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2001 Clear Channel memorandum

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Catharsis was exactly the opposite of what corporate radio was promoting. There was no room for songs of peace or hate, loss or exorcism, anger or despair. What we got was bland and mildly upbeat, the Chevy-commercial sentiments of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and the cliched uplift of inspirational ballads like "Wind Beneath My Wings," surely one of the most annoying genres of music ever invented.
—Steven Wishnia[1]

On September 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 attacks, the top brass at Clear Channel sent an email to over 1,000 US radio stations "an updated and expanded list of songs with 'questionable lyrics' that they should avoid playing."[2][3] Clear Channel denied the claim,[4] but it received considerable media coverage at the time.[5] Though many reports claimed that the list was meant to prohibit radio stations from playing songs listed on it, the list was circulated as guidance. Many stations, including some in the New York area, ignored the list.[6]

Some of the songs making this list deal with fire or planes. In a perverse attempt to sterilize media in light of the terrorist attack, the memo recommends dropping songs like Fire and RainWikipedia by James Taylor, Smokin'Wikipedia by Boston, Burnin' for YouWikipedia by Blue Öyster Cult, JumpWikipedia by Van Halen, and Bennie and the JetsWikipedia by Elton John from rotation, in case a listener might be triggered by the mere mention of a word.

The question was not that there would be kinds of music that would be inappropriate in the aftermath of the attacks, but the specific songs Clear Channel ultimately chose. It seemed more like an 1960s-style social conservative attack on popular rock music than an understandable suggestions list.

Many found the list baffling, and considered it a misguided attempt to ensure the nation's mental health. As such, it was roundly criticized as censorship and an ominous side effect of President George W. Bush's War on Terror.[7]

The list[edit]

…every single Rage Against the Machine song was notably poo-pooed by Clear Channel, as the Founding Fathers absolutely hated guitars that sound like turntables. Ditto goes for "I'm on Fire"… because nobody understands that the song was just Bruce Springsteen surreptitiously confessing that he's the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four.
—The 6 Most Hilarious Failures in Music Censorship History[8]
Artist Song Notes
3 Doors DownWikipedia Duck and Run
311Wikipedia Down
AC/DCWikipedia Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
AC/DCWikipedia Hells Bells
AC/DCWikipedia Highway to Hell
AC/DCWikipedia Safe in New York City
AC/DCWikipedia Shoot to Thrill
AC/DCWikipedia Shot Down in Flames
AC/DCWikipedia T.N.T.
The Ad LibsWikipedia The Boy from New York City
Afro Celt Sound SystemWikipedia When You're Falling
Alice in ChainsWikipedia Down in a Hole
Alice in ChainsWikipedia Rooster
Alice in ChainsWikipedia Sea of Sorrow
Alice in ChainsWikipedia Them Bones
Alien Ant FarmWikipedia Smooth Criminal
The AnimalsWikipedia We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Louis ArmstrongWikipedia What a Wonderful WorldWikipedia This wonderful song's inclusion on the list exposed the callousness and hypocrisy of media executives in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The BanglesWikipedia Walk Like an Egyptian Only one of the perpetrators was Egyptian, ringleader Mohamed AttaWikipedia
Barenaked LadiesWikipedia Falling for the First Time
Fontella BassWikipedia Rescue Me
Beastie BoysWikipedia Sabotage
Beastie BoysWikipedia Sure Shot
The BeatlesWikipedia A Day in the LifeWikipedia A reflection on life, death, and war, inspired by LSD. Perhaps the reference to war, i.e., "The English Army had just won the war" triggered inclusion on the list? Who knows.
The BeatlesWikipedia Lucy in the Sky with DiamondsWikipedia Maybe they thought a mention of the sky would trigger someone?
The BeatlesWikipedia Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-DaWikipedia Life goes on, and Clear Channel thought it would be too much for anyone to realize this.
The BeatlesWikipedia Ticket to RideWikipedia
Pat BenatarWikipedia Hit Me with Your Best Shot
Pat BenatarWikipedia Love Is a Battlefield
Black SabbathWikipedia Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Black SabbathWikipedia War Pigs
Blood, Sweat and TearsWikipedia And When I Die
Blue Öyster CultWikipedia Burnin' for You
BostonWikipedia Smokin'
Los BravosWikipedia Black Is Black
Jackson BrowneWikipedia Doctor My Eyes
Buddy Holly and the CricketsWikipedia That'll Be the Day
BushWikipedia Speed Kills
The Chi-LitesWikipedia Have You Seen Her
Petula ClarkWikipedia A Sign of the Times
The ClashWikipedia Rock the Casbah
Phil CollinsWikipedia In the Air Tonight
Sam CookeWikipedia Wonderful World
The Crazy World of Arthur BrownWikipedia Fire
Creedence Clearwater RevivalWikipedia Travelin' Band
The CultWikipedia Fire Woman
Bobby DarinWikipedia Mack the Knife
The Dave Clark FiveWikipedia Bits and Pieces
Skeeter DavisWikipedia The End of the World
Neil DiamondWikipedia America
DioWikipedia Holy Diver
The DoorsWikipedia The End
The DriftersWikipedia On Broadway
Drowning PoolWikipedia Bodies
Bob DylanWikipedia Knockin' on Heaven's Door
EverclearWikipedia Santa Monica
Shelley FabaresWikipedia Johnny Angel
FilterWikipedia Hey Man, Nice Shot Maybe too close to home, as the song is about the suicide of Budd DwyerWikipedia
Foo FightersWikipedia Learn to Fly
FuelWikipedia Bad Day It's not the one Andy Bernard sang when he was firing Pete in "The Office".
The Gap BandWikipedia You Dropped a Bomb on Me
GodsmackWikipedia Bad Religion
Green DayWikipedia Brain Stew But not Welcome to ParadiseWikipedia, weirdly enough.
Norman GreenbaumWikipedia Spirit in the Sky
Guns N' RosesWikipedia Knockin' on Heaven's Door
The HappeningsWikipedia See You in September
The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceWikipedia Hey Joe "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"
Herman's HermitsWikipedia Wonderful World
The HolliesWikipedia He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
Jan and DeanWikipedia Dead Man's Curve
Billy JoelWikipedia Only the Good Die Young
Elton JohnWikipedia Bennie and the Jets
Elton JohnWikipedia Daniel "Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane…"
Elton JohnWikipedia Rocket Man
Judas PriestWikipedia Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
KansasWikipedia Dust in the Wind
Carole KingWikipedia I Feel the Earth Move
KornWikipedia Falling Away from Me
Lenny KravitzWikipedia Fly Away
Led ZeppelinWikipedia Stairway to Heaven
John LennonWikipedia Imagine
Jerry Lee LewisWikipedia Great Balls of Fire
Limp BizkitWikipedia Break Stuff
Local HWikipedia Bound for the Floor
Lynyrd SkynyrdWikipedia Tuesday's Gone
Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn BridgeWikipedia The Worst That Could Happen
Martha and the VandellasWikipedia Dancing in the Street
Martha and the VandellasWikipedia Nowhere to Run
Dave Matthews BandWikipedia Crash into Me
Paul McCartney & WingsWikipedia Live and Let Die
Barry McGuireWikipedia Eve of Destruction
Don McLeanWikipedia American Pie Due to its references of "the day the music died", where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Vallens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash.
MegadethWikipedia Dread and the Fugitive Mind
MegadethWikipedia Sweating Bullets
John MellencampWikipedia Crumblin' Down
John MellencampWikipedia Paper in Fire
MetallicaWikipedia Enter Sandman
MetallicaWikipedia Fade to Black
MetallicaWikipedia Harvester of Sorrow
MetallicaWikipedia Seek & Destroy
Steve Miller BandWikipedia Jet Airliner
Alanis MorissetteWikipedia Ironic
MudvayneWikipedia Death Blooms
Ricky NelsonWikipedia Travelin' Man
NenaWikipedia 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons Noted peace anthem about an accidental nuclear war
Nine Inch NailsWikipedia Head Like a Hole "God money's not one to choose. Head like a hole, black as your soul, I'd rather die than give you control!"
Oingo BoingoWikipedia Dead Man's Party
Ozzy OsbourneWikipedia Suicide Solution
Paper LaceWikipedia The Night Chicago Died
John ParrWikipedia St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) "I can feel radio censorship burning in me"
Peter and GordonWikipedia I Go to Pieces
Peter and GordonWikipedia A World Without Love
Peter, Paul and MaryWikipedia Blowin' in the Wind
Peter, Paul and MaryWikipedia Leaving on a Jet Plane Written by John DenverWikipedia who coincidentally died in a light aircraft accident in 1997
Tom PettyWikipedia Free Fallin'
Pink FloydWikipedia Mother "Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?"
Pink FloydWikipedia Run Like Hell
P.O.D.Wikipedia Boom
Elvis PresleyWikipedia (You're the) Devil in Disguise
The PretendersWikipedia My City Was Gone
QueenWikipedia Another One Bites the Dust
QueenWikipedia Killer Queen
Rage Against the MachineWikipedia All songs "Lights out, Guerrilla Radio! Turn that sh*t off!"
Red Hot Chili PeppersWikipedia Aeroplane
Red Hot Chili PeppersWikipedia Under the Bridge
R.E.M.Wikipedia It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
The Rolling StonesWikipedia Ruby Tuesday "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday"
Mitch Ryder & the Detroit WheelsWikipedia Devil with a Blue Dress On
SalivaWikipedia Click Click Boom
SantanaWikipedia Evil Ways
Savage GardenWikipedia Crash and Burn
Simon & GarfunkelWikipedia Bridge over Troubled Water An odd choice: traditionally considered a very fitting song for sad times, and a perennial at funerals[9]
Frank SinatraWikipedia New York, New York aka "Theme from New York, New York"; widely seen as a celebration of the city, and Liza Minnelli actually performed it at the first pro sports game in the New York metro after 9/11[10]
SlipknotWikipedia Left Behind
SlipknotWikipedia Wait and Bleed
The Smashing PumpkinsWikipedia Bullet with Butterfly Wings
SoundgardenWikipedia Black Hole Sun
SoundgardenWikipedia Blow Up the Outside World
SoundgardenWikipedia Fell on Black Days
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia I'm Goin' Down
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia I'm on Fire
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia War
Edwin StarrWikipedia War
SteamWikipedia Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
Cat StevensWikipedia Morning Has Broken
Cat StevensWikipedia Peace Train It's unclear why 2 Stevens songs were only the list, aside from the fact that he's a Muslim and Clear Channel didn't want them on radio
Stone Temple PilotsWikipedia Big Bang Baby
Stone Temple PilotsWikipedia Dead and Bloated
Sugar RayWikipedia Fly
The SurfarisWikipedia Wipe Out
System of a DownWikipedia Chop Suey!
Talking HeadsWikipedia Burning Down the House
James TaylorWikipedia Fire and RainWikipedia
Temple of the DogWikipedia Say Hello 2 Heaven
Third Eye BlindWikipedia Jumper
The Three DegreesWikipedia When Will I See You Again
ToolWikipedia Intolerance
The TrammpsWikipedia Disco Inferno
U2Wikipedia Sunday Bloody Sunday The attack was on a Tuesday, although the song is peripherally about terrorism and primarily about the killing of innocent civilians by the British army[11]
Van HalenWikipedia Jump
Van HalenWikipedia Dancing in the Street
J. Frank Wilson and the CavaliersWikipedia Last Kiss
The YoungbloodsWikipedia Get Together
Zager and EvansWikipedia In the Year 2525Wikipedia "In the year 2525, if man is still alive"
The ZombiesWikipedia She's Not There Lyrically about an untrustworthy woman, not obviously connected with 9/11[12]

References[edit]

  1. Steven Wishnia, Bad Transmission: Clear Channel's Hit List. Archived from the original at lipmagazine.org, 24 October 2001.
  2. It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It. Slate, 17 September 2001.
  3. Thurston Hatcher, Radio stations retool playlists after attacks. CNN, 20 September 2001.
  4. Clear Channel says national "banned playlist" does not exist. Clear Channel Communications press release, archived from the original at content.clearchannel.com, 18 September 2001.
  5. Jeremy Dutton and William Puchert, Music industry responds to terrorism. Archived from the original at zephyr.unr.edu (University of Nevada, Reno), 10 October 2001.
  6. David Mikkelson, Clear Channel Banned Songs. Snopes, 15 April 2008.
  7. Neil Strauss, The Pop Life; After the Horror, Radio Stations Pull Some Songs. The New York Times, 19 September 2001.
  8. Mike Floorwalker. The 6 Most Hilarious Failures in Music Censorship History. Cracked, 20 January 2013.
  9. Songs Played at Funerals, Snopes, 15 May 2006
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Theme from New York, New York.
  11. See the Wikipedia article on Sunday Bloody Sunday.
  12. See the Wikipedia article on She's Not There.