Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Everybody move to prove the groove

Extracts from an article by Paul Gallagher over at Dangerous Minds today:
In 1981, the BBC banned Heaven 17’s début single (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang on the grounds the song’s lyrics were possibly libellous to President Ronald Reagan.

The couplet that caused the Beeb’s legal eagles such wrinkled brows was contained in the song’s third verse:
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing
[The song] was very much of its time... the lyrics contain the expected tropes on racism, fascism, Adolf Hitler, nuclear war, cruise missiles and a call to “unlock that funky chain dance.”

And to a man the nation asked, “Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Unlocking our funky chain dance to stop nuclear war?”

The BBC has always had a strange relationship with pop music. In 1969, they banned The Kinks’ song Plastic Man because it contained the word “bum”. Just a few years later in 1972, they were happily piping out Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side with its lines about “giving head” to the Beeb’s Radio 2 grey-haired Daily Mail-reading middle aged listeners. Now, they were quaking that "the Gipper" might possibly, maybe, well you just never know, sue the ass off the Corporation for some rather juvenile political pop posturing?
Despite the ban, Heaven 17 didn't come off too badly. (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang made the lower reaches of the charts, and garnered a lot of attention in the "cool" clubs of the New Romantic era [I remember dancing to it myself at the "Bowie/Roxy Nights" at Lazers in Newport, with friends of Steve Strange] - and the band went on to have a string of smash chart hits, including the classics Temptation and Come Live with Me. And they're still going today.

The BBC did everyone a big favour, just as they did for Frankie Goes To Hollywood a mere three years later... And here's the "controversial" song in question:

Heaven 17 official website


  1. This had completely slipped my mind, but as soon as the chorus blew in, it all came back. I had no idea it was even slightly controversial. The clubs I went to played everything so loud with the bass cranked up so far you could never make out the lyrics.

    1. It was a terrible time for those of us using an ear-trumpet, wasn't it? Jx


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