The Radio Edit Hall of Shame

Vintage Radio

Editor’s Note: One of the charms of the interweb is that older posts, like this one from way back in 2016, sometimes get rediscovered. Maybe folks are nostalgic for the radio of their youth, or maybe newer listeners are wondering what “radio” is. Either way, we’re happy to re-visit the topic now…

Is traditional radio trying to kill itself? Certainly, it does itself no favors when it chops entire sections out of classic rock and pop tunes. I know stations have to make a buck, but removing critical passages from treasured songs seems an odd way to do it! For those who still listen to AM/FM radio, I have, with lamentable ease, compiled some of the worst radio-edit offenders I’ve heard over the years. I have also created a single, fictional radio station exec, Donny Ranzaport, to whom we can all attribute the following aural atrocities, and on whom we can dump our collective enmity. These are in no particular order except the last one, which is hands-down the worst.

The Knack’s “My Sharona” (1979)
What’s excised: 51 seconds from Berton Averre’s 84-second guitar solo
What’s lost: a large chunk of the path to guitar nirvana
Which is better: a lot of awesome or a TON of awesome? On this well-known smash, Berton Averre and his Les Paul lay down one of the finest guitar solos ever to grace a #1 hit record. I can understand (barely) Donny’s decision in 1979 to get the song closer to four minutes than five–but today there is NO excuse.

Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” (1977)
What’s excised: the first four measures
What’s lost: a proper build-up
Is it really so important to shave eight seconds off this song’s intro? Does Donny have a bull to catch or something?

Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” (1970)
What’s excised: Gregg Rolie’s keyboard solo early in the song
What’s lost: the sense that you’re listening to a free-flowing jam band
Shame on Donny for this one. This solo adds a mystical flavor to the piece–and it isn’t even that long!

The Doors’ “Light My Fire” (1967)
What’s excised: Robby Krieger’s guitar solo
What’s lost: a climb to the top of Kaleidoscope Mountain
Precious and few are the songs featuring top-shelf solos on both keyboards and guitar: “Highway Star” by Deep Purple; “Southbound” by the Allman Brothers Band; “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd; and “Light My Fire” all come to mind. When Donny removes the inventive, wonderfully-phrased guitar solo from this Doors classic, Ray Manzarek’s terrific and trippy keyboard solo has nothing to hand off to. Instead of a funeral pyre, the song becomes a can of Sterno.

Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” (1983)
What’s excised: Lisa Coleman’s backup singing at the end
What’s lost: a sense of closure
Once Prince sings/screams “You must be a limousine!” it seems to be open season on ending the song whenever Donny (or the DJ) feels like it. But the full version, featuring Coleman’s voice repeating the phrase “right to the ground,” provides a profoundly more satisfying finish, both musically and psychologically. It’s like one last plea to the LRC: if you won’t listen to Prince, then at least listen to your girlfriend!

Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” (1972)
What’s excised: any number of measures from the 34-bar intro; ALSO Donald Fagen’s keyboard solo
What’s lost: the chance to really swim in the song’s groove
This song is like a bottle of fine wine; it needs to breathe. You are strangling Steely Dan, Donny!

Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do” (1976)
What’s excised: Bob Mayo’s keyboards and at least one of Peter’s four guitar solos
What’s lost: the vibe, man, the vibe!
The seldom-played full track is more than 14 glorious minutes long, with the final 30 seconds devoted to nothing but wild and well-deserved applause. This song is proof that sometimes more is more–it is also the last word in voice box awesomeness, and a clinic on how to put an audience of thousands into the palm of your hand.

The Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” (1975)
What’s excised: the entire second verse
When I heard this one, I nearly drove off the road. How could you, Donny? How could you mercilessly hack out the entire verse about the starcrossed young lovers making their secret rendezvous? Without that verse, the song loses its depth and its emotional punch. Shame, Donny. Shame!

Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” (1976)
What’s excised: the haunting middle passage, from “woke last night” to “autumn closin’ in”
What’s lost: your soul
This one is inexcusable–a crime against humanity! That passage is the heart of the song; without it, “Night Moves” is just a song about teenagers groping each other. Perspective — gone! Wistful remembrance — gone! Life lessons — gone! There are kids, Donny–not a lot, but some–hearing this version today and thinking that’s all there is to it. You’ve got a lot to answer for!


Author’s note: Are there radio edits that drive you up the wall? Please share them in the comments section here or on our Facebook page! Give Donny Ranzaport a piece of your mind!

Michael Rays

Photo Credit: Image of vintage radio courtesy of Pixabay.com

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35 comments on “The Radio Edit Hall of Shame

  1. Guy Prentice

    “Radio Edits,” or “single versions” as they were called in the 60s and 70s were provided to radio stations by the record companies. Radio stations or programmers did not do any hacking up of songs.

    Especially in the 1960s in the heyday of AM radio, airplay was very competitive and highly lucrative, and could make or break a song, or even a group. Because of this, record labels could be pretty brutal when editing the radio version of the song to help it get airplay. In the long run, radio airplay equaled record sales. When a radio station was only playing a rotation of 30 or 40 songs, your song had to fit in with all of the station’s formatting requirements to even stand a chance of getting on the air. In particular, the instrumental intro had to be just long enough for the DJ to talk up the record and the overall length couldn’t exceed three minutes.

    Music lovers in the 60s were generally and pleasantly surprised when they bought the album and found out, for example that Light My Fire was 7:06 long instead of 2:52 on the radio version.

    On a slightly different but similar note, Top 30 stations of the 1960s were guilty of speeding records up to get more songs on the air per hour. This was accomplished by having their turntables play faster rhan 45rpm.

    • I still hear the speeding up on many pop stations.

      • You beat me to it. First time I noticed was one of those lunchtime 80s shows. They usually played 10 songs, but they started playing 12 and these were not edited.

    • John Davey

      This is not entirely true. While the labels did provide radio edits generally, sometimes it was the programmers providing their own edits.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Guy.

  3. Local Big ol Hairy Fox rebellious station censored I want my MTV! Cut out an entire verse! Holy crap, Batman! Who would figure them for skittish? You know the verse.

    • Joel Harmon

      The original edits to that one just took out Sting’s repeated “I want my MTV”s at the beginning and end of that one.

      • Actually they took the whole verse out about “the little ________ with the earring and the makeup, yeah buddy that’s his own hair, that little _________ got his own airplane, that little _________ is a millionaire.”
        PC being what it is today – you can’t be a success and be homophobic.

        • Dan Frites

          Actually that verse wasn’t homophobic at all- it was directed as an insult to those that are

        • I have the “long edit” 45 of “Money for Nothing.” It contains the second verse.

  4. James King

    “American Pie” by Don McLean was probably chopped the most of any song I can remember in order to be ‘radio-friendly’. “Piano Man” by Billy Joel had a whole verse cut out. So did “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits. And “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos was cut in half, eliminating the wonderful, orgasmic instrumental the second half of the song.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a version of Segar’s “Night Moves” that did not include the break this author says was chopped. I guess I’m old and my memory’s fading, though, because that’s the only way I remember it.

  6. I haven’t heard “Night Moves” without that section, but I’ve heard it many times, alas, with the bridge leading up to it (“oh, the wonder…”) Ruins the song for me.

  7. I don’t about the rest of the country, but here in the Louisville Ky market they have cut the entire intro of Black Sabbath’s War Pigs. It now begins “Generals gathered in their masses…” Drives me nuts!

  8. Daryl King

    For the longest time, our local station would play an edited ‘Dont fear the reaper’ with the whole solo between the 2nd and 3rd verse removed. Today, you miss part of the bridge in Ozzy Osborne’s No More Tears, right when the guitar comes i, which ruins the buildup to the frantic part of the solo.

  9. Cliff Cherry

    Two glaring omissions (said unironically) –

    “Frakenstein” Edgar Winter Group – the radio edit simply chops up the entire song, editing each section for time constraints and in the process killing the anticipation and build-up not just once like the other examples, but a good 8-10 times. Practically unlistenable.

    “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” Meat Loaf – I heard the radio edit listening to an American Top 40 replay (and it only hit #39 so it’s a pretty obscure chance they’ll be playing a countdown it happens to be on) and it’s so awful, I tried to find it on The Youtube afterwards just to post on Facebook about how awful it is, and apparently no one has had the temerity to save it. Phil Rizzuto is gone; other sections are entirely chopped out or reduced to 1/3 their original length. Like “Frankenstein” totally unlistenable and I’m guessing it probably would have done a lot better than #39 if radio stations could play the full length rather than this abomination

    • Cliff Cherry

      Darn it that should be “Frankenstein” of course. Guess I’m just as bad as radio editing things down

  10. Kelvin Reid

    Lou Reed- Walk On The Wild Side,,,,the line ” She never lost her head, even when giving head” was totally removed after that wardrobe malfunction..and still hasn’t been played with it back in.

  11. Stevie Nick’s “Edge of Seventeen” single edit is also missing the entire second verse.

  12. There was a radio station in Saginaw, MI that shortened the pause in their version of FIRE.

  13. Van Morrison, “Brown Eyed Girl.” For some inexplicable reason, the radio edit substitutes “Laughing and a-runnin’, hey, hey” for the original “Makin’ love in the green grass” in the last verse of the song. Tell me, what the hell is wrong with this lyric? Every time I hear it, it bugs the hell out of me.

  14. No one has mentioned the halving of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again and the extreme shortening of Paul Simon’s America by Yes?

  15. Kevin Luby

    Fooled Around and Fell in Love – they cut much of Elvin’s great solo!

  16. Hank Rutherford

    Sometimes there were longer versions played as well. I heard a twelve minute version of Bowie’s China Girl that was supposed to be a DJ only version. And those extra minutes were Stevie Ray Vaughn gold.

    • Same with Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” When I was in high school, the radio was playing a version that contained more lyrics. I have not heard that version since then. (It wasn’t on the CD version which is one of the first two CDs I ever owned.)

      • Yeah, they way I’ve been hearing it lately, they’ve really butchered it, removing the line, “See the doorway of a thousand churches.” Some woke radio exec who gets hives at the mention of anything to do with the dreaded RELIGION is probably responsible.

  17. David Kukoff

    So happy someone FINALLY pointed out the “My Sharona” butcher job. Another worthy addition to the Donny Scissorhands canon: the famous dueling guitar solos on the Eagles’ “Hotel California”, which has a ham-handed cut on the middle solo on many, if not most, of the radio plays.

  18. https://www.facebook.com/russell.nutt

    45 versions and radio edits that were butcheries? Eagles’ “Best of My Love” (edited mid-line!). Air Supply’s “Sweet Dreams” (edited out of beat). ELO’s “Roll Over Beethoven”, Bob Seger’s “Against The Wind”, Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’s “Blinded By The Light”, Styx’s “Come Sail Away” (which cut out the entire ARP synthesizer part), Aerosmith’s Dream On”, Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” (which loses the “pain in the ass” third verse), Ozark Mountain Devils’ “Jackie Blue”, Heart’s “Magic Man”, Jefferson Starship’s “Miracles” (the verse including “I had a taste of the real world/when I went down on you, girl” is cut), Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”, Chicago’s “25 Or 6 To 4”, Meat Loaf’s “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”, Michael Murphy’s “Wildfire” (both the piano intro and outro are sacrificed), Al Stewart’s “Year Of The Cat”. I could name scores of others.

  19. Jack Garrett

    The Decca 45 version of Won’t Get Fooled Again by the Who and the single version of “House of the Rising Sun,” which omits most of Price’s organ solo.

  20. Kevin Magee

    I heard an interview with Don Henley where he says he was on the road with Eagles when he heard what the record company did (without permission) to cut down “Best of My Love” and went psycho. He and the boys set about to find out who at Asylum did it. They had a 45 of the record mounted and framed with a hacksaw blade and hung it on the wall at the studio.

  21. Chuck Small

    The 45 edit of Billy Joel’s “My Life” is the worst ever.

  22. Henrik Andersson

    I immediately thought of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total eclipse of the heart”, one of my favourite songs of all time. TWO verses are cut and the proper build-up to the chorus is lost. Jim Steinman was not very happy with that from what I understand.

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