Mural at Bangcheon Market. Daegu, South Korea. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
“I get up, and nothing gets me down.”
When American rock band Van Halen released Jump as the lead single from their album 1984, it reached number one on the US Billboard charts and the top ten in many other countries. The song is now over 30 years old and regarded a classic, and this mural in one of the narrow alleyways at Daegu’s Bangcheon Market reminded me of it.
When I searched for the original video of “Jump”, I stumbled upon several articles about the song and learnt that shortly after the September 11 Attacks, it was placed on the 2001 Clear Channel memorandum, a document distributed by Clear Channel Communications, which operates over 1,200 radio stations in the United States. The memo contained a list of 165 “lyrically questionable” songs with the suggestion radio stations “might not want to play these songs” as some may find them insensitive.
“A Clear Channel spokeswoman emphasized that the list was not a mandate or order to radio programmers. In a statement, the company said the list came not from the corporate offices but from ‘a grass-roots effort that was apparently circulated among program directors’. Others in the Clear Channel network, speaking on condition of anonymity, told a more complicated story. They said that a smaller list of questionable songs was originally generated by the corporate office, but an overzealous regional executive began contributing suggestions and circulating the list via e-mail, where it continued to grow.” – After the Horror, Radio Stations Pull Some Songs, Neil Strauss, New York Times
Snopes.com, a website covering urban legends and other rumours, did research on the subject and concluded that the list did indeed exist as a suggestion for radio stations only and was not an outright ban on the songs in question.
“Other than some rather questionable choices of songs, the only thing remarkable about this list is that so many sensation-hungry news outlets have attempted to spin it as an outrageous mandate by Clear Channel to ‘ban’ certain songs from the airwaves. … Radio personnel were still free to make their own programming decisions, and the list was merely intended as helpful advisory information.” Radio, Radio, Snopes.com
What stood out, however, was that while specific songs were listed for all other artists, the memo also suggested avoiding “all Rage Against the Machine songs”. Tom Morello, the band’s guitarist, commented that his band’s music was diametrically opposed to violence committed against innocent people.
“If our songs are ‘questionable’ in any way, it is that they encourage people to question the kind of ignorance that breeds intolerance — intolerance which can lead to censorship and the extinguishing of our civil liberties, or at its extremes can lead to the kind of violence we witnessed.”
Of course, even a very peaceful song like Peter, Paul and Mary’s Leavin’ on a Jet Plane might well have evoked difficult images in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, but apparently, not everybody felt the same way about some of the songs on the list. One radio station reported that Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York and John Lennon’s Imagine, which were included on the list, were in fact some of the most requested songs in the week after the attacks. I suppose one can differ on whether or not “Jump” should or shouldn’t have been on that list, but I think the song has a very positive energy, as does its opening line, “I get up, and nothing gets me down”.
The music video for “Jump” was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards and won in the category “best stage performance”.