Wednesday, April 01, 2020

"Stairway to Heaven" and "Free Bird" To Be Pulled From the Airwaves

Back in January, word leaked out that the self-proclaimed "#1 Audio Company in America" was engaging in a series of massive layoffs across the country. As Rolling Stone aptly described it, the move struck a serious blow to local radio, an institution that is slowly coming to a halt. Locally 3WS (WWSW-FM 94.5) seems to have eliminated the '60s from their "oldies" playlist, adding freeze-dried music from the 1980s in its wake.

Now it appears that two of classic rocks songs might be put out to pasture.  A internal memo obtained by a college intern says that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" and Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird" are set to be pulled from commercial radio playlists around the country. While some listeners might rejoice at the move, having heard both songs enough to last a lifetime, the move isn't being taken because of oversaturation. It's based on length.

"Stairway to Heaven," originally from Led Zeppelin's fourth album - which was originally untitled but has also become known unofficially as ZOSO due to the one of the set of runes that appeared on the album - clocks in at 7:55. "Free Bird," from Lynyrd Skynyrd's debut album (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'erd), comes in at a whopping 9:08. (In keep with industry standards from the 1970s, both bands also released live versions of the tunes, which drag on even longer and feature banter before and during the songs, which has also become iconic.) Therein lies the rub: Both songs are too damn long for today's commercial playlists.

"We understand that a lot of people love these songs. Some of our executives have claimed that they, literally, would not be here right now if these songs hadn't been playing on car radios at a certain time," the memo states, "but the industry is changing. We didn't become the top dog in the USA by clogging the airwaves with noodling over three-chord riffs or lyrics that don't make sense. It's done with advertising."

The intern who obtained the memo - who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of losing an opportunity to work in an industry that hires their demographic - sat in on the meeting when the announcement was made. "No one seemed to be to bothered by it," says the intern, who luckily made it home for springbreak just before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. "A lot of the dudes in the room said they didn't really know the songs anyway. The senior staff people said that listeners might get mad but the bigwigs don't seem to really care about music anyway."

And how did the intern feel? "I didn't think I knew the songs. But my dad pulled them up on Spotify and gave me a hard time for not knowing them," she said. "And I was, like, 'Oh, yeah., you played  these at my graduation party.'"

With Covid-19 putting business on hold, it's unclear when the two songs will be deleted from the hard drive, or whether they're just two in a longer list of songs that will be pulled. When asked if there was any mention of the Outlaws' equally lengthy (9:46) boogie jam "Green Grass and High Tides" making way for more commercials, the intern replied, "I don't know what that is."

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