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The Scott Walker song that was banned by the BBC


Even though censorship has been around for quite some time, there are plenty of instances throughout history that have been sure to raise eyebrows. There have been plenty of laws intended to keep profanity out of the public consciousness, many of which are still around today.

Of course, the state of censorship itself can depend on a variety of factors, which makes it interesting to look back on different periods in history to see what kinds of things were banned or questioned — and one of the biggest culprits of this is none other than the BBC.

Taking a look back on the BBC’s history, the first record to be banned by the new Radio 1 was none other than Scott Walker’s song ‘Jacky’.

Born in 1943 in Ohio, the British-American singer-songwriter had quite the career, recording and producing music until 2018, shortly before his passing. Performing first as a part of the Walker Brothers and eventually breaking into a solo career, you might recognise him from hits like ‘Jacky’, ‘Montague Terrace’, ‘Farmer in the City’, ‘Duchess’, and ‘Make it Easy On Yourself’.

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Upon listening to his music, and the song ‘Jacky’ specifically, it might be tough to tell why it was banned in the first place. However, the BBC had quite the strict policy when it came to what they would air during Scott Walker’s initial release of the song in 1968.

The song in question, which was actually a cover of Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, was banned due to references to homosexuality. Apparently, the lyrics about “authentic queers” and “phoney virgins” were enough to spark concern and get the song kicked off the air.

Although this might seem perfectly tame to many, at the time, the BBC and all public platforms were extremely sensitive to their image in conjunction with homosexuality. This was just one year following the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in England and Wales, decriminalising sex acts between two men over the age of 21 in private. However, even with legal repeal, public organisations and large broadcasting networks like the BBC were reluctant to allow any kind of references through their channels.

Following suit, the United States also repealed the Hays Code that year, which imposed a set of specific standards onto the films and television shows that could be produced, which largely condemned homosexuality and any reference to it.

As for the song itself, it is a shame that it was banned at the time, as the catchy tune could have been an even bigger hit with more widespread recognition. However, the song eventually did have its moment in the sun on public broadcast, even if it came many years later.

In 1991, Marc Almond covered the song and performed it on primetime television. With the song having been passed through so many artists, it’s great to see that it did finally make its way into the public eye, albeit not until the 1990s when censorship was much more relaxed. However, having all three versions of the song to listen to can be a great way to experience all that these artists have to offer. Who knows, maybe someone will revive ‘Jacky’ in the 2020s and make it a hit once more.

Some other songs banned by the BBC include ‘Walking On Water’ by Eliza Doolittle, ‘Lola’ by The Kinks, ‘Anarchy In the UK’ by The Sex Pistols, ‘Atomic’ by Blondie and many more.

If you want to listen to Scott Walker’s rendition of Jacky, you can check it out right below.