The Long Version

One of my coworkers was playing music today in the office, an eclectic mix of mostly 70’s & 80’s hits. One of them that came on was Don McLean’s “American Pie.

When it got to the verse that starts, “Helter skelter in a summer swelter,” my brain, having been young and impressionable in 1971, automatically thought, “Cool! It’s the long version!” And suddenly, after all the times I’ve listened to that song, it hit me.

There are whole generations out there that don’t know that there were two versions of this song.

AM “Top 10” radio wasn’t going to play anything 8:33 long. So the version that was released for radio was 4:11. Everything from “Helter skelter…” to “I met a girl who sang the blues…” was cut. Eight verses, two choruses, gone in the name of a format that was unforgiving.

But the full version crept out. Hearing it for the first time, having only heard the short version, was a stunning revelation. From then on, every time the song played, there would be an air of anticipation until I knew if I had gotten lucky and could revel in my eight extra verses. (And two extra choruses.)

Then the 70’s passed, we all moved on. FM radio opened up formats and opportunities. CD’s let us take whole libraries of music with us, followed by iPods and iPhones and streaming services.

So now, if you even know that the short version of “American Pie” exists, you have to go hunting around YouTube or the internet to track it down. If you mention the short version, people under forty just look at you funny. (As me how I know!)

It was a different day and age.

4 Comments

Filed under Music

4 responses to “The Long Version

  1. I think I remember that In a Gadda da Vida also had a short version.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, and I have trouble remembering all the words of the long version as a result. sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

Please join the discussion, your comments are encouraged!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.