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Music

The hilarious reason Happy Mondays were banned from 'Top of the Pops'

Manchester rabble, Happy Mondays, are one of the most iconic outfits of the 1990s. Blending rock with the grooves of the burgeoning rave scene and heady psychedelia, they created a sound that is as iconic as it is influential. Whether it be ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Step On’ or ‘Kinky Afro’, the band have numerous classic hits that prop up their extensive back catalogue.

Listening to the Happy Mondays on reflection, you’re transported back to the momentous time where the Cold War had ended, the ‘Second Summer of Love’ had brought young people together, and, for the first time in as long as people could remember, the future looked incredibly bright. 

Whilst we could talk about the music of Happy Mondays for an age, they’re also famous for another reason. In many ways, they’re more known for their raucous off-stage antics rather than their anthemic take on the sound of Madchester. There remain countless stories abound surrounding the Happy Mondays, stemming from a time when they were one of Britain’s hottest groups, a period which brought with it all the trappings of fame and excess. 

Often, these stories are downright hilarious, owing to the larger than life characters that comprise the band, particularly frontman Shaun Ryder and sideman Bez. The pair have ended up countless hijinks during their time, and to sit down and listen to their life stories would surely be a life-affirming moment. 

One of the most hysterical moments in the history of Happy Mondays came in 1989, after the band performed their hit ‘Hallelujah’ on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Featuring the late star Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals, for many, this was the first time they were introduced to the crazy world of Shaun Ryder, Bez and the rest of the band.

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However, things didn’t go to plan for Happy Mondays, and this was primarily to do with their uncompromising Mancunian attitude. Yet to release ‘Kinky Afro’ and ‘Step On’, the band were threatened with being absolved of the opportunity to perform their most memorable hits in the future, as just after performing ‘Hallelujah’, they’d find themselves banned from the BBC and their flagship show Top of the Pops.  

In 2018, Ryder explained how the band found themselves being slapped with a ban when speaking on Joe Presents: Unfiltered with James O’Brien. “We was giggling and this guy didn’t like us giggling, who was the boss at the time,” he recalled. “And when he told me to shut up and I’m a young, silly kid… I mean, this guy’s probably never been told to fuck off and do one before.”

Ryder continued: “He’s the big boss at Top Of The Pops, and some snotty kid says ‘Fuck off knobhead. Do one.’ He’d never come across that obviously, and he banned me for life.” 

Luckily for the plucky Happy Mondays, they became so big over the subsequent 12 months that the BBC were forced to have them return to Top of the Pops in April 1990, and they played ‘Step On’ to a roaring crowd. The ’90s was to be theirs, BBC bans or not.

Watch Happy Mondays perform ‘Hallelujah’ on Top of the Pops below.