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Anorak | The 8 worse acts of censorship in TV history

The 8 worse acts of censorship in TV history

by | 25th, January 2013

CENSORSHIP reared its ugly head again this week, as the BBC cut a line of dialogue from the classic comedy Fawlty Towers , in which the ‘old-fashioned’ major tells Basil about the time he took a lady to see India play cricket at the Oval:

‘The strange thing was, throughout the morning she kept referring to the Indians as niggers. “No, no, no,” I said, “the niggers are the West Indians. These people are wogs”.’

This is the first time, as far as we are aware, that any of John Cleese’s work has been censored retrospectively. But as a member of the Monty Python team, he was familiar with the BBC’s informal strictures, which encouraged self-censorship wherever possible. Even the group’s albums, on which more or less anything was permissible, occasionally required that they rein in their more extreme tendencies.

But they were not alone in their ignominy. Some of the biggest, most rebellious names in the recording industry occasionally had to bite the bullet and sacrifice their art for a place on the playlist or a prime-time TV slot. Here are eight cutting-edge artists for whom discretion was the greater part of valor, and a couple for whom it wasn’t…

Monty Python

Farewell to John Denver appeared on the group’s Contractual Obligation Album, and contained a short sequence in which Eric Idle sang a parody of Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’, after which Denver is strangled loudly. On legal advice the song was replaced by a spoken apology.

The Who

In 1966 race was still a taboo issue in the USA. For the American release of their classic single Substitute , the chorus was changed from I look all white but my dad was black” to the completely irrelevant “I try going forward but my feet walk back” .

The Monkees

Micky Dolenz penned the unusual Randy Scouse Git after hearing Alf Garnet say it on the popular British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part . RCA in Britain weren’t too keen on this and the single went out under the cryptic but cool name of Alternate Title . In the States it went out under its real title, which was every bit as baffling to the Americans as the UK title was to Brits.

Mott The Hoople

David Bowie’s greatest song was blocked by the BBC for the line “Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks” . The problem wasn’t that it might encourage shoplifting, but that it mentioned the shop’s name, and thus constituted a perverse form of advertising. Marks and Sparks was replaced with ‘unlocked cars’ which made no sense at all. None of which stopped Mott having a massive hit.

10 cc

This typically wry pop classic gave 10cc their first number one hit about a prison riot. Graham Gouldman contributed the rather neat line: “We’ve all got balls and brains, but some’s

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Posted: 25th, January 2013 | In: Key Posts, TV & Radio Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink