Rush, Peter Gabriel, Fab Thunderbirds want off Limbaugh's show
In the wake of Rush Limbaugh's attacks on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke last week, nearly 50 advertisers have fled his show, including Netflix and AOL, undeterred by the fiery announcer's subsequent apology in which he regretted his choice of words but little else.
First the money walks, now it's the music. Rush, Peter Gabriel and the Fabulous Thunderbirds have all demanded that their music immediately stop appearing on Limbaugh's program. (And lest you think it's confined to rockist quarters, the Philadelphia Orchestra, which bought a package of ads through CBS Philly, has also "taken steps to ensure that our ads no longer run on the Rush Limbaugh show," according to its Twitter feed.)
If you watch Limbaugh's now-infamous remarks, he uses Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" to introduce his labeling of Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute." As for the others, Rush's prog epics and the T-Birds' "Tuff Enuff" have been used on Limbaugh's show as bumper music for years now. For the record, Pop & Hiss would like to point out that these songs aren't exactly fresh. Are Wayne and Garth working as Limbaugh's music programmers?
During any election season, politicians and rock stars will have their scuffles. So far, we've seen Tom Petty send a letter to Michele Bachmann, asking her to knock off with playing "American Girl." By the way, the song was formerly used on the campaign trail by 2008 presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Both seemingly ignored the racy "make it last all night" part of the song.) Survivor songwriter Frankie Sullivan filed a lawsuit in January against Newt Gingrich for using "Eye of the Tiger" while stumping, after months of asking the Republican presidential candidate to put it to rest. This underdog anthem was also used in 2008 by Sarah Palin at a North Carolina rally. Geez, can't any of them find an original song?
But this flap between the classic rockers and radio's biggest flap-jaw has a different set of issues to contend with. According to attorney Larry Iser, who went to court to remove Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" from John McCain's attack ad on Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, the use of songs on the radio falls under blanket agreements for "public performance."
Iser told Rolling Stone that radio networks such as Premiere, which syndicates "The Rush Limbaugh Show," all have public performance licenses that allow them access to all songs in the publishing catalogs of ASCAP, BMI and, in the band Rush's case, SESAC, the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers. In other words, Limbaugh is within his legal rights to play his favorite seduction jams of the '80s, if he wants to.
But as Iser points out, the decrying from Gabriel, Rush and Thunderbirds singer Kim Wilson, who said he was "mortified" by Limbaugh's statements, is essentially designed to publicly shame Limbaugh into not playing the music anymore, regardless of legalities.
Shame is a tactic that Limbaugh is familiar with, of course. It was exactly what he tried to do to Fluke and, by extension, millions of American women who use birth control. Is he "tuff enuff" to get a taste of his own medicine?
-- Margaret Wappler
Photo: Rush Limbaugh in 2010 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Credit: Brian Jones / Associated Press