Thu. May 23rd, 2024

Song Edits (good and bad)

Back in the 1970s we used to buy things called singles. They were round 7 inch pieces of vinyl with a side A and a side B, and were kind of popular. You might have heard of them. Sometimes a popular song was considered (by whom?) to be too long, so the original version was edited for the single version. Presumably this was to give the single a chance at some radio play, the assumption being that DJs or their music directors did not like playing long songs. Only, more often than not, the DJs actually would play the complete original version of a song. So, if you were a buyer of singles in the 1970s (the phenomenon did extend into the 80s at times, but I remember it especially in the 70s) chances are you would end up buying one of these edited versions. And they were almost always awful – they were Bad Edits. Probably the worst I remember was the edit of Bob Seger‘s Night Moves. After the second chorus they cut straight to the chord that introduces the ‘quiet bit’, a much-loved section of the song (‘Woke last night to the sound of thunder…’). But, instead of including that quiet bit, they put the strummed guitar part that begins the outro (same part that starts the song), then there was a quick fade out. Oh man, when I heard that I wanted to throw the damn thing out the window at the time! But there were others. Heart‘s Magic Man got the fadeout treatment just before the epic instrumental section, as did Al Stewart‘s Year of the Cat. I can’t emphasize enough, these were Bad Edits, done just for stupid misguided commercial reasons.

Now let me list for you some Good Edits, because they did happen from time to time.

  • Rock Lobster – B 52s
  • Deep Water – Richard Clapton
  • Black Betty – Ram Jam
  • Alright Now – Free
  • It’s a Long Way There – Little River Band
  • Love Is Like Oxygen – Sweet
  • Radar Love – Golden Earring
  • Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

It’s not always easy to say why they were Good Edits though. Quite a number of these singles I didn’t even know were edits until I later heard their extended original versions and witnessed the genius of what they had done. Often it was just long instrumental passages being cut out, such as Black Betty, Love Is Like Oxygen and Radar Love, but sometimes the edits were more subtle. The one for the Little River Band song was particularly adventurous, with multiple edits throughout the single version. But it still works: they did an amazing job. Free‘s Alright Now single, that edit, is so iconic it’s hard to imagine it any other way. But the full version is just as good, if not better, in my opinion. On the other hand, I’d say the Rock Lobster single is definitive. It’s far better than the album version, which repeats unnecessarily the ‘down down’ section and its connective tissue. Actually, I’m a bit of a nut about that first self-titled B 52s album. It’s so almost perfect as it is, it just needs that single version of Rock Lobster. I actually tweak it a little further by replacing the fine version of Lava that’s on it with the even finer Party Mix version of the song. Then it’s complete for me.

I think being aware of the good edits and the bad edits that have been done to songs over the years helped my critical faculties when it came to analysing songs. And it made me want to put it into practice. What follows are the edits I’ve done over the years to a bunch of songs I’ve felt needed it. Some are singles, some are album tracks. The intention in most cases was not to ruin them, but to bring out their best, to let them shine or show them up in a new way. Let me show you what I mean…

Thought I’d start off with a biggie. The Paul McCartney penned ditty Her Majesty seems like a little afterthought added to the end of side two of The BeatlesAbbey Road. But it was originally intended to go between John’s Mean Mr Mustard and Polythene Pam. Makes sense: near the end of Mustard, Pam is taking him out ‘to look at the Queen’. Here’s my edit that puts Her Majesty exactly where she belongs. I’m just highlighting the edit here, so there’s not much of the other two songs, mind.

The Beatles – Mustard, Majesty, Pam, 1:17 mins

10cc‘s Feel the Benefit, from Deceptive Bends, is pretty damn good just the way it is. But I couldn’t resist making a version where the ‘latin bit’ gets taken out and the abrupt end is given a more soothing fadeout. Can you hear the edit?

10cc – Feel the Benefit, 8:01 mins

This fantastic song called Lost and Found by the Kinks appeared on their Think Visual album of 1986. It’s great, but there are two false endings. Why on earth do two when one would suffice, Mr Ray Davies? It’s very annoying! I cut one of them out for this version.

The Kinks – Lost and Found, 4:34 mins

Australia’s own Stevie Wright, former singer for the Easybeats, had a string of solo hits in the mid-seventies. His song Evie Parts One, Two and Three from Hard Road is legendary. Actually, the single of that song did the right thing by featuring Part One on the A side and Parts Two and Three on the b side. It faded out before the end, but in all, it was a good stab at putting a long song on a single. Stevie’s follow up album to Hard Road, Black-Eyed Bruiser, didn’t do so well. It didn’t help that he’d gotten hooked on heroin, and when his producers, Vanda and Young, found out, they dropped him like a stone. But the title song was a great rocker, very reminiscent of the Kinks’ early singles. Only problem was, in trying to build up tension, some passages went on too long. I fixed that with this edit. You can thank me later!

Stevie Wright – Black Eyed Bruiser, 3:41 mins

The Doors finished off their second album, Strange Days, with another epic song in When The Music’s Over, just as they had with The End on the first album. It’s great, it’s great. But then I was curious to hear what it would sound like with the middle section taken away and just the opening and ending parts put together. Then I thought, what would that middle part sound like on its own? With some dexterous editing, I got the answer.

The Doors – When the Music’s Over edit one, 4:28 mins

The Doors – When the Music’s Over edit two, 5:58 mins

There is already an official single edit version of Iron Butterfly’s Inna Gadda Da Vida, but I think it’s too short. Here’s my longer version where I splice the beginning and ending together in a hopefully seemless way.

Iron Butterfly – Inna Gadda Da Vida, 5:18 mins

We’re clearly heading into prog territory now, so let’s prog out! Thought I’d take out some of Keith Emerson’s piano noodling from Take a Pebble and this is what I got. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great either way.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Take a Pebble, 5:14 mins

Early King Crimson now, with Greg Lake, who went on to join ELP, on vocals. Man, Moonchild is such a weird song on In the Court of the Crimson King. The first part is a beautiful moody lullaby, while the second part is a lengthy abstract jazz noodle. I’ve cut back on the abstract jazz here just a bit.

King Crimson – Moonchild, 6:02 mins

Yes’s Close To the Edge is one of my favourite albums, especially side one. But I couldn’t pass up a chance to put the opening and closing ‘I get up’ sections together and see what that sounded like. It leaves out Rick Wakeman‘s beautiful organ section, but sometimes you’ve gotta make these sacrifices.

Yes – Close To the Edge, 5:51 mins

Haven’t you ever wanted to hear Led Zeppelin‘s Moby Dick without the long drum solo? Here it is, the live Song Remains the Same version. Sorry, Bonzo!

Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick, 4:29 mins

Pink Floyd‘s Shine On Crazy Diamond is an extended piece over both sides of Wish You Were Here. I used to hear an edited version of the first parts on the radio where some dj or editor must have cut out the extended soloing before the vocals come in. I don’t think it was ever an official edit, but it used to get played a lot. Thought I’d give it a shot.

Pink Floyd – Shine On Crazy Diamond, 6:11 mins

Editing Kate Bush, oh the hubris! Some of her singles have yielded up some interesting little extras. The Man With the Child In His Eyes single, for example includes the wonderful ‘he’s here’ intro that’s not on the album version. The Babooshka single has a clean fadeout that’s cross-faded with Delius on the album version from Never For Ever. Then the Army Dreamers single gives us Delius on the B side with a clean fade in, which is great coz I love that song. So, we’re agreed, she’s perfect. When she released Aerial, after a long absence, the song King of the Mountain was the single. I thought it should have been Nocturn from the conceptual disc, A Sky of Honey. Buuut…the album version of Nocturn,  just goes on too long for me. There, I said it, and I edited it. I think this edited version should have been the single. Sorry Kate!

Kate Bush – Nocturn 5:57 mins

Van Morrison is definitely up there with Kate as a great solo artist. Summertime In England from Common One is the highlight of that album. Basically, it’s a masterpiece, the whole damn thing; from its impressionistic, ever-shifting first half to its rapturous second half denouement. But since it does fall into two halves I thought I’d try editing the second half out, give you just that impressionistic first half. There’s a little edit here at the end where I added the brushed drum part from the end of the second half. I like it. It gives it closure.

Van Morrison – Summertime In England, 7:52 mins

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