Sunday, March 8, 2009

You Can't Say #%&@ On The &$%*@#* Radio!

Keith Thomson has an item on HuffPo to which I can relate:

If you're one of the 16 million people who bought the Eagles' album "Hotel California," or if you've spent any portion of your life somewhere other than the underside of a rock, you've heard the song, "Life In the Fast Lane." For 33 years it's been a staple on classic hits radio stations like WBPT 106.9 FM in Birmingham, Alabama.

Recently, some radio stations have begun to censor the song. You probably know the line:

We've been up and down this highway/haven't seen a goddamn thing.

WBPT program manager Mike Schoenherr, a.k.a. "Hurricane Shane," replaced "god" with a snippet of lyric-less music from elsewhere in the song. Another Alabama station, WGMZ in Glencoe, uses a "sanitized" version that replaces "goddamn" with silence.

This is not per any FCC policy or any other regulation.

"It's everybody's policy," said WBPT's station manger Ray Nelson, a veteran of nearly 40 years in radio, explaining his decision. "People find it offensive."

In fact, the vast majority of classic rock radio stations in the United States continue to play the original version.

I know a little about radio stations and language.

My first radio gig was at my college radio station. I knew immediately that being left alone in a radio booth with a stack of my own records, a microphone and my big mouth was as close to heaven as a godless heathen such as me would ever get. I've never seen God, but I have seen Mick and Keith.

One night I cued up "Sweet Virginia" from Exile on Main Street. I turned the studio speakers up as loud as they would go. It's a great song, I'm sure I was thinking; my listeners must be loving this!  And I particularly dug this part:

Come on come on down you got it in you Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes...

The college station manager apparently didn't share my appreciation for the song's earthy lyrics and the studio phone rang. I must've heard it only after "Sweet Virginia" ended, because he asked me why I hadn't been answering the phone. His language was far worse than that used by the Stones.

"What the f*** are you doing? You can not play a song with the word "shit" on the radio! The FCC will pull our license!"

I reminded him that I highly doubted that FCC officials were tuned into the SUNY/Morrisville college radio station. That observation flew straight over his head. I'm paraphrasing here, but it went something like, "Do not play that f****** song again!" 

But I was in the fast lane! I was a college radio DJ!

I played it on my next shift, of course. I've always loved Exile on Main Street. 

(I'm not an Eagles fan, but life in the fast lane? Surely make you lose your mind...)


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