Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 5th 2020
You need at least 10 minutes
This column has been brewing in my mind for a little while, but I kept telling myself that people just don't have the time to listen to a lot of these tracks all at once. Unfortunately, world events being what they currently are, that might not be the issue it was twelve months ago. A lot of people do have time on their hands. And, with that in mind, I hope everyone is keeping safe and well.
And so, as a means of breaking up the day, I present songs that are very, very long. Well, over 10 minutes long, but for music that's quite long. You will notice no songs from the twenty-first century here; with music being sold the way it is (via mp3/flac), I think the days of the long magnificent rock/pop song are over because of the instant gratification today's audiences demand. Sorry. End rant.
Some house rules before I start.
These are songs that appear on albums. None of these were released in their full form as singles (with one exception).
If it is a song broken into parts, so long as there are no gaps between the individual parts, then it counts as one song.
No live tracks. While there are some awesome live tracks that go on for ages, to non-aficionados they sound like a lot of self-indulgent twiddling.
One track per artist (sorry, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield fans, which does include me).
No remixes, especially from the 80s (sorry, fans of Frankie Goes To Hollywood).
Rock and pop only. So, no Beethoven symphonies (no matter how much the 9th is awesome).
And, finally, I have to like the song. So, sorry all you Tool fans, 'Rosetta Stoned' does not appear because I am not a big fan.
Now, this was a tough list to cut down to ten songs (plus one). Trying to decide which Mike Oldfield track was tough; no so much Pink Floyd, if I'm being honest. I had to leave out Jean-Michel Jarre, Jeff Wayne and Vangelis. 'The End' by The Doors and 'Voodoo Chile' by Jimi Hendrix were both close. 'Chuck's Beat' by Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley was even closer. This was a surprisingly tough list to compile. It did mean I spent two days losing myself in some frankly glorious music, though, so swings and roundabouts.
As regular readers would be aware, I don't often put comedy songs into these lists. I understand comedy is even more subjective than regular music appreciation. But sometimes I like to throw in a comedy song that sits well with the theme. Thus I present to you: 'Albuquerque' by 'Weird Al' Yankovic (1999) 11:22
This is a weird song that feels almost like a stream of consciousness. It is my mate Zen's favourite 'Weird Al' song and, I have to admit, it is really quite good. The lyrics are strange and every time I listened to it for the first three or four times, I heard something I had missed before. Even now, listening to it for the first time in years, I found myself laughing at it. It is strange, but it is awesome.
With that done, here, then, in the usual chronological order (I was tempted to put them in order of running time), are 10 tracks that clock in at over ten minutes in length from the worlds of pop and rock. All times come from my CD versions (or LP versions in 2 cases), so if they don't quite fit in with "official" times, I apologise.
'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' by Iron Butterfly (1968) 17:08
Based on a strange pronunciation of "in the Garden of Eden", this proto-progressive rock classic fills up the entire side one of the album of the same name. To be honest, I would have a hard time telling you what side two sounds like because I listened to side one almost exclusively, over and over. Like many tracks in this list, the musicianship is simply stunning and, really, it does not feel like it runs for more than a quarter of an hour. The heavy bass line and drum-beat also lends itself to the nascent heavy metal of the era, as well as the organ playing leads directly into Rick Wakeman's more adventurous prog excursions in later years. Unfortunately, Iron Butterfly were one of those bands who achieved their greatest success with their first release and while they existed for many years after, they never matched this again.
'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' by Creedence Clearwater Revival (1970) 11:07
This frankly magnificent cover version of the Gladys Knight song (though Marvin Gaye's is probably better known) is an eleven minute tour de force of guitar playing, showing that CCR were more than just a roots style band. This, in fact, is my favourite version. I remember hearing it for the first time when I was a teenager (in the 80s) and sitting there in front of the radio mesmerised. It just grabbed me from the word go. Starting with that heavy bass riff, then simple drum pattern and standard delivery of the song and then the guitar solo. Wow. This is the definite highlight of the Cosmo's Factory album. And yet it tends to get overlooked by all but fans of CCR. Shame.
'Thick As A Brick (Part One)' by Jethro Tull (1972) 22:12
I first heard this track as "Edit No. 4". I thought that was odd. I subsequently found edits numbers 1, 2, 5 and 8. So many edits! But this was (again) in the 1980s, and I could not find the original album. I wondered what could be so incredible as to have at least 8 edits? Then I found a second-hand cassette version, bought it (subsequently replaced by the vinyl version), and understood. It is one of those albums where it is essentially one song stretched over 2 sides of an album (see Oldfield, Mike). Well, I prefer side one, the first part, but side 2 is still really strong. This is folk-rock, with Ian Anderson's voice and flute-playing driving the song along magnificently. I still don't really know what it is about, but I love it and listening to it again for this, I think my neighbours must now love it as well.
'America' by Yes (1972) 10:33
There had to be a Yes song here. When you have Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson, two of the proggiest of prog rockers ever, in the same band, you just know that songs are going to go everywhere and for long periods of time, and yet still be awesome. Choosing just one Yes song for this list was a really tough task. But I went for this from the Fragile album because it just covers so many different styles in its 10 and a half minutes and all band members are on top of their game. It is actually a cover of a Simon & Garfunkel song, and probably, to my mind, outshines the original. Yes, I know that will upset purists, but I really love me some prog rock.
'Tubular Bells (Part 1)' by Mike Oldfield) (1973) 25:34
Yes, you also knew there had to be a Mike Oldfield track here. And, much like Yes, choosing a track was a difficult task, but I ended up going for his first and best known. Another album where the single song was spread over two sides, but I prefer side one so much more. From the opening theme which was used as the music in that classic horror film The Exorcist all the way through to that ending where he names each instrument as they come into play, the music is so, so good. Over 20 minutes of some of the most magnificent music ever recorded. Oldfield is a vastly underrated guitarist. And here is a fun fact: Mike Oldfield played every single instrument on this album. All the different guitars, the percussion, the keyboards all Mike! The only thing that wasn't him was the voice. A stunning achievement and a glorious album.
This was the only track here released as an unedited single. With parts 1 and 2 on side A and part 3 on side B, this "comeback" song for Stevie Wright topped the Australian charts and is one of the very best songs ever recorded by an Australian artist. Written by his former Easybeats bandmates Harry Vanda and George Young (older brother of the Young brothers in AC/DC), the three parts are all a different style of music pop-rock, ballad, hard rock, in that order and yet they meld into one seamlessly. The song tells the story of a man who falls for a girl, they have a child, and then she dies. Okay, not the cheeriest of tales, but it is all there and the song is magnificent. Vanda/Young are widely regarded as Australia's Lennon/McCartney; this track is one reason why.
'Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)' by Pink Floyd (1975) 13:28
Yes, I have mentioned this track before, but it is genuinely one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded. The album it comes from (Wish You Were Here) is a bonafide classic, but this, the opening track, sets the tone for what is to follow. From that beautiful opening guitar line to the lyrics sung in David Gilmour's emotive voice, to the wash of keyboards, understated drums and the overall writing, this is a complete synthesis of musicianship. And then the clean, crisp production just adds so much. People like to call this prog rock, but it goes beyond the constraints of that musical genre to become something all its own. Simply stunning.
'Telegraph Road' by Dire Straits (1982) 14:18
Another track that I've mentioned before, and in that column (it's a review of the classic album Love Over Gold) I described this song at length. It starts slow, is driven by guitar and piano, tells a story of the opening up of America via the titular Telegraph Road, and then ends with 4 minutes of some of the best playing of musical instruments in the entire Dire Straits canon. I could say so much more, but I would only be repeating myself. The fact that this song is over-shadowed by so many more tracks they released even off this very album shows just how good a band they were.
'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' by Iron Maiden (1984) 13:39
All right, I am the first to admit that the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, of which Iron Maiden were at the forefront is, in this day and age, quite a divisive subject amongst music fans, especially fans of metal. But I liked the NWOBHM and I really liked Iron Maiden. I was first introduced to this song through the Live After Death album, one of the best live albums I have heard, and it inspired me to buy the album Powerslave, from which it comes. The song is simple take Coleridge's classic poem and sing to a driving heavy metal rhythm with some magnificent guitar playing and the soaring vocals of Bruce Dickinson. I wonder what Coleridge would have made of it, but considering how much they were into pushing the limits of the form, I think he would not have minded it. I find the poem a little long and ponderous to read; I find this song makes it so much better.
'I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)' by Meat Loaf (1993) 12:00
Meat Loaf is regarded as having long songs (especially when written by Jim Steinman), but very few crack that ten-minute mark (except when performed live). This one, however Wow. The album version (which I have mentioned before) from Bat Out Of Hell II is a stunning mini rock-opera, especially with Meat Loaf's magnificent, OTT voice and the lyrics of standard Steinman complexity. Lorraine Crosby as the female counter is perfect, and the song goes from rock to ballad to choral and back again in the space of 12 minutes of such wonderful gloriousness. I mentioned in my review of the album that I consider it one of the best opening tracks of any album; I still stand by that, even with 'Telegraph Road' and other tracks mentioned on this list. I'm a fan. Deal with it.
There you have it. 11 songs, 2 and three-quarters hours of music, and what a way to spend the time. Long songs that don't overstay their welcome, that show true musicianship and that are different enough to make this an intriguing way to spend your time. Of course, you might have other long tracks you prefer; why not let me know what they are in the lyrics? Remember, no live tracks, no remixes, no symphonies apart from that, go for broke! We've got time, let's use it to listen to some real music.
Have been playing music from our vinyl collection of Classical, Opera, Middle of the Road, Jazz and (wait for it) Disco during isolation.
The CD stacker too gets a work out when we're tired of getting up to change the record over!