IT WASN’T THE CHEATIN’ THAT CAUSED the two biggest country-music cable networks to hog-tie Garth Brooks—it was the beatin’. At 29, the industry’s newly crowned king (with a triple-platinum second LP, No Fences) last month earned an unprecedented six Hats, as the Academy of Country Music calls its awards. Brooks recently finished “The Thunder Rolls,” a video for his new song about a two-timing wife abuser who gets a dose of .38 caliber justice.
But The Nashville Network, which reaches 53 million households, wouldn’t air it without a trailer from Brooks decrying wife beating and vigilantism. Says a TNN spokesman: “The depiction of domestic violence is excessive and without an acceptable resolution.” Then the 13 million-household Country Music Television channel yanked the video after six days when viewer response tilted toward the negative.
The twin bans came as “a total shock,” says Brooks, now on tour in the Northwest, especially since previews to a psychologist who works with battered women, as well as to some victims, had drawn no objections. Most videos, he feels, are “the same old crap, and I refuse to make a no-brainer. I would have never, ever done something TNN and CMT couldn’t use, but I’m not going to change what I do to fit their standards.” Though Brooks agreeably taped a trailer, his label, Capitol, and his management asked him to withhold it, preferring that TNN create its own disclaimer.
Not that “The Thunder Rolls” needs one—Farrah Fawcett’s 1984 TV flick on wife beating, The Burning Bed, makes the video look like a Honeymooners episode. In fact, the middle-of-the-road music channel VH-1 is considering it for its playlist, which leaves Brooks musing about the loss of his country outlets. “I’m kind of disappointed…they want to see the good side of real life,” says he, “but they want to turn their backs to the bad side.”