When Your Favorite Songs Were Banned in the Wake of 9/11

The twentieth anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11 has coincided with the supposed finish of America’s longest conflict and haphazard withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, elevating recent questions of how we bought right here within the first place.

Within the instant aftermath of the assaults, there was no clear guidebook on how one can transfer ahead. The whole nation had simply witnessed an unfathomable tragedy unfold as New York Metropolis’s Twin Towers fell to the bottom.

The political machine shortly whirled into motion, and with a freshly traumatized nation searching for therapeutic and unity, was able to push through bills and acts that expanded government powers, including the Patriot Act and the Authorization for the Use of Army Pressure.

Even family-friendly Disney Channel performed an element in hammering house the concept of nationalism in having a handful of its beloved baby stars, together with Hilary Duff, Shia LaBeouf, and twins Tia and Tamera Mowry, wax lyrical about the American flag. The cringeworthy clips resurfaced final month and had been met with shock, together with a spot that featured a quick handle from then-first woman Laura Bush, who spoke of freedom and the way the flag represents all Individuals, it doesn’t matter what their faith or beliefs.

It was on this similar vein of thinly veiled propaganda wrapped up in patriotism that the nation’s largest radio firm, Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartRadio), tried to ban greater than 150 songs from the airwaves throughout its roughly 1,200 stations.

Any tune that talked about airplanes was focused, in addition to conflict, dying, and fireplace. The de facto ban appeared primarily to focus on rock, punk, and heavy metallic bands, akin to Alice in Chains, System of a Down, and each single monitor by Rage In opposition to the Machine. However comparatively innocuous songs had been included too, together with “Stroll Like an Egyptian,” due to its references to the Center East; the hopeful lyrics of John Lennon’s “Think about”; Louis Armstrong’s “What a Fantastic World”; and Frank Sinatra’s cheery “New York, New York.”

On the time, Clear Channel moved shortly to stamp out studies that it had issued a mandate that barred stations from taking part in these songs. But when the full list eventually leaked, top executives hurriedly placed the blame on those at the local level, calling it “a grass-roots effort that was apparently circulated amongst program administrators,” though the ultimate compiled record, often called the “Clear Channel memorandum,” was despatched out by firm administration.

On the floor, it is sensible for stations maybe to not play songs about dying, airplane crashes, or something doomsday-related out of an abundance of warning and sensitivity for freshly traumatized listeners, who had simply witnessed a terrorist assault unfold in actual time on their TVs. However in hindsight, it reeks of useless censorship.

Clear Channel’s actions don’t essentially shock Nora Pelizzari, director of communications for the Nationwide Coalition In opposition to Censorship. She advised The Day by day Beast there can typically be unquestioned assist for censorship when it’s branded as an act of patriotism, executed within the identify of the higher good. And whereas Clear Channel didn’t essentially violate any legal guidelines (as it’s a personal firm and due to this fact has the precise to freely select what goes on its airwaves), Pelizzari believes it actually violated the ideas of free expression.

“For personal firms to be making a blanket choice for your entire public about what they need to or shouldn’t devour in a time of disaster is extremely infantilizing,” Pelizzari says. “It additionally does a disservice to artwork generally and what music can do.”

“For personal firms to be making a blanket choice for your entire public about what they need to or shouldn’t devour in a time of disaster is extremely infantilizing. It additionally does a disservice to artwork generally and what music can do.”

Music has typically served as a refuge for numerous tragedies and joys, and the occasions of 9/11 ought to have been handled no in another way. Soul-soothing melodies of remembrance or in-your-face heavy metallic music as a technique to channel confusion and anger are methods to deal with these sophisticated feelings.

However Clear Channel disadvantaged listeners of the power to entry these kind of songs—which didn’t sit proper with Peter Asher, of the English duo Peter and Gordon, who voiced his displeasure in 2001 to The New York Times when studying his songs “I Go to Items” and “A World With out Love” had been on the record. “I suppose a tune about somebody going to items might be upsetting if somebody took it actually,” he mentioned. “However ‘I can’t stay in a world with out love’ is a sentiment that’s as true in disaster as it’s in regular occasions. It’s a completely pro-love sentiment and will solely be useful proper now.”

Pelizzari agrees. “It’s one factor to say, ‘Okay, we’re not going to launch a film that depicts something eerily much like what occurred on 9/11 as a result of we really feel now will not be the second when that’s going to get a great response… However John Lennon’s ‘Think about’ was on that record. What’s the justification there? The concept we shouldn’t be speaking about peace, we shouldn’t be speaking about folks coming collectively as one—that by some means that was going to be the unsuitable second to be speaking about that?”

Whereas some stations refused to pay any consideration to the record, and Clear Channel was adamant it by no means issued an outright mandate, Pelizzari says it’s simply semantics. “Censors like to say that they’re not banning something, they’re simply type of making ideas, or making it somewhat bit tougher for folks to make the selection to entry one thing, [so therefore] that doesn’t represent a ban,” she explains.

“Censors like to say that they’re not banning something, they’re simply type of making ideas…”

“Nevertheless it’s a chilling impact. A DJ would possibly say, ‘Oh, I’m allowed to play this tune, however I don’t need to danger my job. I don’t need to be questioned by my boss. The trail of least resistance is simply to not play it, so I’m simply not gonna play it.’ Over time, what does that do? The cumulative impact of that’s that these songs simply go away. We don’t hear them anymore.”

That chilling impact is precisely what occurred with Drowning Pool’s hit single “Our bodies,” with band member C.J. Pierce telling The Ringer in 2016 that the success of the song was nearly derailed by the ban as a result of radio was probably the most distinguished means for songs to succeed in followers on the time, taking years for the younger Dallas band to recuperate. It was a sentiment that was additionally echoed by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian for his or her No. 1 tune on the time “Lucy within the Sky with Diamonds,” which was primarily wiped from the charts.

A lot of the banned songs had been from rock or heavy metallic bands, a truth not misplaced on Pierce, who advised The Ringer that it’s unfair their listeners at all times appear to be unfairly focused.

The genres have lengthy been given the stepchild remedy by mainstream tradition, who’ve at all times fear-mongered that one of these music would encourage listeners to turn out to be menaces to society.

“Some folks go work out on the fitness center, they usually wish to hearken to metallic, simply to get pumped up— that’s all it’s, man,” Pierce mentioned. “It’s rock ’n’ roll. It’s metallic. It’s only a heavier model of music. I don’t know why metallic at all times will get focused. Nevertheless it has been.”

It may be as a result of heavy metallic and rock music have at all times been able to buck the established order and problem authority. Each tune by the famously political Rage In opposition to the Machine was banned, an indication that Clear Channel believed it was “insensitive” to be essential of the U.S. authorities on the time.

“It simply reinforces this type of nativist patriotism that’s actually troubling to see strengthened by personal firms, as a result of what it actually suggests is that dissent is unpatriotic, when in truth America is constructed on the precise to disagree with the federal government,” Pelizzari says.

“We should be allowed to entry dissenting views and opposing views to specific our personal dissent, our personal confusion, our personal anger, our personal agreements. That’s how our democracy features. Disagreement and debate are essential to considerate decision-making. In occasions of disaster, it’s much more necessary to make it possible for we’re permitting dissenting voices to be heard.”

Filter’s Richard Patrick summed it up greatest when telling The Ringer of how he was outraged when he realized the Ohio band’s 1995 tune “Hey Man, Good Shot” was included within the record.

“Did it actually impression me? Sure, morally,” he mentioned. “They self-censored ‘Hey Man, Good Shot’ off the radio when all people was saying, ‘Return to your regular lives.’ They took away our First Modification rights. That’s not the way in which you reply to terrorism… All of that’s an assault on freedom. That’s an assault on freedom—not taking part in music is an assault on freedom.” | When Your Favourite Songs Have been Banned within the Wake of 9/11


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