Clear Channel memorandum
Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia), the largest owner of radio stations in the United States, circulated an internal memo containing a list of songs that program directors felt were "lyrically questionable" to play in the aftermath of the attack.
During the time immediately after the attacks, many television and radio stations altered normal programming in response to the events, and the rumour spread that Clear Channel and its subsidiaries had established a list of songs with lyrics Clear Channel deemed "questionable". The list was not a demand not to play the songs listed, but rather a suggestion that they "might not want to play these songs". The list was made public by the independent radio industry newsletter Hits Daily Double, which was not affiliated with iHeartMedia. Snopes.com did research on the subject and concluded that the list did exist as a suggestion for radio stations but noted that it was not an outright ban on the songs in question. The compiled list was the subject of media attention around the time of its release.
The list contains 165 suggestions, including a single suggestion for all songs by Rage Against the Machine as well as certain songs recorded by multiple artists (for example Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and the version by Guns N' Roses). In some cases, only certain versions of songs were included on the list. For example, the cover of "Smooth Criminal" by Alien Ant Farm is on the list while the original Michael Jackson recording is not. Similarly, J. Frank Wilson's version of "Last Kiss" is included, but Pearl Jam's cover is not. Also, Martha and the Vandellas's original version of "Dancing in the Street" and Van Halen's version are included; David Bowie and Mick Jagger's recording was excluded from the list. Also, the song "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul, and Mary is included, but the version by the song's composer John Denver is not. AC/DC has the most individual songs listed, with seven, although Rage Against the Machine have their entire catalogue of songs listed.
Reasons for inclusions
Notably, the Clear Channel memorandum contains songs that, in their titles or lyrics, vaguely refer to open subjects intertwined with the September 11 attacks like airplanes, collisions, death, wars, and violence, as well as the sky, falling, and weapons, and even two celebratory songs dealing with events occurring in the month of September. Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" was infamously included because of Clear Channel's belief that happy music was inappropriate for broadcast following the attacks. WASH supposedly played Kool & The Gang's "Celebration" while the memorandum was being circulated, "which brought a polite if reproachful call from one listener, who was assured by the station the song’s broadcast was a mistake."
List of songs
- "When You're Falling" is listed as being by Peter Gabriel, but is actually by Afro Celt Sound System, with Gabriel as guest vocalist.
- The original name of the song was "Speed Kills", but following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Bush renamed the song "The People That We Love".
- "Suicide Solution" is listed as being by Black Sabbath, but is actually by Ozzy Osbourne, a lead singer of Black Sabbath.
- Wishnia, Steven (October 24, 2001). "Bad Transmission: Clear Channel's Hit List". Reviews. LiP magazine. Archived from the original on April 16, 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
- Dutton, Jeremy; Puchert, William. (October 10, 2001). "Music industry responds to terrorism". Zephyr. Archived from the original on June 20, 2008. Retrieved May 24, 2008.
- "Radio, Radio". Snopes.com. September 18, 2001. Retrieved May 24, 2008.
- Truitt, Eliza (September 17, 2001). "It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It". Slate.com. Archived from the original on October 15, 2007. Retrieved September 14, 2007. Slate published what it claimed was a copy of the list.
- Hatcher, Thurston. "CNN.com - Radio stations retool playlists after attacks - September 20, 2001". www.cnn.com. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
- Bertin, Michael (November 30, 2001). "Imagine: The music business in a post-911 world". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved April 17, 2011.
- "Clear Channel Says National "Banned Playlist" Does Not Exist" (PDF) (Press release). Clear Channel Communications, Inc. September 18, 2001. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2002. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
- Friedlander, Paul; Peter Mill (2006). Rock and Roll: A Social History. Basic Books. pp. 309–310. ISBN 0-8133-4306-2.
- Klinenberg, Eric (2007). Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America's Media. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-7819-0.
- Kolodzy, Janet (2006). Convergence Journalism: Writing and Reporting Across the News Media. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0-7425-3886-9.
- Milner, Andrew (2004). Literature, Culture And Society. Routledge. pp. 154–155. ISBN 0-415-30785-6.
- Strauss, Neil (November 19, 2001). "The Pop Life; After the Horror, Radio Stations Pull Some Songs". Arts. The New York Times. Retrieved August 4, 2008.