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I'm with the banned

Monday 5 August 2013, 16:48

Christopher Jones Christopher Jones Assistant Producer

There's an outtake from this week's show that raises an interesting point; especially in this age of ubiquitous music, available in every guise you care to think of at the touch of a button. here's Martin to explain:

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Contributor Martin remembers when, if a record was banned, you had to buy it to hear it!

It's a fascinating thought: that back in the early '70s if your record was banned, the only way the curious could hear it would be to actually go to a shop and BUY it!

History has proven time again and again that there's very rarely such thing as bad publicity. A band which appeared earlier in the series, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, certainly reaped the benefits of Mike Read taking against their debut single, 'Relax': sending it to number one. And, let's face it, no one in their right mind would have gone overboard about Judge Dread's notorious reggae-themed 'Big' singles, with their smutty nursery rhymes if they hadn't been banned by the Beeb. I can still remember my schoolfriends reciting the 'Judge''s lyrics in the playground, undoubtedly learned from big brother's copies at home, played while your mum and dad were out.

But this week’s show, focussing on the political importance of Paul McCartney and Wings’ ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ is an especially fascinating example of the BBC’s censorious nature. For a start, how many people do you know who have actually heard it?

In fact, the first time I heard the single was on the juke box in the People’s Songs gallery at the O2 centre as we were setting up the exhibit: this, despite the fact that I’m old enough to remember it being in the charts when it was released. In other words, when someone banned your record in 1972 there was a very good chance that a large part of your audience wouldn’t EVER hear it. I’ve always been a Macca fan, but because I had no disposable income at the age of 12, I had to wait 40 years to hear it!

Of course - despite not only the BBC but stations such as Radio Luxembourg banning the record, and poor Alan Freeman on the chart rundown on Sunday night being forced to call it "a record by the group Wings" – ‘Give Ireland…’ still got to number 16. It was by an ex-Beatle, and not even Lord Reith could stop an ex-Beatle in those days. But it’s probably certain that the political sentiment of the single was considerably muted by the blanket censorship.

The biggest revelation for me, however, has been the simple fact that ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ is one of Sir Paul’s weakest efforts by far: a real plodder that sounds as knocked off as it undoubtedly was. Typical: 40 years waiting for that…

The notion of banning records now seems quaint, especially when you look at the innocuous fare that made the list over the years. Yet the recent death of an ex-Prime Minister raised the spectre of the old nanny state once more. Maybe there’s still some kudos in getting on the wrong side of the corporation?


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Featuring memories contributed by Radio 2 listeners, Stuart Maconie narrates the story of post-war Britain via 50 records that soundtracked this dramatic and kaleidoscopic period.

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