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Paul McCartney: The Banned Songs of the '70s

Updated on July 24, 2016

1972: Paul McCartney Has His Wings Clipped

The Beatles fell foul of the British radio censors on several occasions in the 1960s with now-legendary songs that would appear innocuous by today's standards. The track A Day in the Life is, perhaps, one of the most prominent examples of a ban by the BBC at the time.

During the 1970s, Paul McCartney had a few troubles of his own, not long after he formed his band Wings. It was 1972 and British broadcasters were still very sensitive to certain lyrical content.

It was perhaps not surprising then that singles with the titles Give Ireland Back to the Irish and Hi, Hi, Hi, released that year, were blacklisted.

Of course, McCartney had his own thoughts about the bans, one of which was answered in the form of another song released during that year.

Image: Paul McCartney

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Give Ireland Back to the Irish
Give Ireland Back to the Irish

The Irish Connection

Wings' First Single is Banned

I remember it well. The BBC banned the broadcast of several records during the 1970s but, by this time, it was unusual for such a big name as Paul McCartney to fall foul of the Corporation.

However, back in early 1972, he and his new band Wings released their first 45 called Give Ireland Back to the Irish. This was a time when 'The Troubles' in Northern Ireland were at their worst. The song was a protest by McCartney against British political policy, following violent events in Londonderry which later became known as Bloody Sunday

As a result, the song was blacklisted by the BBC, seen as way too political for broadcast at the time. In fact, it was not only Auntie Beeb which decided to ban it, as commercial stations transmitting within and to the UK also refused to add it to their playlists.

As a result, I might not have been aware of the song but I was an avid listener of the chart rundown on a Sunday evening. Even with its ban, the song managed to reach the Top 20, but not even its title could be mentioned on air. For a curious teenager, this only heightened the sense of mystery surrounding the record. It was only years later when trawling the internet did I eventually get to hear it.

As you might expect, it was extremely popular in Ireland where the ban did not exist. So much so that sales were significant enough to send it to Number 1.

Paul McCartney in the 1970s

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s
Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s

Fascinating revelations as the author shares intimate, personal conversations with Sir Paul McCartney about his life in the decade following the breakup of The Beatles.

 

Give Ireland Back to the Irish - From February/March 1972

Here's Paul, with his band, rehearsing the offending song.

Mary Had A Little Lamb - From May/June 1972

In response to the ban of the group's first single, it is claimed that this innocent and, more importantly, inoffensive follow-up was recorded as a protest. McCartney says not, but it does seem strange that he would want to create his own arrangement of the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb.

I recall the press at the time lambasting the ex-Beatle for releasing the track, but that didn't stop it from selling well and ending up in the UK Top 10.

Mary Had A Little Lamb

The Wings Compilation Album

Wings Greatest
Wings Greatest

All of McCartney's best-known work with his band Wings is collected together here in this wonderful compilation. Simply, all the hits.

 

Hi, Hi, Hi / C. Moon - From November/December 1972

The last days of 1972 were upon us and one would have thought that Wings would see out the year without any further controversy. It wasn't to be. The band's third single, Hi, Hi, Hi also had a BBC ban slapped on it for lyrics the Corporation deemed "sexually suggestive". The title and chorus caused equal consternation as they were thought to refer to drug abuse.

Consequently, if I had wanted to hear this track then I had to pick another radio station which wasn't quite so obsessive. The ban was not so restrictive that the song went totally unheard. However, if you tuned into the BBC pop music station you would have heard the lilting reggae vibes of the record's flip side, C.Moon.

C.Moon

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    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 21 months ago from Massachusetts

      Richard, thank you for this fascinating glimpse into the backstory behind Sir Paul's banned tunes. I had no idea!

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 2 years ago from London UK

      Oh my how times have changed! Love the Mary had a little lamb story. To be honest I never really got into Paul and his Wings band - so I didn't know any of this. Very interesting. It's lovely to see Linda.

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