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The Beatles remain Britain’s most popular classic rock band, however, the BBC wasn’t always their biggest fan. For example, the BBC felt The Beatles went too far with a certain line in “A Day in the Life” and banned the song. Here’s how John Lennon felt about the ban.

The Beatles standing in a row
The Beatles | John Pratt/Keystone/Getty Images

The BBC felt this line from The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ could inspire people to do drugs

“A Day in the Life” is a song with dark undercurrents. Its lyrics speak of death, it has an eerie string section, and the song’s final chord is ominous. However, these elements of the song weren’t what upset the BBC.

According to Rolling Stone, Paul McCartney explained the origin of the line “I’d love to turn you on” from “A Day in the Life.” “This was the time of Tim Leary’s ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out’ and we wrote ‘I’d love to turn you on,’” Paul recalled. “John and I gave each other a knowing look: ‘Uh-huh, it’s a drug song. You know that, don’t you?’ Yes, but at the same time, our stuff is always very ambiguous and ‘turn you on’ can be sexual so… c’mon!”

A BBC spokesman explained why he and his colleagues felt “A Day in the Life” should not be broadcast. “We have listened to this song over and over again,” the spokesman said. “And we have decided that it appears to go just a little too far, and could encourage a permissive attitude to drug-taking.” 

“A Day in the Life”

John had a very specific complaint about the ban of “A Day in the Life.” “I’d like to meet the man who banned this song of ours,” he said. “I’d like to turn him on to what’s happening. Why don’t they charge the Electricity Board with spreading drugs because to get electricity you have to ‘switch on’? Everything depends on the way you read a thing.”

Did the BBC hinder the success of the album that includes ‘A Day in the Life?’

The BBC’s decision to band “A Day in the Life” from broadcast didn’t stop its parent album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, from becoming a hit in the United Kingdom, According to the Official Charts Company, the album remained on the British charts for 275 weeks. None of The Beatles’ other studio albums remained on the chart for as many weeks. It spent 28 of those 275 weeks at the top of the chart.

“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

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A BBC special said one of The Beatles was one of the greatest Britons ever

The BBC’s relationship to John was not always so hostile. In 2002, the BBC aired a series called 100 Greatest Britons which counted down voters’ top pick for the greatest Britons of all time. John was eighth on the list. The only Britons to rank higher than him were, in ascending order, Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Isaac Newton, William Shakespeare, Charles Darwin, Princess Diana, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and Sir Winston Churchill. Notably, John was the sole musician in the top 10. Not bad for a musician from a band with whom the BBC once had a contentious relationship.