Remember when Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was played at parties? What a junior high trip that was. Turn down the lights, turn up the music and get your groove on.
Long songs are truly an art form. Let me qualify that. I don’t mean long, repetitive, meandering and self-indulgent noise, half of which is a drum solo. if you Google long songs you’ll find different lists of some you’ve heard and many you haven’t. There are certainly live versions of songs stretched to long-form length. The Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead are examples of bands that often look songs of medium length and turned them into epic adventures played live.
Below is a list of some favorites of mine and a few others I agree should be included but aren’t necessarily ones you’ll find on my play list:
“Achilles Last Stand” (10:25) – Led Zeppelin. The seventh studio album, Presence, (1976) and a harder, blues metal sound. This song is a tremendous, upbeat, pulsating rocker, one of Jimmy Page’s best guitar songs.
“Echoes” (23:29) – Pink Floyd. From Meddle (1971). Taking up an entire album side, this is a grand structure of different sections and linking sound effects emphasizing the band’s ability to go deep into experimentation and psychedelic rock.
“Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I-V)” (13:33) – Pink Floyd. Written about former member Syd Barrett. The song, in various sections, opens Wish You We’re Here (1975).
“Take a Pebble” (12:35) – Emerson, Lake and Palmer. From their 1970 debut album. The song contains several distinctive sections as it shows off both their gentle side and their jazzy improv ability.
“Pirates” (13:20) – Emerson, Lake and Palmer. From the 1977 album, Works, Volume 1. One of the best and most rousing of there songs, an epic feel to it.
“Do You Feel Like I Do?” (13:45) – Peter Frampton. The live version, which most people are familiar with, came out on Frampton Comes Alive (1976). Also famous for the use of the “talk box”.
“Fool’s Overture” (10:57) – Supertramp. From the 1977 album, Even in the Quietest Moments. A long, historical effort, somewhat like “A Day in the Life” as the song shits styles and speeds while conveying a moving story.
“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (11:05) Creedence Clearwater Revival. A cover of the song Marvin Gaye first made famous, this CCR version appeared on their 1970 album, Cosmos Factory. A long, but tight version of the R&B classic.
“The End” (11:43) – The Doors. From the 1967 debut album, a song that is somewhat controversial given the lyrical content. The song fit perfectly in the 1979 film, Apocalypse Now.
“When the Music’s Over” (11:00) – The Doors. From Strange Days (1967). A slow, hypnotic, bluesy, late night song of five parts.
“Ashes Are Burning” (11:22) – Renaissance. The closing track on the 1973 album of the same name. One of their few tracks to feature an electric guitar, the song is stately and jazzy, along with Annie Haslam’s angelic voice.
“Trip to the Fair” (10:47) – Renaissance. From Scheherazade and Other Stories (1975). Very majestic, big piano sound accomplished by an orchestra, this piece has both classical and medieval folk influences.
“Can You Hear Me?” (13:39) – Renaissance. The opening track from 1977’s Novella. Grand and sweeping, this song builds on the group’s sound.
“Starless” (12:16) – King Crimson. From the 1974 album Red, spacey, atmospheric and brooding.
“Moonchild” (12:13) – King Crimson. From the 1969 debut album, the Mellotron is prominent in this melancholy, beautiful soundscape.
“Thick As A Brick (Part One)” (22:12) – Jethro Tull. From the 1972 album of the same name. Parts one and two each take an LP side.
“Supper’s Ready” (22:57) – Genesis. From the 1972 Foxtrot album. Made up of seven sections, emphasizing different members of the group, sometimes fast, other times slow and gentle.
“One For the Vine” (10:01) – Genesis. From the album, Wind and Wuthering (1976). A song that was two songs fused together, perhaps the last of the real progressive-rock song Genesis released. Melancholy and sweeping.
“The Battle of Epping Forest” (11:44) – Genesis. From Selling England By the Pound (1973). One of several classics from the album that have Middle Earth and fable qualities. Typical Genesis song construction of bits and pieces blended together in intricate musical construction.
“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” (12:10) – Traffic. From the 1971 song of the same name. A slow, piano groove song, brooding with jazzy, wailing sax.
“Cowgirl in the Sand” (10:03) – Neil Young & Crazy Horse. From Young’s second album, a riffing guitar song with fiery solos. The band really cooks on this one.
“Funeral For a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding” (11:08) – Elton John. The opening track(s) from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). The first part is an instrumental that segues into the upbeat vocals.
“As Wichita Fall, So Falls Wichita Falls” (20:44) – Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays. The title track from the 1981 album. Is this jazz, jazz-fusion or something else? Whatever the genre, it is a modern symphony of sounds, melodic threads and sophisticated musicianship. After several well-received albums, this song would reveal the grand sonic journey of Pat Metheny.
“Free Bird” (10:07) – Lynyrd Skynyrd. This classic was on the band’s 1973 debut. It broke the barrier to long songs being played on the radio because of its popularity.
“I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (12:01) – Meat Loaf. The smash single from 1993’s Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell. It was edited to a much shorter version for radio play.
“Station to Station” (10:08) -David Bowie. 1976’s album of the same name. Bowie was experimenting with various styles and combined a slow R&B groove to start and changing to a funk-rock beat for the latter part of the song.
“I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)” (10:08) – Grand Funk Railroad. From the 1970 album, Closer to Home. A song of several distinct parts, with sound effects and orchestra, it certainly conveys the sense of a difficult journey.
“Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” (11:19) – Bob Dylan. One of the standout songs from 1966’s Blonde On Blonde. This opus was written about Dylan’s wife, Sara.
“Murder Most Foul” (16:57) – Bob Dylan. A surprise from Dylan’s 2020 album, Rough and Rowdy Ways. A hymn to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Quite a moving piece of work.
“Gypsy Man” (11:17) – War. From Deliver the Word (1973). War was difficult to describe. Jazz-fusion, urban rock, funk, soul – it had everything. “Gypsy Man” had all of that. A shortened single was a top 10 hit.
“Whipping Post” (22:40) – Allman Brothers. The live version from At Fillmore East, (1971) lengthened out the song to epic proportions. Featuring the twin guitar leads of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts.
“In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” (12:46) – Allman Brothers. Also taken from At the Fillmore East. Another song that sounds much better in concert where it was a concert favorite.
“Love To Love You Baby” (16:53) – Donna Summer. One of the first disco-era hits, from her 1975 album of the same name. Known for Summer’s moans and orgasmic vocal delivery. Not for the squeamish.
“Heart of the Sunrise” (11:24) -Yes. From 1971’s Fragile. Typical Yes, the song progresses through numerous sections, this is a powerful and beautiful song.
“Close to the Edge” (18:12) – Yes. The 1972 title track of what many consider to be Yes’ best and most enduring work. Influenced by Tolkien and Herman Hesse, and created in distinct sections. A small ethereal symphony.
“And You and I” (10:13) – Yes. Also from Close to the Edge. A sort of progressive-rock folk song about two people searching for truth.
“Awaken” (15:34) – Yes. From 1977’s Going For the One. Several distinct song section, the middle piece is very ethereal and haunting, then the final section returns to a previous theme as the song builds to the ending.
“Decades” (12:03) – Joe Walsh. From Songs From a Dying Planet (1992). Occasionally, Walsh writes a serious, philosophical song. Here, he talks about the march of time against a wistful melody.
“Between the Lines” (10:23) – Lake. The German rock band’s debut album, Lake (1976), contained this treasure.
“Do What You Like” (15:18) – Blind Faith. From their 1969 album, Blind Faith. Written by drummer Ginger Baker, it features one of his long, rocking drum solos that displays his amazing talent.