NOTE: This is Andrew Gumbel signing off after five days of guest-blogging. It’s been real. Thanks, Marc. See y’all in cyberspace.
Remember how, in the wake of 9/11, Clear Channel radio drew up a list of songs it no longer considered appropriate for airplay because they were unpatriotic, or offensive, or simply in bad taste? Top of their list was John Lennon’s Imagine, which you have to admit is indeed a mawkish, revolting rejection of all the values this country holds dear and could only, in those anxious days, have served to offer aid and comfort to the enemy.
Clear Channel’s unwavering sense of public service went far and deep. Out went Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire, The Bangles’ Walk Like An Egyptian, Jump by Van Halen,Talking Heads’ Burning Down The House and many, many more. Sometimes, this culture just needs to be saved from itself, don’t you think?
Well, the country once again finds itself in times of trouble, and although the danger is now from the forces of nature rather than al-Qa’ida, I think it might be opportune once again to review the songs liable to pop up on the radio dial and purge the ones that are unhelpful – or worse – when a full-force hurricane is wreaking havoc along the Gulf coast for the second time in a month.
I’ve been going through my music collection and can’ t help but be struck how shockingly irresponsible most of the artists are when it comes to disaster preparedness. Any time a singer-songwriter mentions a hurricane, in fact, the impulse is not to clear out but to move toward it. Take this typically blasé piece of sentimental tripe, an old John Hiatt tune (also covered by Aaron Neville) called Feels Like Rain:
Batten down the hatches
But keep your heart out on your sleeve
A little bit of stormy weather, that’s no cause for us to leave
Just stay here baby, in my arms
Let it wash away the pain
And it feels like rain
He actually finds the idea of riding out the hurricane romantic! Quick, run a FEMA tractor over his CDs!!
The Cowboy Junkies, in Southern Rain, even stoop so low as to make fun of people who follow government evacuation orders:
And it will never cease to amaze me
How a little rain can drive folks crazy
When I'd trade all my blue skies gladly
For your blue eyes, crooked smile
And a steady downpour
Well, that’s the last time I listen to them.
The Animals got into trouble after 9/11 for We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. Four years on, I’m altogether more exercised about the one that begins “There is a house in New Orleans…”
Haven’t they heard? No there isn’t!!
There’s so much more: Bruce Springsteen vowing to drive all night “through the wind, through the rain” just so he can buy his baby a pair of shoes (Drive All Night). Tell me about it when he gets tossed off the freeway and comes sobbing to the great teat of Mamma Government for a new truck… Or Neil Young berating himself for not loving his hurricane better and wondering why he keeps “getting blown away”. WHY DO YOU THINK, YOU MORON?
People, we are in a national emergency, and I can’t do this on my own. My resources are limited, and I need you to help me compile an exhaustive list of suspect songs so we can prevail upon the good souls at Clear Channel to do the right thing -- once again. These are dark times, and the numbers of the valiant are few.
You will help me out, won’t you?