The Short And The Long Of It: Scattered Thoughts About Music

Tomaz oYou know, when earlier this summer I showered cyberspace with a three-part recap of my wife Sandy’s and my recent European frolics, I thought I was done with that subject. Next thing I knew, though, I was typing out a story that had its genesis during that same trip, in Amsterdam. In said story (which is viewable by clicking here) I wrote about the owner of a bistro we had dinner in. The restaurant’s name is Tomaz, and possibly the owner’s name is that too. But seeing that I don’t know for sure, I referred to him in the piece as Maybe It’s Tomaz. Man, I can’t believe it, but I’m about to talk about MIT again. Obviously it’s a good thing I met the guy, because he has become fodder for your frequently-devoid-of-story-ideas narrator. MIT, if by some fine miracle you ever read this post or the previous one in which you star, please know that I’m in your debt. Figuratively, not financially. Anyway, I’m certain you’d feel fully compensated by basking in the limelight that my epic tales place you within. Well, maybe limelight is too strong a word, considering that this blog is among the least-read publications on Planet Earth. Nevertheless, write I must. Or must I? I’ll have to think about that.

MIT became part of this article’s thought process the other day while I was listening to WXPN, a sharp radio station based in Philadelphia. They play so much music from so many genres, and know so much about music, it’s amazing. And the station always is trying to come up with cool ways of packaging its product. For example, during the other day that I mentioned, they hit upon a great idea. For hours on end they played only short songs. Short meaning under three minutes.

Now, I’m no music historian or researcher. My brain capacity, not to mention my patience, isn’t sufficient to take on either of those roles. However, I’m pretty sure that, before the hippie era bloomed in 1967, the bulk of recorded songs were under five minutes, and oodles of those — the truly short ones — topped out beneath three. This partly was due to the limited storage capacity of vinyl singles and albums. And there also were commercial considerations. Namely, if songs were short, then pop/Top 40 radio stations would be able to play a sizeable number of them per hour and still have plenty of time left over for ads. Things loosened up in many ways in and after the late 1960s, including the length of songs. To this day though, some still don’t surpass the three-minute mark.

3MinuteLogo riattrezzare-macchina-in-3-minutiOK, as with much of life, all of that is neither here nor there. Or is it? I’ll have to think about that one too. Getting back to WXPN, I listened on and off the other day for a total of an hour or so and was pleasantly blown away by all the great tunes that they spun. I’ll name a few (if you click on each title you’ll hear the songs). The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic?. Paul McCartney’s Man We Was Lonely. The Box Tops’ The Letter. Patsy Cline’s I Fall To Pieces. Remember (Walking In The Sand) by The Shangri-Las. Each song has a wonderful melody, an alluring arrangement and is packed with feeling. And each satisfied my soul completely and then . . . bam! . . . was over just like that. They are perfect.

Would MIT have loved the XPN playlist as much as I? Let’s see. As Sandy and I ate in his restaurant, MIT and I gabbed away about music. Like me, MIT is a music nut. MIT piped sweet stuff through the restaurant’s speakers by Harry Manx, Jonathan Wilson and Israel Nash, artists I wasn’t familiar with (examples of their work are embedded in the aforementioned article in which MIT appears). The songs were on the long side (six minutes and up I think), transporting and satisfyingly spacey. And were, said MIT, typical of what he mostly listens to nowadays. He made a point to say that a song’s length, not just its style, was part of his selection method — he was into music that took its time telling a story. I liked the Manx, Wilson and Nash numbers. A lot. If I hadn’t been involved with swigging beers and downing a steak dinner, I might have laid my head on the table and gone on a magic carpet ride. Yes, I imagine that MIT would have said “yeah, terrific” about WXPN’s focus on the short the other day, but would have turned off the station after a bit and gone to Spotify or wherever to get his massive daily requirements of the long.

What’s my point, then? Good question. I’m likely to nab the trophy awarded to “The Person Who In 2016 Made The Most Obvious And Lame Observation” for the upcoming sentence, but here goes anyway: Music, as everyone knows, can be a joy and an inspiration and a release. (Oy. Let’s continue). The need for music is somehow built into the human genome. And my guess is that the need’s long form is the dominant gene. Really, not much is better than closing your eyes during a worthy, lengthy number, letting the sounds wash over you and take you on a journey. That’s true whether you’re listening to recorded music at home or on the go or grooving at a concert. On the other hand, there’s no denying the rush that just might overtake you from good songs that are oh so brief and tight. Me, I’ll keep listening to both the short and the long. And to whatever’s in between too.

Amen.

(Don’t be shy about adding your thoughts, or about sharing this article with others)

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20 thoughts on “The Short And The Long Of It: Scattered Thoughts About Music

  1. Joyce August 30, 2016 / 7:59 am

    Interesting you choose music since on GMA this morning they talked about a study about music in the workplace. Happy songs can make you more productive . Music is very powerful. Many nursing homes are now offering music therapy. Keep on blogging!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janet Sunderland August 30, 2016 / 10:15 am

    I loved the easy flow of humor in this post. If I weren’t just waking up to my first cup of tea, I might be more loquacious. As ’tis…. well… Good job!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. andrewcferguson August 30, 2016 / 4:42 pm

    You know, you’re on to something here. There is so much that can be said in a 3 minute song: Carole King, Neil Sedaka and all the other Brill Building songwriters of the early Sixties knew it. Do I love the version of ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ the Shirelles did? You bet. Do I love the version Carole King put on ‘Tapestry?’ Absolutely – actually, I’ve no idea if Carole’s own take of it is longer than 3 minutes, but I suspect it is!

    Equally, while I’m a fan of the longer form, from Pink Floyd through Kula Shaker to Mogwai, punk took the shorter form and made it their own. The Sex Pistols’ ‘God Save the Queen’ says more in under three minutes than most bands did in an entire career, imho.

    Anyhoo, here I am rambling on. Thanks for the article – it made me think!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger August 30, 2016 / 5:21 pm

      And the Ramones – – – probably nearly all of their tunes were on the short side.
      Still, if I had to choose I’d go with the long. I like to be swept away by great playing and singing that goes on and on.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. marilynyung August 30, 2016 / 11:14 pm

    Man, I wish I had those old tiny records that the dolls in my post from today “sang.” They had to be no more than a minute or two in length. MIT’s head would spin (sorry, had to) at those!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger August 31, 2016 / 7:26 am

      Those records must have been something else. We all regret tossing stuff we owned as kids. I wish I had my baseball cards and comic books!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Fran Johns September 28, 2016 / 1:20 pm

        I wish I had the bow & arrow I got for Christmas when I was 8, or the Deanna Durbin doll for which my mother made an entire wardrobe of satin gowns.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Still the Lucky Fews August 30, 2016 / 11:15 pm

    Patsy Kline…of all of he songs you mention, “I Fall to Pieces” moves me most! Keep on writing about music. We need it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger August 31, 2016 / 7:29 am

      That’s a very great recording. All these years later, it’s played on radio stations quite a lot.

      Like

  6. Martin September 1, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    Back in the day I hung around with a guy who was the guitarist in The Stupids, a Skteboard Punk band who were quite successful at the time. Most of their songs were less than 2 min, let alone 3, but on their second album they were starting to push them out in that direction. One day TV and Radio DJ and champion of everything alternative, Andy Kershaw, walked past saying,
    “You’re songs are getting too long. Make them shorter”

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger September 1, 2016 / 1:55 pm

      No question, a lot of bands played/play really short songs. One of the tunes that I mention in this article is The Letter, by The Box Tops. It’s under two minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Aunt Beulah September 4, 2016 / 11:42 am

    Here’s what I like about your writing, Neil: I feel like I’m inside your head with you because you let the little side thoughts that enter all of our minds all the time into your writing, and I like that. As far as this post, I have to weigh in on the short side of the argument. I’ve always thought American Pie would be a better song if Don had shortened it up a bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yeahanotherblogger September 4, 2016 / 1:05 pm

      Thanks, Janet.
      I agree with you about American Pie. I never liked it all that much because it seems very repetitious. And yet it was a huge, huge hit. Don must have made millions and millions from it, and I’m glad for him. Musicians deserve to be well-paid.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. RW Klarin September 6, 2016 / 1:21 pm

    I enjoyed your review of music and the eclectic nature of your station. I take exception to the claim that appreciation of music is innate in humans. I know individuals of our ‘hippie’ generation who no longer listen to or like music. I think that craving can be drained out of people by the vicissitudes of life and a hardening personality.

    On another note: The classic version of ‘I Fall to Pieces’ is the hippie country version by Tracy Nelson circa 1969.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger September 6, 2016 / 4:01 pm

      I’m going to see if Nelson’s version is on YouTube or somewhere else. Don’t think I ever heard it. She’s someone I haven’t thought about in a long time.

      Like

  9. cincinnatibabyhead September 11, 2016 / 6:46 pm

    Finding a good radio station is like finding gold. Listening to music is is such a personal deal. It moves us or it doesn’t. We all have our takes on songs, albums (food, films…). Loved your quote ” each satisfied my soul completely and then…bam!…. it was over just like that. They are perfect”. I can dig it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger September 11, 2016 / 7:57 pm

      Thanks for reading this piece and commenting. I appreciate it.

      You’re right – – we’re lucky when we find radio stations (or other things, like you say) that we get into. Life’s better when that happens.

      Like

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