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Banned in the USA

On September 11, 2001, Clear Channel owned 1200 radio stations in the United States. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, programmers came up with a blacklist of sorts, of songs that might possibly cause trauma or offense. The list was only meant to be suggestions, but staff at each station adhered to it pretty closely, for years afterward. The radio adage is that "what you don't play can't hurt you," and no one wants to put their job in jeopardy over a song. On the other hand, not getting radio airplay in 2001 had a profound effect on the musicians behind those songs. Some had just released albums or singles that were stopped in their tracks, while others saw their entire careers damaged. Fifteen years later, Ringer talked to five artists who were on the list.

C.J. Pierce [Drowning Pool]: We started doing USO tours. We went over and played on active bases. We went to Iraq and Kuwait a few times. And the troops, they said they would listen to “Bodies” to get in the right frame of mind to do their job, to come home safe. We felt more of a sense of a reverse effect: Radio wasn’t playing it, but everybody else affected by the situation was listening to the song.

Serj Tankian [System of a Down]: On 9/12, I had written a statement called “Understanding Oil” and posted it to the band’s website [the next day]. It was basically a very — it was a geopolitical thought process, trying to understand what had happened and how it was linked to our foreign policy of the past 50 years, et cetera. And it was really — we got a lot of heat for it. Death threats, you name it. It taught me a valuable lesson: It’s quite easy to speak the truth when public opinion is on your side. It’s not, when it’s not. It’s pretty painful when it’s not. But the truth doesn’t change.

Richard Patrick [Filter]: At some point, I don’t know what happened, but everyone just wanted to be entertained by the pretty people. It was like the end of — it was like a place where all of a sudden the world became too horrified by reality, and then all of a sudden everyone wanted all their entertainment to be pretty. Even in movies and stuff like that.

Read the rest of the sad but fascinating oral history of the musical aftermath of 9/11 with these guys plus Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Barry McGuire.  -via Nag on the Lake


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