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Keith Thomson

Keith Thomson

Posted March 4, 2009 | 11:35 AM (EST)

Poll: Are Radio Stations Right to Censor the Eagles?


If you're one of the 16 million people who bought the Eagles' album "Hotel California," or if you've spent any portion of your life somewhere other than the underside of a rock, you've heard the song, "Life In the Fast Lane." For 33 years it's been a staple on classic hits radio stations like WBPT 106.9 FM in Birmingham, Alabama.

Recently, some radio stations have begun to censor the song. You probably know the line:


We've been up and down this highway/
haven't seen a goddamn thing.


WBPT program manager Mike Schoenherr, a.k.a. "Hurricane Shane," replaced "god" with a snippet of lyric-less music from elsewhere in the song. Another Alabama station, WGMZ in Glencoe, uses a "sanitized" version that replaces "goddamn" with silence.

This is not per any FCC policy or any other regulation.

"It's everybody's policy," said WBPT's station manger Ray Nelson, a veteran of nearly 40 years in radio, explaining his decision. "People find it offensive."

In fact, the vast majority of classic rock radio stations in the United States continue to play the original version.

"This is the first time this issue has come to my attention," said Don Felder, guitarist for the Eagles from 1974-1980 and 1994-2001. He's no stranger to the sentiment, however.

In his book, Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001), Felder describes growing up in a Gainesville, Florida, "populated by good, wholesome folks who bred kids with strong moral values, helped along by a little healthy Bible-thumping." He recalls being taken to Sunday School at the North Central Baptist Church from the time he could walk.

"There are people who have extreme religious beliefs that would find [the lyric] offensive," Felder told me. "I can understand why they wouldn't like to hear it."

Nevertheless he believes that the song should be broadcast as the Eagles recorded it. His long list of reasons includes his determination that classic rock fans prefer it that way. Legally the Eagles have no recourse.

The heart of the issue is to what extent classic rock fans in fact find the original version offensive. "I'd be happy to conduct an online poll to gauge listener opinion," said Hurricane Shane. "If we find out that we're wrong about our listeners, we'll change back to the original," a WGMZ official told me.

Accordingly, Birmingham Weekly is conducting a poll; you can participate here [note: on poll answers, 1=not at all; 5=extremely]:

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Results will be published in the March 19 edition of Birmingham Weekly.