the Sh*** word, nor any politically/religiously controversial text, was actually  banned from air play -even though it does discuss prostitution, it does so in a very tasteful manner, which is something we cannot say about modern-day lyrics on the same topic ...

As it usually happens with banned songs, this one rose to #5 in US Charts in 1930, and #14 in 1931.

#4 Let's Spend The Night Together - The Rolling Stones (written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, released as a single in 1967)

Why was it banned?

"Let's Spend The Night Together" is among the most famous examples of musical censorship. It was denied air play because of its lyrics which were thought to promote promiscuity:

"Let's spend the night together
Now I need you more than ever
Let's spend the night together now"
On the Ed Sullivan Show The Stones were refused permission to play the song, unless they  changed "let's spend the night together" to "let's spend some time together". Mick Jagger agreed, but kept mockingly rolling his eyes at the TV camera every time he sang the altered lyrics.
 Shockingly, for their very first live performance in China, in 2006, the Rolling Stones were asked not to perform the song, due to its "suggestive lyrics".

# 3 Relax - written and performed by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, released as a single in 1983

Why was it banned?

Less than a week after Frankie Goes To Hollywood performed "Relax" at Top Of The Pops(05 Jan 1984), the song reached # 5 in the UK Charts. However, Mike Read, the then BBC Radio 1 disco jockey refused to play the song due to his opinion that the lyrics were sexually explicit. Perhaps he was referring to
"Relax, don't do it, when you want to suck it to it,
Relax, don't do it, when you want to come".

Simultaneously, BBC Radio banned the song from air play, with the exception of a few night-time shows which played it whenever they saw fit.
By 28th January the song had reached # 1 in the UK, despite being denied air play, and banned from Top Of The Pops.
This ban became an embarrassment for BBC Radio, especially given the fact that all commercial radio stations across the country were playing the song. The ban was lifted later in 1984 and featured in the Christmas edition of Top Of The Pops.

# 2 God Save The Queen - written and performed by The Sex Pistols, first released during Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee in 1977

If I was asked to mention 1 banned song, the first one that springs to mind, is this one. It is also the only song in this Red Top 5, which was not banned because of sexually suggestive/explicit lyrics.

Why was it banned?

The song was banned by the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority which regulated Independent Local Radio, effectively denying it any media exposure. It was also not stocked by some shops.

The song  was banned for being anti-monarchist, for its equation of the Queen with a "fascist regime", and for the claim that England had "no future":

"God save the Queen
Her facist regime
They made you a moron
Potential h-bomb

God save the Queen
She ain't no human being
There's no future
In England's dreaming

Don't be told what you want
Don't be told what you need
There's no future, no future
No future for you..."

read the rest of the lyrics here

The band have denied all accusations that they have purposefully issued the single "God Save The Queen" during Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee and claim that it was mere coincidence.

On June 7, 1977 - the Jubilee holiday itself - the Sex Pistols attempted to play the song from a boat on the river Thames, outside the Palace of Westminster. After a scuffle, eleven people were arrested when the boat docked, including several members of the band's entourage.

The phrase "no future" became emblematic for the punk rock movement.
The song peaked at #2 in the official UK Singles Chart(used by the BBC), behind Rod Stewart's "I don't want to talk about it", and was kept off #1 for fear that it might cause offense.
However, the song did hit number 1 on the unofficial NME singles chart.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked "God Save the Queen" number 173 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

# 1 Je t' non plus[I love you...Me neither] - written by Serge Gainsbourg, performed by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin

Today's #1 is by far the most discussed officially banned song! Serge Gainsbourg's explicit erotic lyrics together with Jane Birkin's erotic whispering caused a great scandal when the song was released as a single in 1969.

Why was it banned?

Because the lyrics are in French, with much effort I managed to find a decent English translation. Here are the first couple of verses:
"I love you I love you Oh yes I love you

Nor do I

Oh my love

Like the wave Irresolute

I go I go and I come Inside you my love I go and I come Inside you my love And then I hold on

I love you I love you Oh Yes I love you

Nor do I

You are the wave And I the naked island You go you go and you come you go and you come inside me my love and then we are one

I love you I love you Oh yes I love you Nor do I

Oh my love

Like the wave irresolute

I go i go and I come Inside you my love I go and I come Inside you my love And then I hold on

(simulated orgasm sounds)

I love I love you my love Inside me my love I love you my love Deep inside me my love And then we are one

... "
By now, I guess you can imagine why this song was banned, haha. Too explicit even for me :-)
Serge Gainsbourg originally recorded it in 1968 with his then girlfriend Brigitte Bardot, who, consequently begged him not to release the recording, as she was married at the time to German businessman Gunter Sachs. Gainsbourg agreed and re-recorded it later that year with his new lover, English actress Jane Birkin.

The song was released in early 1969 and, because of its lyrics, promoting the pleasure of physical love, was immediately banned in radio stations in Poland, Portugal, Spain, and the UK. The Vatican issued a special statement, declaring the song immoral.
Despite all that, the song was a commercial success throughout Europe.
The song has an English version, performed by Nick Cave and Anita Lane.

Serge Gainsbourg about the song:

"I love women as an object, the beautiful women, the mannequins, the models. This is the inner painter in me. I never tell them I love them. Je t'aime... moi non plus (I love you... me neither) expresses erotism overcoming sentimentalism… So many songs about romantic and sentimental love, encounters, discoveries, jealousy, illusions, desillusions, betrayals, remorses, hatred, etc... Then why not devote a song to a sort of love much more current these days: physical love? "Je t'aime" isn't an obscene song, it's very reasonable to me, and fills this gap. Its explanation is that girls say "I love you" during sex, and the man with their ridiculous virility doesn't believe them. They think the girls only say it as a result of enjoyment, of pleasure. I guess I believe the girls, or maybe that's a result of my fear. But that's also an aesthetic step, a search of absoluteness"

Well, this is it for this issue of The Red Top 5!
I have many other ideas for this column, including "top 5 girlie movies", "top 5 weird smells that I kinda like", "top 5 really bad guys in literature" and so many others! They keep popping in my mind, and I do my best to always keep my notebook close, so I can write them all down! If you have any suggestions about this chart, why not contact me or write them in the comment section below?

Oh yeah, and keep listening to banned songs. They usually rock.

See ya soon,

*The Red Witch

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