About poetmcgonagall

Left wing, atheist curmudgeon with a black sense of humour and a heart of gold. Love music, books, theatre, tea, and marmite.

Auntie Beeb Knows Best: Songs Banned by the BBC

1191592_f520Please visit the source of this image for an excellent blog about censorship.

BBC4 recently broadcast a documentary about BBC censorship, Britain’s Most Dangerous Songs: Listen to the Banned. All in our own best interests, of course, as a kindly moral guardian. Looking back with hindsight, their reasons now seem a little threadbare, tending towards the maintenance of the social and political status quo. Here’s a full list of songs banned by the BBC.

This isn’t a review, but I do want to post videos of the songs that interest me most.

I’ve always liked George Formby, a serial offender in the 1930s with his cheeky innuendo, outrageous double-entendres and rampant ukelele. Not only did he offend the middle class Home Counties audience catered to by the BBC, he had the audacity to be northern.

Here he is with his Little Stick of Blackpool Rock.

Louis Armstrong’s cover of Mack the Knife, from The Threepenny Opera was banned in 1956 for its portrayal of the serial killer, MacHeath. I actually prefer the film version, but Armstrong’s cover made the song a popular success, and it is good.

I remember seeing the The Shangri-Las on television, with Leader of the Pack, banned in 1965. The song had teenage rebellion, motorbikes, sudden death, against a backdrop of violence between mods and rockers at British seaside resorts – no wonder the BBC hated it.

The BBC were particularly clueless about the songs on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, missing the drug references in everything except A Day in the Life, banned in 1967.

And now for something completely different – the Sex Pistol’s vicious assault on the monarchy in the year of the Silver Jubilee, 1977. At least that’s how the BBC saw it.

And finally to the latest furore from April last year when Margaret Thatcher died, her name so reviled in certain parts of the UK that street parties were held to celebrate the event, even while the Establishment gave her a state funeral. I was one of the people cheering.

A media campaign had been planned as early 2007 to send Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead to the top of the pop charts. It succeeded. This time the BBC didn’t ban the song outright. They played only the first 5 seconds.

Here is the clip from the Wizard of Oz.

Guns ‘R US

my-parents-open-carry-bookDespite living in the US for 20 years before moving to Scotland, there are many things I don’t understand about American culture. The most mystifying aspect of this strange country is its deification of guns. Some things I get, like the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Putting aside the dire need for a copy editor to clarify whether that means bearing arms as part of an official militia, or just anyone can have them, it’s an established right in one sense or the other.

But why has it assumed such importance in American culture? The NRA fights tooth and nail to defeat all legislation attempting to regulate the absolute right to own guns, even when there is clearly a need for background checks prior to purchase, a database of guns and their owners, and a limit to the amount of firepower individuals can amass.

The NRA has won hands down in most cases, despite America having the highest death rate by gun violence in the world at 4.5 deaths per 100,000. It is legal to carry concealed guns in all 50 states, and you would think that was enough to satisfy the most ardent 2nd Amendment fan.

Think again.

The newest thug on the block is the open carry movement, made up of gun owners who delight in walking around with their weapons on display. They even have demonstrations in favour of the right they already have, and which no-one is likely to take away from them.

The Guardian reported on one woman’s response to such a demonstration in Austin, Texas. She and few companions exercised their right to go topless at the event. Apparently this didn’t go down well with the demonstrators, who were more outraged at the womens’ breasts than with their own need to let their penis extensions hang out.

This is bad enough, but now the open carry movement want to pollute the minds of children with a book called My Parents’ Open Carry.

Come join 13-year-old Brenna Strong along with her mom, Bea, and her dad, Richard, as they spend a typical Saturday running errands and having fun together. What’s not so typical is that Brenna’s parents lawfully open carry handguns for self-defense. The Strongs join a growing number of families that are standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights by open carrying and bringing gun ownership out of the closet and into the mainstream.

Ah, the Strongs. Of course. The Strongs shall inherit the earth. It’s instructive that

“for a limited time only, White Feather Press is giving away a free copy of the fun book Raising Boys Feminists Will Hate! by Doug Giles, with every purchase of My Parents Open Carry in book form. That’s a $15.99 value!”

What? Don’t gun nuts like equality – who’d have though it? The author says of this “fun book“,

Parent, if you have a young son and you want him to grow up to be a man, then you need to keep him away from pop culture, public school and a lot of Nancy Boy churches. If metrosexual pop culture, feminized public schools and the effeminate branches of evanjellycalism lay their sissy hands on him, you can kiss his masculinity good-bye because they will morph him into a dandy. Yeah, mom and dad, if – if – you dare to raise your boy as a classic boy in this castrated epoch, then you’ve got a task that’s more difficult than getting a drunk to hit the urinal at Chili’s. Read this bold and hard-hitting guide by Doug Giles, the politically incorrect master, on how to raise your son in a world which more and more seems to hate masculinity.

And there you have it. Sometimes I despair. Let’s close with a poem by Roger McGough.

Why patriots are bit nuts in the head

Patriots are a bit nuts in the head
because they wear
red white and blue tinted spectacles
(red for blood,
white for glory
and blue … for a boy)
and are in effervescent danger
of losing their lives.
Lives are good for you.
When you are alive
you can eat and drink a lot
and go out with girls
(sometimes
if you are lucky
you can even go to bed with them)
But you can’t do this
if you have your belly shot away
and your seeds spread out over some corner
of a foreign field
to facilitate
in later years
the growing of oats
by some peasant yobbo

when you are posthumous
it is cold and dark
and that is why patriots
are a bit nuts in the head

One Cup or Two?

You can keep your Kants and Heideggers, your Platos and Spinozas, the whole high-falutin’ philosophical crew. When it comes to life’s mundane mysteries, they’re no use at all. As well as being permanently pissed, according to the Pythons.

I give you instead an everyday philosopher, John Shuttleworth, Sheffield singer/songwriter and pigeon-fancier. Armed only with a Hammond organ, he sings of the simple conundrums we all face. Here is the one cup or two dilemma. Tea, of course.

We’ve all been there.

John Shuttleworth is actually a character of Graham Fellows, who also gives voice to John’s wife, Mary, and his next door neighbour and sole agent, Ken Worthington. Fellows started as Jilted John, a teenager dumped by his girlfriend. He sent a demo tape to the legendary John Peel Show, and ended up on Top of the Pops.

But it’s the later incarnation of John Shuttleworth who’s lasted. To close this post, lest I witter on forever, is the saga of John’s attempt to enter a song in the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Incredible Shrinking Dinosaur

Good to see that evidence for the evolution of birds from dinosaurs is coming together. The Conversation has a story about the latest Australian study, which traced the evolution of theropod dinosaurs over 50 million years, from 163 kg land animals to birds weighing less than a kilo. The Guardian also has this article, with a comments section that houses at least two real, live creationists, a species as much to be marveled at as the dinosaurs themselves. They were happily pecking away at the evidence with complete confidence that Biblical truth trumps the facts every time. Drab plumage, though, unlike the dinosaurs’ brilliant livery.

I’ve always felt a weird sense of loss at the disappearance of dinosaurs after a meteor strike 65 million years ago, as if something amazing had been lost for ever. Judging by the success of Jurassic Park (1993), millions of other people felt the same fascination.

I remember, as a boy, watching a documentary about dinosaurs. I woke up screaming in the middle of the the night, having heard a cow mooing in the field opposite. And there was an April Fool’s Day news broadcast about a suspicious research establishment that bought huge amounts of meat from the local butchers. Roars and bellows were heard coming from the place. I was completely taken in, elated at the thought that dinosaurs were back.

Then there’s the possibility of cloning extinct animals. We should be trying to preserve the ones we’ve still got, but the thought of woolly mammoths roaming our safari parks, or even domestic dodos peering shyly from the shrubbery of suburban gardens, sets my heart a-flutter.

But at least we have the birds, and a few dinosaurs may even survive in Scotland.

Thin End of the Wedge

Or, my way of sliding back into blogging on a daily basis. I blame the Guardian and its comment section, cif. I spend all the time frittering away my deathless prose on idle posts, instead of focusing the energy on Beautiful Railway Bridge.

Some photos, while I try to work out where to go from here. These are from Campbeltown.


And this little Dutch barge is from Tarbert.

These last two are from Keswick, in the Lake District, where I went for a few days in July. I lived there in the 1980s, and the visit was part walk down memory lane, part meeting an old friend from Seattle, who was visiting the UK.

I despair of taking a good photo in the Lake District. It’s been so blighted by the picturesque that all paths lead to views out of which an enterprising postcard company has already sucked the life. Wordsworth and his cronies have much to answer for. These are the best I could do.

Thanks for visiting in such numbers, even while I’ve posted nothing new. I will do better.