The long song is generally maligned in the critical music world. Dismissed as overblown, egotistical, superfluous, or simply loathed for its mere existence, long songs get a raw deal in both their critical appraisal and the popular imagination. Well no more! I've always had a soft spot for long songs. Proper long songs, not crappy dance remixes or dubious 'song suites', not fat pompous paeans to King Arthur or any such nonsense. A long song is a song that unfolds slowly, taking its time to get to where it's going, then gently relaxes and winds down to its denouement.
So again there are rules to compiling.
I chose eight minutes as the starting point for this twelve mainly because it takes some real commitment to the long song form to top the eight minute mark. Any idiot can write a six minute song and even seven minute 'epics' are not ridiculously rare. You'll notice there are really only a couple of songs below that could be squarely classified as prog rock. I like a couple of proggy bands, but most I find a bit dull and pointless. That's not a slight against prog rock. Compared to the vast quantity of music commercially available, I find most bands across the board dull and pointless, I mean how many bands can one follow?
So no song suites or medleys, that's cheating. I have avoided most live reworkings with two notable exceptions. The version from Ummagumma is the first version I'd heard of 'Careful with that Axe Eugene'. I wasn't even aware until recently that there was a studio version so to me this one is definitive. 'In Your Eyes' live is practically a new song to what now sounds like a brutally chopped version on So. There have been quite a few live issues of the song, but the best is on an old live video with Youssou N'Dour taking the duet, so that's the one I've chosen. Other versions go even longer.
We do have the long intro and outros and gargantuan solos, but I've avoided any really gratuitous stuff in favour of songs that hang together as songs.
One of the most common features of the songs that have made the list is that, to my ears, they don't sound all that long. A few songs, like 'Gravitate To Me', I first heard on cassette and had no idea the song ran so long until I bought the CD years later.
Other songs like Morrissey's make a point of their length, but here again it just doesn't feel like a long song to me, despite Moz's unfortunate chorus (To be finished would be a relief...), the song takes its own sweet time to build to a big drums, big guitars cacophony. I know a lot of people really hate that song. Their loss.
And finally I got an Art of Fighting song into one of my twelves. That rectifies a horrible injustice. Though they are undoubtedly an acquired taste, I love that band. It's a crime I've never caught them live or they probably would have made the concerts twelve.
And what does one say about 'Sir Psycho Sexy' that the song itself doesn't already? An eight minute letter to Playboy, jizzum references and all, unflappably funky and filthy. And you thought this would be a prog rock list...
The long version of Revolution has never been officially released; however, it was leaked onto the web earlier this year. As an historical artefact, it's interesting in that it bridges the gap between Revolution 1 and Revolution 9, but what I didn't expect is that it would be a great song in its own right. The familiar song disintegrates and deconstructs before your ears and evolves into a sound collage so slowly, it makes sound collage listenable.
The songs are in order of running time, shortest to longest.
- Stairway To Heaven — Led Zeppelin (8:03)
- Gravitate To Me — The The (8:10)
- Sir Psycho Sexy — Red Hot Chili Peppers (8:17)
- Nagambie River Wine Song — Augie March (8:19)
- Silverfuck — Smashing Pumpkins (8:43)
- Careful With That Axe Eugene — Pink Floyd (8:51)
- Waiting — Art Of Fighting (9:29)
- Firth Of Fifth — Genesis (9:38)
- Revolution (Take 20) — The Beatles (10:47)
- The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils — Morrissey (11:21)
- In Your Eyes — Peter Gabriel (11:44)
- The Dajon Song — Gomez (13:28)
At a total running time approaching two hours, it's a long haul to listen through the list, but what a ride.