ANGELS IN THE AIRWAVES | 5 years ago | June 15, 2001 | In an editorial, the Phoenix lambasted the FCC’s regulatory logic.
“Perhaps the biggest radio hit of 2000 was ‘The Real Slim Shady,’ a scatological, sexually lurid rap song from Eminem’s Grammy-nominated The Marshal Mathers LP
“But if you wanted the raw, uncensored version, you had to buy the CD. The version that was played thousands of times on radio stations across the country had been edited to eliminate all the dirty words. That way, broadcasters wouldn’t get in trouble with the Federal Communications Commission.
“An abridgement of the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee? Absolutely. But it fit with the loose understanding that radio executives had with their governmental lords and masters: stay away from George Carlin’s infamous seven words and you’ll be left alone.
“Or not, as it turns out. In a decision that is as chilling as it is mind-boggling, the FCC earlier this month fined KKMG Radio, an FM station based in Colorado Springs, for playing the edited version of ‘The Real Slim Shady’ — the exact same edited version you heard so many times last summer. Even after the song had been cleaned up, the FCC ruled, ‘portions of the lyrics contain sexual references in conjunction with sexual expletives that appear intended to pander and shock.’
“How was it that KKMG was singled out and fined $7000? Opportunity, plain and simple. An offended listener filed a complaint with the FCC, complete with a lyric sheet she had downloaded from the Internet. And the FCC acted on the complaint.
“In other words, what happened in Colorado Springs could happen anywhere.
“Unfortunately, the decision says much about George W. Bush’s FCC chairman, Michael Powell. When it comes to the desires of huge media conglomerates to combine and expand, Powell is a classic Libertarian. But when it comes to artistic freedom, he has no problem enforcing government regulations of the most onerous sort.”
Spare parts | 10 years ago | June 14, 1996 | Jon Garelick reviewed Beck’s new album.
“Beck’s new Odelay (DGC, in stores June 18) was produced in part by the Dust Brothers, who also produced the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique. Like that album’s namesake, Odelay is a thrift shop of leftover styles and hand-me-down effects. There seems to be nothing in American popular music that Beck hasn’t absorbed — or at least partly digested — before regurgitating it into song. . . .
“If Paul’s Boutique is the Beasties’ self-explanation, then Odelay’s ‘Readymade’ is Beck’s. Like the Beasties and other hip-hop artists, he uses sampling and collage as an expansive technique, transforming the ‘readymades’ of pop cultural detritus into art. If a musical passage isn’t a sample, he records and processes it so it will sound like one — a whistled melody that recalls Otis Redding’s ‘Dock of the Bay,’ a guitar riff that could be from an old Them single (‘Gloria’?), a drum rhythm track possibly lifted from the Beatles’ ‘Taxman.’ . . .
“On the single ‘Where It’s At,’ the easy flow of Beck’s persona accommodates everything with Zen-like ease — a funky intro of Fender Rhodes piano and organ, light-soul horn fanfares, and variously sampled rap styles; there’s even a nice jazz sax solo.”
The weight of oppression | 15 years ago | June 14, 1991 | Miles Harvey spoke of the long-standing difficulty the left has had in defining itself.
“As Jacob Weisberg pointed out in the New Republic (February 25), protestors also learned valuable lessons from the Vietnam era: ‘Few among their ranks have exhibited for Saddam Hussein and his Republican Guard any of the sympathy once extended to Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese National Liberation Front. They don’t demonize American troops or make common cause with the enemy.’ Support for the peace movement declined dramatically as the war sped forward. ‘For the protests to win a wider following,’ wrote Weisberg, ‘they need to do more than wait for the costs to mount. They need to move beyond a moral message based on the unacceptability of the use of force to a prudential argument about alternative objectives and strategies.’
“But the American left has tended to define itself more by what it opposes than what it supports. As a result, it has often found itself in an uncomfortably reactive position: waiting for body bags, waiting for the economy to fail, waiting for environmental disasters. Writing in LA Weekly (January 25), Michael Ventura argued that what the left has lost is a vision, a dream. He maintained that protests — no matter how successful — do not make a movement. ‘A movement,’ he wrote, ‘articulates something for the future.’ ”