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Some lyrics are revised when listeners read between the lines Changing Their Tunes

July 05, 1995|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Then there are the songs whose lyrics are "edited" to make them suitable for airing. Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" is a recent example. Although the original recording had Petty singing "Let's get to the point/ Let's roll another joint," video viewers heard him sing "Let's roll another tnioj," as the reefer-reference was played backward. But there was also a special radio edit, which changed the line to "Let's hit another joint" -- that is, let's go someplace else.

Changing lyrics isn't new. When the Jethro Tull single "Locomotive Breath" arrived at radio stations in 1971, the phrase "got him by the [anatomical reference]" was changed, inexplicably, to "got him by the fun." In 1973, many stations doctored the Paul Simon hit "Kodachrome" to edit out a seemingly scatological reference to what its protagonist learned in school.

Perhaps the most unusual approach to the language question cropped up in response to the 1984 Prince song "Erotic City." Concerned that some radio stations wouldn't play the song because of its language, Prince's label sent out a press release assuring the nation's program directors that Prince was singing the words, "We can funk and dance all night."

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