Remembering the musical fallout from the September 11 attacks

It was a gorgeous late summer morning on September 11, 2001. It was just after 8:30 and I’d arrived at Y108 in Hamilton to start another day as program director. Passing the newsroom on my way to my office, I noticed everyone gathered around a TV watching smoke coming out of a big building.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “A plane crashed into one of the World Trade Centre buildings and it’s on fire.”

Wow, I thought, just like the time when a plane accidentally flew into the Empire State Building back in the 40s. This is going to be a tough thing to clean up.

I went into my office and flipped in the TV, which was set to ABC’s Good Morning America. I was staring at the screen when about 30 seconds later, a second plane suddenly appeared on the screen and flew right into the other building. This is exactly what I saw at 9:02 am EDT that day.

This didn’t immediately register. Did I just see that? A crash? What were the odds of that happening? And then everything started to come clear: These were not accidents.

I called my wife, who was back at home putting together her news program for that afternoon. I called her immediately.

‘TURN ON THE TV! TURN ON THE TV!” I yelled.

“Which channel?”

“IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

And so began the 9/11 saga.

That day went by in a blur. Was this an air traffic control disaster or a hijacking? If so, how many planes were hijacked? Four? Five? More? How many people were dead? Were there more attacks coming? Who was behind this? Was it terrorists or some state that had declared war on the US? Were other countries targeted? Could this lead to nukes? Should we all go home and hide in the basement?

It was very werid and very scary.

Once the immediate shock of what was happening on TV was processed, I talked to the on-air people that day. “Steady as she goes,” I said. “Keep the music flowing and refer everyone to CHML (the news station in our building) for the latest information. We’ll bring you updates and you can break in every couple of songs to give the latest.”

Everyone on the air that day on every radio station across North America did their best to offer information, taking calls, speaking with listeners, and generally trying to keep everyone as calm as possible. Like I said, news stations handled the majority of the work while music stations offered backup. We all went to bed that night with no air traffic over North America, dozens of passenger planes grounded in Newfoundland, and fears that things were going to get much, much worse.

One of the fallouts from the 9/11 attacks involved removing songs from playlists that might trigger terrible emotions. For example, Chantal Kreviazuk was on the verge of having a hit with her version of John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” but the lyrics proved problematic in light of what had just happened. Meanwhile, Clear Channel, the biggest radio group in the US (now called iHeartRadio) circulated a list of 164 songs to over 1,000 stations that were not to be played because they might upset people.

Some you can understand. Other censored songs were just plain dumb. (Clear Channel later denied that this list ever existed.) It took a long time before radio station playlists got back to normal.

3 Doors Down — Duck and Run
311 — Down
AC/DC — Shot Down in Flames
AC/DC — Shoot to Thrill
AC/DC — Dirty Deeds
AC/DC — Highway to Hell
AC/DC — Safe in New York City
AC/DC — TNT
AC/DC — Hell’s Bells
Ad Libs — The Boy from New York City
Alanis Morissette — Ironic
Alice in Chains — Rooster
Alice in Chains — Sea of Sorrow
Alice in Chains — Down in a Hole
Alice in Chains — Them Bones
Alien Ant Farm — Smooth Criminal
Animals — We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Arthur Brown — Fire
Bangles — Walk Like an Egyptian
Barenaked Ladies — Falling for the First Time
Barry McGuire — Eve of Destruction
Beastie Boys — Sure Shot
Beastie Boys — Sabotage
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
Billy Joel — Only the Good Die Young
Black Sabbath — War Pigs
Black Sabbath — Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Blood Sweat and Tears — And When I Die
Blue Oyster Cult — Burnin’ For You
Bob Dylan/Guns N Roses — Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
Bobby Darin — Mack the Knife
Boston — Smokin’
Brooklyn Bridge — Worst That Could Happen
Bruce Springsteen — I’m On Fire
Bruce Springsteen — Goin’ Down
Bruce Springstein — War
Buddy Holly and the Crickets — That’ll Be the Day
Bush — Speed Kills
Carole King — I Feel the Earth Move
Cat Stevens — Peace Train
Cat Stevens — Morning Has Broken
Chi-Lites — Have You Seen Her
The Clash — Rock the Casbah
Creedence Clearwater Revival — Travelin’ Band
The Cult — Fire Woman
Dave Clark Five — Bits and Pieces
Dave Matthews Band — Crash Into Me
Dio — Holy Diver
Don McLean — American Pie
The Doors — The End
Drifters — On Broadway
Drowning Pool — Bodies
Edwin Starr — War
Elton John — Benny & The Jets
Elton John — Daniel
Elton John — Rocket Man
Elvis — (You’re the) Devil in Disguise
Everclear — Santa Monica
Filter — Hey Man, Nice Shot
Fontella Bass — Rescue Me
Foo Fighters — Learn to Fly
Jimi Hendrix — Hey Joe
Frank Sinatra — New York, New York
Fuel — Bad Day
The Gap Band — You Dropped a Bomb On Me
Godsmack — Bad Religion
Green Day — Brain Stew
Happenings — See You in September
Herman’s Hermits — Wonderful World
Hollies — He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
J. Frank Wilson — Last Kiss
Jackson Brown — Doctor My Eyes
James Taylor — Fire and Rain
Jan and Dean — Dead Man’s Curve
Jerry Lee Lewis — Great Balls of Fire
Jimi Hendrix — Hey Joe
John Lennon — Imagine
John Mellencamp — Crumbling Down
John Mellencamp — I’m On Fire
John Parr — St. Elmo’s Fire
Judas Priest — Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Kansas — Dust in the Wind
Korn — Falling Away From Me
Led Zeppelin — Stairway to Heaven
Lenny Kravitz — Fly Away
Limp Bizkit — Break Stuff
Local H — Bound for the Floor
Los Bravos — Black is Black
Louis Armstrong — What A Wonderful World
Lynyrd Skynyrd — Tuesday’s Gone
Martha & the Vandellas — Nowhere to Run
Martha & the Vandellas — Dancing in the Streets
Megadeth — Dread and the Fugitive
Megadeth — Sweating Bullets
Metallica — Seek and Destroy
Metallica — Harvester or Sorrow
Metallica — Enter Sandman
Metallica — Fade to Black
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels — Devil with the Blue Dress
Mudvayne — Death Blooms
Neil Diamond — America
Nina — 99 Luft Balloons/99 Red Balloons
Nine Inch Nails — Head Like a Hole
Norman Greenbaum — Spirit in the Sky
Oingo Boingo — Dead Man’s Party
Ozzy Osbourne — Suicide Solution
Paper Lace — The Night Chicago Died
Pat Benatar — Hit Me with Your Best Shot
Pat Benatar — Love is a Battlefield
Paul McCartney and Wings — Live and Let Die
Peter Gabriel — When You’re Falling
Peter and Gordon — I Go To Pieces
Peter and Gordon — A World Without Love
Peter Paul and Mary — Blowin’ in the Wind
Peter Paul and Mary — Leavin’ on a Jet Plane
Petula Clark — A Sign of the Times
Phil Collins — In the Air Tonight
Pink Floyd — Run Like Hell
Pink Floyd — Mother
P.O.D.- Boom
Pretenders — My City Was Gone
Queen — Another One Bites the Dust
Queen — Killer Queen
All Rage Against The Machine songs
Red Hot Chili Peppers — Aeroplane
Red Hot Chili Peppers — Under the Bridge
REM — It’s the End of the World as We Know It
Rickey Nelson — Travelin’ Man
Rolling Stones — Ruby Tuesday
Saliva — Click Click Boom
Sam Cooke — Wonderful World
Santana — Evil Ways
Savage Garden — Crash and Burn
Shelly Fabares — Johnny Angel
Simon And Garfunkel — Bridge Over Troubled Water
Skeeter Davis — End of the World
Slipknot — Left Behind
Slipknot — Wait and Bleed
Smashing Pumpkins — Bullet With Butterfly Wings
Soundgarden — Blow Up the Outside World
Soundgarden — Fell on Black Days
Soundgarden — Black Hole Sun
Steam — Na Na Na Na Hey Hey
Steve Miller — Jet Airliner
Stone Temple Pilots — Big Bang Baby
Stone Temple Pilots — Dead and Bloated
Sugar Ray — Fly
Surfaris — Wipeout
System of a Down — Chop Suey!
Talking Heads — Burning Down the House
Temple of the Dog — Say Hello to Heaven
Third Eye Blind — Jumper
Three Degrees — When Will I See You Again
Tom Petty — Free Fallin’
Tool — Intolerance
Tramps — Disco Inferno
U2 — Sunday Bloody Sunday
Van Halen — Dancing In The Street
Van Halen — Jump
Yager and Evans — In the Year 2525
Youngbloods — Get Together
Zombies — She’s Not There

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on “Remembering the musical fallout from the September 11 attacks

  • September 11, 2021 at 10:32 am
    Permalink

    Hey Alan, interesting article, but I think you should have picked a more sensitive and thoughtful image to accompany it. We know what happened that day.

    Reply
  • September 11, 2021 at 10:59 am
    Permalink

    I was on a radio station at Philly at the time and we were told if ANY song sounded inappropriate or felt wrong drop it and note it on the log.

    I wish I’d airchecked myself at that time because I incorporated this bizarre “friendly tone” and just introduced songs and read the liners for weeks.

    Reply

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