The Long Game
The average length of a Top 40 single is in the neighborhood of three minutes, which doesn't leave much time for marathon guitar solos or improvisational jams. Here are a dozen classic songs by artists who ignored the constraints of radio and kept playing for as long as they wanted to.
'Voodoo Chile' (Jimi Hendrix Experience)
Hendrix's longest-running studio recording is this 15-minute blues jam from 1968's "Electric Ladyland." The double-album ends with "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," a 5:12 track that was was released as a single in the U.K. in October 1970, a month after the guitar legend's death, and became a No.1 hit on the British charts.
'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
This 11-minute-plus track is off 1970's "Cosmo's Factory" LP. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote the song in 1966 and several Motown artists recorded it, including Marvin Gaye, whose 3:16 version became a No. 1 hit in 1968. Credence also released a short version as a single, but it didn't have the same impact as the one on the album.
'Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding' (Elton John)
The opening track of Elton's 1978 double-album "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" was originally two separate pieces. But after they were recorded back to back, without a break in between, the two were melded into one. A shorter single version was never released. Even so, the 11:09 album track got plenty of airplay.
'Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands' (Bob Dylan)
This track occupies the entire final side of another double album—Dylan's 1966 masterpiece, "Blonde on Blonde." Clocking in at 11 minutes, 23 second, the song influenced many artists, from Joan Baez to George Harrison to Pink Floyd's Roger Waters. "It is like 'Beowolf,'" Tom Waits once said. "This song can make you leave home, work on the railroad or marry a gypsy."
'Free Bird' (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
On their 1973 debut album, the Southern rockers' signature song goes on for 9:09, but live versions of the power ballad were often five minutes or more longer than that. A radio-friendly 4:41 single was released in 1974.
'Whipping Post' (The Allman Brothers Band)
In 1969, the Allman Brothers recorded a 5:20 studio version of this song for their self-titled debut album. But this 22-minute version is the one that fans prefer. It fills the entire final side of "At Fillmore East," the live double-album the band released in 1971.
'Do You Feel Like We Do' (Peter Frampton)
When this song first appeared on the 1973 LP "Frampton's Camel," it was 6:44 long. Three years later, a longer—more than two times longer—version came out on "Frampton Comes Alive" one of the best-selling live album of all time.
'In My Time of Dying' (Led Zeppelin)
Clocking in at 11:08 on the 1975 double-album "Physical Graffiti," this track is Led Zeppelin's version of an old gospel hymn and the band's longest-running studio track. Bob Dylan and John Sebastian were also among those who recorded their own versions of the hymn, under various titles.
'I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home)' (Grand Funk Railroad)
Grand Funk Railroad's longest-running studio recording is off the 1970 "Closer to Home" album. A shorter 5:31 version was released for radio, but progressive rock stations actually chose to play the original 10-minute-plus album track more frequently. Boy, those were the days!
'Get Ready' (Rare Earth)
The Temptations released a single of this song in 1966. Then Rare Earth, another Motown band, devoted most of the B-side of its 1969 "Get Ready" LP—21 minutes and 30 seconds—to the album's title track, which was written by Smokey Robinson. The band also released a 2:48 single, just a tad longer than the Temptations' earlier 2:39 version.
'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' (Iron Butterfly)
This 17-minute title track—which many say marked the beginning of heavy metal—eats up the entire B-side of Iron Butterfly's 1968 breakthrough album. Believe it or not, there's a single version that got chopped down to 2:52. Fun fact: In an episode of "The Simpsons," Bart tricks Reverend Lovejoy into singing the song in church by handing out sheet music titled "In the Garden of Eden" by "L. Ron Butterfly."
'The End' (The Doors)
It's the final—and by far the longest—track on the Doors' self-titled 1967 debut album. Written by front man Jim Morrison, "The End" was originally much shorter. But during performances over a period of months at L.A.'s Whiskey A Go Go, the song kept getting longer and longer, and the band ended up recording a nearly 12-minute version.
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