Fact Check

Clear Channel Banned Songs

Has Clear Channel Communications created a list of songs banned from airplay?

Published Sept. 18, 2001


Claim:   Clear Channel Communications banned their American radio stations from playing specified songs in order to avoid offending listeners.

Status:   False.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

Those of you in the Thought Police will find the following encouraging. Others of you might find it troubling:

In response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks, Clear Channel, the world's largest radio network, has sent out a list of some 150 "lyrically questionable" songs by everyone from the Animals to the Zombies which it has banned its stations from playing. Some songs are overtly violent in their intent, but the majority simply contain metaphorical language or narrative aspects that connect uncomfortably with the tragedy.

Clear Channel's List of Songs with Questionable Lyrics

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

Origins:   It's not unusual in a time of sadness and mourning such as the one following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. that radio and television stations temporarily suspend the airing of material — programs, songs, advertisements — that might be considered insensitive or in bad taste. Just as an airline wouldn't show in-flight films featuring airplane crashes, especially after a particularly horrible airliner accident, so entertainment outlets generally opt to temporarily dispense with material dealing with death and disaster in the wake of terrible real-life events. So, many radio stations have recently invoked voluntary moratoriums on songs which refer to airplanes, crashes, violence, and death in their lyrics or titles.

Accordingly, a program director at Clear Channel Communications (an organization which operates over 1,170 radio stations in the United States), after discussions with program directors at several of Clear Channel Radio's stations, compiled an advisory list of songs which stations might wish to avoid playing in the short term:

After and during what was happening in New York and Washington and outside of Pittsburgh, some of our program directors began e-mailing each other about songs and questionable song titles

Given the environment, a Clear Channel program director took it upon himself to identify a number of songs that certain markets or individuals may find insensitive today. This was not a mandate, nor was the list generated out of the corporate radio offices. It was a grassroots effort that was apparently circulated among program directors.

Note that The New York Times posits a smaller, earlier version of the list did originate in Clear Channel's corporate offices:

Others in the Clear Channel network . . . said that a smaller list of questionable songs was originally generated by the corporate office, but an overzealous regional executive began contributing suggestions and circulating the list via e-mail, where it continued to grow.

Other than some rather questionable choices of songs, the only thing remarkable about this list is that so many sensation-hungry news outlets have attempted to spin it as an outrageous mandate by Clear Channel to "ban" certain songs from the airwaves. Clear Channel did not issue the list to their stations as a directive mandating that the listed songs not be played, as Robert Hilburn noted in the Los Angeles Times:

The Clear Channel list is apparently not a flat prohibition against these songs by the nation's largest chain of radio stations. They are simply recordings whose appropriateness has been questioned by individual program directors.

Radio personnel were still free to make their own programming decisions, and the list was merely intended as helpful advisory information. For example, a program director scanning a list of song titles might not immediately recall that the lyrics to James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" are widely perceived as referring to a plane crash which supposedly claimed the life of his girlfriend (they don't), but the title's appearance on the list might help call that to mind.

Clearly (no pun intended), Clear Channel's stations were still making their own choices about what music to program, as The New York Times reported:

The move by Clear Channel, whose collective broadcasts reach more than 110 million listeners in the nation weekly, was voluntary. Many stations, including some in the New York area, said they were disregarding the list, which was distributed internally . . .

. . . compliance with the list varied from station to station. Angela Perelli, the vice president for operations at KYSR (98.7 FM) in Los Angeles, said the station was not playing any of the listed songs and had previously pulled a couple of the cited songs, "Jumper" by Third Eye Blind and "Fly" by Sugar Ray, on its own accord. On the other hand, Bob Buchmann, the program director and an on-air personality at WAXQ-FM (104.3) in Manhattan, said that some songs on the list ("American Pie" by Don McLean, "Imagine" and others) happened to be among the most-played songs on his station. In the meantime, the station decided not to broadcast some songs even though they did not make the list, such as "When You're Falling," a collaboration between Peter Gabriel and Afro-Celt Sound System that had fictional lyrics too eerily similar to the truth.

(Despite Slate's spin on the issue, Clear Channel did not deny that such a list existed. They maintained, correctly, that "Clear Channel Radio has not banned any songs from any of its radio stations.")

Although some of the entries on this list might make it appear a humorous parody at first glance, many stations are indeed forgoing even songs such as "What a Wonderful World" under the philosophy that upbeat music is inappropriate at this time:

Top 40 Z104 (WWZZ), owned by Bonneville, was pulling certain songs from the air because of their titles, such as Dave Matthews's "Crash Into Me." But General Manager Mark O'Brien said most songs that were yanked from the air were done so because of their "happy-go-lucky, life is great" tone. "Anything up-tempo is still off the air today," he said yesterday.

Giving a pass to songs such as "Ticket to Ride" or "I Go to Pieces" or "Ruby Tuesday" simply because of their titles might be a bit extreme, but there's no telling what an audience might find upsetting in the current climate, as the Washington Post reported:

Despite the efforts, some songs deemed inappropriate slipped through the cracks. The reaction was swift in at least one case, suggesting that people's sensitivities are on high alert. Over the weekend, WASH played Kool & the Gang's "Celebration," which brought a polite if reproachful call from one listener, who was assured by the station the song's broadcast was a mistake.

Last updated:   15 April 2008

  Sources Sources:

    Ahrens, Frank.   "After Heroics, Russian Reporter Stricken."

    The Washington Post.   18 September 2001   (p. C2).

    Brown, Mark.   "150 Songs Yanked from Radio Playlists."

    Rocky Mountain News.   19 September 2001   (p. C2).

    Hilburn, Robert.   "Judging Songs by Their Titles."

    Los Angeles Times.   19 September 2001.

    Strauss, Neil.   "After the Horror, Radio Stations Pull Some Songs."

    The New York Times.   19 September 2001.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

Article Tags