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10 Rock Songs Over 10 Minutes Long
I wrote this list because as a writer and an artist there is nothing better than cranking the music and watching the creation that comes about. I noticed I tend to like the longer songs, or epics (as well as just listening to the entire album), as they let me get into groove that I just can’t get from a three minute production of nowadays music. Maintaining a song for a length over ten minutes is a challenge that requires dedication, creativity, and a rediscovery within the song itself so that it is unique every time it is listened to. Optimally, Jazz would be the best genre to find ten minute ventures, but the few that exist in rock music are harder to come across and have an atmosphere all their own. Hopefully, it should take you approximately two and a half hours to make it through this list (of course comments with suggestions are welcome). In no particular order, here are the ten best examples of rock songs exceeding ten minutes done right.
2112 is the title track from Canadian progressive rock band Rush’s album of the same name, released in 1976. The overture and the first section, Temples of Syrinx, were released as a single and are still popular among Rush’s setlists today.
The song tells of one man discovering the magic of music through a guitar (as evidenced in the song by him tuning the guitar). In this world, or rather galaxy, everything is under control by the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx.
Written as a 1970 protest of the Vietnam War and released on his live album: Band of Gypsys, Jimi’s frenetic outbursts in this song echo the very sentiment he was trying to get across. The atmosphere created by the guitar arrangement is nothing short of spectacular, with drums and quick picking creating bursts of machine gun fire throughout the song.
Octavarium is a song from progressive metal band Dream Theater. The song revolves around a central theme of everything ends where it begins. For those that know music, this is echoed in the title as an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency.
The song is divided into five parts. Each part has its own allusions and references to various other artists such as Pink Floyd (one part begins and ends with a reference to Pink Floyd).
The song goes on to emphasize cyclical nature of all things, as well as the album, as it begins where it ends, using the same melody as the end to the first track.
Somewhere the line was inscribed in asphalt between punk and jam bands, and Television crossed it valiantly. At the forefront of this is their title track Marquee Moon from the album of the same name. With the twin attack of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd on guitar comes a rhythmical assault of punk but this all gets turned on its head at the epic climax of this song. In concert, the band has sometimes extended the song to as long as fifteen minutes.
Taking an incentive from the band’s previous album, Starless borrows some of its lines from their fifth album, “Starless and Bible Black,” to make its chorus. The latter half of the song becomes a jam session that likens itself to other songs by King Crimson. The saxophone solo is similar to that of 21st Century Schizoid Man, the band’s biggest hit, which was also included on Guitar Hero 5.
Written by the band in 1969, it is said by the band members themselves to have been inspired by a riff featured in a song by the Psychedelic band It’s a Beautiful Day, called “Bombay Calling.” As Ian Gillan put it, Jon Lord at practice just said ‘Oh, Have you heard that new album by It’s A Beautiful Day?’ He just started to play the lick much slower. The song was said to have been written in 10 minutes.
Child in Time is a very straightforward composition. Divided into two sections, each section section builds up until the next section or the end of the song. Singer Ian Gillian utilizes his full vocal range and goes from your quiet sing-a-long to a loud, high-pitched, banshee-esque screaming.
It’s purely a coincidence that this song is two seconds longer than the previous entry on this list, but this song, quite frankly, is an amazing display of guitar-playing recorded in one take.
With an opening monologue that sets the tone in this funk psychedelia, Eddie Hazel, supposedly told by George Clinton, who, under the influence of LSD, told Hazel to play the song like his mother had just died and to play the second half as if he had found out she was alive.
Though this song is featured on Top Ten Pink Floyd Songs, I feel it has rightly earned its place here (coming in at our second longest song). Echoes, the end track on Pink Floyd’s “Meddle,” their last album before the vaunted success of Dark Side of the Moon, is a composition of lengthy instrumental passages, sound effects, and musical improvisation. Written by all four members of the group, the extent at which to produce all of the content heard is insurmountable to any other song up here.
Achilles Last Stand is famous for John Bonham’s powerful drumming, John Paul Jones’s galloping bass line, which is played on a custom built Alembic eight string bass, and Jimmy Page’s overdubbed orchestral guitar arrangement. Written in 1975 about Plant’s experience in Morocco and an injury he sustained from a car accident, thus giving the song its name (and also working title, The Wheelchair Song).Plant’s lyrics were also inspired by some of the poetry he was reading at the time, which includes William Blake (a bonus for me since I’m a poet and possess some of his work).
On a side note, Jimmy Page has been quoted stating that “Achilles Last Stand” is his favorite song.
And now for the obligatory salute to the luminary that was Jimi Hendrix. Voodoo Chile stands as his (almost) fifteen minute venture into the unable-to-be-tamed beast that is psychedelic rock. The song, basically a 15-minute blues jam, evolved into the final product over the course of an hour.
After many of the late night Electric Ladyland recording sessions, Hendrix and the band went to one of the New York City clubs to jam with whoever was there. One such jam at The Scene Club included Steve Winwood and Jack Casady. Noel Redding was not present as he had stormed out of the Record Plant studio earlier that evening. They spent the night playing “Voodoo Chile”, and when the club closed, Hendrix invited everyone back to the studio.
At about 7 a.m. the next morning they began to formally record ‘Voodoo Chile.’ It took only three takes and the final 15 minute version was Hendrix’s longest studio recording.
Note: a common error made by listeners is that the song’s name is Voodoo Child. The word ‘child’ has been intentionally misspelled to mimic Hendrix’s pronunciation of the word.
And at the center of the shrubbery maze, we have one of the originators of epic rock, Bob Dylan. Written in 1965, it is the closing track to Dylan’s sixth studio album, Highway 61 Revisited and has been covered by many artists, including a version by My Chemical Romance for the Watchmen film.
Suggestions over the exact location of “Desolation Row” include Dylan’s response to an interviewer on a television press conference on December 3, 1965 that it was “someplace in Mexico” and Al Kooper’s (who played organ and piano on the album) assertion it was New York City’s Eighth Avenue.
Honorable Mentions: Dogs – Pink Floyd, Pigs (Three Different Ones) – Pink Floyd, Babe, I’m on Fire – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, A Change in Seasons – Dream Theater, When the Music’s Over – The Doors, Coma – Guns N’ Roses.