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Nomde P. Lum

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Patriots-shun these songs
by Nomde P. Lum   

Last edited: Thursday, November 14, 2002
Posted: Saturday, April 20, 2002

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An excerpt from my new book, *Discordant Sound.*

It's hard for me to know what to believe.

On the one hand, my local paper has run a list of songs which have allegedly been banned by Clear Channel Communications. This is a company which owns numerous radio stations, including some in my listening area. The list in the paper gives numerous songs which were apparently declared in a memo from Clear Channel corporate headquarters to be inappropriate for playing in light of the terrorist attack on September 11.

On the other hand, the Clear Channel Communications Web site says that the company has never banned any songs. The company has faith in the local radio stations, and there is no list of forbidden songs. That's what they say.

How do I decide between these two accounts? Should I believe the media, as represented by my local paper, or should I believe the public-relations department of a large corporation? That's quite a choice.

I would assume that the truth lies somewhere between these two accounts. The most likely scenario is that Clear Channel Communications sent local stations a list of allegedly inappropriate songs. Although the stations which got this memo would presumably hesitate before playing songs denounced by corporate headquarters, this doesn't necessarily mean that Clear Channel has formally banned the songs. In the corporate culture, a word to the wise is enough. If the boss doesn't like something, you don't do it, even if the boss doesn't formally forbid you to do it. Such is probably the case here. Clear Channel has said it doesn't like the playing of these songs under current circumstances. The message has probably been received.

I'm not saying that *all* local stations will ban the songs on the list. Given the media attention, Clear Channel will probably hesitate before punishing wayward deejays. However, many deejays and local station heads might "voluntarily" choose not to run the songs on the list.

This is probably a good thing. We're talking mostly about songs which *need* to be banned, either because of the war or for some other reason. Maybe some songs got banned that shouldn't have, but you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. Unless the corporate world suppresses these songs, the government might step in with massive censorship, in the name of promoting national unity and crushing subversion.

I won't list all the song's on Clear Channel's *Index CDorum Prohibitorum*. Let me simply mention a few of these songs.

First, there are songs which, although innocent in themselves, sound insensitive in light of the terrorist attacks. For example, there's "Tuesday's Gone," by Lynyrd Skynyrd. This hits too close to home, since of course the terrorist attack was on a Tuesday. Similar concerns exist with respect to the Beatles' "Ruby Tuesday." This is a depressing song which also deals with Tuesday. We don't need songs anymore to associate Tuesday with deep sorrow.

Nor do we need "Great Balls of Fire," by Jerry Lee Lewis. I assume that this song got on the list because of the title alone, as well as the repetition during the song of the title phrase. There's a song called "Bits and Pieces," by the Dave Clark Five. I haven't heard this one, but I guess this got scrapped based on the title. Also banned are "Sabotage," by the Beastie Boys, "Learn to Fly," by the Foo Fighters, and "Another One Bites the Dust," by Queen.

There are some songs which seem to have been banned despite their potential in rallying patriotic Americans. I wouldn't second-guess Clear Channel, however, so I assume that the company is trying to avoid songs which might enflame the jingoists. This may explain the inclusion on the list of "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," by Judas Priest; "Nowhere to Run," by Martha and the Vandellas; and "Seek and Destroy," by Metallica. These song titles appear to express the current position of the U. S. government toward certain groups and governments linked to terrorism. But these songs are so blatant that playing them might excite a too much enthusiasm against the enemy.

Some of the banned songs ought to have been banned long ago on general principles, war or no war. For instance....

[end of excerpt]

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