For decades, broadcasters held the key to a song becoming a chart success, and without their seal of approval, taking the number one spot alongside the glory it holds, was impossible. That’s something Paul McCartney discovered the hard way when one of his lyrics was misinterpreted.
During his time with The Beatles, McCartney had faced this issue before, when their track ‘I Am The Walrus’ was blacklisted by the BBC because it was ridiculously deemed “pornographic”. Meanwhile, ‘A Day in the Life’, another seminal tune for the Fab Four, was banned for suicidal references. Additionally, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ didn’t get airplay because of its apparently innocent drug connations, and ‘Back in the USSR’ owing to heightened tensions during the Gulf War.
While the 1960s had helped Britain progress slightly within the accepting cultural paradigm, and become a more forward-thinking place, sadly, that attitude wasn’t one that the establishment was keen to take on. Some years later, and despite destigmatisation, drugs were still seen as the devil in the ’70s, and even the slightest reference to intoxication would lead to a song being banned, which would usually stop it from charting.
In 1972, Paul McCartney & Wings fell foul of this strictness, when they released ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’, which was not to the acquired taste of those at the BBC. The broadcaster refused to play the track despite Macca’s star power.
They believed the lyric “We’re gonna get hi, hi, hi” was about drugs. However, that was never specified in the song. The executives also took offence at the line, “Get you ready for my body gun,” which McCartney said was a printing error by Northern Songs. He actually sings, “Get you ready for my polygon”.
Speaking to Rolling Stone about the incident, he said: “I thought the ‘Hi Hi Hi’ thing could easily be taken as a natural high, could be taken as booze high and everything. It doesn’t have to be drugs, you know, so I’d kind of get away with it. Well, the first thing they saw was drugs, so I didn’t get away with that, and then I just had some line ‘Lie on the bed and get ready for my polygon.'”
He continued: “The daft thing about all of that was our publishing company, Northern Songs…got the lyrics wrong and sent them round to the radio station and it said, ‘Get ready for my body gun,’ which is far more suggestive than anything I put. ‘Get ready for my polygon,’ watch out baby, I mean it was suggestive, but abstract suggestive, which I thought I’d get away with. Bloody company goes round and makes it much more specific by putting ‘body gun.'”
While ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was banned from the most crucial broadcaster in the UK, that didn’t affect McCartney like it would most artists, and he was big enough that he could circumvent the traditional system. Somehow, the track still charted at number five in Britain, even without an ounce of radio play, and became a staple in the group’s live sets.