I Guess That Extra 15 Seconds Was Just Too Much

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On my way to the store today, I decided to flip over from my standard fare of AM sports radio to FM because of the barrage of bowl games for which I have no interest. I don’t often wander across the FM dial except to listen to jazz on KTSU or catch NPR on KUHF. I find I’m much happier that way.

Well, like some idiot full of optimism, I allowed my dial to stray past the rock and pop stations. All of the culprits of bad music and way too many commercials were on the list from the Buzz to Mix to 104’s Friday Night Crap-o-rama.

Then, I hit the Point (don’t these stations even bother with call letters anymore?) and I was confronted with David Coverdale’s husky worbling in the heavy metal ballad “Is This Love.” My first thought was, of course, of Tawny Kitaen in a leotard rolling around on the hoods of expensive cars. Then, I realized that even though the song was pure cheese, the upcoming guitar solo was terrific – one of the few redeeming qualities of an otherwise silly hair band love song.

The orchestrator of the solo, the great John Sykes, is one of my favorites and was all the more interesting since I had just caught some of his first ever show with Thin Lizzy on VH1 Classic the other night.

So, I waited patiently and tried to focus on the guitar because Coverdale can be really grating.

Finally, that first long bend came in and eventually ended in a 9th over the minor chord. Like Neal Schon, who was such a master of giving legitimacy to the cheese of Journey, Sykes managed to bring some respectibility and, dare I say it, soulfulness to what could have just been a whatever rock ballad.

Before I go any further, it should be noted that Sykes was fired from Whitesnake and replaced with guitar “heroes” Vivian Campbell and Adrian Vandenberg, both capable hard rock guitarists with cred in the metal scene, but not with the melodic tone of Sykes. Sykes claimed it was to keep him from the royalties since he co-wrote most of that hit of an album. I tend to believe him. But, that’s for some other time…

The solo continued. it is not a long solo. In fact, for a slow rock ballad with a solo, the song isn’t that long. Checking in iTunes (yes, I have it downloaded – duh!), it clocks in at 4:45 total. Most stations cut out the long droning keyboard pad that lasts almost 15 seconds at the beginning of the song and cut the fade short at the end saving at least 25 seconds. That brings them down to a very respectable 4:20. Nothing for a pop ballad.

The importance of the times in question will become apparent shortly.

The solo is – just clocked it – 16 bars and 45 total seconds long to the second. About 10 bars into this really lovely solo on The Point, they edited and cut to the last measure. And it wasn’t even a good edit. It was clear the note was cut off. Hell, you could even hear the overring from the cymbals get squashed as they lept to the end of the solo, trimming a whole 15 or 20 seconds MAX from an otherwise perfectly good solo section.

Were the programmers so desperate to get to 4 minutes that they had to make some abrupt edit? Doubtful. Even worse, the label probably made the band come up with an alternate edit for our increasingly ADD society.

Billy Joel sums this up perfectly in “The Entertainer”:

I am the entertainer
I come to do my show
You’ve heard my latest record
It’s been on the radio
Ah, it took me years to write it
They were the best years of my life
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

I guess, in this case, it’s more like 4:05, but whatever. What has always been true of radio is that it sucks every ounce of life out of music and boils it down to the lowest common denomiator. Even if it was just a cheesy pop song, the only part of it with any sort of redeemable value was gutted for the sake of the guy who is driving his SUV with one hand, talking on his Blue Tooth enabled cell phone while trying not to spill the latte from Starbucks on his pleated Dockers – not because he would be too bored and turn away, but because radio has an even lower opinion of his capacity to enjoy music than I do, which is saying something.
On so many levels, that is just sad. For me, it was yet another good reason not to listen to commercial radio. It’s probably a good thing the volume/on-off knob on my radio is starting to break. Now, I can just get XM, continue to listen to CD’s, which is exactly what I did immediately after this incident…well, right after I cursed the Point, commercial radio and the music industry as a whole. It was cathartic.

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