2001 Clear Channel memorandum

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Catharsis was exactly the opposite of what corporate radio was promoting. There was no room for songs of peace or hate, loss or exorcism, anger or despair. What we got was bland and mildly upbeat, the Chevy-commercial sentiments of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" and the cliched uplift of inspirational ballads like "Wind Beneath My Wings," surely one of the most annoying genres of music ever invented.
—Steven Wishnia[1]

On September 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 attacks, the top brass at Clear Channel sent an email to over 1,000 US radio stations "an updated and expanded list of songs with 'questionable lyrics' that they should avoid playing."[2][3] Clear Channel denied the claim,[4] but it received considerable media coverage at the time.[5] Though many reports claimed that the list was meant to prohibit radio stations from playing songs listed on it, the list was circulated as guidance. Many stations, including some in the New York area, ignored the list.[6]

Some of the songs making this list deal with fire or planes. In a perverse attempt to sterilize media in light of the terrorist attack, the memo recommends dropping songs like Fire and RainWikipedia's W.svg by James Taylor, Smokin'Wikipedia's W.svg by Boston, Burnin' for YouWikipedia's W.svg by Blue Öyster Cult, JumpWikipedia's W.svg by Van Halen, and Bennie and the JetsWikipedia's W.svg by Elton John from rotation, in case a listener might be triggered by the mere mention of a word.

The question was not that there would be kinds of music that would be inappropriate in the aftermath of the attacks, but the specific songs Clear Channel ultimately chose. It seemed more like an 1960s-style social conservative attack on popular rock music than an understandable suggestions list.

Many found the list baffling, and considered it a misguided attempt to ensure the nation's mental health. As such, it was roundly criticized as censorship and an ominous side effect of President George W. Bush's War on Terror.[7]

The list[edit]

…every single Rage Against the Machine song was notably poo-pooed by Clear Channel, as the Founding Fathers absolutely hated guitars that sound like turntables. Ditto goes for "I'm on Fire"… because nobody understands that the song was just Bruce Springsteen surreptitiously confessing that he's the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four.
—The 6 Most Hilarious Failures in Music Censorship History[8]
Artist Song Notes
3 Doors DownWikipedia's W.svg Duck and Run
311Wikipedia's W.svg Down
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Hells Bells
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Highway to Hell
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Safe in New York City
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Shoot to Thrill
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg Shot Down in Flames
AC/DCWikipedia's W.svg T.N.T.
The Ad LibsWikipedia's W.svg The Boy from New York City
Afro Celt Sound SystemWikipedia's W.svg When You're Falling
Alice in ChainsWikipedia's W.svg Down in a Hole
Alice in ChainsWikipedia's W.svg Rooster
Alice in ChainsWikipedia's W.svg Sea of Sorrow
Alice in ChainsWikipedia's W.svg Them Bones
Alien Ant FarmWikipedia's W.svg Smooth Criminal
The AnimalsWikipedia's W.svg We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Louis ArmstrongWikipedia's W.svg What a Wonderful WorldWikipedia's W.svg This wonderful song's inclusion on the list exposed the callousness and hypocrisy of media executives in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The BanglesWikipedia's W.svg Walk Like an Egyptian Only one of the perpetrators was Egyptian, ringleader Mohamed AttaWikipedia's W.svg
Barenaked LadiesWikipedia's W.svg Falling for the First Time
Fontella BassWikipedia's W.svg Rescue Me
Beastie BoysWikipedia's W.svg Sabotage
Beastie BoysWikipedia's W.svg Sure Shot
The BeatlesWikipedia's W.svg A Day in the LifeWikipedia's W.svg A reflection on life, death, and war, inspired by LSD. Perhaps the reference to war, i.e., "The English Army had just won the war" triggered inclusion on the list? Who knows.
The BeatlesWikipedia's W.svg Lucy in the Sky with DiamondsWikipedia's W.svg Maybe they thought a mention of the sky would trigger someone?
The BeatlesWikipedia's W.svg Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-DaWikipedia's W.svg Life goes on, and Clear Channel thought it would be too much for anyone to realize this.
The BeatlesWikipedia's W.svg Ticket to RideWikipedia's W.svg
Pat BenatarWikipedia's W.svg Hit Me with Your Best Shot
Pat BenatarWikipedia's W.svg Love Is a Battlefield
Black SabbathWikipedia's W.svg Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Black SabbathWikipedia's W.svg War Pigs
Blood, Sweat and TearsWikipedia's W.svg And When I Die
Blue Öyster CultWikipedia's W.svg Burnin' for You
BostonWikipedia's W.svg Smokin'
Los BravosWikipedia's W.svg Black Is Black
Jackson BrowneWikipedia's W.svg Doctor My Eyes
Buddy Holly and the CricketsWikipedia's W.svg That'll Be the Day
BushWikipedia's W.svg Speed Kills
The Chi-LitesWikipedia's W.svg Have You Seen Her
Petula ClarkWikipedia's W.svg A Sign of the Times
The ClashWikipedia's W.svg Rock the Casbah
Phil CollinsWikipedia's W.svg In the Air Tonight
Sam CookeWikipedia's W.svg Wonderful World
The Crazy World of Arthur BrownWikipedia's W.svg Fire
Creedence Clearwater RevivalWikipedia's W.svg Travelin' Band
The CultWikipedia's W.svg Fire Woman
Bobby DarinWikipedia's W.svg Mack the Knife
The Dave Clark FiveWikipedia's W.svg Bits and Pieces
Skeeter DavisWikipedia's W.svg The End of the World
Neil DiamondWikipedia's W.svg America
DioWikipedia's W.svg Holy Diver
The DoorsWikipedia's W.svg The End
The DriftersWikipedia's W.svg On Broadway
Drowning PoolWikipedia's W.svg Bodies
Bob DylanWikipedia's W.svg Knockin' on Heaven's Door
EverclearWikipedia's W.svg Santa Monica
Shelley FabaresWikipedia's W.svg Johnny Angel
FilterWikipedia's W.svg Hey Man, Nice Shot Maybe too close to home, as the song is about the suicide of Budd DwyerWikipedia's W.svg
Foo FightersWikipedia's W.svg Learn to Fly
FuelWikipedia's W.svg Bad Day It's not the one Andy Bernard sang when he was firing Pete in "The Office".
The Gap BandWikipedia's W.svg You Dropped a Bomb on Me
GodsmackWikipedia's W.svg Bad Religion
Green DayWikipedia's W.svg Brain Stew But not Welcome to ParadiseWikipedia's W.svg, weirdly enough.
Norman GreenbaumWikipedia's W.svg Spirit in the Sky
Guns N' RosesWikipedia's W.svg Knockin' on Heaven's Door
The HappeningsWikipedia's W.svg See You in September
The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceWikipedia's W.svg Hey Joe "Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?"
Herman's HermitsWikipedia's W.svg Wonderful World
The HolliesWikipedia's W.svg He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
Jan and DeanWikipedia's W.svg Dead Man's Curve
Billy JoelWikipedia's W.svg Only the Good Die Young
Elton JohnWikipedia's W.svg Bennie and the Jets
Elton JohnWikipedia's W.svg Daniel "Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane…"
Elton JohnWikipedia's W.svg Rocket Man
Judas PriestWikipedia's W.svg Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
KansasWikipedia's W.svg Dust in the Wind
Carole KingWikipedia's W.svg I Feel the Earth Move
KornWikipedia's W.svg Falling Away from Me
Lenny KravitzWikipedia's W.svg Fly Away
Led ZeppelinWikipedia's W.svg Stairway to Heaven
John LennonWikipedia's W.svg Imagine
Jerry Lee LewisWikipedia's W.svg Great Balls of Fire
Limp BizkitWikipedia's W.svg Break Stuff
Local HWikipedia's W.svg Bound for the Floor
Lynyrd SkynyrdWikipedia's W.svg Tuesday's Gone
Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn BridgeWikipedia's W.svg The Worst That Could Happen
Martha and the VandellasWikipedia's W.svg Dancing in the Street
Martha and the VandellasWikipedia's W.svg Nowhere to Run
Dave Matthews BandWikipedia's W.svg Crash into Me
Paul McCartney & WingsWikipedia's W.svg Live and Let Die
Barry McGuireWikipedia's W.svg Eve of Destruction
Don McLeanWikipedia's W.svg American Pie Due to its references of "the day the music died", where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Vallens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash.
MegadethWikipedia's W.svg Dread and the Fugitive Mind
MegadethWikipedia's W.svg Sweating Bullets
John MellencampWikipedia's W.svg Crumblin' Down
John MellencampWikipedia's W.svg Paper in Fire
MetallicaWikipedia's W.svg Enter Sandman
MetallicaWikipedia's W.svg Fade to Black
MetallicaWikipedia's W.svg Harvester of Sorrow
MetallicaWikipedia's W.svg Seek & Destroy
Steve Miller BandWikipedia's W.svg Jet Airliner
Alanis MorissetteWikipedia's W.svg Ironic
MudvayneWikipedia's W.svg Death Blooms
Ricky NelsonWikipedia's W.svg Travelin' Man
NenaWikipedia's W.svg 99 Luftballons/99 Red Balloons Noted peace anthem about an accidental nuclear war
Nine Inch NailsWikipedia's W.svg Head Like a Hole
Oingo BoingoWikipedia's W.svg Dead Man's Party
Ozzy OsbourneWikipedia's W.svg Suicide Solution
Paper LaceWikipedia's W.svg The Night Chicago Died
John ParrWikipedia's W.svg St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) "I can feel radio censorship burning in me"
Peter and GordonWikipedia's W.svg I Go to Pieces
Peter and GordonWikipedia's W.svg A World Without Love
Peter, Paul and MaryWikipedia's W.svg Blowin' in the Wind
Peter, Paul and MaryWikipedia's W.svg Leaving on a Jet Plane Written by John DenverWikipedia's W.svg who coincidentally died in a light aircraft accident in 1997
Tom PettyWikipedia's W.svg Free Fallin'
Pink FloydWikipedia's W.svg Mother "Mother, do you think they'll drop the bomb?"
Pink FloydWikipedia's W.svg Run Like Hell
P.O.D.Wikipedia's W.svg Boom
Elvis PresleyWikipedia's W.svg (You're the) Devil in Disguise
The PretendersWikipedia's W.svg My City Was Gone
QueenWikipedia's W.svg Another One Bites the Dust
QueenWikipedia's W.svg Killer Queen
Rage Against the MachineWikipedia's W.svg All songs "Lights out, Guerrilla Radio! Turn that sh*t off!"
Red Hot Chili PeppersWikipedia's W.svg Aeroplane
Red Hot Chili PeppersWikipedia's W.svg Under the Bridge
R.E.M.Wikipedia's W.svg It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
The Rolling StonesWikipedia's W.svg Ruby Tuesday "Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday"
Mitch Ryder & the Detroit WheelsWikipedia's W.svg Devil with a Blue Dress On
SalivaWikipedia's W.svg Click Click Boom
SantanaWikipedia's W.svg Evil Ways
Savage GardenWikipedia's W.svg Crash and Burn
Simon & GarfunkelWikipedia's W.svg Bridge over Troubled Water An odd choice: traditionally considered a very fitting song for sad times, and a perennial at funerals[9]
Frank SinatraWikipedia's W.svg New York, New York aka "Theme from New York, New York"; widely seen as a celebration of the city, and Liza Minnelli actually performed it at the first pro sports game in the New York metro after 9/11[10]
SlipknotWikipedia's W.svg Left Behind
SlipknotWikipedia's W.svg Wait and Bleed
The Smashing PumpkinsWikipedia's W.svg Bullet with Butterfly Wings
SoundgardenWikipedia's W.svg Black Hole Sun
SoundgardenWikipedia's W.svg Blow Up the Outside World
SoundgardenWikipedia's W.svg Fell on Black Days
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia's W.svg I'm Goin' Down
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia's W.svg I'm on Fire
Bruce SpringsteenWikipedia's W.svg War
Edwin StarrWikipedia's W.svg War
SteamWikipedia's W.svg Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye
Cat StevensWikipedia's W.svg Morning Has Broken
Cat StevensWikipedia's W.svg Peace Train It's unclear why 2 Stevens songs were only the list, aside from the fact that he's a Muslim and Clear Channel didn't want them on radio
Stone Temple PilotsWikipedia's W.svg Big Bang Baby
Stone Temple PilotsWikipedia's W.svg Dead and Bloated
Sugar RayWikipedia's W.svg Fly
The SurfarisWikipedia's W.svg Wipe Out
System of a DownWikipedia's W.svg Chop Suey!
Talking HeadsWikipedia's W.svg Burning Down the House
James TaylorWikipedia's W.svg Fire and RainWikipedia's W.svg
Temple of the DogWikipedia's W.svg Say Hello 2 Heaven
Third Eye BlindWikipedia's W.svg Jumper
The Three DegreesWikipedia's W.svg When Will I See You Again
ToolWikipedia's W.svg Intolerance
The TrammpsWikipedia's W.svg Disco Inferno
U2Wikipedia's W.svg Sunday Bloody Sunday The attack was on a Tuesday, although the song is peripherally about terrorism and primarily about the killing of innocent civilians by the British army[11]
Van HalenWikipedia's W.svg Jump
Van HalenWikipedia's W.svg Dancing in the Street
J. Frank Wilson and the CavaliersWikipedia's W.svg Last Kiss
The YoungbloodsWikipedia's W.svg Get Together
Zager and EvansWikipedia's W.svg In the Year 2525Wikipedia's W.svg "In the year 2525, if man is still alive"
The ZombiesWikipedia's W.svg She's Not There Lyrically about an untrustworthy woman, not obviously connected with 9/11[12]


  1. Steven Wishnia, Bad Transmission: Clear Channel's Hit List. Archived from the original at lipmagazine.org, 24 October 2001.
  2. It's the End of the World as Clear Channel Knows It. Slate, 17 September 2001.
  3. Thurston Hatcher, Radio stations retool playlists after attacks. CNN, 20 September 2001.
  4. Clear Channel says national "banned playlist" does not exist. Clear Channel Communications press release, archived from the original at content.clearchannel.com, 18 September 2001.
  5. Jeremy Dutton and William Puchert, Music industry responds to terrorism. Archived from the original at zephyr.unr.edu (University of Nevada, Reno), 10 October 2001.
  6. David Mikkelson, Clear Channel Banned Songs. Snopes, 15 April 2008.
  7. Neil Strauss, The Pop Life; After the Horror, Radio Stations Pull Some Songs. The New York Times, 19 September 2001.
  8. Mike Floorwalker. The 6 Most Hilarious Failures in Music Censorship History. Cracked, 20 January 2013.
  9. Songs Played at Funerals, Snopes, 15 May 2006
  10. See the Wikipedia article on Theme from New York, New York.
  11. See the Wikipedia article on Sunday Bloody Sunday.
  12. See the Wikipedia article on She's Not There.