Five insanely long songs that don't waste a single second

Every second is priceless.
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There’s a famous story about early movie mogul Harry Cohn. He founded Columbia Pictures back in the silent era and ran it well into film’s heyday. He said he could judge how good or bad a movie was by whether his fanny started to squirm while watching. It prompted the startling rejoinder from writer Herman J. Mankiewicz:  “Imagine, the whole world wired to Harry Cohn’s ass.”

I often think music execs have a similar system for judging whether a particular song has overstayed its welcome. Pop songs evolved into their standard lengths in part due to radio programming requirements and in part due to how much would fit on a 45. But there was an organic evolution as well. Three or four minutes just kind of felt right to a lot of people. By that point, they were ready for a new melody.

We’ve been running through a sampling of longer songs that dared to challenge the norms of run time. They branched out with more involved compositions and more developed lyrical content. The ones we have been looking at in our two previous journeys doubled and sometimes tripled standard lengths. So far, we have looked at songs that ran between eight and fourteen minutes. Today, we soar past fourteen into the really long songs that have still found their way onto popular music releases.

Five long songs whose every second is priceless

The early zenith of this exploration occurred in 1972 when Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson produced his response to “concept albums,” Thick as a Brick. One song ran for almost 44 minutes. It had to be split into two sections for inclusion on an LP. I’m not including “Thick as a Brick,” (the song – not the album) because I don’t especially like it. Or, more accurately, because I really do like pieces of it and think Anderson did the overall piece of music a disservice by forcing it to adhere to his preconception of having one album-length song. In other words, this is a case where I do not listen the ”Thick as a Brick” precisely because it is too long.

So I am in fact choosing shorter songs. But they are songs I very much enjoy sitting down and listening to all the way through.  They run the gamut from sophisticated musical compositions to a tidal wave of poetry (the kind you might expect from a Nobel Laureate in literature.) There are smoking guitar raves, both of the jazz and the punk variety. And there is one epic from one of the most vital voices in rock & roll in the 21st century.

To borrow from Blue Oyster Cult, don’t fear the time span...