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Clear Channel’s Bizarre Post 9/11 Song Blacklist

Topics: Music | Add A CommentBy admin | February 28, 2013

In the wake of a terrorist attack, you sure don’t want people Dancing in the Streets, Walking Like an Egyptian, or listening to Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”, now do you.

An unfortunate collision of world
events and visual theme can really
put a ding in your sales.

The other day I happened upon a tune I had forgotten existed, a song by Afro Celt Sound System called When You’re Falling, with Peter Gabriel on vocals (video below). It’s an uplifting tune with a persistent and catchy mandolin riff and Gabrielesque vocals and percussion, generally perceived around the world as a positive song about love and resilience. I actually own the CD it’s on, so I couldn’t for the life of me think of why it was that I had so completely forgotten about it. But as I did some quick poking around, I discovered one likely factor. The CD the song was on was released on June 19, 2001, so it would have been getting a little rotation just before September 11. Within just a couple of days of the attacks, Clear Channel circulated an internal memo with a recommendation of 165 songs that it might be inadvisable to play in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. If you do a little research, you’ll find that even Snopes is willing to reinforce Clear Channel’s attempts to distance themselves from the absurd list, but if you examine the language of Clear Channel’s backtracking in the press, they don’t deny issuing the list, they just try to frame it as some casual “recommendation”. But as anyone who has worked in a corporate environment knows, defying a “recommendation” can put your position in just as much peril as blatantly violating a clearly stated company policy. So Clear Channel’s denials are patently absurd. But not nearly as absurd as the list of songs. While you can almost understand items like Billy Joel’s “Only the Good Die Young” – not so much because of the lyrics but because the song is kind of crap in the first place – the list in its entirety is utterly preposterous. Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World? Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets? Nena’s 99 Red Balloons? Mitch Ryder’s Devil with a Blue Dress On? And then there are oddities like Alien Ant Farm’s cover of “Smooth Criminal” being on the list, but not Michael Jackson’s original version. See the entire list here, and tell us if you can find the logic behind it all. Below are a few of our choices for “Weirdest Choices for a Post-Terrorist Attack Blacklist” list.

Louis Armstrong – What a Wonderful World

When you’re trying to instill widespread panic and fear in the populace, the last thing you want them thinking about is the fact that by and large, the world is pretty wonderful.

The Bangles – Walk Like an Egyptian

Just look at those clothes. Clearly, they are terrorists, and that’s obviously some secret attack command in the pharaoh dance.

Martha and The Vandellas – Dancing In the Street

What could be more terrifying after a national trauma than to send an invitation, across the nation, a chance for folks to meet? A song like this of course. Before you know it, they’d form a big strong line, and get in time and start laughin’ and singin’.

Nena – 99 Red Balloons

“Ninety-nine red balloons, floating in the summer sky. Panic lads, it’s a red alert!” Okay, the song is sort of about a war tragedy, but puh-lease. They could’ve at least let the German language version play, right?

Afro Celt Sound System – When You’re Falling (ft. Peter Gabriel)

This is the tune that made me aware of the list in the first place. The discomfort around the key imagery is understandable, but the tune otherwise is cuter than a roomful of puppies…