Why Elvis Presley’s ‘Hard Headed Woman’ Was Nearly Banned by the BBC

Elvis Presley’s “Hard Headed Woman” could only get played on the BBC with special permission. It became a hit in the United Kingdom twice.

Elvis Presley‘s “Hard Headed Woman” wouldn’t turn heads today. Despite this, the track was considered so offensive it was almost banned by the BBC. That didn’t stop it from gaining notoriety.

Elvis Presley’s ‘Hard Headed Woman’ has Bible references the BBC considered offensive

“Hard Headed Woman” is an early Elvis track that has the typical unpolished, upbeat sound of 1950s rock. It sounds a lot like “Jailhouse Rock.” The song is about how “hard headed” women have been the downfall of men from the beginning of time.

Memorably, the song includes a number of references to Bible stories. “Hard Headed Woman” cites Eve, Delilah, and Jezebel as a trio of biblical women who caused trouble. Today, critics and listeners would call the song sexist, while its Bible references would seem cheeky or quaint. According to the 2017 book Elvis Presley: Caught in a Trap, the BBC felt the song was making fun of the Bible and nearly banned it.

Ultimately, the BBC decided not to ban the song. Instead, “Hard Headed Woman” could only get played on their radio station with expressed permission from the Assistant Head of Light Entertainment.

The song is offensive and has been overshadowed by other Elvis Presley songs

In retrospect, the controversy seems ridiculous. “Hard Headed Woman” isn’t a mockery of the Bible. If anything, it’s using Bible stories to make a point. Sadly, the point is misogynistic. One verse says, “Adam told Eve / Listen here to me / Don’t you let me catch you messing ’round that apple tree / Oh yeah (oh yeah) / Ever since the world began / A hard headed woman been a thorn in the side of man.”

“Hard Headed Woman” isn’t the most offensive classic rock song out there. It’s not even the most offensive song in the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll‘s discography! However, its message is backward. Fortunately, many other Elvis songs that are a lot better and less inflammatory overshadowed “Hard Headed Woman.”

How ‘Hard Headed Woman’ performed in the United States and the United Kingdom

The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits reports “Hard Headed Woman” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for a pair of weeks. Considering the song came out in 1958, the year the Billboard Hot 100 debuted, “Hard Headed Woman” was one of the first tunes to hit the top of the chart.

The Official Charts Company reports “Hard Headed Woman” reached No. 2 in the U.K. and stayed on the chart for 11 weeks. Notably, the BBC didn’t stop the track from becoming a big hit. In 2005, the tune charted at No. 15 and lasted on the chart for a pair of weeks. This was one of many examples of Elvis singles recharting years after they came out.

“Hard Headed Woman” became a huge hit even if it ruffled feathers.

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