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5 radio edits sillier than Cee Lo's 'Forget You'

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You know what it's like: You catch one of your favorite songs on the radio, only to hear a word or an entire line fudged because of the FCC's ever-Victorian standards of alleged decency. Movies, too -- I remember realizing all grown-ups were stupid when, as a boy, I watched "Smokey and the Bandit" on cable and the most quoted exclamation from the film was very poorly dubbed for my protection: "I'm gonna barbecue your (head) in molasses!"

A lifetime of pop songs by necessity has meant encountering a lifetime of "radio edits," as happened this week when Cee Lo's online smash hit "F--- You" finally reached traditional radio as "Forget You." Who were we kidding -- or protecting -- with these censored versions of popular songs?

No female dogs!
In Charlie Daniels' 1979 crossover single "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," our intrepid fiddle player sweats through an epic straight out of Homer, triumphs over the devil and claims his prize, a golden fiddle. He's earned his parting shot: "I told you once you son of a bitch, I'm the best that's ever been!" The man just defeated pure evil with music; surely we can allow him one moment of visceral boasting. But not in public, where the radio version became this: "I told you once you son of a gun ..."

No Mary Jane!
Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" is a moseying tune that lets go of its firm lyrical stance before the refrain by shrugging and saying, "Let's roll another joint." The 1994 version released to radio protected our delicate sensibilities by running the word "joint" backwards, so Petty sounded as if he'd had a sudden stroke at the end of the line.

No pejorative gays!
Taylor Swift's 2008 song "Pictures to Burn" finds her saying goodbye to a boyfriend, advising him to tell his friends that she's crazy while she'll handle it this way: "I'll tell mine that you're gay." GLBTQ groups objected, and a resulting radio edit changed the line to, "That's fine, you won't mind if I say," which makes no real sense.

No spelling bees!
Last year, Britney Spears raised the ire of the self-appointed self-righteous by releasing a single titled "If You Seek Amy." Say that fast, as she sings it, and it sounds like spelling out the word "f---" and adding "me." Assuming Spears was smart enough to (a) spell and (b) hatch such a devious plot to corrupt our subconscious minds, her record label released a version of the single that removed one letter: "If You See Amy."

No animal sex!
The first time I heard Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" was the radio edit. No tricks here, engineers simply cut the vocal track each time Trent Reznor shouted the f-word in this line: "I wanna f--- you like an animal!" It sounded like he was hiccuping: "I wanna (blank) you like an animal!" Despite this silliness, the song became a massive 1994 hit.

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3 Comments

I heard the edited version of "You Oughta Know" from Alanis Morissette first, and actually thought it wasn't edited, and that she just said "f***" really quick and sharply, because they left enough of the "f" sound in to make it pretty, um, effing obvious.

Other favorites on radio were another NIN tune, "Starf***ers, Inc." and "Aenema" from Tool, both of which just dropped out the words from the vocal track, leaving not a whole heck of a lot behind.

Totally remember the Charlie Daniels "clean" version, and may have even had it on a 45. We reveled in saying "bitch" instead of "gun" as nine-year olds. Back when "You Better You Bet" from The Who came out, the radio version left out the entire verse with the "open arms, and open legs" line.

i'm from the Boston area and in the late 90's when I was listening to a few hard rock stations in the area they never used to censor "Heaven Beside You" by Alice in Chains, they would let the F word sneak in but that was the only song they would let it happen to. i can remember hearing it mid-day and during 'safe harbor period' 11pm-6am the same. well after a few years, the station changed their format a bit, got new management and they started to censor the song or pay the fine for letting cuss words go out.

we all know the words that are missing, just play them they way were intended to, who are we saving the little children? i always scream out the swears when i hear a censored song and i'll do the same when i hear 'F*** You' on the radio, censorship be... darned?

The Who-Who are You - toward the end Daltrey say "Who the fuck are you". I've never heard an edited version and it's been playing on the radio for 30+ years

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on September 1, 2010 4:59 PM.

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