After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, several program directors at radio stations owned by Clear Channel Communications compiled a list of songs with titles or lyrics that people might find to be insensitive. Some were listed for their lyrics, others for their titles. For one music group, Rage Against The Machine, it was not the title of their songs nor the lyrics that put them on the list, but their band name.

However, as word of the list spread, it was rumored that the corporate office of Clear Channel Communications had compiled the list, and banned its radio stations from playing the songs listed. It spread rapidly over the internet, and eventually made its way to the mass media, even after Clear Channel Communications made it clear they were not banning songs.

Upon browsing the list, it becomes apparent that many song were single out on title alone. John Lennon's Imagine was actually performed by Neil Young on a telethon to raise money for victims of the terrorist acts in New York City and Washington, D.C. Some songs, like Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, would be a song that could very well be a source of some measure of calm and soothing, if not comfort.

I went through the list, trying to figure out the connections between the songs and the tragedy of 9/11. My mind had to make some pretty big leaps to figure out how songs made the list. The more I tried to wrap my mind around it, the more the list seemed like some sick joke from rec.humor.tasteless. What seemed offensive was not the song titles or lyrics, but the possible rationale for putting the songs on the list in the first place.

Some examples:

  • Dio's Holy Diver - As we know, terrorists used the name of Allah to justify hijacking airliners and diving them into building like kamikaze pilots. Seriously, these fuckers are to Islam what Fred Phelps is to Christianity.
  • Pink Floyd's Run Like Hell - People in lower Manhattan certainly ran like hell as they saw the towers of the World Trade Center collapsing. If the terrorists that backed this plot know what's good for them, they'll Run Like Hell too. This comes from the rock music masterpiece known as The Wall, and anyone who's listened to the lyrics knows that Roger Waters was denouncing the very brand of hate embodied by religious and racist extremists.
  • Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky - This is a song about wanting to go to heaven upon one's death. Yea, I suppose that's what the terrorists were hoping for too. But seriously, don't we hope the victims are in a place of peace as well? I certainly do.
  • REM's It's The End Of The World as We Know it - In a way, 9/11 was the end of the world as we know it. It certainly changed. I know when I woke up and turned on my TV after receiving several voice mail messages advising me to do so, I thought it either the end of the world, or the beginning of World War III.
  • Rolling Stones Ruby Tuesday - Mention of Tuesday bad. Guess we'll have to go to a six day week.
  • The Beatles A Day in the Life - "I heard the news today, oh boy!" 3 other Beatles songs were listed too. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds: I guess the sky is bad too, now. Ticket to Ride: I guess it has to be for an airplane, right? It couldn't be for a train, which many people chose as an alternative to air travel even after airlines were allow to fly again. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da: For those of us among the living, life does go on, at least eventually. I guess this was deemed too upbeat. DrSeudo just pointed out to me that it could also be that O, B, and L form the initials of Osama bin Laden, and if true, that's extremely lame. Seriously, though, do we want to censor one of the best and most influential bands of all times?

Doesn't this play right into the hands of the terrorists that want to see our way of life destroyed? Are we this eager to hand over our culture, our freedoms, our way of life in the name of being "sensitive?" If so, then we might as well give up the war against terrorism, because terrorism has already won.

I acknowledge that fact that playing some songs really could have been in poor taste, of show lack of sensitivity. However, the mere idea of compiling a list of songs to not play is very offensive to me, and was also offensive and alarming to my grandmother.

The Clear Channel's list of questionable songs is not what it originally appeared to be. As explained below, its intent was beneficial, but the ramifications of it were potentially malicious. However, its existence today captures far reaching implications for what music on the whole means to society, and it illustrates the civilized world's response to terrorism in all its forms. Clear Channel's list of questionable songs, be it deliberate or by fated whimsy, offers an example of the best art has to offer the world, how art can be exploited, and why art must never be censored.

Prior to Nine Eleven, the U.S. Congress had set into action the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which effectively lifted restrictions of media ownership, allowing a single company to accumulate many media companies under the same banner. Five years after 1996, the media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications had purchased over a thousand radio stations and almost a score of television stations in the United States of America as well as other similar media interests both in North America and abroad. Prior to Nine Eleven, there had already been voices of opposition, questioning whether this near monopoly of power was constitutional or in other ways maleficent to free speech, competition in the music industry and postitive growth in other related media industries. This was the climate of things prior to the terrorist attack, which seemed to exacerbate people's anxieties about the future of free press and corporate sponsored media.

On the morning of September 11, 2001 a terrible tragedy occurred on the eastern coastline of the United States of America. Four commercial airplanes were hijacked by terrorists almost simultaneously. The first two planes were crashed into New York's World Trade Center's twin towers and a third crashed into the Pentagon. The fourth airplane is believed to have been aiming for the White House but according to reports of the loved ones for the inhabitants of the plane who received last minute cellphone calls, it is believed the inhabitants of that plane overtook the terrorists at the last minute and during the fracas on board, the plane crash landed "safely" in Pennsylvania farmland, killing everyone inside, but fortunately not crashing into any more buildings. Those brave souls who died that day are seen by some as heroes.

The ramifications of this terrible day rippled throughout civilized society. Several countries offered moral support and prayer vigils occurred throughout the world. The New York Stock Exchange was put on hold for a week and several companies who had offices in the World Trade Center towers were seriously compromised. Other companies suddenly had to take stock of their own situations and contemplate new security measures to prevent this happening to them. The airline industry grounded all flights, and some companies in that industry are still feeling the fallout from millions of dollars in revenue lost. Even comedians and late night talk show hosts suddenly felt uncomfortable continuing with "business as usual." David Letterman made a public statement during his program one week later, explaining he would take it slow. As with all other facets of day-to-day life, the music industry also felt the effects of the terrorist attacks.

Within the first few days after Nine Eleven, programming executives for Clear Channel Communications owned and operated radio stations throughout North America began discussing this situation. The New York Times reported that a small list of songs was originally generated by the corporate office of Clear Channel, but that a programming executive expanded upon it. One unnamed program director consulted with many peers operating several of the Clear Channel owned radio stations, sending one another email messages regarding the tragedy, and how best might the programming of their stations reflect this event. The original list was expanded upon in this email exchange, consisting of songs which all Clear Channel owned radio stations might wish to temporarily avoid playing live on the air, at least until the opinions and attitudes of the listening public could be better gauged. This was only an advisory listing, and not a mandate by The Powers That Be. The unnamed programming executive and those who concurred with his assessment meant well. He was thinking proactively, hoping to avoid a potential mass media public relations failure. If one of Clear Channel's radio stations was found lacking in social graces, and played a song which might inadvertently offend the listening audience, the results could have been dramatic.

The list in question was preliminary, but it grew to over one hundred and fifty popular tunes of the twentieth century which some programming executives deemed insensitive in light of the terrorist attacks. There's errors inherent in the list which brings question to the music knowledge of those who conjured it. Ozzy Osbourne recorded Suicide Solution after he left Black Sabbath so it's not a BS song as the list describes. John Cougar Mellencamp never recorded a version of Bruce Springsteen's song "I'm On Fire" and yet the list insinuates Mellencamp had. Admittedly these mistakes are understandably human, but to afficianadoes of twentieth century music it's disconcerting that a company which is charged with the task of keeping this music alive and in the public's ear would be so awkward in their inaccuracies. Yet another clue that this list was in the works and incomplete when it reached the public eye.

How it happened is uncertain, but someone leaked this list to the press, or prematurely forwarded this list to people within subordinate individuals among Clear Channel's employ who leaked it to the press. Actual details are of course classified within CC's corporate structure, but one or more individuals privy to the mailing list may have been less sympathetic towards those suffering for the loss of lives on Nine Eleven, and more empathic towards the principles of constitutional rights. They sensed this as a dangerous precedent, that a large corporate entity like Clear Channel would contemplate banning certain songs on the grounds of content. Though the initial intent and impetus of this unofficial list of songs was sincere and pure, the scruples of enforcing this list were also a potential PR faux pas. Unbeknownst to those in the know, they were 'damned if you do, damned if you don't.'

Someone leaked this list of songs to the press, and a misunderstanding (whether it was purposefully deliberate or inadvertently accidental may never be fully known) resulted. In less than a week, this leaked list made its way through many mass media outlets, and it was reported to the American public that this list was authorized by Clear Channel as a list sent to all their radio affiliates, with the understanding that a programming executive's job would be on the line if they opted to allow any of these songs airplay in the immediate future.

Rebecca Allmon, spokesperson for Clear Channel Communications, said to reporters that, "A person in programming created a list of songs some might feel was offensive and circulated it... It was never endorsed by the company." Still, despite Clear Channel's early voices of alarm at the reports of the list in question, the more alarmist statements painting Clear Channel as the bad guy became prevalent. On September 18th, Clear Channel issued a formal statement in which they denied ever having made any official list of such songs. However, the damage had already been done.

From the official statement: "Clear Channel Radio has not banned any songs from any of its radio stations... Clear Channel believes that radio is a local medium. It is up to every radio station program director and general manager to understand their market, listen to their listeners and guide their station's music selections according to local sensitivities."

The list that was intended to prevent a public relations fiasco, inadvertently created one instead. Many voices raised a fervor. Those opponents to Clear Channel's power added this list as evidence to the other amounting circumstantial evidence suggesting that Clear Channel's intent was to purposefully control the voice of the country, and control what the American audience could and would be exposed to both artistically and via news sources.

E2 peer LadySun summarized these voices most eloquently: "{Clear Channel's} huge standing in the industry, coupled with the demeaning and ruthless management practices of Randy Michaels, has resulted in a tyrannical treatment of employees of the company. This includes nondisparagement clauses in employee contracts, and severance packages dependent on signed forms that pledge that the signer cannot speak to the press under any circumstances. Employees of the company live in fear of their boss. Therefore, it goes without saying that if employees want to keep their jobs, they follow any orders given to them."

It was like worst fears being realized. Censorship reigning supreme. Clear Channel made a formal statement and some of their radio stations even made a point to play some of the songs to prove that there was no official censorship, but the naysayers still utilized this list for weeks and months afterwards, as proof to their suspicions. Clear Channel found themselves doing damage control to redeem their reputation, and in the eyes of many, they still haven't succeeded.

The list itself though, is phenomenal. Some of the songs proved in the days and weeks of the aftermath to not be catalysts for negative emotions, but rather anthems of solidarity among the American public and the civilized world. Neil Young performed John Lennon's Imagine during a televised benefit for the families of the fallen, and Paul Simon reprised his Bridge Over Troubled Water on the same broadcast. Paul McCartney and many other talented artists both on and off the list in question (including The Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Lenny Kravitz, Elton John, Alanis Morissette, and many others) performed in the weeks after the tragedy to cheering crowds who were not offended by the words or emotions of the music. During a benefit performance dedicated to New York's Finest and New York's Bravest, James Taylor performed Fire and Rain to a joyfully tear-filled crowd, and both the irony and pride was not lost on the audience. Taylor wrote that song long ago for a lost loved one, and the sentiments were shared that night by others who had lost loved ones. Instead of causing a riot or enacting suicidal tendencies, this music served to help the healing process, and allowed people to share in their grief and in the triumph that no matter what was thrown at civilization, it would prevail and persevere. Instead of dividing us, the music helped bring people together.

The reason these songs were picked out of the thousands of songs played on radio since its first broadcast is complex. Each song contains lyrics which mention planes or buildings or in some other way could bring to mind in the listener images or sounds of Nine Eleven. The band name Rage Against The Machine itself was deemed by some as controversial and insensitive. So some feel the songs send a different message to the listener today than they did prior to the terrorist attack. These songs were not chosen because they are of bad quality. In fact, the quality of these songs was not taken into consideration. All of them are of radio quality so no one was insinutating these songs were poor in any way other than the potential negative emotions they might incite. It was whether or not they affected an audience member in a potentially adverse way that led to the question of censorship. Ironically, art can be defined as a work that elicits emotional reactions from its audience. To those songs and artists listed, it's a backhanded compliment. This music is so good it can make people happy and sad simultaneously. Strangely enough, many of the songs on the list were not receiving regular airplay prior to Nine Eleven anyway, so had the list not been made, some of these songs may have continued to sink into obscurity, although they all deserve to flourish on their own merits.

Though the list's inception was to protect the audience from negative feelings, full exposure to the music in question is potentially a positive experience. It's some of the best music of the twentieth century. If one were to go through the list and accumulate all the music for themselves, then listen to them, they would be overwhelmed by the sheer brilliance and power of several talented indivduals who expressed themselves freely and without inhibition. This list of music is a living tribute to everything America holds dear and true. From James Taylor to Jimi Hendrix. From AC/DC to The Zombies. What's there not to love? This is not music to put away on a shelf in hopes of happier times. This music represents the reason why those who believe in the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness should fight for them. This list is a tribute to the human spirit.

AC/DC "Shot Down in Flames," "Shoot to Thrill," "Dirty Deeds," "Highway to Hell," "Safe in New York City," "TNT," "Hell's Bells"
The Ad Libs "The Boy from New York City"
Alice in Chains "Rooster," "Sea of Sorrow," "Down in a Hole," "Them Bone"
Alien Ant Farm "Smooth Criminal"
Animals "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"
Louis Armstrong "What A Wonderful World"
The Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian"
Barenaked Ladies "Falling for the First Time"
Fontella Bass "Rescue Me"
Beastie Boys "Sure Shot," "Sabotage"
The Beatles "A Day in the Life," "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Obla Di, Obla Da," "Ticket To Ride"
Pat Benatar "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," "Love is a Battlefield"
Black Sabbath "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," "Suicide Solution," "War Pigs"
Blood Sweat and Tears "And When I Die"
Blue Oyster Cult "Burnin' For You"
Boston "Smokin"
Brooklyn Bridge "Worst That Could Happen"
Bush "Speed Kills"
Arthur Brown "Fire"
Jackson Brown "Doctor My Eyes"
Chi-Lites "Have You Seen Her"
Petula Clark "A Sign of the Times"
The Clash "Rock the Casbah"
Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight"
Creedence Clearwater Revival "Travelin' Band"
The Cult "Fire Woman"
Bobby Darin "Mack the Knife"
Dave Clark Five "Bits and Pieces"
Dave Matthews Band "Crash Into Me"
Skeeter Davis "End of the World"
Neil Diamond "America"
Dio "Holy Diver"
The Doors "The End"
Drifters "On Broadway"
Drowning Pool "Bodies"
Bob Dylan "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Everclear "Santa Monica"
Shelly Fabares "Johnny Angel"
Filter "Hey Man, Nice Shot"
Foo Fighters "Learn to Fly"
Fuel "Bad Day"
Peter Gabriel "When You're Falling"
The Gap Band "You Dropped a Bomb On Me"
Godsmack "Bad Religion"
Norman Greenbaum "Spirit in the Sky"
Green Day "Brain Stew"
Guns N Roses "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
Happenings "See You in Septemeber"
Jimmy Hendrix "Hey Joe"
Herman's Hermits "Wonderful World"
Hollies "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
Buddy Holly and the Crickets "That'll Be the Day"
Jan and Dean "Dead Man's Curve"
Billy Joel "Only the Good Die Young"
Elton John "Benny and The Jets," "Daniel," "Rocket Man"
Judas Priest "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll"
Kansas "Dust in the Wind"
Carole King "I Feel the Earth Move"
Korn "Falling Away From Me"
Lenny Kravitz "Fly Away"
John Lennon "Imagine"
Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls of Fire"
Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven"
Local H "Bound for the Floor"
Los Bravos "Black is Black"
Limp Bizkit "Break Stuff"
Lynyrd Skynyrd "Tuesday's Gone"
Martha and the Vandellas "Dancing in the Streets," "Nowhere to Run"
Paul McCartney and Wings "Live and Let Die"
Barry McGuire "Eve of Destruction"
Don McLean "American Pie"
Megadeth "Dread and the Fugitive," "Sweating Bullets"
John Mellencamp "Crumbling Down," "I'm On Fire"
Metallica "Enter Sandman," "Fade to Black," "Harvester of Sorrow," "Seek and Destroy"
Alanis Morissette "Ironic"
Mudvayne "Death Blooms"
Rickey Nelson "Travelin' Man"
Nena "99 Red Balloons" aka "99 Luftballons"
Nine Inch Nails "Head Like a Hole"
Oingo Boingo "Dead Man's Party"
Paper Lace "The Night Chicago Died"
John Parr "St. Elmo's Fire"
Peter and Gordon "A World Without Love," "I Go To Pieces"
Peter Paul and Mary "Blowin' in the Wind," "Leavin' on a Jet Plane"
Tom Petty "Free Fallin'"
Pink Floyd "Mother," "Run Like Hell"
P.O.D. "Boom"
Elvis Presley "(You're the) Devil in Disguise"
Pretenders "My City Was Gone"
Queen "Another One Bites the Dust," "Killer Queen"
All Rage Against The Machine songs
Red Hot Chili Peppers "Aeroplane," "Under the Bridge"
REM "It's the End of the World as We Know It"
Rolling Stones "Ruby Tuesday"
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels "Devil with the Blue Dress"
Saliva "Click Click Boom"
Santana "Evil Ways"
Savage Garden "Crash and Burn"
Simon And Garfunkel "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
Frank Sinatra "New York, New York"
Slipknot "Left Behind, Wait and Bleed"
Smashing Pumpkins "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"
Soundgarden "Black Hole Sun," "Blow Up the Outside World," "Fell on Black Days"
Bruce Springsteen "Goin' Down," "I'm On Fire," "War"
Edwin Starr "War"
Steam "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey"
Steve Miller Band "Jet Airliner"
Cat Stevens "Morning Has Broken," "Peace Train"
Stone Temple Pilots "Big Bang Baby," Dead and Bloated"
Sugar Ray "Fly"
Surfaris "Wipeout"
System of a Down "Chop Suey!"
Talking Heads "Burning Down the House"
James Taylor "Fire and Rain"
Temple of the Dog "Say Hello to Heaven"
Third Eye Blind "Jumper"
Three Degrees "When Will I See You Again"
3 Doors Down "Duck and Run"
311 "Down"
Tool "Intolerance"
Tramps "Disco Inferno"
U2 "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
Van Halen "Dancing in the Streets," "Jump"
J. Frank Wilson "Last Kiss"
Yager and Evans "In the Year 2525"
Youngbloods "Get Together"
Zombies "She's Not There"

Update: October 16th 2005

On the weekend of September 11th, 2005, with the help of some friends over at I managed to broadcast all the songs on the above list to a small audience through WKOL Radio. It took most of a day and was a great time, thus living a dream I had had since this list was first brought to the public eye. It was quite an experience to hear all these songs together in their entirety, uncensored.

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