Why 14 1/2 minutes you say? Turns out the Jimi Hendrix track included is a few ticks shy of the original 15 minutes your blogger intended hence the missing 30 seconds. Anyway, this felt at first like a topic that would be tough to fill up, yet as the list grew there were many worthy long songs that had to hit the cutting room floor. What originally got this going was the thought that in this ’30 second clip’ era, a song has to grab you quickly or else you move on without downloading it. That led to the idea of how many great songs could be overlooked if the sample is of the wrong section of the song for immediate gratification. The preponderance of these songs is from the genre progressive-rock which generally lends itself more to lengthy tunes since they are less inclined to need a quick hook for maximum chart action and radio play. In the days of underground radio, a song like this could be useful to a DJ for a bathroom break, a ‘funny-cigarette’ interlude or even a few moments with a Biologically accommodating fan. Lest you get irate at the placement of certain songs or omission of your personal faves, please understand that this is not a list of the best long songs – these are my own faves. Feel free to send a comment with your own faves, but understand that after #1 the order is fluid. Sadly, you will likely not have the time to spend the hours needed to listen to each from beginning to end, but if you find even one song that piques your interest then this posting was worthwhile. Grab yourself a beverage and some carbs and dig in!
1.Procol Harum – In Held Twas In I
Inclusion in the rock and roll hall of shame-(er)-fame should be open to acts that created and defined new genres of music – pushing boundaries. For that reason, Procol Harum (a band that helped move psychedelia into prog-rock) should be enshrined – they are not. This track was side two of the 2nd LP by Procol named after their excellent 1968 single “Shine On Brightly”. The odd title comes from joining together the first word to each section of the 17 1/2 minute song. The lyrics are by Keith Reid while the music is from pianist/singer Gary Brooker and organist/singer Matthew Fisher. Robin Trower was the guitarist, David Knights the bassist and the late/great B.J. Wilson was on drums (practically defining what progressive drumming would become going forward). The payoff for me is when the beautiful choral theme is suddenly rocked asunder by Trower’s nasty guitar lead over Fisher’s powerful Hammond chords 15 1/2 minutes in only to have the choir regain the theme later with Brooker’s piano runs. The whole band brings things to a thundering conclusion – Goosebump time. Four years later a new lineup of the band revisited the song with strings on their excellent album Live With The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
2.Pink Floyd – Atom Heart Mother
This, the fifth Pink Floyd studio album (1972) featured this nearly 24 minute song on side one. For many fans of the Floyd this is a controversial track due to the heavy orchestrations by Ron Geesin who earned a co-writing credit with the band. A large stretch of the song’s first third has a wordless choir singing over Rick Wright’s organ chords till the middle of the song. Later the music gets decidedly spacey a la the album that preceded this one – the excellent Ummagumma. As the song is wordless, a title was reportedly difficult for the band till they saw an article in the paper about a woman getting a nuclear-powered pacemaker. The ever dour and contentious band members David Gilmour and Roger Waters don’t seem to hold this work in much regard – something at odds with this reviewer’s opinion. The Hipgnosis cover art didn’t feature the name of the album or the band. Why the cow? Could be a joke – who knows.
3.Rare Bird – Flight
Graham Field was a brilliant classical organ player featured in the two keyboard, bass and drum English band Rare Bird who put out a couple of excellent prog albums before Graham left to form Fields. That he was the driving force is rather obvious when you listen to the band’s pedestrian albums after he flew the coop. David Kaffinetti on electric piano was quite good as well and later was the spacey keyboard man in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. From their first album, “Sympathy” was a worldwide hit (except in the U.S.), but it is their 2nd LP As Your Mind Flies By (1970) that features the side-long track “Flight”. Bassist Steve Gould sang and could get overly dramatic at times while drummer Mark Ashton was on backing vocals. Curiously, just as Procol Harum’s Shine On Brightly, the U.S. album covers where far better than the dull U.K covers.
4.Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Well here is one that may cause some consternation amongst my prog rock brethren, but so be it. This was classically stoopid rock and roll that in 1968 was what this kid was listening to – and it still sounds great. Supposedly a tipsy Doug Ingle (keyboards/vocals) was writing a song with the lyrics “in the garden of Eden” but they came out slurred. The rest of the band liked the confused lyric and thus a heavy and dopey psychedelic gem was born. The beginning and end were joined on single with the middle lopped off, but you really need to hear the whole 17 minutes to appreciate the greatness. Most of the song is taken with with the band jamming on the main riff. At about 6 1/2 minutes there is a phase-shifted drum solo and every kid in homeroom used to tap their desks with their pencils in tribute to Ron Bushy’s skins-work (no doubt driving teachers insane). Curiously, Iron Butterfly never really came close to another song as great as this. On the Atco label for those that care.
5.Pink Floyd – Echoes
The sixth Pink Floyd album, Meddle (1971), yielded this 23 1/2 minute masterpiece. You could easily move this to #2 and “Atom Heart Mother” down to #5, but either way the Floyd created two of the greatest long songs in musical history. This is a Halloween classic around our Parker abode – truly spooky sounding stuff especially 11 minutes in. It is said that what first inspired the song was the heavily Leslied piano ‘ping’ created by Rick Wright that opens the track. David Gilmour plays some screaming guitar leads that sound just as good in person (having seen them with my buddy Dan at DU just before the release of Dark Side Of The Moon – the album that ruined them for me). They also do a great version on the Live At Pompeii video. This song would have fit in well when Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets played the Paramount earlier this year, but they didn’t do it (amazing show – thanks Paul!). Perhaps if they tour again…? By the way, the Hipgnosis cover art again doesn’t feature the name of the band or the album and is a close-up of an underwater ear.
6.Focus – Eruption
If you ask the average U.S. record buyer the only song they know by Focus, they would say “Hocus Pocus” which is a pity as that silly novelty riff-rocker has nothing to do with the great prog instrumentals the true fans know them for. Their 2nd album Moving Waves (1971) did indeed contain that dopey #9 hit (1973), but the rest of the album is excellent prog including this 23 minute track on side two. Thijs Van Leer (flute/keyboards) and Jan Akkerman (guitar) were the creative soul of the band (Van Leer still fronts a version of this Dutch group).
7.Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick
To reiterate a point (if the morons who vote for the r & r hall are reading): inclusion should be open to acts that created and defined new genres of music – pushing boundaries. When you think of rock and roll bands that played literate music, put out classic album after classic album and made playing the flute cool you immediately think of Jethro Tull. Perhaps the voters don’t like leader Ian Anderson’s superior attitude or perhaps they would just rather vote for the rap-artist flavor of the month to sell tickets – too bad. Well they did induct The Moody Blues and Yes so perhaps there is hope. This was the followup to Aqualung and was ostensibly Anderson’s spoof of the idea of a concept album and was a single nearly 44 minute song split between sides A & B. The cover was a pastiche of a local newspaper and shows one Gerald Bostock who supposedly composed the poem this 1972 LP was based on (nonsense of course). The album hit #1 on the U.S. charts. John Evan contributes notable keyboard work that meshed well with guitarist Martin Barre and flautist Anderson.
8.Savoy Brown – Savoy Brown Boogie
Proving that not all cool long songs have to be progressive, this live medley filled the whole of side two on the 4th album of blues/rock by a band still on tour under the leadership of Kim Simmonds (though he really needs a better singer than himself). In 1969 bands like Savoy Brown, Fleetwood Mac, Cream, 10 Years After, Chicken Shack, etc. were introducing black blues to young white kids like my buddy Dan. DC was kind enough to play this for yours truly (no doubt while we were drinking Bubble-Up and eating Yellow Zingers snack cakes) and got the young me hooked. This song was a medley of goodies like “Feel So Good” and “Purple Haze” recorded live in London. Guitarist Simmonds is the only constant in the band over the years with this version being perhaps the best. The rest of the act were Chris Youlden (vocals), Bob Hall (piano), Roger Earl (drums), Lonesome Dave Peverett (guitar/vocals) and Tony Stevens (bass). After two more albums, those last three split off to form Foghat.
9.The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Voodoo Chile
This nearly 15 minute track closes side two of the 3rd Hendrix album Electric Ladyland (1968). It is basically an in-studio blues jam with Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell, organist Steve Winwood of Traffic and bassist Jack Casady of the Jefferson Airplane. Do not confuse this track with the heavier and more well-known “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” which closes that classic album. This track doesn’t seem to be on youtube but then we all own the album anyway – right?
10.King Crimson – Lizard
At the tail end of 1970 a third King Crimson album (Lizard) appeared sans the excellent vocalist Greg Lake who was now in Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Vocals were instead handled by Gordon Haskell with an assist on this track from Yes front-man Jon Anderson. Side two was one 23 1/2 minute song broken into four parts. For some reason, youtube doesn’t have the full song in one piece so here presented is the intro section. Robert Fripp supplies guitar, mellotron and music while Pete Sinfield composed the lyrics. The rest of the band was Andy McCulloch (who would play drums next in Fields with Graham Field), Mel Collins (sax/flute) and others including Keith Tippett on piano. Truthfully due to the absence of Lake and the jazzier nature of some of the music, it isn’t as good as the first two Crimson albums.
11.Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant (Massacree)
1967 was known as the year of psychedelia and the summer of love. 1967 also saw the debut album from Woody Guthrie’s son Arlo. The reason we bought the record at the time was due to this 18 1/2 minute live-in-front-of-studio-audience rap about getting arrested for illegally dumping trash and avoiding getting drafted into the Army. The song was enough of a sensation that it was made into an Arthur Penn movie a couple of years later. While Arlo is still going today, this continues to be his best-loved song. The main folk-song riff is played over and over again on acoustic guitar with uncredited accompaniment.
12.Kraftwerk – Autobahn
In time for my birthday in 1974, this very mind-numbing track was the title centerpiece of the 4th Kraftwerk album (their first in the U.S.?). The simple German lyrics along with the general feel are meant to evoke driving on the super-highway – the Autobahn. The song has a gently catchy melody and an edit became an unexpected hit at #25 in the U.S. charts. Engineer Conny Plank gave the electronic music a great headphone mix. This album can be seen as the progenitor of synth-pop or even ambient music.
13.Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Tarkus
This is the song that nearly broke up the progressive rock super-group after only one album. It is said that singer/bassist Lake didn’t like the music keyboardist Emerson was creating for their 2nd album and nearly left (the other member was drummer Carl Palmer). After a reconciliation that saw Lake contribute some parts of the 20 1/2 minute song, the album was deemed a failure by some critics and a #1 U.K./#9 U.S. success on the charts. Emerson’s Hammond organ dominates instrumentally.
14.Renaissance – Song Of Scheherazade
Song of Scheherazade is a 1947 movie while Rimsky-Korsakov composed a piece of music titled “Scheherazade”. Supposedly this 24 1/2 minute masterwork has nothing to do with any of those, so let’s start over. Scheherazade And Other Stories (1975) was the 6th and best album by the more acoustic prog band Renaissance that had been formed from the roots of the blues/rock band The Yardbirds. The soul of that original band was singer Keith Relf and his sister Jane. After Keith was electrocuted and Jane left to form Illusion, the mantle was passed to Annie Haslam and the late Michael Dunford (guitars). The orchestrations by Tony Cox are glorious and are as much a part of the band as Haslam, Dunford, Jon Camp (bass), John Tout (keys) and Terence Sullivan (drums). No cows or ears this time for Hipgnosis on creating the album cover.
15.Deep Purple – Concerto For Group & Orchestra
When fans think of Deep Purple they likely think of “Smoke On The Water”, “Perfect Strangers” or even “Hush”. Certainly the band are known for their hard rock interplay between the late Jon Lord on organ and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar with the powerful tenor of Ian Gillan on top. Oddly, however, the first album Gillan appeared as lead singer on for Purple was a live record made up of the mostly Lord composed “Concerto For Group & Orchestra” (song lyrics by Gillan). The album was recorded with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold and juxtaposed the hard rock band with the strings playing a classical style. This, their 4th album, was also the first with bassist Roger Glover. Drummer Ian Paice remained from the original band along with Lord and Blackmore. As Blackmore wanted to play rock and roll, he was pleased when it didn’t chart here or in the U.K. – my friend DC was the one who played this for me originally.
16.Jethro Tull – A Passion Play
After the success of Thick As A Brick, Jethro Tull repeated the one-song-over-two-sides idea with their next album – 1973’s A Passion Play. Yes it isn’t as catchy as the predecessor, but it is still good. Critics hated it yet it again went to #1 in the charts. These two albums are Tull’s most progressive. The story seems to be about the death of one Ronnie Pilgram, his journey through Heaven and Hell and perhaps his rebirth. The only part not solely composed by Ian Anderson is “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” (Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond, John Evan). An edit managed a #80 placement on the U.S. singles chart.
17.Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Karn Evil 9
Brain Salad Surgery was the 1973 3rd album by Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Carl Palmer charting at #2 in the U.K. and #11 in the U.S.. At just under a half an hour, “Karn Evil 9” is ELP’s longest song. Emerson composed the music while Lake and former King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield contributed the words. At 8:42 you hear the line that is most associated with the band, “welcome back, my friends to the show that never ends”. The story may be about the decay of humanity and how computers take over (this before anyone even thought of PC’s and the like).
18.Genesis – Supper’s Ready
Once again I can thank my buddy DC for exposing the younger me to a great band, Genesis. Foxtrot was the 1972 followup to the previous year’s superior Nursery Cryme that was Genesis’ first with drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett. Bassist Mike Rutherford, keyboardist Tony Banks and singer/flautist Peter Gabriel rounded out the band on this their 4th album. While this 23 minute song is a group composition, Gabriel is generally given lyrical credit. Many consider this to be the best song by the progressive version of Genesis (not so this reviewer). Interestingly on “Los Endos” from A Trick Of The Tail (after Gabriel had departed), there are references to this song. On the wonderful musical cruise undertaken by Mrs. RnRDentist and myself (On The Blue 2019), Steve Hackett’s band performed a fantastic version of this song (the only former Genesis member not to abandon us prog fans – thanks Steve!).
19.Yes – Close To The Edge
The sound you hear is that of prog fans everywhere screaming at their computers that this should be #1 (as the 1972 LP of that name was voted by fans a few years back in a Prog Magazine poll). Parts of this song are excellent and a case could be made that if one could lop off the first three minutes it would come in much higher (definitely if the last 10 minutes were a free standing song I would like it even better). When Rick Wakeman’s church organ comes it just after the 12 minute mark – oh my, that is glorious – so okay maybe it deserves to be higher on the list. Placement be darned, it at least made our top 20. This song wass composed by singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. Bassist Chris Squire and drummer Bill Bruford round out the band (this was Bruford’s swan song before joining King Crimson). Anderson says the lyrics are inspired by Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha. The album charted #3 in the U.S. and #4 in the U.K. also containing the song “And You And I”.
20.Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells
Hearing just a few seconds of a song can evoke a movie instantly. If you were of a certain age in 1973, all you need to hear are the first snippets of this song and you picture Linda Blair floating above her bed with green pea-soup spewing from her lips in The Exorcist. This was the debut album for multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield and was a worldwide phenomenon (especially in the U.K. were it was the 3rd biggest selling album for the entire decade of the ’70s). The song was comprised of two separate pieces of music on each side of the vinyl album. Side one is the part we remember from the movie and from an edit done by his U.S. record distributor (Atlantic) that reached #7 in our charts (though not approved by the artist). This was the first release on Richard Branson’s Virgin label.