Scene, Heard

Selected songs disappear from the playlists at Clear Channel stations

In the wake of September 11's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., many may feel as though it's the end of the world as they know it. But if you turn on your radio and want to hear R.E.M. say the same thing--via its song "It's the End of the World as We Know It," off 1987's Document--you're probably going to have to wait awhile.

Why? Because that song, along with dozens of others, has been pulled off radio station playlists indefinitely. For the past week, rumors have been floating around the Internet--and even making their way into The New York Times, among other respected news outlets--of a ban placed on songs with questionable lyrics and titles. The embargo was reportedly engineered by Clear Channel Communications, the San Antonio-based company that owns and operates more than 1,000 radio stations in the United States, including KDGE-FM (102.1), KEGL-FM (97.1), KHKS-FM (106.1) and KZPS-FM (92.5). The list contains everything from Rage Against the Machine's entire catalog to patriotic tunes such as Neil Diamond's "America." (Drowning Pool's "Bodies" is also apparently on the list, but that just may be a case of someone exercising good taste for a change.) Some of the songs reported to be banned--for now, at least--include several obvious choices (Metallica's "Seek and Destroy," Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution," pretty much every single AC/DC title), but others (The Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," for instance) make little sense.

Unless someone is lying, there is no such ban. Clear Channel has denied the existence of the list, saying in a release issued September 18 that it "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. Each program director and general manager must take the pulse of his or her market to determine if playlists should be altered, and if so, for how long."

But there is a list of songs. While Clear Channel's denial of a management-sponsored ban appears to be the truth, an unofficial list of suspect songs has been circulating among its program directors. According to Clear Channel's regional senior vice president of programming, Jack Evans, some program directors at Clear Channel stations around the country began trading e-mails, eager to make the airwaves as friendly as possible after the events of September 11. From the looks of the list we've seen, it seems as though some of them were a touch too eager, suggesting songs for elimination that maybe people would want to listen to now, such as John Lennon's "Imagine." Of course, it's important to point out, the songs on the list were intended merely as suggestions, songs each station might want to listen to before they decided to keep them in rotation or not. As KDGE-FM's Alan Ayo says, it was up to the station what went on the air.

"I can tell you that we feel the Edge audience most likely echoes our sentiments in that it's probably not the most appropriate time to hear things like 'It's the End of the World as We Know It' or [Dave Matthews Band's] 'Crash Into Me' or maybe [Third Eye Blind's] 'Jumper,'" says Ayo, KDGE-FM's music director and assistant program director. "Have we been banned from playing them? Absolutely not. Clear Channel has been helpful in pooling its people to share thoughts on specific content of our music, but has left the ultimate decision up to its individual programmers.

"There's no blueprint for this," Ayo continues. "We're just doing the best we can at trying to represent our audience in what they're feeling. Personally, I think no song in our catalog better represents the sentiment out there, lyrically, than Local H's 'Bound for the Floor.' But am I being insensitive, considering the title, if I play it? Is there even a right answer or a wrong one? How long will this go on? I think that could only be determined on a day-to-day basis, depending on how this whole dark nightmare develops."

Until then, if you want to hear "It's the End of the World as We Know It," get a CD. There are more important things to worry about. If you want to hear the Dave Matthews Band's "Crash Into Me," on the other hand, we ask you to stay as far away from us as is humanly possible...

On October 12, Deep Ellum's monthly Deep Friday extravaganza will benefit the victims of the September 11 tragedy. As usual, one admission price buys you a wristband that gets you into all participating clubs (Trees, Club Clearview, Galaxy Club, Gypsy Tea Room, Curtain Club, Club Dada and more), and this time, every cent goes to helping those who need it. They're calling it Deep Relief, and everyone needs to come out. Stay tuned for more details next week...

Though it doesn't really seem all that important at the moment, the CMJ Music Marathon, previously scheduled for September 13-15 in New York, has been rescheduled for October 11-14. Centro-matic, Chomsky, Clumsy, The Deathray Davies, The Mag 7 and Pleasant Grove, among others, were supposed to make the trip to NYC to perform at the annual music festival, and we're sure at least some of them will be there for the makeup dates. With CMJ rescheduled for the same weekend the North Texas Music Festival was originally going to happen, the NTMF has changed its plans as well. The new date for the local shindig has now been moved to November 14-18 "in an effort not to lose many great Dallas-Fort Worth-area artists to the New York conference," according to Crystal Clear's Teresa Hale. Go to www.newmusicfestival.com for any and all updates. Meaning: We just said all we know, so don't bother e-mailing us...

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