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.