song lengths, was:Re: Blues Contests

P.W. Fenton pwfenton@GATE.NET
Sat Jul 19 09:50:19 EDT 1997

At 03:04 AM 7/19/97 -0400, Don O. said...

>Back in the old days of 78's, song lengths were constrained by the short run
>times of the disks.  Around 3 to 4 minutes a side.  Times were similar on
>45's.  Today, of course, artists no longer have those constraints.  It seems
>that the average song length has crept up to about 5 minutes.   As a DJ and
>a listener, I find that I seldom listen to, or want to use, those 5 minute
>or longer tracks.  There are very few songs being written today that hold up
>to run times of 8 minutes plus.  Either they are filled with too much
>instrumental noodling or they are padded with "oh baby's", listing towns,
>other blues artists, etc.  There are a few artists that can actually write
>story songs that are worth 6-8 minutes of my attention, but there are durned
>few (Larry Garner for example).  When I get a new CD and it lists only 5 to
>9 minute songs on the tray card, it is almost always a groaner, destined to
>be a coaster somewhere.  There are exceptions, but they are rare.
>I'm curious, among the many blues DJs here on blues-l, how likely are you to
>give airplay to an 8 minute song versus a 4 minute song?  I personally
>subscribe to the old song writing maximum: Say what you need to say, then
>shut up.  My other question is:  If Willie Dixon (and many others) made a
>career writing great 3 to 4 minute songs, why do artists today feel they
>need to write 5 to 6 minute songs?  It's not just lyrics, either.  Consider
>Freddie King's instrumentals for King/Federal.  I say shorter is better.

Would you play these?  They are among my favorite cuts.

Buddy Guy - I Smell A Rat - 9:13
Otis Rush - As The Years Go Passing By - 7:59
Muddy Waters - Bus Driver - 7:47
Albert Collins - If Trouble Was Money - 9:21 or 8:17
Bobby Blue Bland - I Did My Best For You - 7:23
Charles Brown - I Did My Best For You - 7:23
(They really are exactly the same length)
Big Jack Johnson - When Is Mama Comin' Home - 7:58
Dr. John - Walk On Gilded Splinters - 7:35
Albert King - Blues At Sunrise 8:43
Lightnin' Hopkins - Blues Is A Feeling - 8:03
B.B. King - Sweet Sixteen - 7:25

My point being, of course, that it has nothing to do with length.  If it's
good, it's good long or short.  If it's bad, it's bad long or short.

Bad and short is simply more merciful.

P.W. Fenton
Tampa, Florida

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