When I was 16, it was a very good year

Fifty years ago, I was fortunate enough to be coming of age at a time when the quality and diversity of popular music was figuratively off the charts and literally dominating the charts.

A convincing claim can be made that 1971 was the peak year for rock album releases.

It was the first year that Americans bought more albums than singles. I was thrilled by this development, because it seemed to indicate that, like me, more and more people were interested in hearing artists’ complete artistic statements instead of just the one hit that Top 40 radio stations were playing (ad nauseam).

Rock ‘n roll wasn’t universally loved when it arrived on the charts in 1955, not by a long shot, but over the next 15 years, it grew exponentially in popularity as the music and its audience matured.  It grew like a massive oak, branching out into multiple mini-genres – folk rock, acid rock, R&B and soul, bubblegum, country rock, electric blues, even (already?) roots rock.  Quite the cornucopia of styles.

By 1971, the table was set with a sumptuous buffet of musical options from which to choose.  The Stones and The Who were at their creative peaks.  The Beatles may have split, but there were some mighty fine solo albums to savor. San Francisco jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Santana honed their psychedelic/Latino improvisations, and hard rock bands like Black Sabbath and Alice Cooper offered up hefty slabs of power chords.  

The progressive rock coming from England – Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Genesis – was pushing boundaries and challenging listeners to really listen, and the ever-evolving rhythm-and-blues scene kept people dancing as Motown and Memphis branched out into funk and Philly soul.  Dozens of confessional singer-songwriters emanating from Laurel Canyon in California added emotional depth and warm melodies, and the Southern rock of The Allman Brothers Band laid the foundation for their many imitators to come.

The glam rock of David Bowie made its showy entrance, and artists such as Poco and Commander Cody kept the burgeoning country rock genre cooking. Elton John released three albums in less than 12 months, and bands like Badfinger and Three Dog Night represented the pleasant middle ground. And, as always, there was bland pablum for the unhip.

It was all there, from Bloodrock to the Osmonds.

In all, there were more than 500 rock-related albums released in 1971, in excess of 40 per month, and from that plentiful list, I have identified 35 that rocked my world (and maybe yours) at the time. Some of them are relatively obscure choices, while others continue to be named among the finest albums of all time. It was crazy difficult, but I somehow managed to whittle down those 35 LPs to my Top 15, with the other 20 relegated to my “honorable mentions” category. No doubt your list might be different. A Spotify playlist at the end features four tracks from each of the Top 15, and a second playlist offers two tracks from each of the honorable mentions.

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What a year it was 50 years ago! Here they are, in no particular order:

“Blue,” Joni Mitchell

When Rolling Stone assembled a new “Top 500 Albums of All Time” list last year, updating its 2002 rankings, I found it very revealing that this record jumped from an already impressive #30 all the way to #3, proof positive of Mitchell’s enormous influence on artists in the ensuing decades since its release. Her deepest confessional songs are here, performed with relatively simple arrangements featuring Joni on guitar, piano or dulcimer. “Carey” was a modestly successful single, but several other tracks have made greater impact, including “Little Green,” about the daughter she gave up for adoption; “A Case of You,” about her adoration of fellow poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen; and “River,” which has become a Yuletide standard covered by dozens of artists. A brilliant, brilliant album.

“Who’s Next,” The Who

Who woulda thunk that a failed film project and a nervous breakdown would have ended up resulting in such a monumental album? Following “Tommy” turned out to be an agonizing ordeal for Pete Townshend. He envisioned an existential rock opera in which “one perfect universal note” would metaphorically bring each audience together in a “celestial community.” It almost drove Townshend crazy trying to translate his ideas into reality, but along the way, he wrote some of The Who’s most memorable music: “Baba O’Riley,” “The Song is Over,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Behind Blue Eyes” and more. Roger Daltrey’s vocals were in tip-top form, and producer Glyn Johns gets loads of credit for making The Who sound better than they ever did before or after.

“Imagine,” John Lennon

The harrowing, bare-bones tracks found on his soul-baring “Plastic Ono Band” solo debut in 1970 won praise from critics, but some fans found them difficult to swallow. Lennon decided the follow-up would be “more sugar-coated” so it would be more commercially successful. He found just the right balance of vitriol and love, with George Harrison and Ringo Starr sitting in, and Phil Spector manning the boards. The title track has taken its place as a utopian anthem of the last half century, while “Gimme Some Truth” aims darts at the hypocrisy and corruption of political leaders. Lennon really let Paul McCartney have it with both barrels on “How Do You Sleep?”, then showed his gentle nature on “Oh My Love” and “Oh Yoko.”

“(Untitled)/IV,” Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page said he knew while writing “Stairway to Heaven” that it was going to be a massive rock song for the ages, but its impact still managed to exceed all expectations, as did the album as a whole. Robert Plant’s vocals were at their very best on these tracks, from the crazy time signatures of “Black Dog” to the stunning Joni Mitchell tribute, “Going to California.” Page and John Paul Jones dueling on acoustic guitar and mandolin gave “The Battle of Evermore” an eerie Middle Eastern feel, and John Bonham’s always thunderous drumming achieved new heights on their cover of the 1920s blues tune “When the Levee Breaks.” This album, official untitled but referred to as “IV,” never fails to disappoint, even after hundreds of listenings.

“Tapestry,” Carole King

One of the most prolific hitmakers of the Sixties, writing perfect pop songs for others to make famous, King needed to be coaxed to finally become a recording artist in her own right in the Seventies. After a tentative first album, she collaborated with lyricist Toni Stern to compose an outstanding batch of tunes for her second effort, “Tapestry,” which went on to become one of the best selling and most widely praised albums of all time. In addition to covering two of her earlier songs — The Shirrelles’ “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” and Aretha Franklin’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman” — King and top-flight L.A. session musicians recorded such gems as “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Beautiful,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and the #1 hit “It’s Too Late.”

“What’s Going On,” Marvin Gaye

Gaye had been one of the elite acts in Berry Gordy’s Motown stable since the early ’60s, but he grew restless by 1970, eager to sing weightier material about the troubled world around him. “With the world exploding around me, how am I supposed to keep singing love songs?” he asked. He fashioned a song cycle that matched edgy lyrics with a delicious urban groove and, despite Gordy’s protestations that it wouldn’t sell, it became one of the most popular albums of the ’70s. “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” “What’s Happening Brother” and the iconic title track are the highlights of this pivotal album. Much of the LP was used in the soundtrack of Spike Lee’s 2020 Vietnam vet film “Da 5 Bloods,” proof of its enduring impact.

“Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon,” James Taylor

Fine songs and sincere performances made Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” LP one of the real treats of 1970. Some artists stumble when following up a hugely successful record, but Taylor found a way to up his game with the down-home appeal of “Mud Slide Slim,” recorded with many of the same people who were working on Carole King’s “Tapestry” album down the hall in the same L.A. studio. James had the biggest hit single of his long career with her tender “You’ve Got a Friend,” and surrounded it with more autobiographical beauties like “Long Ago and Far Away,” “You Can Close Your Eyes,” “Places in My Past” and the melancholy “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On the Jukebox.” This album takes me right back to 1971 more than any other on this list.

“Aqualung,” Jethro Tull

This was the album that quickly took Tull from warm-up act to headliner. Of all the British “prog rock” bands, Tull has always been the most diverse, offering hard rock and delicate acoustic tunes with equal assurance. “Aqualung,” in fact, offers both in the same song. Some labeled this LP a concept album because of three rockers that disparage organized religion (“My God,” “Hymn 43” and “Wind Up”), but the rest of the tunes focus on other matters, including overpopulation (“Locomotive Breath”), homelessness (the title track) and selfless love (“Wond’ring Aloud”). Ian Anderson’s phenomenal flute work and distinctive singing, and Martin Barre’s electric guitar, really shine throughout this album, setting the stage for a string of Top Ten albums over the next five years.

“At Fillmore East,” The Allman Brothers Band

In 1969, guitar ace Duane Allman put together a powerhouse band steeped mostly in blues and jazz influences, featuring two lead guitarists, two drummers and younger brother Gregg on organ and vocals. Their first two studio albums were brimming with great originals and covers, but this was a group that seemed to do their best work on stage, so they recorded shows in New York in March 1971 and released the best tracks as a double live album that still ranks as one of the very best concert LPs ever released. “Statesboro Blues,” “Whipping Post,” “Stormy Monday” and especially “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” positively crackle with intensity and immediacy. This package continues to send chills up and down my back every time I hear it.

“Madman Across the Water,” Elton John

In many ways, 1971 belonged to Elton John. His gorgeous debut single “Your Song” was a big hit in February, and his first two albums (“Elton John” and “Tumbleweed Connection”), although both released in 1970, got a lot of exposure throughout 1971. Add to that a soundtrack to a little-known French film (“Friends”) released in March and a vibrant live record (“11-17-70”) released in April, and you’ve got a veritable feast of Elton’s wondrous music, but he wasn’t done yet. In November came “Madman Across the Water,” a classic LP if only because it featured three of his very best songs: “Tiny Dancer,” “Levon” and the dramatic title cut. I played this album incessantly and have returned to it dozens of times through the decades.

“The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” Traffic

At only 15, Steve Winwood first made a splash as lead singer and keyboardist for the Spencer Davis Group, and then formed Traffic two years later. The band offered a wonderful mix of folk, rock and jazz elements that brought them much success in England but not as much here. By 1970, their LP “John Barleycorn Must Die” reached #5 on US album charts and was a favorite of FM radio DJs coast to coast. For me, though, it was the brilliant “Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” album that sealed the deal. Winwood’s vocals and keyboards were augmented by new percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah on an enticing, eclectic batch of songs like “Many a Mile to Freedom,” “Rock and Roll Stew,” “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” and particularly the mesmerizing, 12-minute title track.

“Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones

1969’s “Let It Bleed” may be my favorite Stones album, but “Sticky Fingers” is a very close second. This was the era when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were writing their best songs and the band was making their best recordings, with new guitarist Mick Taylor adding cool professionalism to the Stones’ muscular mix. “Brown Sugar,” with its instantly identifiable riff and controversial lyrics about slavery, oral sex and rape, might just be the quintessential Stones song, but there’s so much more. “Bitch,” the country-tinged “Wild Horses,” the acoustic drug tracks “Sister Morphine” and “Moonlight Mile,” the mind-blowing “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” — they all add up to a salacious package of some of the biggest, baddest, bawdiest Stones music ever made.

“Off the Shelf,” Batdorf and Rodney

This amazingly talented duo never got the exposure they deserved, and I’m not sure why. Insufficient promotion by Ahmet Ertegun and Atlantic Records? Maybe. Indifferent radio program directors? Could be. All I know is this debut album (they made two more before breaking up in 1975) is one of my Top 25 favorite albums of all time. The vocal harmonies and the guitar stylings of John Batdorf and Mark Rodney are simply spectacular, as good as or better than any of the singer-songwriter artists of that era. Batdorf wrote some wonderfully buoyant songs, full of sunny optimism: “Oh My Surprise,” “One Day,” “You Are the One” and especially the incredible “Can You See Him.” If you’re not yet familiar with this record, by all means, get moving!

“The Yes Album,” Yes

By 1973, when Yes went off the rails with a self-indulgent double album comprised of four dense 20-minute songs, this talented band of Brits epitomized the excess that helped doom progressive rock as a genre. Before that, though, they were an absolutely astonishing group that found the perfect balance between complex arrangements and catchy hooks on three back-to-back-to-back LPs in 1971-72. Many people prefer “Fragile” or “Close to the Edge,” but I am partial to “The Yes Album,” which introduced me to the ethereal voice of Jon Anderson and the amazing guitar-keyboards-bass-drums interplay of Steve Howe, Tony Kaye, Chris Squire and Bill Bruford. Listen to “Yours is No Disgrace,” “Starship Trooper,” “Perpetual Change” and the single “I’ve Seen All Good People.” Superb!

“4-Way Street,” Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

The “Crosby, Stills and Nash” debut in 1969 and CSN&Y’s amazing “Deja vu” 1970 follow-up are both pretty much perfect records in my book. An excess of talent and ego tore the group apart too soon, and they went their separate ways to make some pretty decent albums on their own (see the honorable mentions below). Fortunately, they recorded a few of their concerts from their 1970 tour and assembled 16 tracks for this glorious, sometimes ragged, often exhilarating double live LP. You get a liberal dose of acoustic songs (“Nash’s “Right Between the Eyes” and “Chicago,” Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” and “Cowgirl in the Sand,” “Crosby’s “Triad” and “The Lee Shore”) and strong renditions of electric tunes (“Southern Man,” “Carry On,” “Ohio”). What a spread!

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Here are the 20 honorable mentions, some of which may very well have made your Top 15 list:

“Hunky Dory, David Bowie
“Teaser and the Firecat,” Cat Stevens
“L.A. Woman,” The Doors
“Songs For Beginners,” Graham Nash
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” The Moody Blues
Ram,” Paul McCartney
“Tupelo Honey,” Van Morrison
“Every Picture Tells a Story,” Rod Stewart
“If I Could Only Remember My Name,” David Crosby
“American Pie,” Don McLean
“Nilsson Schmilsson,” Harry Nilsson
“Killer,” Alice Cooper
“Future Games,” Fleetwood Mac
“Meddle,” Pink Floyd
“5th,” Lee Michaels
“Santana III,” Santana
“Deliverin’,” Poco
“Leon Russell and the Shelter People”
“Surf’s Up,” The Beach Boys
“Anticipation,” Carly Simon

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They cut you down to size. Or not.

Why did all the pop songs of the ’50s and early ’60s last only three minutes or less? Technological limitations.

As rock and roll music came of age in the 1950s, the 45-RPM record had just been introduced. Like its predecessor, the 78-RPM record, its physical properties would allow no more than about three minutes of music per side, depending on the range of sound required and the depth of the groove in the disc.

That three-minute limitation worked out just fine for a while. Radio stations typically wanted songs that lasted between 2:00-2:30, allowing more songs per hour and more opportunities to sell air time for money-making commercials.

The pop music business had long ago chose to operate under the assumption that the attention span of the average listener was also around the three-minute mark. The rule seemed to be, “Better to keep the songs short and play them repeatedly, and the public will rush to buy them and keep tuning in.”

As the Sixties progressed, however, it seemed as if every norm in society was being questioned and challenged, and the length of a standard pop song was not immune to this phenomenon.

As early as 1959, Ray Charles had recorded a marvelous melange of rhythm and blues, boogie-woogie and gospel called “What’d I Say,” a relentless, irresistible tune featuring the Raelettes on backing vocals. The problem was, it was more than five minutes long. If they wanted to release it as a single, they had two choices: Edit it down to three minutes or less, or cut it in half and put the two parts on two sides of a 45-RPM single. They opted for the latter, with Part 1 (lasting 3:05) as the A-side and Part 2 (lasting 1:59) as the B-side.

Record manufacturers eventually found ways to fit more than just three minutes of music on one side of a 45, and a few artists took advantage of that by releasing ever-longer songs as singles.

In 1964, producer Phil Spector was thrilled with the results of his “Wall of Sound” studio recording of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” but he was concerned that radio might not want to play it because it lasted 3:45. His solution was to deliberately mislabel the record with a 3:05 length, tricking DJs into thinking it was shorter than it really was.

The real change came in 1965 with Bob Dylan’s titanic song “Like a Rolling Stone” from his iconic “Highway 61 Revisited” LP. The song clocked in at an unheard-of 6:13, and Columbia Records was hesitant to release it as a single. But once pop music clubs and influential DJs and program directors started playing it, the label went ahead and officially released it without any cuts. If it had stiffed on the charts, it probably would’ve been a case of “lesson learned,” and artists wouldn’t attempt such song lengths anytime soon. But against all odds, “Like a Rolling Stone” made it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, which shattered the length barrier and opened the door to many more longer-than-usual hit singles.

As the less rigid formats of FM radio stations took hold in the late ’60s, artists realized they had a new platform that would play their songs regardless of length. This forced some AM stations to ease up on their restrictions, and suddenly, songs lasting five, six, even seven minutes were climbing the pop charts.

In 1968, actor Richard Harris made his recording debut with a bombastic, near-operatic rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park,” which lasted 7:21. It was one of those polarizing records that you either loved or hated, but enough people loved it to propel it all the way to #2 that summer. You would think it would’ve been truncated into two parts, or pared down to a more conventional length, but inexplicably, it remained whole.

Also in ’68, The Beatles, who had been breaking so many rules in pop music, released Paul McCartney’s gem “Hey Jude” as their next single. The basic song lasted just over three minutes before they broke into a chorus of “Na na na na-na-na-na” that went on and on and on for another four minutes, for a total running time of 7:11. Some DJs took the liberty of fading out on the interminable ending after maybe a minute or two, but still, the biggest band in the world had now joined the chorus of game-changers who wanted the freedom to create longer singles.

“American Pie,” Don McLean’s 1971 tribute to Buddy Holly and rock music up to that point, was the #1 song in the nation for four weeks in early 1972, despite its 8:42 length. The label broke it into Parts 1 and 2 (4:11 and 4:31) to fit it on a 45, but because of its enormous popularity, nearly every radio station played it in its entirety.

The late Harry Chapin said he often wrote songs cinematically, “which is an uneconomical technique, and that’s why my songs are so long.” His first hit “Taxi,” which reached a respectable #24 on the charts in 1972, ran 6:44. “I literally put you in that cab and let you experience the characters’ loneliness,” he said. “It’s a more involving form of music than sitting and hearing somebody sing ‘I’m lonely.'”

Later in 1972, The Temptations reached the top of the charts with their dramatic piece “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” which ran 7:01. Incredibly, that was an edited version of the original album recording, which lasted just shy of 12 minutes, with a four-minute instrumental intro.

The biggest artists of the ’70s, who usually played by the rules and released conventional-length singles, sometimes wanted to release longer-than-usual songs as singles, and they were rarely denied. Elton John went to #1 in 1975 with “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (which lasted 6:45), and The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” arguably the most popular song of the decade, ran 6:31. In 1978, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light,” Meat Loaf’s mini-opera from his “Bat Out of Hell” album, made the Top 40 despite its 8:28 length (although some stations excised the baseball play-by-play segment that cut the tune to about 5:30).

The above examples notwithstanding, Top 40 radio never really wavered much in their time constraints. If artists and their record labels wanted their 5:00+ songs in front of a mainstream audience, they would have to agree to edited versions. Consequently, many hits of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were heard in two different lengths — the complete long version, which could be found on the album, and the abbreviated single, which sometimes was edited down to less than half of the original length.

Music aficionados like me hated hearing the butchered version of our favorite long tracks, but we could take solace by spinning the album at home. Casual listeners who didn’t collect albums may have never heard the album renditions of hit songs as the artists had intended…but they probably didn’t care. Many folks preferred their songs shorter and punchier, without the instrumental passages and extended endings.

I have assembled a list of 40 of the more popular songs from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that were truncated (sometimes severely) to make them suitable to Top 40 format. Read ’em and weep, music lovers. Walking amongst you are many thousands of people who have never heard the full versions of iconic songs like “Light My Fire,” “Layla” and “Radar Love”…

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House of the Rising Sun,” The Animals, 1964. Original: 4:29. Single: 2:59.

Sunshine Superman,” Donovan, 1966. Original: 4:34. Single: 3:15.

Rainy Day Women #12 and #35,” Bob Dylan, 1966. Original: 4:36. Single: 2:26.

Light My Fire,” The Doors, 1967. Original: 7:06. Single: 2:52.

Sunshine Of Your Love,” Cream, 1967. Original: 4:08. Single: 3:03.

White Room,” Cream, 1968. Original: 4:58. Single: 3:04.

Magic Carpet Ride,” Steppenwolf, 1968. Original: 4:25. Single: 2:55.

Time Has Come Today,” The Chambers Brothers, 1968. Original: 11:07. Single: 3:05.

Suzie-Q,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968. Original: 8:37. Single: 4:33.

You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” Blood Sweat & Tears, 1969. Original: 4:19. Single: 3:26.

Spinning Wheel,” Blood Sweat & Tears, 1969. Original: 4:05. Single: 2:39.

Whole Lotta Love,” Led Zeppelin, 1969. Original: 5:33. Single: 3:10.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby Stills and Nash, 1969. Original: 7:28. Single: 4:35.

Make Me Smile,” Chicago, 1970. Original: 3:16 + 1:26 reprise = 4:42. Single: 2:58.

I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” Grand Funk Railroad, 1970. Original: 10:09. Single: 5:31.

All Right Now,” Free, 1970. Original: 5:31. Single: 4:14.

Green-Eyed Lady,” Sugarloaf, 1970. Original: 6:53. Single: 3:33.

Black Magic Woman,” Santana, 1970. Original: 5:20. Single: 3:16.

Beginnings,” Chicago, 1971. Original: 7:54. Single: 2:50.

Signs,” Five Man Electrical Band, 1971. Original: 4:05. Single: 3:20.

Layla,” Derek and the Dominos, 1971. Original: 7:04. Single: 2:43.

Won’t Get Fooled Again,” The Who, 1971. Original: 8:31. Single: 3:40.

Roundabout,” Yes, 1972. Original: 8:36. Single: 3:37.

Freddie’s Dead,” Curtis Mayfield, 1972. Original: 5:27. Single: 3:17.

Hold Your Head Up,” Argent, 1972. Original: 6:15. Single: 3:15.

Nights in White Satin,” The Moody Blues, 1972. Original: 7:38. Single: 4:26.

Radar Love,” Golden Earring, 1973. Original: 6:27. Single: 3:43.

Piano Man,” Billy Joel, 1973. Original: 5:40. Single: 4:30.

Give It to Me,” J. Geils Band, 1973. Original: 6:32. Single: 3:07.

Free Bird,” Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1974. Original: 9:08. Single: 4:41.

Miracles,” Jefferson Starship, 1975. Original: 6:52. Single: 3:25.

Carry On Wayward Son,” Kansas, 1976. Original: 5:26. Single: 3:26.

Got to Give It Up,” Marvin Gaye, 1977. Original: 11:52. Single: 4:12.

Heroes,” David Bowie, 1977. Original: 6:07. Single: 3:32.

Disco Inferno,” The Trammps, 1977. Original: 10:54. Single: 3:35.

Who Are You,” The Who, 1978. Original: 6:20. Single: 3:24,

Rapture,” Blondie, 1981. Original: 6:31. Single: 4:58.

I Can’t Go for That,” Hall and Oates, 1981. Original: 5:09. Single: 3:45.

Edge of Seventeen,” Stevie Nicks, 1981. Original: 5:28. Single: 4:10.

Rock the Casbah,” The Clash, 1982. Original: 6:35. Single: 3:42.

Eye in the Sky,” Alan Parsons Project, 1982. Original: 4:36. Single: 3:55.

Let’s Dance,” David Bowie, 1983. Original: 7:37. Single: 4:08.

Here Comes the Rain Again,” Eurythmics, 1984. Original: 4:56. Single: 3:51.

Touch of Grey,” Grateful Dead, 1987. Original: 5:50. Single: 4:35.

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Also part of the rock music scene in this era were the bands that had little or no interest in the singles market. They preferred to write and record extraordinarily long songs, or suites of songs, that challenged the serious listener. The underground and college FM stations might play them, but mostly, they were there on the albums for those who enjoyed diving in to lengthy, complicated works.

I’m referring only to studio recordings here. Many bands have released live recordings through the years that lasted 10-15 minutes or more (Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead, for example), but they were often conventional length studio songs they had stretched out in concert.

Below you’ll find a healthy sampling of extended studio recordings that I find worthy of your attention.

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Desolation Row,” Bob Dylan, 1965. (11:21)

Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” Bob Dylan, 1966. (11:23)

A Quick One, While He’s Away,” The Who, 1966. (9:10)

The End,” The Doors, 1967. (11:43)

When the Music’s Over,” The Doors, 1967. (10:59)

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” Arlo Guthrie, 1967. (18:35)

Viola Lee Blues,” Grateful Dead, 1967. (10:15)

Alligator,” Grateful Dead, 1967. (11:20)

A Saucerful of Secrets,” Pink Floyd, 1968. (11:57)

1983 (A Merman I should Turn to Be),” Jimi Hendrix, 1968. (13:39)

Voodoo Chile,” Jimi Hendrix, 1968. (14:59)

In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly, 1968. (17:04)

Moonchild,” King Crimson, 1969. (12:12)

In the Court of the Crimson King,” King Crimson, 1969. (10:02)

Lizard,” King Crimson, 1970. (23:19)

Child in Time,” Deep Purple, 1970. (10:20)

I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1970. (11:02)

Take a Pebble,” Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1970. (12:32)

Tarkus,” Emerson, Lake and Palmer, 1971. (20:38)

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” Traffic, 1971. (11:41)

Echoes,” Pink Floyd, 1971. (23:32)

The Musical Box,” Genesis, 1971. (10:25)

Thick As a Brick,” Jethro Tull, 1972. (43:50)

Close to the Edge,” Yes, 1972. (18:38)

Supper’s Ready,” Genesis, 1972. (23:05)

A Passion Play,” Jethro Tull, 1973. (45:06)

Lady Fantasy,” Camel, 1973. (12:45)

Grey Day,” Jesse Colin Young, 1974. (11:19)

The Gates of Delirium,” Yes, 1974. (21:49)

Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” Pink Floyd, 1975. (25:58)

High Falls,” Allman Brothers Band, 1975. (14:27)

Baker St. Muse,” Jethro Tull, 1975. (16:39)

2112,” Rush, 1976. (20:33)

Paprika Plains,” Joni Mitchell, 1977. (16:21)

Awaken,” Yes, 1977. (15:31)

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There are three Spotify playlists below. The first (“Let it last longer”) includes the songs mentioned in the essay text that pushed the barriers of how long a hit single could be. The second (“They cut you down to size”) includes both the original and edited versions (those available on Spotify) of most of the songs listed that were released in both lengths. The third (“Lonnnnnnng rock tracks”) includes the extra-long tracks I referred to at the end of the post.