The Plastic Hippo

March 25, 2012

The midnight hour

Filed under: Media,Music,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 12:59 am


The next 3,600 seconds, thanks to the return of British Summer Time, will not take place. Consequently, the following 700 words will be even more irrelevant than usual. The precession of the equinoxes, the Gregorian calendar and that Einstein bloke have a lot to answer for.

Many years ago, pounding up a late-night M1 in a long wheel-base Mercedes 406D truck loaded with a still slightly warm HiWatt, Vox and Marshall back line, the radio was the only company. During the lost hour between one and two, the night shift BBC DJ decided to risk playing records that had previously been banned by the BBC.

The airwaves were treated to “Je t`aime…moi non plus”, “Let`s spend the night together” by the Stones and “Lola” by the Kinks. Amazingly, “Lola” was banned not because it was the story of an encounter in a Soho club between a young man and a transvestite, but because the original lyric mentions Coca Cola. Ray Davies changed the lyric to “tastes just like cherry cola” which, given the irony of hindsight, makes the song even ruder. Davies played the game very cleverly, and his next hit “Ape man” had the joyous line: “the air pollution is fogging up my eyes”. Lou Reed, some years later, kept his head and secured airplay because BBC executives simply did not understand the lyric of “Walk on the wild side”.

Other tracks considered in times gone by as unsuitable for broadcast included “A day in the life”, “I am the Walrus” and “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” by a little known northern beat combo. Later, “Imagine” by someone called John Lennon was banned and “Give Ireland back to the Irish” prompted respected philosopher Alan “fluff” Freeman to rename the tune “a record by the group Wings” when it hit number 16 in the UK singles chart. When the sublime “To drunk to f**k” by Dead Kennedys hit the top 40, Tony Blackburn, another polymath seer, simply went from number 37 on the chart to number 35.

In its long and distinguished history, the BBC has banned recordings from such subversives as George Formby, Cliff Richard, the Beverley Sisters, Perry Como and Ken Dodd. During the Gulf War of 1990, Auntie Beeb banned “Bang bang” by Cher, “Imagine” again, “In the air tonight” by Phil Collins, “Killing an Arab” by the Cure, “Light my fire”, “Sailing”, “Walk like an Egyptian” and, astonishingly, “Boom bang-a-bang” by Lulu. Earlier, the BBC also banned “God save the Queen” and allegedly fiddled the sales figures to keep it from reaching number one. The time might be right for a long overdue re-release of the Pistol`s seminal single.

The night shift DJ probably thought it was a good idea to play these banned records during that lost hour assuming that only cats, dogs, insomniacs and tired truck drivers were listening. He was sacked a short while later and his likely defence against dismissal based on the axial movement of an oblate spheroid planet at perihelion and the general theory of relativity must have fallen upon deaf ears.

As we set our season forward to summer, we need to set our watches, clocks, DVD players, computers, phones and hopes back 60 years to a time before a welfare state. At that time, the BBC had in place the infamous “green book” of instruction on what was and was not suitable for broadcast. The “N word” was acceptable only if it was followed by the word “minstrel”. It was not allowed to impersonate Gracie Fields or Vera Lynn and jokes about rabbits, lavatories, “effeminate men” and lodgers were forbidden. This nonsense saw the birth of the Goons and Round the Horn and a genre of humour a quantum leap from smutty music hall gags into something hilariously obscene and very, very funny.

Inspired by the orders from above contained in the “green book” and the words that were not allowed, the wonderful Flanders and Swann composed this marvellous ditty.

As the lost hour passes, and with a failing, corrupt government lying and trying to curb free speech, we should start to practice our Vera Lynn impersonations.

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1 Comment »

  1. Auntie also banned ‘Souvenir of London’ by Procol Harum, as it contained the line ‘I’ve got a souvenir of London – there’s a lot of it about’.

    Also, never forget the late, great Marie Lloyd. Threatened with being banned from a Royal Variety Perfromance for initially planning to sing ‘She Sits Among The Cabbages And Leeks’, she agreed to drop the ditty and performed ‘She Sits Among The Lettuces And Peas’ instead

    Where have all the rebels gone?

    The Realist

    Comment by The Realist — March 27, 2012 @ 10:12 am | Reply


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