The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

14 March 2005

A quick one while he's here

What makes the perfect song? Rich Appel, in his monthly newsletter Hz So Good, proposes criteria:

To me, the perfect song is about 2:30, has a beginning, middle and end, and is easy to sing along with.

Hard to argue with that, though I'd stretch it out a few more seconds; seemingly every Motown hit up through 1967 or so ran somewhere between 2:40 and 3:00.

And not every song that extends beyond the three-minute mark is flirting with tedium, but there was for quite some time an unwritten law that said Thou Shalt Shut Up Already: Phil Spector "accidentally" misprinted the first batch of labels for the 3:40ish "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" as 3:05, so as not to discourage DJs of that era with its sheer length. And Billy Joel got in a barb with "The Entertainer":

It was a beautiful song but it ran too long
If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05.

"The Entertainer" runs 3:38 on Streetlife Serenade; for the 45-rpm single, they cut it down to — oh, never mind.

I mention in passing that Dawn Eden's biggest hit, a cover of Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know About Us" (on The Stiff Generation, released by Groove Disques) on which she's backed by the Anderson Council, checks in at a brisk 2:53, six seconds faster than Tracey Ullman's version, which was a US Top Ten hit.

Posted at 7:13 AM to Tongue and Groove


And then came the era when you were lucky if the drum solo was under 3:05.

Posted by: triticale at 7:22 PM on 14 March 2005

The most telling thing about drum solos is that Ringo only took one of them, and it was short, and it was on the last Beatles album to be recorded.

Side note: One of the records most notorious for its endless drum solo — Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" — reduces nicely (though the actual edit is questionable, since it joins two sections at markedly different speeds) to 2:52 single length.

Posted by: CGHill at 7:29 AM on 15 March 2005