“Sex Offender” and Amazon

Frank Portman
May 22, 2018 · 4 min read

Just as a sort of addendum to my previous little essay concerning Spotify and other digital platforms and actual and potential suppression and manipulation of material from archives, here’s something that came up today.

I was reminded of it by a fan/customer-turned-friend. (F/CTF: a very common sort of relationship among small-time “artists” like me — sometimes I feel as though I actually do know something like 100% of the members of my audience personally.)

From what I can tell, Amazon has silently suppressed the digital version of my band’s Sex Offender 7". (I say silently because there was no notification to me or — as far as I’m aware — to my distributor: it just disappeared, or failed to appear, in their digital discography.) For those who don’t know, this song is a cover of the Blondie song — their first single — released as “X Offender” in 1976. “Sex Offender” was the original title, but, as I understand it, it was changed because of pressure from the skittish record company. I can only speculate that the same sort of considerations that led Private Stock Records to shy away from releasing a track with that title caused Amazon to delete our version. (We recorded and released the song under the original title for no other reason than it seemed like a cool thing to do, and also because there was no one there to censor us, no one whose skittishness could have any influence on us. We just thought it was cool, so we did it. That’s the way punk bands used to do things way back when.)

I mean, I assume it must be the title that caused this situation. I can think of no other reason. It is, of course, possible that it’s just a random glitch with no rhyme or reason, but as it is the only such situation in the entire catalog and throughout the full range of platforms and services I tend to doubt it. (As anyone who has ever dealt with Amazon in such a capacity will tell you, there’s no point “reaching out” to them in such circumstances. There is never a response. Ever.)

It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, of course, if Amazon deletes my band’s Blondie cover (with its B-side, the first version of “Last Time I Listened to You”) from its store. Even for (what I regard as) quite a stupid reason. But it touches on my anxieties about deletions and suppressions from online archives and catalogs that I write about from time to time.

My F/CTF (a/k/a Lauren) would have had no way to know about the gap if I hadn’t told her, and I wouldn’t have known about it if I hadn’t accidentally discovered it while searching for something else. If you think beyond just this or that song or file and extrapolate, to imagine a future of platforms and services silently removing, deleting, suppressing, or even just de-prioritizing on the basis of unstated parameters on a big scale… it’s just not a nice picture of our digital future, even if it’s not exactly the end of the world.


I know many people think I’m nuts. Relax, man, most of the stuff is still out there. Just go with it. It is, by definition, the best of all possible digital worlds. Praise Google.

But I’m an anxious person. I like things to be clear and straightforward and I’d prefer not to have to check up on every little thing to make sure it’s okay. I’m a bit OCD and doing so typically takes up my whole day. I would prefer a world where the platforms and services (if we have to have them) would have the integrity of whatever corpus is at hand as a major priority so I wouldn’t have to wonder if I should launch an investigation every time I want to listen to a song, check out a band, or read a book. But that’s (probably literally) just me.

There are, of course, worse things to worry about. Rest assured, I’m worrying about them too, quietly to myself mostly.

added: I’m sure it’s the paranoia and narcissism talking, but this link has gotten zero engagement on twitter while my original essay was shared and ridiculed far and wide. Because the words that rhyme with hex suspender make it invisible, or less visible? Maybe, maybe not, who knows, but this uncertainty is the problem. If I’m trying to review someone’s tweets (novels, songs, paintings….) I want them all to be there to review, and to be able to tell.

Frank Portman

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I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.

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