Song Lengths

I was watching Million Dollar Money Drop the other day (which is a FANTASTIC game show), and the following trivia question came up:

"Which of the following songs, on it's original album release, was the longest?"

a) "American Pie", Don McLean
b) "Ramblin' Man", The Allman Brothers Band
c) "Bohemian Rhapsody", Queen

This show reveals the answer choices prior to the question, and the contestants indicated that they were familiar with all of these songs. Which is why it was so odd (but very enjoyable) to watch them bet all their money on the wrong answer, and walk away with nothing.

Take a moment and think it over. Which of these songs do you think is the longest? I'll even give you a hint: there's more than a minute's difference in length between each of them.

Now be honest - did you guess "Bohemian Rhapsody"? If so, you're no better than the contestants, who were going off about how that one is "such a long song!" And had you bet all your money on that, like they did, you'd be walking away empty-handed.

I knew they were going to pick it, and I feel confident saying that most people reading this would also pick it, because for some reason, people think of "Bohemian Rhapsody" as being a really long song. And while it is longer than many popular songs (especially more recent music), it clocks in at only 5:55 - shorter than QUITE a few well-known songs.

I think what trips people up is how varied and complex the song is. It has quite a few distinct parts, and a slower overall feel to much of it. Many popular 3-4 minute songs these days lack this kind of musical complexity and variety, which makes "Bohemian Rhapsody" seem that much longer by comparison.

The correct answer, by the way, is "American Pie", which runs for a good two and a half minutes LONGER than "Bohemian Rhapsody". The contestants completely discounted this one - baffling, since they seemed to be familiar with it. But oh well - they lost their million dollars because of it!

Here's a list of some fairly well-known songs that are longer than 5 minutes, for comparison. Take a look at how many are longer than "Bohemian Rhapsody" - quite a few you'll recognize, even if you aren't a big classic rock person:

Lynyrd Skynyrd - "Free Bird" (9:10)
Don McLean - "American Pie" (8:37)
Metallica - "Master of Puppets" (8:36)
The Who - "Won't Get Fooled Again" (8:33)
Led Zeppelin - "Kashmir" (8:29)
Dire Straits - "Money For Nothing" (8:26)
Led Zeppelin - "Stairway to Heaven" (8:02)
Black Sabbath - "War Pigs" (7:58)
Boston - "Foreplay/Long Time" (7:48)
The Rolling Stones - "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (7:35)
Daft Punk - "Around the World" (7:11)
The Doors - "Light My Fire" (7:08)
Guns 'n' Roses - "Paradise City" (6:46)
Jethro Tull - "Aqualung" (6:34)
The Eagles - "Hotel California" (6:32)
Pink Floyd - "Money" (6:22)
Elton John - "Tiny Dancer" (6:18)
Styx - "Come Sail Away" (6:10)
Deep Purple - "Highway Star" (6:09)
Muse - "Knights of Cydonia" (6:04)
Michael Jackson - "Thriller" (5:58)
Black Sabbath - "Iron Man" (5:57)
Guns 'n' Roses - "Sweet Child O' Mine" (5:56)
Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody" (5:55)
Deep Purple - "Smoke on the Water" (5:41)
Billy Joel - "Piano Man" (5:39)
Duran Duran - "Rio" (5:39)
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Snow ((Hey Oh))" (5:35)
Lil' Jon - "Get Low" (5:34)
Eminem - "Lose Yourself" (5:32)
Metallica - "Enter Sandman" (5:32)
Celine Dion - "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" (5:31)
Black Eyed Peas - "My Humps" (5:27)
Kansas - "Carry On Wayward Son" (5:23)
Pat Benatar - "Love Is a Battlefield" (5:22)
Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Californication" (5:22)
Kanye West - "Stronger" (5:15)
AC/DC - "Hell's Bells" (5:13)
Bon Jovi - "Wanted Dead or Alive" (5:11)
Europe - "The Final Countdown" (5:09)
Elton John - "Bennie and the Jets" (5:09)
The Who - "Baba O'Riley" (5:09)
Blue Oyster Cult - "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" (5:09)
Boston - "Peace of Mind" (5:02)

Next time you're on a game show, and you successful avoid confusing complexity with length, you can send me a check. You're welcome.


Anonymous said...

This helps to explain why I want to stab myself every time I hear American Pie.

Nick said...

Confusing complexity with length: that's a great observation. I think you are completely correct.

(And for the record, I got the question correct, but it was partly luck since I'm not too familiar with "Ramblin' Man")

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