The banned Paul McCartney song that contained “the only word fit to save the planet”

Pioneers of popular music, The Beatles were one of the most radio-friendly bands of all time. When they did attempt to sneak the tiniest expletive into their lyrics – on ‘Girl’ or ‘Hey Jude’, for example – controversy ensued. As a result, the majority of their catalogue was kept as clean as possible.

When Paul McCartney began releasing his solo work, he stuck primarily to the same formula. As a result, he continued to enjoy commercial success. But in the early 1990s, McCartney decided that one song warranted expletive language. That song was ‘Big Boys Bickering’.

Released as part of the CD maxi version of his 1992 single ‘Hope of Deliverance’, ‘Big Boys Bickering’ was a relatively soft song instrumentally. Over calm strums, McCartney made a pointed statement about the ozone layer and governmental ignorance, stating, “Big boys bickering, that’s what they’re doing every day, big boys bickering, fucking it up for everyone.” It was the first time the celebrated songwriter had opted to use the word in a song despite knowing it would upset people.

‘Big Boys Bickering’ may have been banned on radio stations in the United States for its continual use of the word “fuck”, but McCartney has defended its presence in the song. It certainly reflects his anger and the severity of the subject, particularly when juxtaposed against the calm soundscape. In one interview, he even suggested that it was the “only word fit to save the planet.”

In his New World Tour tour book, the Beatles icon explained that it was his first protest song since ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’, and suggested that the subject matter validated his language: “But when you think of the ozone layer being depleted, a 50-mile hole over the world that’s going to kill us if we don’t do something, and then you think of what happened at the Rio summit, do you think of that as a ‘flipping hole’ or a ‘fucking hole’?”

He even credited his partner in songwriting, John Lennon, as inspiring his newfound freedom with harsh language, adding, “It’s Lennonesque to my mind anyway. John wouldn’t have thought twice about saying ‘fuck’ in a song.” The days of radio-friendly, Beatlemania-inducing pop songs were long gone, as McCartney concluded, “I’m not a teenybopper. I’m an artist. I’ve written serious stuff before and I’m writing it now. You don’t like it, don’t buy it.”

Still, expletives didn’t become a mainstay in McCartney’s music, making his use of the word all the more powerful and meaningful. As he stated in an interview for Club Sandwich 65, “I think I’m allowed to use it once in every 50 years, don’t you? Once in every 50 years I’ll use that word – stick around for the next time.”

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