What Are The Best Long Songs?
Next week sees the release of The Flaming Lips’ 7 Skies H3 on CD, a release that originally appeared in 2011. ‘7 Skies H3’ is an epic, 24-hour song and was originally made available packaged inside a real human skull sold for $5,000, as well as available to stream on a dedicated website (which is here). Now trimmed down to 50 minutes, the release will be come out on CD and Digital Download for the first time on Monday (June 23rd).
To coincide with this, we thought we’d get in the mood and pick out some of our favourite long songs, you know, the really epic ones. Some ground rules, you don’t have to go full Flaming Lips and create an album that consists of just one song, we’ve just set a minimum length of seven minutes and 59 seconds per song. Also, nothing in parts, we’re only accepting single length tracks. With that in mind, here are the 10 best long songs…
This kicked off The Thin White Duke’s 1976 album of the same name and marked a huge departure from the groove-laden rock and roll that he had made his own in the early 1970s. Mournful, with a brooding bassline and a strange, eerie windswept feel, this is a 10-minute, 14-second, offbeat gallop with a very funky bridge. Like all the best long songs, it’s a real journey.
This is Metallica at their absolute peak. Though it clocks in at well over eight minutes, it still feels like its lean and focused, full of energy and vigour. Built around a riff that’s catchy and absolutely steel plated, it all features one of the finest intro in metal, soon as that riff kicks in, you know you’re in for a treat!
This track might sound like it’s the perfect radio-friendly, poppy single, but when it was first released on LP back in 1971 it clocked in at a colossal eight minutes and 33 seconds. Even after all these years, it remains the longest song to have topped the Billboard charts. If you've not heard it, it's below, it's long, it's the singer own personal tribute to Buddy Holly and 43 years, it's still a rollicking anthem...
The final track on The Boss's 1975 masterpiece Born To Run, this has a hefty running time of nine minutes and 33 seconds. Much like the rest of that record, this is finely-tuned narrative, telling of a flickering hope that soon turns to despair into a broken town. In this case, Springsteen weaves a yarn about a man named 'Rat' and his ill-fated romance with 'Barefoot Girl' before his circumstances get the better of him. If nothing else, this is worth listening to just for Clarence Clemons' badass saxophone solo.
Given this track, which is the final one on the beloved alt rocker's much underrated 1995 record Washing Machine, lasts for 19 minutes and 35 seconds, it's probably best to make a cup of coffee before you dive in. It starts out as this offbeat, but slight ditty, before builds into this incredible crescendo of guitar feedback and rolling drums, before settling back down, and then heading into crescendo again. It's a lot of time to invest, but there's so much going on here...
You can't have a feature about long songs and not include Led Zeppelin! Taken from Led Zeppelin IV, this begins as lilting yarn, with gentle acoustic strums and Robert Plant's voice, before a lovingly sung mid-section, which then gives way to a huge guitar solo and a seriously rocking outro. It's by no means the longest song Zeppelin ever recorded, but it's probably the best one.
4. Tool – 'The Grudge'
The opening salvo to Tool’s 2001 masterpiece ‘Lateralus’, this track clocks in at a whopping eight minutes and 36 seconds, but there’s not a waste second. From the second the tumbling drums and grinding riff home into the view, the song grabs you by the throat and drags on a journey full of anger and bitterness. It’s a real thrill ride.
What's their left to say about 'Purple Rain'? It's Prince's best ballad, it's got an incredible guitar solo and the film it soundtracks is utterly mental.
Almost 10 minutes long, there isn't much this track from the Odd Future man's outstanding debut album channel Orange doesn't have. In its running time it goes from an electronic club banger to gentle lilting R'N'B to clipped semi-dubstep to a funky guitar wig out and then crosses back into soul. It's an epic quest, but it still feels lean and asbsolutely captivating.
Wonder why we called the limit at seven minutes and 59 seconds and not a nice round number like eight minutes? This is why. It's the greatest long song ever recorded and, in a career that's been pretty much nothing but great songs, it still remains a height that Weezer's enigmatic songwriter Rivers Cuomo has not reached again.
The closing track on their flawless self-titled debut (now known as The Blue Album), it starts in typical Weezer with a gentle, ragged guitar with Cuomo's awkward shuffling vocals, before a meaty rock chorus comes floating in. Then, after a driving guitar bridge, it all slows down again, until exactly the five-minute mark, when the most glorious build-up begins to take place. And when it kicks in again, it's just wonderful...