The Ten Best Songs Clear Channel "Banned" In The Days Following The September 11 Attacks

Courtesy of our sister paper up in New York.
Courtesy of our sister paper up in New York.

Ten years ago today, three days after the September 11 attacks, Clear Channel sent out a mass email to its over 1,000 affiliate stations. The email included a list of songs with lyrics and/or titles that Clear Channel considered questionable in the wake of the attacks.

Songs on the list had titles and lyrical themes that included fire, guns, weapons in general, New York City, death, the Middle East, airplanes, anything too depressing and anything too political. When word got out about the email, news sources erroneously reported that the now-infamous "Clear Channel Memorandum" was a list of songs that the radio conglomerate banned from airplay on its stations. Clear Channel didn't make things any better when they denied the memorandum's existence entirely.

A minor furor erupted -- especially amongst left-wingers -- who love throwing shade at the sometimes Republican-affiliated Clear Channel. Was this censorship, or was Clear Channel simply being sensitive to listeners during trying times?

The truth about the memorandum eventually came out, courtesy of some research done by, who found out two things: One, the memorandum did exist, despite Clear Channel's denials; two, the songs on the list weren't actually banned from radio airplay, although Clear Channel strongly suggested that its stations eliminate the songs from their airplay (the final decision was left up to the radio stations themselves). Many opted in, a few didn't, and that was that.

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Clear Channel Memorandum, we've collected a list of the top 10 songs considered "questionable" by the radio conglomerate in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

We'd love to hear your opinion, so comment away. Do you think Clear Channel was right to send out this suggested list? Clear Channel is notorious for limiting playlists anyways; their affiliate stations aren't really known for playing controversial stuff in the first place. Was the uproar over the memorandum a moot point? Click on the jump, see our list, and give your two cents in the comments.

10. Every single song by Rage Against the Machine. OK, we get it. Rage are very political and all. But every single song? Really, Clear Channel?

9. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Travelin' Band." There's a mention of airplanes in this song, but we're not sure if anyone would have been that offended by it. Because it's been a decade since the attacks, we sometimes forget how sensitive and weird people really did get after this awful, generation-defining event.

8. Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me." The memorandum appears to be the result of executives scanning their airplay list and selecting songs based on title alone. Hence this selection.

7. Tom Petty, "Free Fallin." We've heard many independent music folks lament Clear Channel's seeming lack of knowledge of anything that has to do with music. This song's inclusion is, perhaps, proof positive of this. The title includes the word "falling," but it's a song about a commitment-phobic guy, for crying out loud.

6. Louis Armstrong, "Wonderful World." We think this tune would be inspiring to folks going through hard times; however, its inclusion in the movie Good Morning Vietnam, where it was played over a sequence showing the horrors of war, may have gotten it a spot on the list.


5. James Taylor, "Fire and Rain." Those Clear Channel folks must've seriously been freaking out to put this classic sensitive-dude love song on the list. It's got "fire" in the title, but the lyrics involve nothing more offensive than some weepy dude moping about a chick.

4. The Bangles, "Walk Like an Egyptian." Winner of the WTF award for vague mentions of the Middle East. Sensitivity in the wake of the tragedy is understandable; pulling this '80s dance track from rotation is a head-scratcher.

3. The Hollies, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother." Another WTF-worthy entry that we think would be more inspiring than depressing during troubling times.

2. Bob Dylan, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Considering the criteria, it makes sense why this song was on the list. The Guns N' Roses cover of this tune is also on the list. A few other songs in the memo, such as "Smooth Criminal," were banned only in cover form (Alien Ant Farm).

1. The Beatles, "Ticket to Ride." We're really not sure which category this one falls under. Was it too happy? Sure, the victims onboard the fateful flights did have to buy tickets, but we think this one is a bit of a stretch.

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