The scene: Solid State University.
The Music Appreciation 101 class is getting seated in the lecture hall. The professor, wearing long gray hair, wire rim glasses and faded jeans with flower patches on the knees, waits at the lectern until they are settled. He then addresses the students.
Good day students! Today's lecture concerns one of the more interesting periods in the history of rock music, and one that holds a special place in my mind. This will be all about the wonderful period between 1967 and 1979 when Art Rock was popular and how it came to be that way.
Art Rock is a form that came into vogue in the late Sixties during the Great Psychedelic Explosion. You do remember when we touched on that last semester, don't you? It owes a lot to classical music forms, but generally it was done by five or six piece rock bands, not orchestras, and the accent was usually on keyboard arrangements balanced with the usual electric guitar found in rock. In the early years of the genre the keyboards were usually organs with Leslie speakers, but also it saw the first use of the Mellotron in a rock setting.
Is everyone here familiar with Mellotron? No? It's a pretty unique keyboard instrument that alternately sounded like an organ, a string section or a chorus of voices, but it actually had very little in common with other kinds of pianos, organs or synthesizers. The sound was produced from strips of magnetic tape that moved across a bank of tapeheads. This mechanical movement limited the mellotron; it could hold a note for about forty seconds but that was usually quite enough for the desired effect. The sound itself could vary quite a lot depending on what was on the tape and how fast you made it move. It was a staple of many early Art Rock bands. Unfortunately, these machines were rather large and hard to take on tour, so Mellotrons as well as organs were quickly overtaken by the early versions of synthesizers by Moog and others in the early Seventies.
Nowadays most radio songs are pretty short, maybe four or five minutes long most of them and quite a few run only three minutes. Does anyone know why that is?
What's that Fred, it's because that's how long people want to dance? Well, only partly.
It's really because when they first started recording music way back in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, four minutes was just about as much as you could hope to squeeze on a side of one of those old 78 RPM discs. Radio stations sort of reinforced that as the proper length of a popular song in most everyone's mind back in the 20's and 30's, even when the 78's were replaced by the 45 RPM singles that Top 40 radio used in the 1950's. Hi-fidelity 33 RPM LP's were developed at the same time as the 45's but weren't used on the air much. They could play for 25 minutes or more, that's what LP means of course, "long playing," but outside of classical music only a few brave souls ever thought about using an entire side of an LP for a single piece. Of course there were jam sessions where blues men could literally wail all night but very few sessions like that were ever recorded. Notable exceptions include experimentalists like Sandy Bull and John Fahey in the folk world and more importantly some of the jazz giants like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. 40 years ago, they were the only ones recording long new pieces for popular consumption.
A question over here? What were some of the jazz pieces and the musicians they influenced? Well certainly there's Coltrane's A Love Supreme but even earlier there's Davis's Sketches Of Spain which was recorded in 1960. Miles influenced everyone in the jazz world and even rockers like the Allman Brothers cite him as a big influence. OK?
Anyway, It wasn't until the late Sixties that people started trying to make a pop or rock song that lasted more than five minutes. One of the first rock albums to break the five minute taboo was Frank Zappa's Freak Out which was recorded in 1965. Not only was it a double album, but it contained several extended improvisations like "Trouble Every Day" at almost six minutes and of course "Return Of Son Of The Monster Magnet" at a precedent breaking twelve minutes. Soon after in 1966, The Rolling Stones put an eleven and a half minute blues number, "Going Home," on their album Aftermath. Through breakthrough pieces like these in the mid-Sixties, slowly musicians and their fans realized that super long pieces could be a lot of fun too.
There was still a problem with that durn radio, though. Top 40 never played "Going Home" even if it was by The Stones. Enter another frequency band, FM.
FM radio was around in some cities even it the mid-50's but the problem was that FM receivers mostly weren't. It took the development of stereo broadcasting to really bring large numbers to invest in FM receivers, but what would the new stations play? Classical music was an easy choice to play at first, but if someone was already playing Beethoven on your block, jazz was a good second pick. For the third station? Well, we just happen to have all these albums cuts that never made it on to Top 40 over here! "Goin Home" and oh yeah, some of that weird stuff on that new album Sergeant Peppers, too. Sure it's The Beatles but they won't go near it on AM. We've got an exclusive! Then there's these new bands like The Grateful Dead, Country Joe and The Fish, The Youngbloods, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Jimi Hendrix Experience... What, didn't you hear about Jimi? Kid from Seattle that the Animals' bassist discovered, yeah, made a big splash at Monterey last June. Plays guitar with his teeth even! A lot of the long hair kids really like these groups, I think there's an audience here!
Get the idea? Progressive FM radio, also known as Underground Radio, was born around 1966. The new static free, stereo radio's staple soon became psychedelic music and by late 1967 it was well established in cities all over America. More new rock sounds emerged as the shockwaves from the Beatles, Stones and others' experiments rippled through the music world and the culture beyond. The stage was set for a new long form rock anthem to emerge.
So, does anyone know what the first really popular side long song was?
C'mon, let's not always see the same hands!
The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper? Well, it's certainly the right era, 1967, and an argument can be made for that, as it starts with a theme on side one and returns to it before the finale on side two. It was wildly popular and also has several individual pieces track together, right, but it doesn't have the single super-long composition on it that I'm looking for.
Other candidates? Over here on the left? Quicksilver's "The Fool"? Good choice. A wonderful long piece, indeed! Those of you who haven't checked out that one in the listening center, you're missing out. It appeared in 1967 and was certainly better than anything The Grateful Dead could do at the time, BUT it was only thirteen minutes long, not a complete side. Next?
In the back there? Days of Future Passed by the Moody Blues? Well, that's awfully close and a great concept album also from 1967. It's still one of the finest rock band and orchestra collaborations, but just on a personal level I feel it's a little sweet in too many spots to be called Art ROCK. The next three or four albums by the Moodies were better examples of rock music. Certainly Days Of Future Passed does have a place in history as the first popular piece to use the Mellotron, but like Sergeant Pepper's, it doesn't have the single piece in the long format I'm looking for right now.
What's that? You say The Doors, "The End"? Well, also 1967, but still not long enough at eleven and a half minutes to be a true side long song. Still, it was extremely popular and continues to be influential. Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive"? Ahh, one of my personal favorites, from 1967's Piper at The Gates of Dawn. A great song with kind of a punk approach to psychedelic music thanks to Syd Barrett, but at only nine minutes you're going in the wrong direction!
What's that? Love's "Revelation" from 1967's Da Capo? Well, you have done your homework! A fine hippie anthem! Strangely it was out of LA and not San Francisco, but it's the first true example of a side long Art Rock song, good work! I still listen to Love, but there's a problem. They didn't get that well known away from the West Coast. Remember, I said POPULAR. I'm talking about the first album to ever go platinum. The piece that caused an explosion of extended Art Rock opuses starting in 1968. Wait, I think I heard someone mutter the group's name in the back there on the right. Come on, don't be shy, speak up!
Yes indeed, you're right! It was Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," the granddaddy of all Art Rock and the very first album to sell a million units. It came out in 1968.
A bit of background on Iron Butterfly is in order. Their first album, Heavy came out early the same year. Mostly it was pretty forgettable except for the "Iron Butterfly Theme," an instrumental that hinted at what "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" later became. The band was originally five members and suffered a meltdown, leaving only two, organist Doug Ingle and drummer Ron Bushy to carry on. They brought in Eric Brann, a promising guitarist and Lee Dorman on bass.
In the first half of 1968, Butterfly was on tour and gained popularity. One night, as the story goes, Ingle got an idea for a new song, but was too drunk to communicate it. Ron Bushy wrote down the mushy slurs as "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" to remember what Ingle was saying. It turned out that Ingle was trying to say, "In The Garden Of Eden" but they decided the new name was better. Over the tour the new song took shape, first at about ten minutes, then twelve and a drum solo pushed it to a magnificent seventeen minutes. Later in sessions held in New York they were fast running out of money and time for delivering their second album to their label, Atco. They recorded the long form of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" in one take and proposed making it one side of the LP. Their manager and the label thought they were crazy at first, but they were won over by two things, the audacity of the recording and the fact that the band did not have enough money to record five more short songs like the first side! Acto finally agreed after a guitar solo was added along with other effects to finalize the release.
Did I say other effects? The famous phase shifting drum solo was accomplished by an incredibly simple trick, but primitive by today's standards, of course. Two studio monitors were wired out of phase with each other and the mono signal of Bushy's drumming was fed through them while the engineer slowly panned between the two speakers. He re-recorded the sound, getting the famous upside-down, inside-out phasing effect that modern engineers easily do electronically. But at the time it was a revolution and became one of the albums main hooks.
The song was released in June of 1968 and the FM stations immediately picked it up. As the summer wore on, the strains of Doug's singing and churchy organ, Erik's flashy free form guitar and Ron's indelible drum solo began turning up everywhere. There were even a few deejays on AM stations that played the entire seventeen minute song. Revolution was in the air and then Atco released a shorter version on a 45 so that they all could play it. There was no stopping the phenomenon after that. Over the next year the album sold three million copies.
When you listen to it now you hear early prototypical forms of heavy metal singing and guitar that influenced the sound of later rock groups such as Black Sabbath. Today's Eddie Vedder sounds a bit like Doug Ingle even. But the immediate effect was that all kinds of groups were freed by their record companies to make extended pieces of music. After In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida there came a flood of long improvisations and concept albums, some were pretentious and uninspired but more than a few were wonderful and have stood the test of time. The Rolling Stones had already done Satanic Majesties Request by this time, but other groups known for shorter songs started recording longer works, too such as The Animals' Winds Of Change, The Small Faces' Ogdens Nut Gone Flake, Procol Harum's Shine On Brightly and The Who Sell Out. From San Francisco came The Jefferson Airplane with After Bathing At Baxter's, The Dead's Anthem Of The Sun, Quicksilver's Happy Trails and The Steve Miller Band's Children of the Future. Other American work included The Rascals' Once Upon A Dream, The Doors's Strange Days, Zappa's Lumpy Gravy and We're Only It For The Money and of course Jimi Hendrix's immortal Electric Ladyland. Later in 1969 the Beatles replied with their best single album, Abbey Road, which sweetly tracked all the way through on side two.
As time went on it was the Europeans who saw the most success with the side-long song. The true masters of the form in the 70's include Pink Floyd, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Caravan, Focus, The Moody Blues, King Crimson, Genesis in the Gabriel years, and from America, Todd Rundgren and Frank Zappa. Indeed almost every Zappa album could be numbered among the other side-long songs because he segued so many of them together as a whole, but Americans in general liked extended blues-rock jams a la Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead more than the long more classical flavored rock that came from England.
Many bands did one side-long song on their initial album and never returned to the form, the best example being the aforementioned Children Of The Future, a Mellotron soaked San Francisco Hippie classic. Other examples in the first-album-only group include Chicago and Styx. Deep Purple also flirted with the form on their fourth album and then moved on to more commercial rock tunes. Later in the 70's many bands had all the elements of Art Rock except that their songs stayed down in the short form. Honorable mentions go to David Bowie, Queen, 10CC, Kansas, Crack The Sky, Ambrosia, Happy The Man, Talking Heads, Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream on the electronic end, Brand X on the jazzy side and many more. They produced scores of wonderful pieces, often in the nine and ten minute range, but these artists never took the chance on the really long form of Art Rock.
By 1979, which saw the release of two of the greatest long form Art Rock works, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Zappa's Joe's Garage, the Golden Age of Art Rock was pretty much over. It's keyboard driven sound married up with disco and punk and became New Wave in the 80's, but it was all short music and mostly designed for the dance floor and radio play. The long song has never made it back into the mainstream; there are few examples of Art Rock today. Bands attempt the long form only rarely, leaving it to the more experimental musicians down at the techno and jazz end of the spectrum.
Any questions? Okay, I have a handout for you. Jennifer, can you help distribute these? Thank you. It's a list of the top 100 pieces in this genre and I want you all to go down to the library and listen to them. Your homework is to make up your own list of favorite long Art Rock pieces and bring it to class next Monday. Okay, clear? Great! Class dismissed.
Rusty Pipes's Top 100 Side Long Art Rock Songs 1967 to 1979
The following list is by no means complete but represents the better examples in the genre. Certainly there are others.
First off, exactly where do we draw the line on how long a song could make a side? Arbitrarily I've chosen twelve minutes. Many great Art Rock pieces are much shorter than twelve minutes of course, and many possible candidates don't quite reach the limit, like the two long works the Doors put out, The End and When The Music's Over. As much as possible I've collected the best examples of extended inspiration here in this list.
On the other hand, many suites of shorter songs that have been cleverly mixed together have been included on the Art Rock list because they tell a longer story or in a few cases, simply because they fit so well together and the listener isn't allowed to stop for breath between them. The opening four songs of Santana's Abraxas fall into this category and make the list as do some others. Many so-called concept albums qualify as Side Long Art Rock, even though they are collections of separate songs. Some major rock operas have sides that do not segue completely, but cannot be ignored as super-long Art Rock, such as the Who's Quadrophenia where sides 1 & 4 are beautiful side long pieces, but sides 2 and 3 do not segue all the way through. Important rock operas like Andrew Lloyd Webbers' Jesus Christ Superstar cannot be ignored in a list like this and probably deserve a write-up all by themselves. So do the many rock and orchestra collaborations a great example of which is The Alan Parsons Project's Fall of the House of Usher--it's borderline classical, but it has enough rock guitar and synthesizers by the end to make the list.
Obviously there are hundreds of rock and blues recordings that are longer than twelve minutes, but true Art Rock is a lot more than a long jam session. It's also much more than a vehicle for a long drum solo, a reworking of an old blues number or a song that started out short in the studio and then got stretched to its limit on stage. This is why Cream's Spoonful, The Allman Brothers' hour-long Mountain Jam/Whipping Post set or countless Grateful Dead live recordings, though wonderful pieces of work, don't qualify as Art Rock.
Most long electronic pieces are also off the list, generally they are too far away from a rock sound, though Kraftwerk's Autobahn certainly deserves an honorable mention. Likewise many fine jazz recordings -- Miles Davis's "Bitches Brew," The Mahavishnu Orchestra's "Hymn to Him," The Rascals' "Peaceful World," or Zappa's "Grand Wazoo," etcetera-- and extended acoustic guitar pieces --Sandy Bull's "Blend," John Fahey's "Fare Forward Voyagers," Jaime Brockett's "Ballad of the USS Titanic," even Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" -- are left off because they are not rock music either.
So what makes a good Art Rock song besides being long?
The compositions themselves often owe a lot to classical pieces in that they have themes and motifs around which the song is built. Studio effects are often a central part of the texture, but the best bands we able to reproduce those effects on stage. Case in point, Yes's "Close to the Edge" was fun on the original LP, but it really hit me full force when I heard it on the Yessongs LP and realized that the band could do all that interplay in complex time signatures live. However it's the first appearance, the studio recording that makes the list.
Some selections are instrumental but most of them have lyrics. A few have a bit of spoken word, even comedy thrown in. Usually the lyrics, especially in the psychedelic era, concern themselves with a spiritual journey of some sort or a fairy tale, but this is not a requirement and some pieces are decidedly dark. Singing is generally better in Art Rock recordings than in most rock music, but in many songs the strength is in the playing and composition, not the singing.
These are the general characteristics of this list. There are scores of other albums might technically qualify, but we've only got a hundred slots here! Some show their age terribly but most sound alive and vital even today. Anyway this is the OFFICIAL RUSTY LIST. Read it over and let the discussion and rancor begin!
Rusty Pipes's Top 100 Side Long Art Rock Songs 1967 to 1979
Artist -- Song -- Album -- Year
01 - Alan Parsons Project -- The Fall Of The House Of Usher -- Tales Of Mystery and Imagination -- 1973
02 - Allman Brothers -- In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed -- Idlewild South -- 1970
03 - Allman Brothers -- High Falls -- Win Lose or Draw -- 1976
04 - Arthur Brown -- The Fire Suite -- The Crazy World of Arthur Brown -- 1968
05 - Be Bop Deluxe -- Modern Music Suite -- Modern Music -- 1977
06 - Beatles -- Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- 1967
07 - Beatles -- Abbey Road (Side 2) -- Abbey Road -- 1969
08 - Camel -- Lady Fantasy -- Mirage -- 1974
09 - Caravan -- 9 Feet Underground -- In The Land Of Grey and Pink -- 1971
10 - Caravan -- The Love In Your Eye -- Caravan and The New Symphonia -- 1973
11 - Caravan -- For Richard -- Caravan and The New Symphonia -- 1973
12 - Caravan -- The Dabsong Concerto -- Cunning Stunts -- 1975
13 - Chad & Jeremy -- The Progress Suite -- Of Cabbages and Kings -- 1968
14 - Chicago (C.T.A.) -- Liberation -- Chicago Transit Authority -- 1969
15 - Chris Squire -- Safe -- Fish Out Of Water -- 1975
16 - Deep Purple -- Child In Time -- In Rock -- 1969
17 - Electric Light Orchestra -- Kuiama -- ELO II -- 1972
18 - Electric Light Orchestra -- El Dorado -- El Dorado -- 1974
19 - Emerson Lake and Palmer -- Tarkus (Side 1) -- Tarkus -- 1971
20 - Emerson Lake and Palmer -- Karn Evil 9 (3 Impressions) -- Brain Salad Surgery -- 1973
21 - Focus -- Answers Questions -- Focus 3 -- 1973
22 - Focus -- Anonymous II -- Focus 3 -- 1973
23 - Focus -- Hamburger Concerto -- Hamburger Concerto -- 1974
24 - Genesis -- Supper's Ready -- Foxtrot -- 1972
25 - Genesis -- Cinema Show -- Selling England By The Pound -- 1973
26 - Genesis -- The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway -- The Lamb Lies Down On Braodway -- 1975
27 - Grateful Dead -- Terrapin Station -- Terrapin Station -- 1977
28 - Harry Nilsson -- The Point -- The Point -- 1971
29 - Iron Butterfly -- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida -- In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida -- 1968
30 - It's a Beautiful Day -- It's A Beautiful Day (Side 2) -- It's A Beautiful Day -- 1969
31 - Jade Warrior -- Floating World -- Floating World -- 1974
32 - Jade Warrior -- Waves -- Waves -- 1975
33 - Jade Warrior -- Kites -- Kites -- 1976
34 - Jade Warrior -- Way Of The Sun (Side 1) -- Way Of The Sun -- 1978
35 - Jefferson Airplane -- How Suite It Is -- After Bathing At Baxter's -- 1968
36 - Jethro Tull -- Thick As A Brick -- Thick As A Brick -- 1973
37 - Jethro Tull -- Passion Play -- Passion Play -- 1974
38 - Jimi Hendrix -- Voodoo Child (side A) and 1983 (side C) -- Electric Ladyland -- 1968
39 - John Anderson -- Olias of Sunhillow -- Olias of Sunhillow -- 1975
40 - John Sebastian -- The Four of Us -- The Four Of Us -- 1971
41 - Kevin Godley and Lol Crème -- Consequences -- Consequences -- 1976
42 - King Crimson -- Moonchild -- In the Court Of The Crimson King -- 1970
43 - King Crimson -- Lark's Tongue in Aspic -- Larks Tongue in Aspic -- 1973
44 - Love -- Revelation -- Da Capo -- 1967
45 - McDonald & Giles -- The Birdman -- McDonald & Giles -- 1971
46 - Mike Oldfield -- Tubular Bells -- Tubular Bells -- 1973
47 - Moody Blues -- In Search Of The Lost Chord -- In Search Of The Lost Chord -- 1968
48 - Moody Blues -- On The Threshold Of A Dream -- On The Threshold Of a Dream -- 1969
49 - Moody Blues -- To Our Children's Children's Children -- To Our Children's Children's Children -- 1969
50 - Moody Blues -- A Question Of Balance -- A Question of Balance -- 1970
51 - Nektar -- Remember The Future -- Remember The Future -- 1973
52 - Nektar -- A Tab In The Ocean -- A Tab In The Ocean -- 1975
53 - Nektar -- Recycled -- Recycled -- 1976
54 - Pablo Cruise -- Ocean Breeze -- Pablo Cruise -- 1975
55 - Patrick Moraz -- I -- I -- 1976
56 - Paul Kantner -- Blows Against the Empire -- Blows Against The Empire -- 1970
57 - Pink Floyd -- Sysyphus -- Ummagumma -- 1969
58 - Pink Floyd -- Atom Heart Mother -- Atom Heart Mother -- 1970
59 - Pink Floyd -- Echoes -- Meddle -- 1971
60 - Pink Floyd -- Dark Side Of The Moon -- Dark Side Of The Moon -- 1973
61 - Pink Floyd -- Wish You Were Here -- Wish You Were Here -- 1975
62 - Pink Floyd -- Animals -- Animals -- 1977
63 - Pink Floyd -- The Wall -- The Wall -- 1979
64 - Premiata Forneria Marconi -- Alta Loma Nine To Five -- Cook -- 1974
65 - Procol Harum -- In Held Twas In I -- Shine On Brightly -- 1968
66 - Quicksilver -- The Fool -- Quicksilver Messenger Service -- 1967
67 - Rick Wakeman -- Music Reincarnate -- No Earthly Connection -- 1976
68 - Rush -- 2112 -- 2112 -- 1975
69 - Santana -- Black Magic Woman Suite -- Abraxas -- 1970
70 - Small Faces -- Happiness Stan -- Ogden's Nut Gone Flake -- 1968
71 - Soft Machine -- Thirds (four different side long songs) -- Thirds -- 1970
72 - Steve Hillage -- Aftaglid -- Fish Rising -- 1975
73 - Steve Miller Band -- Children Of The Future Side 2 -- Children Of The Future -- 1968
74 - Styx -- Movement For The Common Man -- Styx -- 1972
75 - The Chambers Brothers -- Love Peace and Happiness -- Love Peace and Happiness -- 1969
76 - The Nice -- She Belongs To Me -- The Nice -- 1969
77 - The Nice -- Ars Longa Vita Brevis -- Ars Long Vita Brevis -- 1969
78 - The Rascals -- Once Upon A Dream -- Once Upon A Dream -- 1968
79 - The Strawbs -- Hero And Heroine Suite -- Hero and Heroine -- 1973
80 - The Who -- The Who Sell Out Side 1 -- The Who Sell Out -- 1968
81 - The Who -- Tommy -- Tommy -- 1969
82 - The Who -- Quadrophenia -- Quadrophenia -- 1974
83 - Todd Rundgren -- International Feel (The Wizard Side) -- A Wizard/A True Star -- 1973
84 - Todd Rundgren & Utopia -- The Ikon -- Utopia -- 1975
85 - Todd Rundgren & Utopia -- Singring And The Glass Guitar -- RA -- 1977
86 - Traffic -- The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys -- 1973
87 - United Kingdom -- In The Dead Of Night -- United Kingdom -- 1978
88 - Webber and Rice -- Jesus Christ Superstar -- Jesus Christ Superstar -- 1971
89 - Yes -- Close To The Edge -- Close To The Edge -- 1971
90 - Yes -- Heart Of The Sunrise -- Fragile -- 1972
91 - Yes -- Tales From Topographic Oceans -- Tales From Topographic Oceans -- 1974
92 - Yes -- The Gates Of Delerium -- Relayer -- 1976
93 - Yes -- Awaken -- Going For The One -- 1977
94 - Zappa -- Absolutely Free -- Absolutely Free -- 1967
95 - Zappa -- We're Only In It For The Money -- We're Only In It For The Money -- 1968
96 - Zappa -- Lumpy Gravy -- Lumpy Gravy -- 1968
97 - Zappa -- Billy The Mountain -- Just Another Band From LA -- 1972
98 - Zappa -- Don't Eat The Yellow Snow -- Apostrophe -- 1973
99 - Zappa -- Greggary Peccary -- Studio Tan -- 1976
100 - Zappa -- Joe's Garage -- Joe's Garage Volumes 1 & 2 -- 1979