9/11 reverberates through music industry
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Stocks aren't the only sector of American industry
reeling from last week's terrorist attacks. The folks who
create the artistic expressions that offer both escape and
insight into the world situation have been derailed and
befuddled by the new world order, too. Here are some items
illustrating the attacks' ripple effect in the music
The hit list
One of my favorite episodes of the old TV series "WKRP in
Cincinnati" involved a radical preacher named Dr. Bob who
asked the fictional radio station not to play a list of
certain songs he and his followers found offensive. It's a
pretty poignant discussion of artistic expression and
censorship — for TV, anyway — and it features Mr. Carlson
(Gordon Jump) reading the words to John Lennon's "Imagine,"
which the preacher dismisses as anti-God and "communist"
despite its lack of any offensive words.
"Imagine" allegedly made another hit list this week when
Clear Channel Communications, the Texas-based company that
owns nearly 1,170 radio stations nationwide — including six
in Tulsa — circulated a list of 150 "lyrically questionable"
songs and suggested its stations consider the wisdom of
playing them in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks,
according to the New York Times.
It's a curious list (see page D-4). Some selections are
obviously insensitive for this particular moment in history
-- Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World," Billy Joel's "Only
the Good Die Young" or "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by Tulsa's
own GAP Band — but others are truly bizarre and
overreaching. Some poor, pin-headed exec somewhere must
have racked his brain for titles that might allude to
anything related to the tragedy, such as planes (the
Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets")
or New York City (Sinatra's signature song "New York, New
York," the Drifters' "On Broadway").
Some songs, though, are even patriotic, like Neil
Diamond's "America," or universally uplifting, like Louis
Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."
Clear Channel was quick yesterday to issue a denial. It
was carefully worded, denying the fact that they actually
banned any songs but not denying that a list was
circulated. Accoridng to the Times, the company's corporate
headquarters generated a small list of songs to reconsider,
and an "overzealous" regional executive expanded it and
circulated it widely.
Tulsa DJs never saw one, anyway. Rick Cohn, vice
president and marketing manager of Tulsa's Clear Channel
stations, said he had seen no song list from his corporate
headquarters. What he had seen was a statement "suggesting
that each program director should take the pulse of their
market to judge the sensitivity of listeners given the
circumstances now," he said Wednesday.
"We voluntarily went through our playlists to see if
there were things we might want to avoid in good taste,"
Cohn said. "I mean, `Leaving on a Jet Plane' just doesn't
seem like the song KQLL `Cool 106' needs to be playing
Wise choices, surely, as long as they aren't mandatory
and lasting. After all, in times like these, music is what
we should be turning to, not running from. One of the songs
on the list, Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled
Water," gives voice to a narrator who assures the listener
of help through whatever trials and sadness we encounter.
Of course, Lennon's "Imagine" is the ultimate sing-along in
times of desperately needed unity:
You may say I'm a dreamer
but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
and the world will live as one.
You ought not be in pictures
Three months ago, DJ Pam and Boots Riley holed up with
their Photoshop manuals and produced what they thought
would be a cool and controversial image for the cover of
their new CD. They had no idea how controversial it could
The image features the two rappers standing with the
World Trade Center Towers looming behind them. DJ Pam is on
the left holding drumsticks while Riley, on the right, is
pressing a button on what is assumed to be a bomb
detonator; the towers behind them are exploding in flames
and smoke — at what look like the exact spots where the two
hijacked airplanes hit on Sept. 11.
Needless to say, the duo's record company, 75 Ark, has
ordered all the covers destroyed and replaced before the
CD, innocently titled "Party Music," is released Nov. 5.
"The intent of the cover was to use the World Trade
Center to symbolize capitalism," Riley said this week. "This
is a very unfortunate coincidence, and my condolences go
out to the families and friends of the victims."
This is the second album release interrupted by the
attacks. Neo-progressive rock group Dream Theater's "Live
Scenes From New York" was yanked back from shelves last week
because its cover depicted the Manhattan skyline, complete
with WTC towers and the Statue of Liberty, in flames.
Local benefit song
Michael Jackson has already written his benefit song for
the victims of last week's terrorist attacks, which he
hopes to cast with big stars (a la "We Are the World") and
release within a month. For my money, though, I'll stick
with Bristow native Alan Pitts' tune, "She Still Stands
Tall," penned last week after the tragedies and already a
KOTV, channel 6 has played Pitts' song several times,
complete with a video montage assembled by the station. The
song has rocketed up the country chart at
www.soundclick.com since it was posted on Sunday. Pitts
also may perform the song at the Tulsa State Fair;
arrangements are pending.
Demand for the song has already overwhelmed Pitts and
his Tulsa-based band. Until full-scale production of a CD
can be completed, Pitts has been burning copies on his home
computer. He hopes to have them available soon for $10,
with a third of the money going to the American Red Cross.
For information about obtaining a copy, call Redneck Kid
Productions at (918) 582-5316.
Off the road
The attacks last week interrupted the music business,
namely some tours that were making the rounds on the East
Coast. Some of the bands that canceled shows around the
country in the wake of the attacks were Aerosmith, the
Beach Boys, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Clint Black, Jimmy
Buffett, Coldplay, Billy Gilman, Phil Lesh, Jerry Seinfeld
and They Might Be Giants.
Oddly enough, the Pledge of Allegiance Tour — featuring
such deathly metal acts as Slipknot, System of a Down,
Rammstein and Mudvayne — was scheduled to begin last week.
The first four dates in the upper Midwest were rescheduled
for later in October. Also, the annual CMJ Music Marathon
has been rescheduled from its original dates last weekend
to Oct. 10-13.
Carol Anderson of CMA Promotions reported that most of
the Christian pop shows she represents are moving ahead.
"They feel that the kids need words of hope even more than
before," she said.
Most of the artists' publicists we deal with as
journalists are headquartered in Manhattan, and it's been
nerve-wracking checking in with them the past week. Gary
Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, posted an
editorial on the magazine's web site last week encouraging
Americans not to hide at home throughout the aftermath.
"If you afraid to buy tickets and attend public events,
then you let the bastards win," he wrote. "Make no mistake
about it, no one can completely guarantee your safety as
you walk through the turnstiles. But then, no one can
guarantee it as you sit on the couch at home, either."
A final word
Jessica Hopper at Hopper PR in Chicago summed up the
nation's sudden readjustment of priorities in an email to
industry insiders last week: "Nothing like profound tragedy
to make our myopic punk world and scene squabbles seem
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Last time I saw David Garza, he brought me to my knees.
Quite literally — a park in Austin, a year and a half
ago, and Garza strutted onto the outdoor stage under the
black clouds of a brewing storm and dared the lightning
bolts to fly by the bald audacity of his guitar playing.
All he had at his disposal was his clipped, cat-like voice
and a revved-up Rickenbacker guitar, but no plaintive
singer-songwriter was he. All by himself he rocked harder
than every lineup of Starship on a single stage, yelping
and growling and playing that guitar so hard and fast and
with such conviction and clarity, well, I actually worried
he was hurting himself.
But he brought all the layered, looped tracks from his
Atlantic debut album to life with the sweat of his brow
instead of the flick of a switch, and by the time he
finished "Discoball World" I was on my knees at the edge of
the stage, clawing at my face and bellowing. Fortunately, I
was not alone.
So if you're headed down the 'pike this weekend to catch
matchbox 20 (whatever) and Train (snore), don't linger in
those overpriced Bricktown restaurants too long and miss
the opening act, 'cause it's David Garza (that's dah-VEED
to you, gringo) and that same, lone guitar, and I guarantee
he'll justify the ticket price and the gas money in 30
"Yeah, that's what I'm doing on this matchbox 20 tour,
and it's real fun," Garza said in an interview last week
from a tour stop in El Paso, Texas. "I'm coming off a string
of shows in clubs, solo stuff, you know, but you don't get
to bring out the loud amps in these small clubs. On those
outdoor stages and in those arenas, I can crank it up."
He says this with an obvious timbre of relish, even
though Garza — Billboard magazine compared him to
"trailblazers such as Prince, David Bowie and Prince" — is as
gut-wrenching with a slow hand as he is when he's smokin'.
His particular oomph makes him a bit of an anomaly in the
laid-back, folkie Austin, Texas, music scene from which
he's been based since landing at the University of Texas on
a classical guitar scholarship.
After dabbling in cover bands — "playing Billy Idol and
INXS and Big Audio Dynamite for dances" — Garza thrust a band
called Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom into the scene where the
likes of Asleep at the Wheel shuffle along as politely as
possible. Record label execs showed up at his shows like
lawyers in an emergency room — so fast that Garza rebuffed a
few offers until he felt his songs were ready for the big
"I guess it happened somewhat fast back then. I got my
start playing solo guitar at an Italian restaurant. I was
the guy who wandered from table to table, and I had to hold
my own with the single instrument," Garza said. "Now that I
get to travel a little farther and wider, I try to push it
a little. So much music today is so dense and thick, with a
lot of beats and loops and programs and samples. For me
personally, the most revolutionary thing I can do is play
unaccompanied, loud electric guitar."
His affection for stripped-down r-a-w-k rock only hints
at the irony of his latest album title, "Overdub," his second
release for Lava-Atlantic Records. A chunkier, rougher
record than the previous two — "This Euphoria," his dreamy
debut for Atlantic, and "Kingdom Come and Go," a solo
acoustic record on Garza's own Wide Open Records label --
"Overdub" symbolizes more personal philosophy than studio
"A lot of what I've done over the last 10 years is
overdub things. You know, there's a redemptive idea in
overdubbing. Spiritually, lyrically — as I'm growing older I
start looking at how to fix things in my life, similar to
the recording process. It's not as clean in real life. You
don't get to fix your mistakes by patching in an overdub,"
"This album sounds rougher basically because I got to
produce it. I had the time and the budget, and I got to
work with bassist Doug Wimbish (Tackhead, Sugarhill Gang)
and drummer Will Calhoun (Living Colour). When those guys
step, the earth shakes. That sound is the crumbling of
buildings as they're ringing their terror in the tracks. We
got a bold, old rock sound — just three humans playing in a
"It's different from the way most albums are
made, and have been made for since '92 or '93 — the whole
building of tracks, not necessarily the performance of a
song. It starts with that perfect time loop, over which the
drummer plays some funky drums. Then the bass player stops
playing Nintendo and puts in his line. Then you call the
guitar player on his cell phone and tell him to come in do
his guitar parts. Then you wait for your special guest
stars to come in from the limo. The way this was done was
we three guys shook hands and started playing rock 'n'
roll. `Bloodsuckers' was the first thing we played
together, and I said, `Oh yeah, this is going to work.' "
There were a few guest stars in this process, though --
Craig Ross, a fellow Austin rocker who contributes much of
the six-string stomp heard on his phenomenal 1996 release
"Dead Spy Report" and everybody's favorite lovelorn indie
waif, Juliana Hatfield, whose bright voice adds to the lilt
of "Keep on Crying."
For now, though, Garza's on the road by himself,
standing on the shoulders of giants even though his sound
is just as tall.
"Like I said, I can turn it up on this tour," he said, "and
man, if I can make your ears bleed, I'll go for it."
Matchbox 20, Train and Garza play at 7 p.m. Wednesday
(Sept 12) at the Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
Call (405) 297-3300 for information and tickets, or buy
tickets online at www.tickets.com.
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.