Soon after the 9/11 attacks on America, Clear Channel issued a list to their numerous radio stations of songs not to play, due to what the company deemed as “questionable lyrics.” Tunes with titles like Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You,” The Gap Band’s “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” and R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” unsurprisingly made the list, but so did any song that could even slightly be associated with terror attacks, flying, bombs, plane crashes, guns, smoke, or fires, as was anything considered ironic at the moment (Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, AC/DC’s “”Safe in New York City”).
One song that made it inexplicably onto this list was the Jimi Hendrix Experience version of “Hey Joe,” which is all about a man named Joe who shot his girlfriend after finding out that she cheated on him. While it involves gun violence, it was a stretch to be on a post-9/11 “do not play” list, especially since the song title itself isn’t controversial. But you know when it’s not a good idea to play “Hey Joe”? Right after reporting on the Oscar Pistorius trial, where the gold medalist stands accused of shooting and killing his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
The BBC issued an apology after “Hey Joe” was played at 9am following a news update on the Pistorius trial on their Radio 6 Music radio station, according to the Mirror Online. The show’s host Nemone, who was filling in for regular morning host Shaun Keaveny, apologized on air after the track was played.
“Hey Joe” was originally recorded by the 1960’s group The Leaves and has been covered in various ways by many artists, but it was the Hendrix cover in 1966 on the album Are You Experienced that it gained popularity and it’s often played on radio stations til this day. (In May 2012, over 7,000 guitarists gathered to play “Hey Joe” to break a world record.)
The song opens with “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?” with Joe responding “I’m goin down to shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messin’ ’round with another man.” The second verse says, “Hey Joe, I heard you shot your woman down” with Joe later confirming that he did indeed shoot her as intended.
After the incident, the BBC issued the following statement:
“In light of the nature of the news story, we apologise for any offence caused by the proximity of the song Hey Joe to the bulletin. An on-air apology was made immediately [after] the mistake was realised.”
I’m not familiar with this radio show, but upon researching it, it seems like it’s a traditional radio show spinning tunes in the morning and taking on-air song requests, with news bulletins throughout. Matter of fact, today I even listened to what I guess is the replay to try to get an idea of what the show is like and wouldn’t you know it, they had a news update on the Pistorius trial, which was done by a separate news correspondant, and right after I hear “Hey Joe”! Now, if this is the replay of the controversial episode, then I can say, Nemone intros the news segment by mentioning Hendrix as one of the artists she will play when she returns; this is followed by several news clips, including the trial, and then “Hey Joe” is played; I listened on for a while after the song and didn’t hear the supposed on-air apology. Here in America, the morning radio shows would totally play this song while talking the Pistorius trial in a mocking way (actually, I’ll bet they’ve already done it). It’s unclear from the reports how or why this song made it on air at that exact moment; also, it wasn’t stated whether the BBC actually received complaints about it or if they preemptively released that statement to avoid backlash.
Pistorius, the 26-year-old South African Paralympian dubbed “Blade Runner” for the blade-like carbon-fibre prosthetics legs he wears during sprinting competitions, dazzled spectators around the world when he competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, and then went on to take Gold in many events at the Paralympics. The double amputee became an inspiration and hero for his athletic achievements.
On February 14, 2013, Pistorius was charged with the shooting death of his 29-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at his home in Pretoria, South Africa, and made his second appearance in court today, where he maintains he shot his girlfriend accidentally after thinking she was an intruder. Pistorius, who is a gun enthusiast and usually has his home guarded by security guards, states that he heard noise coming from the bathroom in his home and fired his gun four times into the door thinking there was a robber inside; he also says he reacted this way because he was feeling vulnerable without his prosthetic legs. Once he realized his girlfriend was not in his bed, he put his prosthetics on, broke down the bathroom door with a cricket bat, and administered CPR to Steenkamp, who he had first carried down stairs, where she died in his arms. Police reports state that Cape Town native Steenkamp, who was a model with a law degree and was part of the cast of the upcoming TV reality show Tropika Island of Treasure, was shot in the head and arm on Valentine’s Day; prosecutors are trying to charge Pistorius with premeditated murder, which if convicted, could result in life imprisonment for gold medal winner. Pistorius and Steenkamp had been dating since November 2012. Police had reportedly been called to Pistorius’s home on previous occasions for what was suspected to be issues of “domestic nature.” In 2009, Pistorius was arrested for assault after slamming a door on a woman, but charges were later dropped.