Bangles' 'Egyptian' Told to Take a Walk
September 23, 2001
Los Angeles Times
By STEVE HOCHMAN
Reports of giant media owner Clear Channel compiling a list of songs viewed as "too insensitive" for its radio stations to play in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedies has caused some uncomfortable deja vu for members of the Bangles. The Los Angeles quartet's 1987 No. 1 hit "Walk Like an Egyptian" was banned by England's BBC during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Finding their innocuous novelty once again alongside songs with graphic imagery of death and destruction is especially disturbing to guitarist Vicki Peterson, because Egypt has little if any direct connection to either the current crisis or the 1991 conflict.
Given that the Clear Channel list also includes such songs of peace and comfort as John Lennon's "Imagine" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Peterson's first reaction was to assume the list was an Internet-spread hoax, a la the alleged Nostradamus stanzas purported to predict the World Trade Center attacks. "This has got to be a joke," she says. "The healing power of music and especially some of those songs is comforting in times like these.
"I understand about wanting to stay away from insensitive material. Personally I'm staying away from listening to anything that fosters hatred--not that I have anything on my regular playlist like that anyway."
In a twist this time, the Bangles are booked to perform Oct. 2 at a private party for winners of a contest held last spring by the History Channel in conjunction with its May series "Egypt: Before the Pyramids." Fitting with the theme of the series, the party is being held at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, and the Bangles have been asked, of course, to make "Egyptian" a centerpiece of the set. (Ironically, the promotions firm overseeing the show is owned by Clear Channel.)
"The party was put into play months ago," History Channel director of publicity Michael Feeney said. "It's a private party we did for the 'Egypt' series with America West [airline] and the Luxor."
Bangles manager Bruce Kirkland doesn't expect any issues to be raised about the band's playing the song at the Luxor show. But, he cautions, "none of this stuff is logical at this point. Logic is out the window and emotions have taken over."
Even with the previous ban, the group has never encountered any backlash suggesting the song is anti-Arab or insensitive, drummer Debbi Peterson says.
"It was always so tongue-in-cheek and the video was so silly and the way we sang it," she says. "Some people will find offense in anything. We took it as a novelty song, doing a little dance. Quite interesting lyrics, but we never took it seriously. It's a great song and has a really good dance move to it." The group has only one other show--Saturday at the Las Vegas House of Blues--scheduled before planning to start work on its first album since 1989.
MORE SONG ISSUES: Rather than risk accusations of insensitivity, the Dave Matthews Band has put off plans to release its song "When the World Ends" as a single. The lyrics could provide solace, says RCA Records Vice President of A&R Bruce Flohr, who works with the band.
"The gist of the song is savor every moment and that when everything else is chaotic, you've got love to hold onto," Flohr says.
But the band and record company were concerned that the focus would fall on lines that could be heard as hitting too close to the tragedies.
"I will rock you like a baby when the city falls," Matthews sings. "We will rise as the buildings crumble." The song, from the album "Everyday," originally was to be actively promoted to radio stations Tuesday, but that plan has been shelved, as has a remix done by hot English DJ Paul Oakenfold.
The DMB will instead issue the album's title song as its next single soon, although the date has not been set yet.
"The discussion was that music is going to be one of the tools that helps us all heal from this," says Flohr, emphasizing the message of love and strength in "World."
"But the most important thing to the band and everyone at the label is that the country will heal on its own terms and time, and maybe now is not the time to force that healing to take place. Every song has a different meaning now because life has a different meaning."
WHIRLED PEAS: The hip-hop Black Eyed Peas have just finished writing songs for the next album, with plans to start recording in mid-October.
But in the meantime, the group has hit the road for a five-week series of U.S. concerts--a venture it's finding helpful in dealing with its sadness and shock over the terrorist attacks. Rapper Taboo says that the tone will carry on to the new album, although not in an explicitly topical way.
"We're going to try to come with some songs that will bring a form of therapy to people who have lost loved ones and felt the effect of everything going on," he says. "Instead of bringing a message, we want to deliver therapy and help people escape while listening to the record or watching the show. We're not the type to dwell on one thing, but to explore different inspirations and bring views of the world, not just what's happening here, but all over. That's why we're sent here, to bring positive messages and progress."
With the first few shows of the tour, he says, "it seemed like people [at the concerts] needed that--to get away, releasing such a positive energy."
The songwriting was done with the group ensconced in the small seaside community of Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco, but the recording will be done in Los Angeles. The group's last album was heavy with guest female singers (including Macy Gray and Estero), but the new one, expected in March, will focus on the Peas--although Taboo says Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl is expected to contribute to the recording sessions.
SMALL FACES: A limited-edition, three-CD Led Zeppelin anthology will be released in November, but not to for public sale. It will be distributed primarily to film and television directors and music supervisors by Warner Chappell Music, Zep's publisher, to stimulate use of the band's music in soundtracks. Although Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had long resisted soundtrack offers for the Zeppelin catalog, they approved of four songs for Cameron Crowe's "Almost Famous" last year and now are more open to the idea in general, Warner Chappell Vice President of Film and Television Brad Rosenberg says. A version of the song "Gallows Pole" from the Plant-Page live "UnLedded" album will be featured in director Barry Levinson's upcoming movie "Bandits." ...
Art Garfunkel has signed to Atlantic Records' Division One label with the first album on which he has written or co-written every song. The collection, to be released in February or March, is said to be aesthetically compatible with classic Simon & Garfunkel records. *