1984: BBC Bans ‘Relax’

The BBC banned Frankie Goes to Hollywood‘s ‘Relax’ on this date, while it was at number six in the singles chart. The publicity this generated then helped it get to number one, and stay there for five weeks. Eventually it sold 1.91 million copies, making it the seventh highest selling single in UK chart history.

The Liverpool-based band emerged from the local punk scene in the late 1970s. They went through many different line-ups, and by the time that John Peel started championing the band in 1983, they were making a dancified version of new wave. But it was a performance on Channel 4’s ‘The Tube’ that got them the attention of a label, and ZTT Records signed them.

‘Relax’ was released in October of 1983, with its B-side ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, and gradually climbed into the top ten. It was then that Radio One DJ and prominent Conservative Party supporter Mike Read took offence to the sexually suggestive cover and lyrics. He announced he would not play the song any more, and the BBC as a whole decided to support him.

However, it was the open and unabashed homosexuality of lead singer Holly Johnson and keyboardist Paul Rutherford that caused the most controversy, and makes this event worth a place in this resistance calendar. The original video for ‘Relax’ was set in a gay club, and this was at a time when to be ‘out’ in the music business was still very much a taboo. The public’s overwhelming reaction to establishment bigotry reflected changes going on in society at the time, and gave confidence to many people looking to come out as gay.

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2 thoughts on “1984: BBC Bans ‘Relax’

  1. Darren

    On a musical note:< HREF="http://music-isms.blogspot.com/2008/02/frankie-goes-to-hollywood-early.html" REL="nofollow">FGTH – Early Recordings 1982-83<>

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