Long Songs Worth the Wait

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Some songs are long. Others are quite short. Such is the nature of songs. Some long songs are needlessly long, wasting our precious (and increasingly finite) time while adding essentially nothing to the experience as a whole. Then there are singular works of music that run far beyond the average human attention span on the surface but reveal their essential nature upon repeat listens. This is a list of those songs; these are songs that justify every minute of their superhuman running time, presented from shortest to longest.

 

5. Joe Walsh- “Life’s Been Good.” (7:56)

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The year was 2001, and I was in a guitar shop in Centerville, Ohio. The burly and heavily bearded man guarding the checkout took myself and my friend aside and asked if we wanted to know a “crazy rock story.” Of course, we did and he proceeded to tell us the legend of Joe Walsh and the Talkbox*. His explanation included a crazy story in which James Gang and Eagles legend Joe Walsh once tuned a Talkbox to “Eb, the same frequency as his mouth or whatever” and proceeded to blow both of his front teeth out and up to a distance of ten feet.

Note: I have never read or seen anything since that suggests that this madness is true.

The whole thing seemed completely crazy, and yet that’s the badass image I have in my head about Joe Walsh, regardless of the accuracy of it. The song finds a perfect balance between irony and sincerity, a space that Walsh would successfully occupy for his long career.

4. Phish – “You Enjoy Myself” (9:51)

Some may dismiss Phish and other “jam bands” of their ilk as peddlers of the worst kind of self-indulgent wankery. Even if that’s true, (which it is, to an extent), Phish represents the best wankery I have ever heard. “You Enjoy Myself,” a fan-favorite featured on their debut album Junta, successfully transitions from progressive rock to jazz to funk and back again throughout its beefy running time. The group is comfortable in almost any style known to man, and there is perhaps no better showcase for Phish’s capabilities than “YEM.”

3. The Doors – “The End” (11:47)

Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. For those of you who have followed my writing, you may know that I’m not a huge fan of the Doors. I will concede that they have a handful of good, or even great songs, but I’m not crazy about the deification of Jim Morrison. It seems excessive to me. That’s all. One instance in which the Doors really proved their worth was the epic and moody song “The End.” Used in Apocalypse Now , so memorably, the track really creates and (amazingly) sustains a feeling of surreal dread that justifies the 11-or-so-minutes of my life that I can never have back.

2. The Velvet Underground – “Sister Ray”  (17:28)

The Velvet Underground are the coolest, sleaziest band of all time. White Light/White Heat is their “coolest” album, if not their best. Everything about “Sister Ray” reeks of coolness, from Lou Reed’s detached vocals to John Cale’s sharp organ swirls. This song conjures up decadence, undesirables and raw sexuality all in the same package.  For those of you trying to decide where punk rock began, you may want to start here.

1. Genesis – “Supper’s Ready” (23:06)

Man, those early Genesis albums were like tiny little movies, weren’t they? We didn’t know how good we had it when Peter Gabriel was our elaborately-costumed tour guide through far-away lands and strange time signatures. “Supper’s Ready” is the final statement on the group’s terrific album Foxtrot, a journey through allegory and myth. Though Gabriel stands at the forefront, “Supper” is truly a whole-band collaboration, containing intricate and interweaving musical lines that work in perfect symbiosis.  In 23 minutes, Genesis explosively makes a case for themselves as the greatest progressive rock band of all time.

 

Any other long masterpieces? Hit me up in the comments!

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