The days following Sept. 11, 2001 saw a country equal parts devastated, on edge and full of uncertainty. Clear Channel stumbled into this unsettled situation apparently trying to do the right thing.

An internal memo reportedly said the radio conglomerate wanted to limit the airing of certain songs, because listeners to its more than 1,200 stations might find them offensive in the wake of the attacks. But then the banned list somehow grew to include an eye-popping 150-plus tracks.

Some were understandable by title alone: AC/DC’s “Shot Down in Flames” and Metallica’s “Seek & Destroy” were among them. The list also allegedly included John Lennon’s iconic call for peace on “Imagine,” however, and the Rolling Stones' innocuous “Ruby Tuesday.”

Outrage followed, and then probing questions: Who came up with the list? Was it really a ban, or simply a heavy-handed suggestion for radio programmers to follow at their discretion? Then again, considering that this era was seeing a new proliferation in web activity, perhaps the whole thing was just an early example of an internet rumor?

The existence of the memo, allegedly circulated via email Sept. 13, was first reported in the music industry trade publication Hits Daily Double. The following week, Slate reached out to a Clear Channel regional senior VP of programming, and Jack Evans said the genesis of the list was a group of program directors who were messaging one another privately about songs and “questionable song titles.”

Sources in the Clear Channel network also confirmed the list to the New York Times, saying a small group of songs was generated at their corporate office and then was added to by others within the company via email.

Evans said management then sent the directory of tracks – and, in some cases, full catalogs by artists – to program directors nationwide. “I think there were certainly songs on the list that people were reading too much into,” Evans told Slate. “There were a substantial amount of songs in question that I’m glad the [program directors] brought up so we didn’t air them at a very, very sad time.”

The day after the Slate report, however, Clear Channel refuted Evans by saying the list never existed. “Clear Channel confirmed to [the industry trade publication] Radio Ink this morning that the banned list was only an internet rumor,” the company said in an official statement. “Clear Channel Radio has not banned any songs from any of its radio stations.”

Slate ran a brief, scathing piece after a VP of programming corroborated the existence of the list, only to be overruled by the higher ups. It was titled, “Profiles in Ass Covering.”

Clear Channel attempted to clarify things in another news release, issued the same day: “Each program director and general manager must take the pulse of his or her market to determine if play lists should be altered, and if so, for how long.”

Mark P. Mays, then president and chief operating officer, said: “In the wake of this terrible tragedy, the nation's business community is responding with a degree of hypersensitivity. Clear Channel strongly believes in the First Amendment and freedom of speech. We value and support the artist community. And we support our radio station programming staff and management team in their responsibility to respond to their local markets.”

The Austin Chronicle dug a little deeper into the situation in a November 2001 story quoting Clear Channel spokeswoman Rebecca Allmon. She claimed that a single unnamed program director in California started the whole thing.

“He thought, 'Gee, I've got some songs that I think some listeners, some listeners, might find offensive right now,'" Allmon said. “So he circulated the list to other program directors. It never came from corporate. It was never a banned playlist." A program director from Austin basically repeated Allmon’s comments verbatim, however, leading to further suspicion of a cover up.

Mark Pollack, author of the original Hits Daily Double item, continued to insist that the memo came from "a significant executive in the Clear Channel chain." But messages left with program directors in other major markets yielded unreturned phone calls, since few likely wanted to endanger their job security by going against the party line.

Maybe Clear Channel never thought their memo would gain such wide traction, or maybe it never existed in the first place. There's even some discrepancy over how many songs were included on the list, varying from 150 to 162. That's probably because an actual copy of the memo has remained unreleased.

Clear Channel's 2001 List of 'Banned' Songs

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 Done Dirt Cheap"
AC/DC – "Highway to Hell"
AC/DC – "Safe in New York City"
AC/DC – "TNT"
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 and 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 September"
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 and 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"
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 Springsteen – "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"

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