Music Article

Uneasy Listening, W-FBI

Soundtrack to the Waco siege -- The FBI pumps an eclectic playlist of tunes into the Branch Davidian compound

The playlist is eclectic. Tibetan chants, bugle calls, Christmas carols, Nancy Sinatra's ''These Boots Are Made for Walkin''' — and no commercials. College radio at its anarchic best?

No, it's just those musical free spirits at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In its continuing effort to get heavily armed pseudo-messiah David Koresh and his remaining disciples to surrender, the FBI is blasting this presumably annoying music through loudspeakers aimed at the Branch Davidian compound. (Agents get to wear earplugs.)

The FBI won't discuss details of its playlist, like why a man who thinks he's Jesus would find Christmas carols unbearable (although maybe it has more to do with the ones chosen — the sing-along-with-Mitch Miller variety). Or why does Nancy Sinatra qualify instead of her far-more-cringeworthy brother, Frank Jr.? And why are Barry Manilow songs — according to one federal official involved in the siege negotiations — considered ''excessive force''?

Music as torture is nothing new, of course. In December 1989, U.S. soldiers tried to drive noted opera buff Manuel Noriega out of the papal nunciature in Panama City with a high-decibel onslaught of Styx, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Lee Greenwood's ''God Bless the U.S.A.'' The plug was pulled after the Vatican complained.

Before Koresh's electricity was turned off, he tormented the feds by playing tapes of his own rockin' compositions; like Beach Boys sycophant Charles Manson, Koresh is a would-be pop star (which raises the question Could all this have been avoided if Koresh had snared a major-label record deal?). More persuasive tunes for future messiah-wannabes might include the following: ''You May Be Right (I May Be Crazy)'' by Billy Joel, ''Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition'' by Frank Loesser, and ''Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,'' by Culture Club.

Originally posted Apr 09, 1993 Published in issue #165 Apr 09, 1993 Order article reprints
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