Thanks for confirming my response as your answer. I'll repost
it here for the sake of future readers.
I too remember hearing such a recording played on the radio.
What I found is both satisfying and frustrating.
At the official Don MacLean website, there is a quote about
the song American Pie by Don himself, taken from his 2000
'Starry Starry Night' video, in which he explains the context
of the song and why the lyrics are "beyond analysis", being
On another page from that site is a link to a video in which
Don talks about Buddy Holly and the song, and has it playing
in the background:
But more research disclosed the website of a DJ - WCFL Chicago's
Bob Dearborn, who, having been born around the same time as Don,
felt he had a very clear understanding of the lyrics because he
had lived through the same changes. He created a text version of
this analysis, and sent it out to tens of thousands of listeners
at their request.
Then, something occurred which allowed this analysis to become a
"Meanwhile, with the assistance of Don McLean's manager and record
label, I received the "American Pie" track with the voice stripped
out for use in a radio special featuring the analysis. The idea
was to play some of the vocal then have the music without vocal
continue in the background while I explained the meaning of the
part of the song that just played. I produced a half-hour special
for presentation on WCFL."
This recording was later duplicated without the WCFL call letters
on it, and was played at radio stations around the country. I'm
certain that this is the recording that you and I heard, and the
original text of the analysis is available in full on the page
above, but, sadly, not the recording.
Searching for Life magazine in conjunction with American Pie only
results in pages discussing times when Don MacLean made the cover
of the magazine, so I think that rumor is only rumor, and that the
recording you're interested in is the one by Bob Dearborn.
His email address is on the page above, as well, so you can always
contact him to see if he might know where a recording would still
And here's another article I thought you might like, in which
self-proclaimed insider, Rob Patterson, says he once had a
conversation with Don about the song in which Don noted that
the 8-minute song pretty much wrote itself within a half hour
one day, and left Don feeling like the scribe of the Muse,
thus making analysis somewhat futile:
"'I didn't plan anything out,' he explained. 'I was just grabbing
these things from this catch bag of cultural symbols and throwing
them in there.' It wasn't some master plan he mapped out to
encompass the cultural tremors of the times. It was what Townes
Van Zandt used to call a 'sky song,' because they just drop out
of the sky. At those creative moments, it's kind of like God is
writing the song and you happen to be lucky enough to transcribe
I'm glad I was able to be of assistance in your quest.
Searches done, via Google:
"American Pie" meaning
"American Pie" track meaning