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Friday, March 21, 2014

11 Years Ago: When MTV Banned the B-52s

I'd forgotten about this but surely we must mark this date, 11 years ago, when MTV, less than a week into the U.S.-Brit invasion of Iraq, banned the playing of any music videos with "war" lyrics or images--and the entire catalog of the B-52s.  Neil Strauss reported at the time for the NYT:  "Though images of war are dominating television screens, one channel is not having it. The day after the war in Iraq started, a memo was distributed through the offices of MTV Europe by its broadcast standards department. In the memo, Mark Sunderland, one of the department's managers, recommends that music videos depicting ''war, soldiers, war planes, bombs, missiles, riots and social unrest, executions'' and ''other obviously sensitive material' not be shown on MTV in Britain and elsewhere in Europe until further notice.
The memo cites explicit examples. These include videos that relate directly to the war in Iraq, like ''Boom!'' by System of a Down; videos with bombs exploding, like Billy Idol's ''Hot in the City''; videos with war scenes, like Radiohead's ''Lucky''; and even Aerosmith's ''Don't Want to Miss a Thing,'' which has scenes from the action movie ''Armageddon.''
Taking further cautionary measures, the memo goes on to advise against showing videos in which lyrics, song titles or even band names allude to war, bombs or other ''sensitive words.'' It mentions the songs ''B.O.B (Bombs Over Baghdad)'' by Outkast; ''You, Me and World War Three'' by Gavin Friday; and anything by the B-52's.
''I guess MTV doesn't have a research department, because from Day 1 we've said in interviews that our name is a slang term for the bouffant hairdo Kate and Cindy used to wear -- nothing to do with bombers, '' said Fred Schneider of the B-52's, referring to fellow band members. Oddly, the memo also mentions ''Invasion'' by Radiohead, although a spokesman for the band said he was unaware of any song by the group with that title.
Greg Mitchell's book "So Wrong For So Long," on the media and the Iraq war, was published today in an updated edition and for the first time as an e-book, with preface by Bruce Springsteen.   

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