These days, triple j is best known as our beloved national youth broadcaster, with a vast web of tentacles spreading throughout the Australian music industry. From music, to news, to live events, triple j have got it covered with professionalism and aplomb.
But when the station launched as Double Jay back in the ’70s, it was a bratty runt on the radio scene, founded by a bunch of hippies slash radio enthusiasts who felt like Australian youth, who were all about civil action at the time, deserved a voice on the airwaves.
Occasionally, the station gets to relive its roots. As Tone Deaf previously covered, triple j found itself contending with the Australian government when they were reprimanded for playing NWA’s classic but incendiary hip-hop anthem ‘Fuck The Police’.
But another, lesser-known instance happened in the mid-’90s and the result has been the only song officially banned from play on the station. It all started when Sydney drag performer Simon Hunt needed to promote an “underground gay party”.
“I made a song… to perform at this underground gay party in Sydney, and someone approached triple j to promote the event,” Hunt tells News Corp. “They heard the song, began playing it and it just went crazy from there.”
“Suddenly this character was in the limelight and the track was the station’s number one request.” The song was called ‘Back Door Man’ and the character was dubbed Pauline Pantsdown, a parody of controversial Australian politician Pauline Hanson.
After being played on air as a promotional tool, the song exploded in popularity and triple j ended up playing the track almost hourly due to the massive number of requests they were receiving. Pauline Pantsdown had become an unwitting star.
But one person who wasn’t as amused as triple j’s listeners was Pauline Hanson, who decided the track was defamatory and offensive.
Hunt had made the track by collaging excerpts from various statements and speeches made by Hanson and setting them to a funky dance beat. Hanson’s words were deftly rearranged so as to satirise the One Nation leader, making it sound as though she was saying some very unsavoury things.
As a 2003 Fairfax article notes, Hanson was incensed by lines like, “I’m very proud that I’m not straight. I’m very proud that I’m not natural”, “I’m a backdoor man for the Ku Klux Klan with very horrendous plans”, and “I’m a very caring potato”.
Despite its satirical nature, Hanson insisted the track had defamatory meanings, such as, as Fairfax wrote, “that she engages in unnatural sexual practices including anal sex, that she is of subhuman intelligence, that she is a pedophile, a homosexual, a gay activist and a prostitute”.
Hanson took the matter to court, where her lawyers argued for the song’s defamatory nature. The ABC insisted the song was satire and was not meant to be taken literally, simply serving as a comment on Hanson’s policies and arguing style.
But as the Arts Law Centre of Australia writes, the Supreme Court of Queensland found against the ABC and upheld an injunction which prohibited the song from ever being played again. Of course, it didn’t really matter. Even though the track was voted into the Hottest 100 for 1997 at #5, the song’s legend and inability to be played on the station was something of a cult favourite.
Hunt’s character had risen to iconic status and he was already working on a follow-up, ‘I Don’t Like It’, which not only made it into the Hottest 100, but even became a hit on the mainstream ARIA charts and on radio.
“I recorded her news appearances and interviews to VHS tape, transcribed it, digitised it all and then cut it together in an editing program,” Hunt told News Corp. “I cut bits and pieces of other words to make it work. It took six hours just for [one line].”
Hunt went on to make a string of appearances as Pauline Pantsdown, including at Homebake festival, and a tidy sum from sales of the ‘I Don’t Like It’ single. But it all started with one song that you’ll never hear on triple j.