Aired on Treasure Island Oldies – Nov 19, 2023
The songwriting recipe over the years has been to keep your song short and to the point. Tell a story using the perfect words with a great melody, and try to bring it in under three minutes, including the intro. Then maybe you’ll have a chance of getting some airplay.
This rule of thumb dominated the Billboard Hot 100 throughout the 50s and 60s. However, there were some notable exceptions with running times that well exceeded four minutes …
One of the first out of the gate was the late 1959 Columbia release, “El Paso,” by Marty Robbins. which clocked in at 4:37. The powers that be at Columbia decided to release an edited version that was more than a minute shorter and put Robbins’ unedited version on the B side of the 45 rpm record. Deejays preferred playing that long version instead of the edited A side. That B side went to #1 on both the Billboard pop and country charts. It also became the perfect record for Deejays to play when “duty called.”
Another significant “bathroom breaker” came out in 1965 by a singer/songwriter whose image was transformed from a folk singer to that of a rock star thanks to this composition.
Yet another Columbia release, this song was 6:13 in length. Its composer, Bob Dylan, in a 1966 ‘Playboy’ interview, had this to say about the song:
“Last spring, I guess I was going to quit singing. I was very drained, and the way things were going, it was a very draggy situation … But ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ changed it all. I mean it was something that I myself could dig. It’s very tiring having other people tell you how much they dig you [if you don’t dig yourself].”
The Beatles also got into the act in 1968 releasing a record that was just over 7 minutes (7:09). Record producer, George Martin, was concerned that it might not get played by the Deejays – to which John Lennon replied, “They will if it’s us.”
The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the first song released on the Beatles’ Apple label. Selling over 10 million copies, it was the group’s 2nd most popular single, second only to “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”
This Lennon/McCartney masterpiece was inspired by McCartney’s desire to console young Julian Lennon amidst the breakup of his Dad and his Mum, Cynthia. The initial lyrics were “Hey Jules – don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better …” but we know it better as “Hey Jude,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
This “Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.