IT is a biting cold February day in the shadow of London’s Post Office Tower. People in the narrow street stop and stare at a flat-roofed building as the first notes of a song blare out. A band is playing up there, in a deliberate take on the Beatles’ famous 42-minute gig on the roof of their Savile Row HQ.

This time the band is called Ugly Rumours, the name of Tony Blair’s ill-fated attempt at the musical big time, and the man fronting it, a Blair impersonator, is miming the words to the new version of Edwin Starr’s song War.

It is 2007. The song goes to number six in the midweek charts, without any BBC airplay, but only to 21 in the Top 40 at the weekend. It isn’t played on the show. It isn’t played anywhere on national or local BBC radio, whereas Take That’s Shine is never off the airwaves, wherever you are, and tops the chart.

War, and 66 other songs, it later turns out, were secretly banned by the Beeb.

It is almost four years on from the Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq, but a civil war is in full tilt. Car bombs are going off every day and people slaughtered, and the British Army in Basra, shortly to pull out under the cover of darkness, are being hit by mortars, rockets and gunfire dozens of times a day. The craven decision by the BBC is that anti-war anthems – which might bolster the widespread revulsion – will not be heard.

I was part of making the War single. I recruited the crew for the video shoot from friends working in TV, and produced and directed it. I even made a brief appearance, supposedly phoning the police to complain about the hullabaloo. Nobody, including the band, “Tony Blair”, or the three female backup singers were paid. Elsewhere the Iraq carnage continued.

This is just one example of the hundreds of songs that the BBC has banned over the years, whether political, dealing with drug or death references or, who knows, just whenever the whim takes it.

Others have slipped through, of course, evading the censor, like the Shamen’s Ebeneezer Goode – “Ees are good” – and Golden Brown (heroin) by The Stranglers. Even Peter, Paul and Mary’s discreet anthem to marijuana, Puff The Magic Dragon, escaped them.

Here, then, are just a few of the ones that were caught, as well as some that couldn’t be played now.

A bad whiff

HAVE A Whiff On Me, by Mungo Jerry in 1971, was an obvious failure to get through, and Spasticus Autisticus by Ian Dury and the Blockheads was never going to make it in 1981, although it was redeemed at the 2012 Paralympic opening ceremony, where it was sung by a group of performers with disabilities.

Split Enz’ Six Months in A Leaky Boat was sunk, like many others, by the ban during the Falklands War in 1982. Mythical boats going down, when they really were, was too raw.

So, too, was the achingly beautiful Shipbuilding, Robert Wyatt’s recording of the Elvis Costello-written song. “Diving for dear life/When we should be diving for pearls”. The best lyrics Elvis has written, he says himself.

The House Of The Rising Sun, which was a hit for Eric Burdon and the Animals in 1964, had been banned 14 years earlier in Josh White’s version. The original lyrics began: “There is a house in New Orleans, it’s called the Rising Sun/It’s been the ruin of many poor girl/Great God, and I for one.”

Burdon changed the lyrics so that it didn’t obviously refer to a brothel. Or perhaps the people at the Beeb couldn’t understand his Geordie accent?

It was a certainty that The Cure’s Killing An Arab would be banned in the Gulf War, but the apparently wholesome Cranberries’ with Zombie? “In your head, in your head, they are fighting/With their tanks, and their bombs/And their bombs, and their guns/In your head, in your head they are crying.” Abba transgressed then, too, with Waterloo. Couldn’t escape if they wanted to.

The magnificent Jacques Brel song Jacky, the Scott Walker version, was the first to be banned by the then-new Radio 1 in 1968. The BBC was offended by gay references, such as “authentic queers” and “phoney virgins”. This in the year that the UK ban on homosexuality was lifted.

Died a death

SPINNING back a few years to the fifties, what you might call splatter-platters dealing with death were banned, like Tell Laura I Love Her by Ricky Valance, Teen Angel by Mark Dinning, and Terry by Twinkle (“wait at the gate of heaven for me”). The future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page was a session musician on Twinkle’s recording, which is probably a pub quiz question now.

Who would have thought that the ukulele-strumming Northern comic George Formby could be banned from singing With My Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock in 1937? The censors then clearly had dirty minds. “With my little stick of Blackpool Rock, along the promenade I stroll/It may be sticky but I never complain, it’s nice to have a nibble at it now and again.” Ooooh Matron!

Even his most famous one, When I’m Cleaning Windows, was off the airwaves. “Now lots of girls I’ve had to jilt, for they admire the way I’m built/It’s a good job I don’t wear a kilt, when I’m cleaning windows.” Compounded by: “Ladies’ nighties I have spied/I’ve often seen what goes inside.”

Had voyeurism even been defined in 1936?

‘Forces of virtue’

ONE of the unnamed censors at the time wrote of the philosophy of banning: “No-one is more alive than I to the need to buttress the forces of virtue against the unprincipled elements of the jungle.”

Some pretty unseemly ones did get through, as recently as 2012, which you hope wouldn’t today.

Shakin’ Stevens covered the downright creepy What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For? “You’re fooling around with me now/Well you lead me on, then you run away/Hey that’s all right/I’ll get you alone tonight/And maybe you’ll find your messing with dynamite.”

It’s not just the taste police who need to be called.

No-one is ever going to cover Blue Mink’s 1969 hit Melting Pot, well intentioned as it was at the time no doubt. “Take a pinch of white man /Wrap him up in black skin/Add a touch of blue blood /And a little bitty bit of red Indian boy/Oh like a Curly Latin kinkies.” Just no!

Perhaps the only song about premature ejaculation to make it to number one and be banned was Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1983. The DJ Mike Read started to play it then pulled the needle when he released halfway through what it was about. Or perhaps it was that he had his own problems in that area?

The song spent five weeks at the top and sold two million copies.

Frankie, who had learned the commercial lesson of infamy, did it again a year later when Two Tribes was again banned, propelling it inexorably again to number one, for nine weeks this time. It included the indelible line, “Sock it to me biscuits, now”. Which should be on the front of T-shirts.

Doors shut out

FOR a time, all material by The Doors, Neil Young, Journey and Bonnie Raitt was banned, even samples by other artists. But this was about copyright. The acts had withdrawn from the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society (MCPS) which meant that Auntie had no way of paying, although that was quickly sorted.

The Doors also have what must be a record, pun intended, for having a song played for 24 years and then banned. It was Light My Fire and it was, again, in the Gulf War when the censors in tin hats in Broadcasting House dubbed it too stressful for listeners to hear the word fire when Baghdad was lit up every night.

I did ask the Beeb which songs were on the banned list today, but no-one got back to me. I also asked Number 10 what the playlist was for last year’s Christmas party but no response there either.