Dirty or Clean, Which Version Do You Sing?

musings 250_edited-1It seems that recently, my musings have been on subjects which require a look in the rearview mirror.  Today’s musing is no exception.  Maybe I will try to get into current times next time.

The spark for today’s musing can be attributed to Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  I was singing that song the other morning while getting ready and I came to the line – “I done told you once you son of a bitch…”.  Whoops!  I sang the “dirty” version.

If you grew up in a town of more than 10,000 people or one that was north of the Mason-Dixon line, you are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about.  You see, in small towns across the South there were always two versions of any song that included any of George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words”.  The song either changed the words (son of a gun vs. son of a bitch or damn became darn) or in a case where that wasn’t feasible – a beep or simple blank space was added over the offending word.  If we ever got to hear the album version of a song – woo whee, were we the bad boys!!!  Some examples included:

  • Life in the Fast Lane by the Eagles – “haven’t seen a beep-beep thing”
  • Midnight Rendezvous by The Babys – “aww, I really wanna beep you!”  could barely be heard as the song faded away.  Smart DJ’s knew where it was and would fade early.
  • Who Are You by the Who – “who the beep are you?”
  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando & Dawn – yes, even that simple song had a dirty word in it – “now the whole darn (instead of damn) bus was cheering”

There was even one song that was completely ignored by the local radio station – Rod Stewart’s tale of a girl losing her virginity in Tonight’s the Night.  Even the Methodists complained about this song!

While some may see this as censorship, I see it as small town American trying to help some kids hang onto their innocence just a little bit longer.  I am reminded of a story about a modern rock band meeting with Wal-Mart to discuss distribution of their new album.  If I am not mistaken, Wally is the largest distributor of non-downloaded music in the country. Evidently, Wally informed the band that they would need a “clean” version of their album.  The band started talking censorship, etc. and refused to change their album.  Evidently the accountant or business manager quickly informed them of the distribution impact noted above.  Needless to say, the need for a new nose ring outweighed the censorship argument and they quickly learned that “darn” sings just as well as “damn”.

God Bless Small Town America.

About Zach Clayton

Zach Clayton started Music Musings in 2013, but isn’t a stranger to music. While he may be a mild mannered accountant by day, he always has tunes going and forces his staff at work to play music trivia when they enter his office. He is a self-proclaimed lover of all music genres with over 3,500 songs in his iPod. Zach’s first concert was Eddie Money in Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym in 1979 and claims to have seen Van Halen (all three incarnations) over 25 times. There have only been one or two years since 1979 that Zach hasn’t been to a concert. He also has the uncanny knack of getting to know several folks in the music scene – both out front and behind the scenes. Zach is in the process of indoctrinating his two boys into the rock and roll way by exposing them to concerts and various music while holding them hostage in his truck screaming the mantra – “rap is crap!”


  1. toomuchcountry says:

    Program manager: We want to protect our listeners and the community at large. So be sure to bleep or fade when any of the “7 words” are sung.
    DJ: OK got it. But just the 7 words concern you?
    PM: Yes.
    DJ: Cool. “OK kids, how about a double shot for ya – Ted Nugent with Wang Dang Sweet Poontang and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way!

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