writers take some time to recount their favorite long songs
(10 minutes or more). Live recordings, as well as the entire
jazz and classical idioms, were left out of the discussion
for obvious reasons. Notice that nobody spoke up for “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”
for Luckies, 1996, 11:36)
world’s seminal riff craftsmen blow their wad in this classic
U.K. pubcrawler. Sucks you in with a pleasant, deceptive melody
that one is led to believe will conclude at a radio-friendly
3:30. But this is exactly where things go gloriously awry
for another eight minutes.
Ween, “Monique the Freak”
of the Sac, 1999, 10:12)
it turns out Prince doesn’t actually have any album tracks
that top the 10-minute mark, but the brothers Ween did a killer
impression of the Purple One on this commercially unavailable
track. (An abbreviated version appears on a later release.)
A more direct Prince homage came on the GodWeenSatan
track “L.M.L.Y.P.,” which cribbed entire chunks of “Shockadelica”
and “Alphabet Street,” but clocked in at a mere 8:48.
Young and Crazy Horse, “Cowgirl in the Sand”
Knows This is Nowhere, 1969, 10:30)
Neil Young, in freewheeling Crazy Horse mode, goes off on
one of his lengthy guitar freak-outs, it never seems like
a gratuitous solo; he’s always going somewhere with it, and
no matter how far he strays, he somehow manages to end up
back where he started. Despite his propensity for these sprawling
discursions on guitar, Young has only a few songs that surpass
10 minutes, “Cowgirl” being the first and the best.
Lou Reed, “Street Hassle”
Hassle, 1978, 10:48)
could pair this with VU’s “Sister Ray” and own everything
that makes Lou Reed great, all in one EP-sized package. It’s
a quintessential mix of beauty and menace: We get graphic
sex and a drug overdose, a propulsive string arrangement giving
way to churning but clean electric guitars, a stoned-sounding
Bruce (yes, that Bruce) mumbling a deconstruction of
“Born to Run” at the 9-minute mark. Freaking masterpiece.
Sonic Youth, “The Diamond Sea”
Machine, 1995, 19:35)
of the band’s best melodies is tucked into the folds of this
elephantine dissertation on guitar noise.
Black Sabbath, “A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning”
Sabbath, 1970, 14:17)
40 years later (!!!), upstarts still struggle to attain that
guitar sound—and fall miserably short.
La Tengo, “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”
Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass, 2006, 10:46)
incredible opening to a mammoth album, the first 20 seconds
of this song bring to mind the title of the band’s 2000 album,
And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, as the bass
and drums do indeed seem to turn themselves inside out. It’s
relentless but loaded with subtleties; the band nicely distort
the passage of time with a pace that finds the vocals not
entering until a quarter of the way in.
Sleater-Kinney, “Let’s Call It Love”
Woods, 2005, 11:01)
have never thought the band responsible for Dig Me Out
could produce a song that sounds so much like Blue Cheer.
What a great way to end a great career.
Public Image Ltd., “Albatross”
Box, 1979, 10:34)
songs in excess of 10 minutes are buried at the end of albums;
not so for Johnny Lydon and his post-Sex Pistols outfit PiL,
who started their Metal Box (packaged in the United
States as Second Edition) with the album’s longest
song, “Albatross.” This song may be better in theory than
in actuality, but listening to it now, it’s remarkable how
much the current crop of indie dance-rockers has bit off its
sound, from the funky dub beat to the clanging guitars and
EinstUrzende Neubauten, “Redukt”
Is Sexy, 2000, 10:17)
Silence is Sexy, the noise terrorists who make up Neubauten
tried something more shocking than bashing and breaking everything
in sight and recording the process: They decided to keep things
simple and quiet. On album highlight “Redukt,” Blixa Bargeld
plays it cool, while his bandmates build beautiful tension,
until finally the classic Neubauten stomp breaks the song’s
back and Bargeld triumphantly proclaims over and over, “Reeeeeeeedukt!”
of Decay, 1989, 10:15)
album with drunken hessian Bobby Gustafson on guitar, and
arguably the best from the band’s classic era. A brooding,
tubercular sojourn to the bloody pit. Punch your landlord
for the goat lord.
LCD Soundsystem, “45:33”
the source, it’s no surprise that this plays like an excellent
DJ set. But the fact that James Murphy could bang out so many
classic-sounding hooks for a set commissioned by Nike? This
guy craps awesome.
Morrison, “Listen to the Lion”
Dominic’s Preview, 1972, 11:10)
like he’s lounging by a quiet stream on a lovely spring day,
Morrison sings “All my love comes tumbling down.” From there
the song builds while never losing its core gentility, with
Van eventually finding words insufficient as he ups the ante
from scatting to growling.
Coil, “2,5-Dimethoxy-4-Ethyl-Amphetamine: (DOET/Hecate)”
Machines, 1998, 13:28)
collection of drones, the sounds on this wonder of an album
seem to me to be some of the most sacred “music” I have ever
heard. Yes, this album is really meant to facilitate time
travel—I figure if all shit breaks loose and you need to get
your chakras aligned or your third eye opened, well, popping
this bad boy in should get you all set for whatever happens
Here, 1969, 12:01)
“Love Is More Than Words or Better Late Than Never”
Here, 1969, 11:21)
two crazy-long tracks from this collection of leftovers from
the Four Sail sessions are parallel displays of righteous
rock excess. “Doggone” begins with the late, great Arthur
Lee singing a simple folk melody about his personnel troubles
(“Once I had a singing group/Singing group done gone”), then
George Suranovich steps in with a wild eight-and-a-half-minute
drum solo. “Love Is More Than Words” is, for 1:30, one of
Lee’s finest numbers—and that’s followed by 10 minutes of
full-band freakout. This could only have happened during the
Summer of Love.
UFO, “Rock Bottom”
in the Night, 1979, 11:15)
the sole reason why most rockers still remember this band
in a fond and rabid manner. Much in the same way most kids
who grew up in the ’70s remember Magilla Gorilla or Dick Dastardly
(“Muttley! Doooo something!”).
Soft Machine, “Moon in June”
released on a double LP with one song per side, Robert Wyatt’s
“Moon in June” is largely a solo recording. By turns confessional,
inventive, emotional, and inviting, this also was the last
vocal number to appear on any of the band’s albums, with Wyatt
being unceremoniously ousted from the band he’d cofounded
after one more release.
Television, “Marquee Moon”
Moon, 1977, 10:47)
every second. There’s a dramatic tension between the guitars
of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine that opens up all kinds
of sonic terrain. And it’s really about the guitars: the uncannily
off-center statements, the interplay, the cresting and lulling.
As players, Lloyd and Verlaine were explorers seeking out
a new language and tearing apart preconceptions. In a 2001
Mojo magazine article by Ira Robbins, a fan recalled leaving
a Television concert “all wrung out, like a good night of
sex with a stranger.” One can feel that in the guitar journey
of “Marquee Moon.”
Between the Buried and Me, “Ants of the Sky”
teeth taste funny today!” Tommy Rogers announces at the beginning
of this Zappa-esque metal freak-out. Walls of Euro-metal guitar
shredding give way to polka-inspired breakdowns and meld into
classical picking, and then the song starts to grind and buck.
I am captivated—if this were a TV show, I would watch it.
At 8:10, the sky opens up; an angelic voice chimes “sleep
on” over Rogers’ doom-filled growl, and everything feels like
a dream. That’s when the hoedown starts, and when I feel like
just maybe this song should not exist—and I like that feeling.
Fiery Furnaces, “Quay Cur”
Boat, 2004, 10:25)
first track on this brother-sister duo’s gleefully fractured
second album opens with a wash of analog-synth noise atop
a simple piano-and-drum-machine pattern. Eleanor Friedberger
waits more than two minutes to begin her vocal, then rushes
like an impatient schoolchild. Her brother Matthew pops in
for a New Pornographers-meets-White Stripes bit around the
four-minute mark, and the song darts back and forth between
tempos and singers from there. It’s what “Supper’s Ready”
might have sounded like had it been co-written by a freshman
English major and a primary-school dropout.
The Chambers Brothers, “Time Has Come Today”
Time Has Come, 1967, 11:06)
stoned-soul classic has a freak-out middle section that reportedly
was meant to evoke the horrors of Vietnam, alluding to “The
Little Drummer Boy” amid screams and maniacal laughter. Or
it could just be one hell of a bad trip—when the lead singer
gives out his final grunt, it sounds like he’s either giving
up his ghost or his bowels. This song also has the most cowbell
I’ve ever heard. Iron Butterfly, Funkadelic and Blue Öyster
Cult: Bow down to the original masters of the freak-out jam.
Neutral Milk Hotel, “Pree Sisters Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye”
Avery Island, 1995, 13:49)
this: Get a rowboat; head down to Lock 7; drink 14 cans of
Milkwaukee’s Best Ice (it must be Ice, in 12-ounce
cans); put this song on infinite repeat on your iPod; place
boat in water; nestle in bottom, oars in; and see what happens.