Monday, January 19, 2015

The Long Song (Guest Post)

In today's blog, Paul Jennings scours his library for >8 minute odysseys that he actually likes...

Meat Loaf. It's always Meat Loaf. Usually Bat Out Of Hell. All 9 minutes 53 seconds of it.

You know the guy. He's the one nursing his quid, analysing the pub jukebox, trying to find the long songs. It's quantity over quality. He demands his VFM. He wants his Meat Loaf. If you're very unlucky he'll double up with a portion of American Pie, weighing in at a calorific 8 minutes 33 seconds. I feel sick and fetch my coat.

The beauty of the 3 minute pop song is that if you don't like it, there'll be another one along shortly. Hard to do when ruffle-cuffed theatre boy insists on dragging his songs out to a fortnight.

The long song is wide open for self-indulgence. The six minute solo for the bassist who feels undervalued by the band or the drummer still irked that he didn't get a co-writer credit on the last album.

So, I set myself a challenge. Five songs of eight minutes or over that won't make you hit the skip track button.

1. Johnny Was - Stiff Little Fingers
from Inflammable Material, 1979

“Woman hold her head and cry,
'Cause her son has been shot down in the street and died,
Just because of the system”

Encore favourite from 1979 classic Inflammable Material. SLF have made this Bob Marley cover so firmly their own it's hard to believe it wasn't written in and about their native Belfast.

2. Let's Not Shit Ourselves (To Love and To Be Loved) - Bright Eyes
from Lifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002)

“I’ve seen a child, he’s caught in the sad trap of gravity.
He falls from the lowest branch of the apple tree,
And lands on the grass and weeps for his dignity,
Next time he will not aim so high,
Next time neither will I”

Conor Oberst uses a chugging bar room/country backing to vent his impressive prose and sounds like he means every goddamn word.

3. Television - Marquee Moon
from Television (1977)

“Life in the hive puckered up my night
The kiss of death, the embrace of life
There I stand ‘neath the Marquee Moon
Just waiting”

Television can stretch this seminal 1977 album title track out to over thirty minutes live. Thirty minutes entirely well spent.

4. Like a Hurricane - Neil Young
from American Stars 'n Bars (1977)

“I am just a dreamer
But you are just a dream
You could have been anyone to me”

The vulnerability of Young's voice through hazy feedback-laden guitar. It's an obvious choice, but what's not to love?

5. The Battle of Hampton Roads - Titus Andronicus
from The Monitor (2010)

“And so now, when I drink, I will drink to excess
When I smoke, I will smoke gaping holes in my chest
When I scream, I will scream until I’m gasping for breath
And when I get sick, I will get sick for the rest
Of my days peddling hate out the back of this Chevy Express
Each one a fart in the face of your idea of success”

It builds and crashes in waves of increasing ferocity, Patrick Stickles is a wordsmith of rare talent. Closing track from 2010's magnificent The Monitor.

Major thanks to Paul for providing today's blog - if you fancy following him on Twitter, his handle is @ovenglovespj.

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