Number 7 / December 1983:
NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET....Why was Radio Free Grenada, whose last known selection was Bob Marley's "War," one of the first targets of American bombs? Eugenia Charles, the right-wing Prime Minister of the Caribbean island of Dominica, explained that "We weren't worried about military intervention coming out of Grenada, we were worried about the spread of its ideas." To replace Radio Free Grenada, the U.S. invaders set up Spice Island Radio, under the overall control of the Psychological Operations Section of the Army. A twelve-man team of Navy journalists immediately flew in from Norfolk, recruited some local announcers, and Spice Island Radio was on the air. Their first broadcast called on Grenadians to lay down their arms. The head of the Navy team, Lt. Richard Ezzel, told Reuters, "We wanted to save lives," (This plea might have been more effective if directed at American GIs.) Ezzel went on to say that "When we first came down we were told to play nothing but reggae and calypso music; later we found out that people did not want to hear reggae but wanted to hear more rock and roll and country music." Ezzel said his conclusions were based on extensive tours of the island by his announcers (driveout research?) While we find it hard to swallow Ezzel's assertions about reggae (a reggae song called "Capitalism Gone Mad" was number 1 in Grenada at the time of the invasion), recent visitors to the island have told RRC that Spice Island's mix of Quiet Riot, Hall and Oates, the Beatles, Asia, calypso, and reggae is very popular. Unfortunately, there is little reason to believe that PsyOps is serious about their stated goal of bringing democracy to the Caribbean. The aforementioned Ms. Charles, who flew to Washington right after the invasion to mug for the cameras with Ronald Reagan, has been having opponents of her regime shot as she tried to pass legislation that would punish alleged anti-state conspirators with death by hanging. In Barbados, Prime Minister and U.S. ally Tom Adams seeks to expel the respected journalist Ricky Singh for his opposition to the invasion. U.S. cries of "Democracy for Grenada" ring hollow in light of continued support for brutal dictatorships in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. ("Remember '65? The kids are all grown up now but the death squads are still alive.") Lt. Ezzel says that his men will stay on long after any U.S. pullout, "until the Grenadian government can take over the job." When you consider that the U.S. has occupied Puerto Rico since 1898, it looks like Spice Island Radio may be number 1 in its market for a long time to come.
Grenada is not the only place where pop music is the soundtrack for military dirty work. ABC News' Mark Scheerer recently described to RRC the operation of FM 100 at the Beirut Airport: a strong mix of rock, country, and black music coupled with upbeat announcers and PSAs urging the troops to avoid the local food and patronize the mess tent. This station is also operated by the Navy, and it is perhaps the ultimate indictment of the creative bankruptcy of Lee Abrams and other formatters that you have to join the Marines and go overseas to hear a healthy mix of your own country's music. Undoubtedly, Abrams would reply that the low-income kids who join the military do not fit his station's demographics.
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