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Policing Pop

Policing Pop

Martin Cloonan
Reebee Garofalo
series edited by Michael Jarrett
Series: Sound Matters
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Policing Pop
    Book Description:

    Fans and detractors of popular music tend to agree on one thing: popular music is a bellwether of an individual's political and cultural values. In the United States, for example, one cannot think of the counterculture apart from its music. For that reason, in virtually every country in the world, some group identifies popular music as a source of potential danger and wants to regulate it. Policing Pop looks into the many ways in which popular music and artists around the world are subjected to censorship, ranging from state control and repression to the efforts of special interest or religious groups to limit expression.The essays collected here focus on the forms of censorship as well as specific instances of how the state and other agencies have attempted to restrict the types of music produced, recorded and performed within a culture. Several show how even unsuccessful attempts to exert the power of the state can cause artists to self-censor. Others point to material that taxes even the most liberal defenders of free speech. Taken together, these essays demonstrate that censoring agents target popular music all over the world, and they raise questions about how artists and the public can resist the narrowing of cultural expression.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0138-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    In the aftermath of the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and a section of the Pentagon on 11 September 2001, Clear Channel, the largest radio chain in the United States, circulated a list of some 150 songs that executives considered “insensitive.” The list included Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” and AC/DC’s “Shot Down in Flames,” Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” and the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” as well as “all Rage Against the Machine songs.” Defended as a simple act of sensitivity toward the victims’ families, and denounced as the latest move in...

  5. Part I. Defining Issues and Themes

    • 1 Call That Censorship? Problems of Definition
      (pp. 13-29)
      Martin Cloonan

      On 25 May 1977 Virgin Records in the United Kingdom released a single by the Sex Pistols entitled “God Save the Queen.” This record was banned from airplay by every U.K. radio and television station and boycotted by a number of retailers. It was also allegedly denied its rightful place at the top of the June 1977 singles chart via chart fiddling (Savage 1991:364). However, there was no attempt by the U.K. government to suppress the single nor by the courts to prosecute it. It went on to sell hundreds of thousands of copies and became something of a rock...

    • 2 I Want My MP3: Who Owns Internet Music?
      (pp. 30-45)
      Reebee Garofalo

      At the dawn of cable television, the film industry ran a series of ads in movie theaters that proclaimed: “There’s a monster in your TV set.” At the time, the film industry was terrified that showing ad-free, first-run Hollywood movies on the small screen would seriously harm movie going. As we know, of course, the cable and film industries soon learned to co-exist without significant damage to either. Indeed, by the late 1990s, video rentals rivaled box office receipts as a source of revenue.

      The music industry is currently in a similar position. Since the dawn of the new millennium—...

    • 3 Twenty Years of Music Censorship Around the World
      (pp. 46-64)
      Vanessa Bastian and Dave Laing

      The policing of popular music can take many forms. In this chapter we consider the censorship and oppression on a global scale of musicians, fans, and others involved with popular music during the last two decades of the twentieth century (1980–1999). We look at the geographical distribution of that censorship, the causes of censorship and oppression, and the punishments suffered by the victims—and also some instances where censorship has been lifted or moderated.

      The source of our data is the journalIndex on Censorship. Founded in Britain in 1972 as a response to the persecution of writers in...

    • 4 Remote Control: Legal Censorship of the Creative Process
      (pp. 65-78)
      Steve Greenfield and Guy Osborn

      The concept of “policing pop” goes beyond censorship to cover all the ways in which artistic output can be regulated and controlled. Traditionally, analysis of the legal aspects of music censorship tends to concentrate on the broad area of state control over “obscene” material: the ways in which product¹ can be regulated by the law on the basis that its content is somehow unsuitable. Various aspects of music may infringe both statutory and common law regulations that govern the protection of public morality and decency. Within the United Kingdom (on which this chapter focuses), liability is generally based on the...

  6. Part II. Controlling the Artistic Process

    • 5 Death Metal and the Limits of Musical Expression
      (pp. 81-99)
      Keith Kahn-Harris

      The act of music censorship implicitly or explicitly assumes that music is in some way socially significant. That significance may be viewed as lying in music’s ability to produce negative social consequences to which censorship is perceived to be the answer. More cynically, one might say that the significance of music lies in the possibilities for asserting and maintaining power through its suppression. It does not follow, of course, that opposition to censorship necessarily involves a belief that music is insignificant. Indeed, one possible argument against censorship is that musical expression istoosocially significant to be suppressed. Nor does...

    • 6 Marxists in the Marketplace
      (pp. 100-112)
      Mike Jones

      Readers will have to forgive me in advance for this public examination of the experience of making “political” pop music in Britain. Thankfully I was never threatened with death or torture for attempting to express (left-wing) political views through the vehicle of popular music. Further, however “communist” my background and intentions were in the 1980s, the work I collaborated on through 10 years of making records never even threatened to qualify for a “Parental Guidance” sticker. So why would such a seemingly innocuous experience be included in a book about popular music and censorship? I think the answer lies in...

    • 7 Argh Fuck Kill—Canadian Hardcore Goes on Trial: The Case of the Dayglo Abortions
      (pp. 113-139)
      Rob Bowman

      In the spring of 1988 in the tiny Ottawa suburb of Nepean, a 14-year-old girl was engaged in activity typical of teenagers throughout the western world. This particular young woman was preoccupied with identity work, using popular music in the form of hardcore punk as one of her primary tools. In her quest to develop into a happy, healthy, fulfilled human being, she had borrowed from a friend an album by a Canadian group called the Dayglo Abortions. Desiring to flagrantly contravene Canadian copyright law, she asked her father, Jim Fitzgibbons, to help her make a tape recording of the...

    • 8 Strelnikoff: Censorship in Contemporary Slovenia
      (pp. 140-150)
      David Parvo

      For 46 years Slovenia was a republic in the Socialist Federated Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), traditionally considered one of the most liberal and progressive of the Eastern European communist countries (Ramet and Banac 1992:94). After Slovenia’s secession from the SFRY in 1991 and the subsequent fall of communism, this liberal atmosphere continued to flourish (ibid.:144). As I write in 2002, more than 10 years after the fall of communism, that tradition is being threatened. The Slovenian Roman Catholic Church, which has been extremely influential throughout the country’s history, is beginning to consolidate its power and exert its will on the...

  7. Part III. Up Against the State

    • 9 Music in the Struggle to End Apartheid: South Africa
      (pp. 153-165)
      Michael Drewett

      The South African elections of 1994 installed a democratic and liberal system of government in a country previously ruled by the National Party. When the Nationalists assumed power in 1948, they instituted the repressive apartheid system of severe racial inequality and enforced racial separateness. Many musicians opposed this system through their music and support of antiapartheid political cause. In response, the Nationalist government attempted to minimize the impact of musicians by preventing controversial music from being heard and by repressing the musicians themselves. Notwithstanding the government’s attempt to maintain its hegemony, musicians fought back in a multitude of ways.


    • 10 Confusing Confucius: Rock in Contemporary China
      (pp. 166-185)
      Jeroen de Kloet

      According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, two kinds of music are dangerous. The first is the loud and jarring kind that stimulates chaos. The second is the pleasing but lewd kind. Both disturb the harmony that Confucius considered crucial for society (Tuan 1993:89). If Confucius were to enter a music store in Beijing today, he would most likely classify rock (yaogun yinyue), predominantly produced in Beijing, as the loud music, and pop (liuxing yinyue), mostly produced in Hong Kong and Taiwan, as the pleasing but lewd kind. Since the 1980s pop and, to a lesser extent, rock have rapidly...

    • 11 German Nazi Bands: Between Provocation and Repression
      (pp. 186-204)
      Alenka Barber-Kersovan

      The term “Nazi bands” comprises a number of German skinhead groups whose output is connected with an extreme right-wing ideology. Like the skinhead subculture in general, these groups at first emulated British role models. The key personality of the British scene was Ian Stuart Donaldson, an ex-punk and active member of the extreme right-wing National Front. Donaldson’s band, Skrewdriver, was among the first Oi! bands to politicize their music in order to articulate rightist sentiments (Nevill 1993:58).

      In 1985 Stuart founded the Blood and Honour Movement as a production and distribution network for White Noise music, with branches in Scandinavia,...

    • 12 Popular Music and Policing in Brazil
      (pp. 205-220)
      José Roberto Zan

      Urban popular music, with all its diverse genres and styles, was a major feature of Brazilian cultural life in the twentieth century. Composers and songwriters chronicled this period, and their work translated the social experience of rapid urbanization characteristic of the development of peripheral capitalism. Popular music was the target of political censorship at certain times because the lyrics’ use of satire, parody, and metaphor had the potential to undermine the symbolism and doctrine of the Brazilian power elite.

      Political censorship took a special interest in popular music in two periods. The first was during the New State (1937–1945),...

    • 13 Challenging Music as Expression in the United States
      (pp. 221-238)
      Paul D. Fischer

      Culturally, the United States of America is a toddler—loud, willful, sometimes crude, self-centered, even conceited. Other cultures—European, African, Asian, Indian, Islamic—experienced thousands of years of continuous evolution; the United States has had slightly over 200. In spite of this, the indigenous musics of the United States, blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hip-hop, and more, have made significant contributions to national and world culture. Rooted in combinations of (mostly) European and African styles and forms, these musics are expressions of the multicultural nature of the U.S. population. However, they are not uniformly praised and prized...

  8. About the Contributors
    (pp. 239-241)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 242-242)