Saturday, 23 July 2011

The really long notes

In my earlier post I talked about some great really short songs, mostly punk. These are the obvious logical extension of punk's "less is more" philosophy which came as a result of the excesses of the psychedelic era, like long sprawling solos, rock operas, and endless Grateful Dead concerts that went on for days. I am down with that in theory. But you have to admit there were some really cool, really long songs of the psychedelic era. Before prog rock had to ruin everything.

The evolution of rock from the Jump Blues, Swing, R&B, Rockabilly, Doo-Wop, Honky-Tonk, Girl Group, Skiffle, Mersey Beat, Surf, Frat Rock, Folk Rock, Garage days of rock's first decade to the Psychedelic excess of the late 1960's was actually perfectly logical in retrospect. The first generation of Rock was based around the limitations of the jukebox single, tightly constructed dance songs or ballads that could fit onto a two and half to four minute single. AM radio simply followed that model. However by the late sixties the single had been taken over as the main focus of Rock by the long playing album which meant that artists were no longer faced with the time limitations of the 45 single. Jazz musicians had already been exploring this new freedom with the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman abandoning structured, song oriented swing in favour of long jam oriented suites with extended solos that could take up the entire side of an album. Many Rock musicians were fully aware of these developments and were eager to engage in some of the same freedoms.

This brings us to the other change in rock in it's second generation aside from the technical development of the LP, and that is the fact that both the artists and audience had now grown up listening to Rock and Roll and were not just high school kids and working class youth but now included middle class, educated and cultured youth who would never have been caught dead listening to Rock and Roll in the 1950's. It's often forgotten that in Rock's first decade few university students took it seriously and instead listened to either jazz, folk or pop vocals. However by the late sixties there were a whole generation of youth who had grown up with Rock and Roll as well as being exposed to jazz and classical music as well as poetry and high literature and art. For these musicians the freedom of being able to explore these ideas in the context of Rock and Roll was perfectly logical. Others had also developed ideals of virtuoso musicianship that opened the way for extended jazzy solos and instrumentals. Add in to this the influence of psychedelic drugs, pot and/or heroin as well in place of the liquor and pills of the 1950's as an added ingredient. The new medium of FM radio, looking for a way to differentiate itself from AM radio's top 40 formats eagerly embraced these new approaches.

Later this sort of experimentation would lead to sprawling, wretched excess of course. And hopelessly wrongheaded ideas like rock operas and classical rock fusions. Which would in turn lead to an inevitable back to basics reactions like punk, new wave, glam, pub rock and revivals of rockabilly and garage.

But as necessary as these reactions were, that doesn't mean that some of the early extended explorations of the psychedelic era should just be dismissed as bloated hippie crap. Some of the classic examples still stand as solid rock songs in their own right. Some are really just basic garage or R&B songs stretched out with long solos, (ie Iron Butterfly, CCR, Chambers Bros, Black Sabbath, Ten Years After, The Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray") while others are jazz influenced jams (Paul Butterfield, Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Pharaoh Sanders crossover epic) and then there are conceptual art pieces like The Velvet's "Heroin" or Arlo Guthrie's comedy jam.

The Top 20 over 7 minutes long (I figure they are so long that a Top 40 would go on forever);

1. The Chambers Brothers ~ "Time has come today";

2. Credence Clearwater Revival ~ "I heard it through the grapevine";

3. Paul Butterfield Blues Band ~ "East/West";

4. The Velvet Underground ~ "Heroin";

5. The Chambers Brothers ~ "Love peace and happiness";

6. Iron Butterfly ~ "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida";

7. Credence Clearwater Revival ~ "Suzie Q";

8. Led Zeppelin ~ "Stairway to Heaven";

9. The Temptations ~ "Papa was a rolling stone";

10. The Doors ~ "The End";

11. Pink Floyd ~ "Interstellar Overdrive";

12. Black Sabbath ~ "Warning";

13. The Velvet Underground ~ "Sister Ray";

14. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band ~ "Work Song";

15. The MC5 ~ "Starship";

16. Vanilla Fudge ~ "You keep me hanging on";

17. Ten Years After ~ "Going home";

18. Quicksilver Messenger Service ~ "Who do you love";

19. Pharaoh Sanders; ~ "The creator has a master plan";

20. Tangerine Dream ~ "Journey through a burning brain" (a remix, couldn't find a embeddable copy of the original;

21. Arlo Guthrie ~ "Alice's Restaurant massacree";

No comments:

Post a Comment