Charlie Daniels was probably uneasy when his first hit got three verses cut from it.
His outrage at the slight might have caused him to pound his keyboard like Jerry Lee Lewis, but the Piano Man turned his outrage into a well-received lyric on his next album. Billy Joel, whose autobiographical title track was nearly cut in half by radio stations, addressed the edit on his next single called “The Entertainer.”
“It took me years to write it, the best years of my life,” he sings in reference to the title track from his debut on the Streetlife Serenade album. “It was a beautiful song but it ran too long, if you're gonna have a hit you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05.”
That reduction was taken from the original time of 5:40, nearly one half of the song. It is no wonder Joel was upset with the decision, in spite of the fact that “Piano Man” brought him universal acclaim.
He may have been alone at the piano in the bar setting of the song, but he has plenty of company when it comes to listing artists whose fantastic songs have been edited for time. Here are fifteen of the classic hits that should always be played in their original lengths.
1. Tangled Up In Blue by Bob Dylan
Top 40 stations played this Blood on the Tracks opener, leaving out the three verses where the narrator reunites with the girl working in a topless place. He goes from jobs in the Great North Woods and Delacroix to suddenly, in the last verse, going back again without ever having met up with her.
2. Lyin' Eyes by the Eagles
This gorgeous hit from One of These Nights lost its middle two verses on the edit, so we never get to see the adulterous wife meeting her lover waiting on the other side of town.
3. She's Gone by Hall and Oates
Lost in the short version is the “Sorry Charlie” verse and, more importantly, a fantastic saxophone solo. That brass bridge represents the long recovery process facing the jilted lover, who without the break seems to be immediately satisfied by a move to the city.
4. Young Americans by David Bowie
Like in the previous cut, this title track got its spot in the rotation by losing a gorgeous sax solo.
5. Only Women Bleed by Alice Cooper
Shortened songs usually work against the shock rocker, who needs plenty of musical fill to perform his various antics on stage. In this case, the first single from Welcome To My Nightmare loses nearly half of its original running time.
6. Uneasy Rider by Charlie Daniels
As if it were not enough for censors to bleep out a mild profanity in the last verse, radio executives cut out three entire verses after the hippy escapes the Dew Drop Inn.
7. I'm Not In Love by 10cc
Throughout the entire hit the poor guy cannot decide whether he is actually in love, yet the radio folks decided to rush his decision by cutting out three minutes of it.
8. Green Eyed Lady by Sugarloaf
Rather bold it was for a new band to open its debut album with a six minute song, but such an infectious riff should never have been whittled down to just 180 seconds.
9. Who Are You by the Who
Six minutes and twenty seconds was its original length on the album of the same name, quickly losing three minutes along with a word that is still being censored fifty years later.
10. Never Been Any Reason by Head East
Flat As A Pancake was the album, whose first track got boiled down from 5:11 to 3:25.
11. Jump Into the Fire by Nilsson
Look, if you are contemplating a dive into a raging pile of flames, as suggested by this Nilsson Schmilsson single, it is much better to allow the thought 6:54 instead of just 3:32.
12. 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago
4:50 or 2:52? The radio chose the latter number, thereby eliminating much of the musical bridges that became so characteristic of the jazz-rocker octet.
13. Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver
Radio stations thought you could see more sunshine at 3:18 than at 5:10, or else they would not have extracted such a huge chunk from this mellow hit.
14. You Can't Always Get What You Want by the Rolling Stones
Mick and the boys dedicated 7:20 of Let It Bleed to this classic, which radio managed to reduce to a still hefty five minutes.
15.All the Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople
When someone carried the news to them about this David Bowie song being cut from 4:25 to 3:32, Ian Hunter and the rest of those young dudes were probably not that happy, or Mott that Hoopy.