If you have extra time on your hands while hunkered down at home during the global pandemic, Bob Dylan can help you kill a few minutes — almost 17 of them, to be precise.

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This article was published 4/4/2020 (820 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Opinion

If you have extra time on your hands while hunkered down at home during the global pandemic, Bob Dylan can help you kill a few minutes — almost 17 of them, to be precise.

Late last month, the legendary 78-year-old singer-songwriter released Murder Most Foul, his first track in eight years — a 16-minute, 55-second song about the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The epic song, Dylan’s first original tune since 2012, begins by recounting the murder of Kennedy, who was shot on November 22, 1963, while riding in an open limousine alongside his wife, Jackie, during a tour of Dallas, Texas.

"It was a dark day in Dallas, 1963, a day that will live on in infamy," it begins. "President Kennedy was a’riding high — good day to be living and a good day to die."

The folk-rock legend shared a link to the long song on Twitter and wrote: "Greetings to my fans and followers with gratitude for all your support and loyalty across the years. This is an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting. Stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you. Bob Dylan."

Fans expressed gratitude online, but more than a few teased Dylan for releasing such a long song. On YouTube, one fan joked: "Knowing Bob, this would be the short version."

But Dylan’s 17-minute marathon tune comes up short in some respects, as we see from today’s never-ending list of Five of the Longest Songs in Music History:

5) The long song: Mountain Jam by Allman Brothers Band
The running time: 33 minutes, 41 seconds

The long and short of it: What we are talking about here is an improvised instrumental jam by the legendary Allman Brothers Band, a group that was considered Southern Rock royalty. Formed in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1969, the iconic band featured brothers Duane and Gregg Allman and famously fused elements of blues, jazz and country rock. In 1972, the group released one of its most famous recordings — the Eat a Peach double-album that contained a 33-minute live version of Mountain Jam that takes up two album sides.

While not their most famous song, it is certainly their longest and is now considered a signature tune and, possibly, the group’s most ambitious work. The instrumental features solos from all of the band members, starting with a guitar solo from Duane, who also chipped in some of his best-known slide guitar work at the 23-minute mark. The jam grew out of a short and simple song by folk legend Donovan called First There Is A Mountain. In his Allman Brothers biography, Midnight Riders, author Scott Freeman described how Duane — who died in a motorcycle accident in October 1971 — first played it during a jam with the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore East in 1970 when "everyone was flying on LSD."

The marathon song is seen as the closest the Allman Brothers ever came to the Dead’s infamously meandering musical explorations. "The Allman Brothers soon added the ‘Mountain Jam’ to its song list and, in a year’s time it had gone from a meandering seemingly directionless jam into a focused and often majestic song that was divided up into several separate and distinct movements," Freeman wrote.

 

4) The long song: Blue Room by The Orb
The running time: 39 minutes, 58 seconds

The long and short of it: There are a few songs longer than Blue Room by The Orb, but you’d have to go a long way to find something stranger. For the record, The Orb is a famously quirky electronic music group founded in 1988 by British musician Alex Paterson. Their music typically features science-fiction themes and their psychedelic sound combined with colourful light shows in clubs helped them develop a cult following among English pop fans. Blue Room took five months for the band to create and was released in June 1992.

The running time was a bit of a prank, because had the song run just three seconds longer it would have been considered an album instead of a chart-eligible single. Sniffs music website nme.com: "Techno-prog pioneers The Orb saw an excuse for a bit of mischief when chart-compilers Gallup decreed the maximum length for a charting single would be 40 minutes. They pranked the brave new world with ‘Blue Room’ just ducking under the wire and boring the arse off anyone who didn’t understand this was the noble last gasp of ambient house." It quickly became the longest single ever to appear on the U.K. Singles Chart, entering the listing at No. 12 and peaking at No. 8 the next week. In the U.S., it peaked at No. 46 on Billboard magazine’s Hot Dance Club Play chart.

The 39-minute song features some odd samples, including a portion of Happy Birthday to You sung by Marilyn Monroe. The band promoted Blue Room with a famously bizarre appearance on the TV show Top of the Pops wherein Paterson and bandmate Kris Weston — holding a toy sheep — played a chess-like game while wearing spacesuits with footage of dolphins and an edited version of the song running in the background. Reportedly, it is out of print and has not been reissued in digital form.

 

3) The long song: Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick
The running time: 43 minutes, 50 seconds

The long and short of it: You know you’ve heard this song on the radio, but that does not mean you have heard the entire song. It was released in 1972 by famed British progressive rock band Jethro Tull. Considered a parody of the traditional "concept album" genre, the band’s fifth album contains a continuous piece of music that is split over two sides of an LP record. The album’s artwork — designed to look like a newspaper — claimed the song was an adaptation of an epic poem by a fictional eight-year-old boy named Gerald Bostock, but the lyrics were in fact penned by Tull’s flute-wielding frontman Ian Anderson.

After years of having his group lumped in with the so-called "prog-rock" bands of the early 1970s, Anderson reportedly decided to "come up with something that really is the mother of all concept albums," inspired by the surreal humour of British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus. So he created an album combining complex music with a weird sense of humour to poke fun at the band and its critics. "Monty Python lampooned the British way of life," Anderson said in 2016. "Yet did it in such a way that made us all laugh while celebrating it. To me, that’s what we as a band did on Thick As A Brick. We were spoofing the idea of the concept album, but in a fun way that didn’t totally mock it."

Here’s a sample lyric: "But your new shoes are worn at the heels/And your suntan does rapidly peel/And your wise men don’t know how it feels/To be thick as a brick." It was greeted by mixed reviews, but is now considered a classic. Ultimateclassicrock.com calls it a "bona fide progressive rock masterpiece" that pokes fun at "those self-conscious purveyors of high-minded art rock" and worth every second of its playing time. Says music.avclub.com: "There’s no reason not to take the album/song seriously — and no reason not to find it extremely pretentious, if you’re not into rock bands delivering 44-minute treatises on the human condition."

 

2) The long song: Apparente Liberta by Giancarlo Ferrari
The running time: 76 minutes, 44 seconds

The long and short of it: What we are talking about here is what is considered to be the world’s longest recorded pop song, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the website of the World Record Academy. It was composed in 2005 by Italian musician Giancarlo Ferrari, who was the singer and founding member of the now-defunct goth band Some Sad Clowns.

According to Wikipedia, it peaked at No. 52 on Norway’s iTunes Top Albums chart, which likely says something unpleasant about Norwegians’ taste in music. According to worldrecordacademy.com, Ferrari’s epic tune broke the previous world record of 69 minutes held by The Devil Glitch by Chris Butler. The website says Ferrari was the Italian version of Doors frontman Jim Morrison, but things went terribly wrong in 1998 when he was injured in a car crash. "He was badly injured and his face was damaged. His right eye exploded. Luckily doctors were able to save him. Inside his face and his left leg there are pieces of metal to keep the bones together," the website explains. Some years later, however, the injured musician met a woman "so Giancarlo began to compose a song to make the world talk about him again.

This time he wrote the lyrics in Italian language (before he always wrote in English) because he was worried about his country and wanted to make the Italian people wake up." In March 2008, on his 36th birthday, he released a CD containing his 76-minute synth pop masterwork. Wikipedia says the low quality of the vocal track is due to the singer’s bad health. It is supposedly about a variety of issues, including pollution, racism and the illusions of the working class. Sighed one reviewer on YouTube: "Anybody willing to make 76-minute song deserves a thumbs up no matter how horrible it is. That’s some serious commitment."

 

1) The long song: The Rise and Fall of Bossanova
The running time: 13 hours, 23 minutes, 32 seconds.

The long and short of it: OK, just to be clear, let’s repeat the running time here: 13 hours, 23 minutes and 32 seconds. Which begs the question: If a song lasts 13 hours, 23 minutes and 32 seconds, does it still qualify as a song, especially in a world where your standard pop tune tends to clock in at somewhere under three minutes in total?

We suppose the answer is probably "yes," although this experimental, record-breaking tune seems more like a prison sentence than just a long song. Seriously, you could put this song on, go and return some library books, bake some cookies, and there would still be several hours left to go. What you need to know is that this song, officially released on Nov. 1, 2016, holds the current Guinness World Records title for the "longest officially released song." It is attributed to American musicians Michael and Kelley Bostwick, who apparently are the driving forces behind a musical project called P C III (Pipe Choir Three), which was launched in 2013.

According to the website freemusicarchive.org, "P C III was developed as a platform to showcase all of Michael Bostwick’s Onistwave compositions." It lists nine definitions of Onistwave, including: music created with the aim of relaxing the listener, music of an extremely long duration (a minimum of 15 minutes), music composed with primarily acoustic, electric, and electronic instruments, and music that often incorporates minimal but heavily layered vocal lines. Here is a sample lyric from musicmatch.com: "Yes kiss me, a girl from Disney/ And a happy meal, pretty please don’t jip me/On fries (ketchup), on the guys, uh huh/ McDonalds ’cause they still sellin’ pies, uh-huh."

It’s available for $4.95 on Amazon, where the single review gushed in part: "When I discovered this song last year, I thought it was pretty funny and cool that someone made a song this long, but the more and more I listened to it, the more I wanted to hear." We liked what we heard, but we missed a lot when we returned our library books.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

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