Long songs of the 60s and 70s

My look at some of the longest songs of the late '60s and early '70s.
January 26, 2009
One of the very first and most popular rock songs to reach over 15 minutes was Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" (1968). Being a little over 17 minutes long, it took up a whole side of an album. The same year, Arlo Guthrie (son of Woody Guthrie) released "Alice's Restaurant Massacree," a rather long folk song (a little under 19 minutes) about the ordeals of going to the local jail after littering "a half a ton of garbage," and the draft afterwards. Also released in the late '60s was the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray" off the album "White Light/White Heat," a little over 17 minutes.

Things really picked up in the 70's for long songs. To start the decade off, Pink Floyd released "Atom Heart Mother," tipping the scales at almost 24 minutes long. There were even a few records that had songs that took up both sides of a vinyl record. That is what this article is mainly about.

In 1972, Jethro Tull released "Thick As a Brick." Being a little over 43 minutes long, the song was split into two seperate parts. The packaging was also somewhat unorthodox: The band and artists managed to replicate a small newspaper, complete with fake news articles, and the lyrics to the song, which were supposedly written by a 12-year-old named Gerald Bostock. To further enhance the lie, band leader Ian Anderson credits him as co-author of the song on the subsequent CD release of the song.

The following year, Jethro Tull put out an even longer song called "A Passion Play." This song was a little over 45 minutes, and also split into two seperate sides of a record. In the middle of the song is a short audio play called "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles."

Also in the same year, Mike Oldfield released "Tubular Bells," which was longer (around 48 minutes) and also split into two seperate sides of a record. The first part of side one can be heard in the horror movie "The Exorcist."

But in 1973, no one could top Yes' "Tales From Topographic Oceans." This masterpiece is a double album, with four songs taking up one side each. The songs ("The Revealing Science of God," "The Remembering," "The Ancient," and "Ritual") were written by two members of the band after one of them saw page 83 of the book "Autobiography Of a Yogi" by Paramhansa Yoganada. It described the four-part shsatric scriptures which cover all aspects of religion and social life.

Even though I was born in 1982, I really like songs from the '60s and '70s. I have most of these on vinyl as well as CD, and I really like the fact that a lot of people took the time to write more than a basic little 3-minute song.
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