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View Full Version : 45s: Was There a 3:05 rule, and Who Broke It?


Jinx
08-19-2003, 11:53 PM
Billy Joel will tell ya "if you want have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05". Is this absolutely the rule of the time? Was it an unspoken rule by the recording industry or, morelikely, unofficial radio policy? (Why didn't BJ know?)

And, who broke it? Don McLean's "American Pie" (uncut version)? Or, maybe the original version of "MacArthur Park"? What's the deal with spinning the ole 45s?
- Jinx

KarlGauss
08-20-2003, 12:15 AM
This is just a WAG, but I recall that Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, at over six minutes, was unique in its time for AM radio (ca 1965).

Jinx
08-20-2003, 12:56 AM
Originally posted by KarlGauss
This is just a WAG, but I recall that Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone, at over six minutes, was unique in its time for AM radio (ca 1965).

Hmm...was there ever a "short version" of this song for radio, was there? (I hate short versions!) If there was, I never heard it played. - Jinx

Jinx
08-20-2003, 12:58 AM
I have to ask out of curiosity: Was "Like A Rolling Stone" ever released as a single?

Mudshark
08-20-2003, 01:46 AM
House of the Rising Sun by the Animals was released in 1963 or 1964 and was over four minutes long.

Foolonthehill
08-20-2003, 02:14 AM
I am old and feeble-minded, but I recall when "House of the Rising Son" originally played on AM in '64 the verse "With one foot one the platform, the other on the train..." was left out.

Foolonthehill
08-20-2003, 02:17 AM
And oh yeah, it might have also had something to do with Jukeboxes, ie; "We don't want them kids getting too much music for their quarter."

Mr. Blue Sky
08-20-2003, 06:22 AM
Originally posted by Jinx
I have to ask out of curiosity: Was "Like A Rolling Stone" ever released as a single?

Yes. It peaked at #2.

Zeldar
08-20-2003, 06:55 AM
The "3 minute rule" dates from 78's. When 45's came along, they kept the same idea going, probably out of habit.

There are cases in the 78 days where larger platters would allow for more than 3 minutes. There were also sets (albums!) of more than one disk for extending the play time. I had a six-disk set of Peter and the Wolf where the disks were played in a strange sequence. Disk 1 had sides 1 and 6, Disk 2 had sides 2 and 5, and the other sides were on the same disk. I assumed this was to allow DJ's to cue the sides up and switch between turntables as the side ran out, but that surely put a cramp on the DJ for Disk 3.

The EP 45's and albums of more than one disk made a continuation of the 78's time parameters, but it was the advent of 33 singles (I'm guessing here) along with 33 "albums" that permitted the longer-than-3-minute airplay.

My first 33 was a 10" disk in the early 50's of the 1949 movie soundtrack for Samson & Delilah. So there were 33's at least that early. I remember 45's from the early 50's as well.

A history of the recording media might answer more specific questions of when and why. I don't have a link handy.

FairyChatMom
08-20-2003, 07:14 AM
Zeldar, it's my understanding that the arrangement of the sides of a series of records was so that you could stack them on your record player and each would play in turn, then you would just have to flip the entire stack to play the other side.

Zeldar
08-20-2003, 07:22 AM
Originally posted by FairyChatMom
Zeldar, it's my understanding that the arrangement of the sides of a series of records was so that you could stack them on your record player and each would play in turn, then you would just have to flip the entire stack to play the other side.

That does make more sense, and would fit the situation for home play. Since I did hear the Peter and the Wolf thing on the radio (Big Jon and Sparky) and Mama bought the set after I begged her for it, it's likely the radio copy was either two sets, or a special version where the same disk didn't have consecutive sections.

I seem to recall Mama having at least one multi-disk 78 thing of longer classical works, but that may have been somebody else. They did exist is all I'm really saying.

RealityChuck
08-20-2003, 07:39 AM
Billy Joel was, obviously, speaking as a metaphor. Amazing as it seems, sometimes (actually quite often) songwriters say things that aren't the literal truth. Joel was complaining that the record companies cut singles down to better fit and took the number as an example.

In the rock era, singles were generally around three minutes, but there was no hard-and-fast rule. Occasionally, one was longer: "Macarthur Park" (1968) clocked in at 7:20; "Hey Jude" (1969) was 7:04; "American Pie" was 8:31. However, a song longer than 3:30 or so might find it tough to get airplay.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
08-20-2003, 08:43 AM
Originally posted by Jinx
Hmm...was there ever a "short version" of this song for radio, was there? (I hate short versions!) If there was, I never heard it played. - Jinx
The version of "Like a Rolling Stone" that I remember from the AM radio days was missing at least one of the four verses ("You never turned around to see the frowns..."), and possibly two.

kunilou
08-20-2003, 12:02 PM
In 1962 "Little" Stevie Wonder released a song called Fingertips that was so long, it covered both sides of the record. I don't remember why, but the second half of the song got more radio airplay than the first half.

I can also remember truncated versions of "Light My Fire" (Doors), "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida" (Iron Butterfly), "MacArthur Park" (Richard Harris) and "Layla" (Eric Clapton) among others released by the record companies, so they were "official" versions.

I, too, recall a shortened version of "Like a Rolling Stone" played on Top 40 radio, and being astounded when I heard the longer version on an FM station.

One thing the young'uns on the board need to remember, a lot of radio stations that claimed to play "the most music" actually announced how many individual songs they had played in the last hour. Stations also routinely sped up songs (I worked at a station that sped up the 45 rpm version to approximately 48 -- the music director told me that was the fastest he could go without making every song sound like Alvin and the Chipmonks.) There were a lot of incentives to get a song over with and on to the next one.

The first long song that I never heard cut on any radio station was "Hey Jude." By that point, radio stations wouldn't mess with the Beatles (although I suppose a few of them just flat wouldn't play it.)

Qburn
08-20-2003, 12:12 PM
Jinx-
I can confirm your suspicion of radio policy. Many programmers of the era wouldn't listen to a 4+ minute single because it didn't fit their format 'clocks'. The music industry tried to conform or work around. I've seen 3:05 running times on 45 labels on songs that actually timed out to 6+ minutes.

In the case of the Stones, Doors, Dylan, & the like, they were so vastly popular that they could still get long cuts played. Also remember that FM album rock formats started around this time, specializing in longer rock cuts that were not 'singles'.

Exapno Mapcase
08-20-2003, 02:15 PM
It's my memory that there was a huge amount of comment about the length of "Like a Rolling Stone" when it first came out. Everybody talked about its breaking the three-minute barrier.

The list of Dylan's firsts is very long. His stature was incredible, even if he didn't fit into Top Forty rhythms. Once he broke the barrier, everybody else got to nudge it a bit here and there.

Still it took FM stations to remove the boundaries altogether. I remember when I first heard Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" in all its 20-minute plus glory. Only on FM.

And you wouldn't hear it today on too many stations. FM isn't what it used to be.

The_Raven
08-20-2003, 02:27 PM
Howyadoin,

This is from 1964... a bit of chicanery from Phil Spector...

With mixing complete, there remained one unresolved issue. And in this instance, Levine proved how helpful a savvy engineer can be. At nearly four minutes long, “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” was a lengthy single by radio standards of the era. “It was running 3:50, and Phil was really worried that no DJs would play it,” Levine recalls. “So I suggested that we mark the record 3:05, and if anyone asked we could say it was a typo. Phil went along with that. We knew the programmers would figure it out after they listened to it. But at least it made sure that it got played once. It's a good thing, too.”



from:

http://mixonline.com/ar/audio_righteous_brothers_youve/

-Rav

doctordoowop
08-20-2003, 03:45 PM
As a college DJ, I recall" Like a Rolling Stone" just fading out-by the studio engineer. Light My Fire had a shortened version for AM radio. Remember- 1967 was the height of the Drake "more music" format on AM. The shorter the song the more likely the play. The Zodiac's "Stay" was the shortest # one-about 1:30. The Beach Boys were big because of all their 2 minute & less tunes. Back then the DJ's went into the news often w/ instrumentals ,& shortened them as needed.

RTFirefly
08-20-2003, 04:33 PM
FCM's recollection of the ordering of multi-disc sets is correct, and it persisted into 33-rpm sets as well. For instance, when I got "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1970, it had sides 1 and 4 on one LP, and 2 and 3 on the other.

On AM radio in the late 1960s, really only the Beatles didn't get 'shortened'. The AM version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" omits most of the instrumental in the middle of the track, for instance. I hated the 3-minute (or thereabouts) version of "MacArthur Park" badly enough; 7 minutes would have been excruciating. (In fact, I'd never realized until now that there had been a 'long' version.) Thank goodness for FM radio back then.

But like my fellow Marx Brother already said, FM radio isn't what it used to be. More's the pity.

Cartooniverse
08-20-2003, 07:09 PM
My recollection, fuzzy as it may be after lo these many decades, is that "Freebird" by Lynrd Skynrd was also truncated, since it's a fairly long song.

"Round-About" by YES is longer than 3:05, as is " I've Seen All Good People/Your Move" by YES. Both songs got play when first released 30-odd years ago.

"Stairway To Heaven", anyone? ;)

Cartooniverse

Doug Bowe
08-20-2003, 07:29 PM
Remember AM radio back then.
Top of the hour 5 minute news
Quarter hour weather check
Half hour headlines
Quarter hour sports update
(all sponsored)
PLUS
18 minutes of commercials!

The "three minute limit" was necessary so that you might actually get to play two in a row twice an hour.

The first over the top song I ran up against was "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. The 45 was hung on a nail in the control room. When you heard the song on the air you knew the DJ was in the bathroom.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
08-20-2003, 09:09 PM
Originally posted by Cartooniverse
"Round-About" by YES is longer than 3:05, as is " I've Seen All Good People/Your Move" by YES. Both songs got play when first released 30-odd years ago.
Yeah, but if you were hearing them on Top 40 radio, you were hearing the single edits, which were 3:27 and 2:54, respectively.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
08-20-2003, 09:18 PM
Originally posted by Doug Bowe
The first over the top song I ran up against was "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. The 45 was hung on a nail in the control room. When you heard the song on the air you knew the DJ was in the bathroom.
I remember a local DJ being interviewed by an equally local music paper...he was asked what he did if he had to take a bathroom break, and he replied "Play Layla!"

NDP
08-20-2003, 11:32 PM
The first over the top song I ran up against was "El Paso" by Marty Robbins. The 45 was hung on a nail in the control room. When you heard the song on the air you knew the DJ was in the bathroom.
Damn! I was going to mention Marty Robbins' El Paso (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=CASS80305282254&sql=X4310359) in 1959--before Dylan and the Beatles--as being the first hit single that broke the "three minute rule."

My recollection, fuzzy as it may be after lo these many decades, is that "Freebird" by Lynrd Skynrd was also truncated, since it's a fairly long song.

"Round-About" by YES is longer than 3:05, as is " I've Seen All Good People/Your Move" by YES. Both songs got play when first released 30-odd years ago.
I remember a local DJ being interviewed by an equally local music paper...he was asked what he did if he had to take a bathroom break, and he replied "Play Layla!"
Layla? Hey Jude? Like a Rolling Stone? Round-About? All mere quickies when compared with
this Issac Hayes single (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=CASS80305282254&sql=X2041112) released in 1969. (Although I doubt few AM stations played the full-length version.)

Hometownboy
08-21-2003, 12:47 AM
While not as impressive as the Hayes single above, the hit-the-john song at our station was the deeply satisfying 17:05 of Iron Butterfly's Inna-Gadda-da-Vita.

Seems to me there was a shorter edit (7 or 8 minutes?) but we'd never puppy out like that.

Mudshark
08-21-2003, 01:13 AM
There was a "single version" of [b]Inna Gadda da Vida[/i] that was about three minutes long. I think they released it as a "bonus track" on an Iron Butterfly cd.

Kaitlyn
08-21-2003, 01:20 AM
So why do they still shorten songs for airplay? There are two versions of Mike and the Mechanics' Living Years (http://www.80smusiclyrics.com/artists/mikeandthemechanics.htm). By far the more common version I've heard played on the radio leaves out the second verse. What benefit does the radio station get from saving the 30-40 seconds that the longer version would take?

Likewise, most of the time I hear only three verses of "American Pie", the short version of "Blinded by the Light", and "Hotel California" is usually faded out with more than a minute to go in the song. The radio version of Don Henly's "The Heart of the Matter" omits the bridge between the verse and chorus (which begins "I"m Learning to live without you now", and subtly alters the song's message) that is on the album version. I assume this is for time, as Henly would be unlikely to have written and recorded it in its original form if he didn't prefer it that way.

I'm not talking about morning shows, some of which seem to be willing to do away with music altogether, but all of the time. I'll often hear the short versions even in the middle of the night when there's no dj and all you get is music and prerecorded station id's (which I consider the perfect format--no news, no weather, no inane chatter, just music/commercials/station id), though the longer versions are more likely to show up after midnight.

Is the record companies that like these shorter versions and release them this way, or do the radio stations put pressure on the record labels to produce shorter versions for air play? Or is this a consumer-driven idea in which the stations and labels have discovered people want shorter songs so that they can get more of them in a given time period, not realizing that more songs isn't more music?

Muldoon's Squishiness
08-22-2003, 07:57 PM
Originally posted by Number Six
So why do they still shorten songs for airplay? There are two versions of Mike and the Mechanics' Living Years (http://www.80smusiclyrics.com/artists/mikeandthemechanics.htm). By far the more common version I've heard played on the radio leaves out the second verse. What benefit does the radio station get from saving the 30-40 seconds that the longer version would take?

Likewise, most of the time I hear only three verses of "American Pie", the short version of "Blinded by the Light", and "Hotel California" is usually faded out with more than a minute to go in the song. The radio version of Don Henly's "The Heart of the Matter" omits the bridge between the verse and chorus (which begins "I"m Learning to live without you now", and subtly alters the song's message) that is on the album version. I assume this is for time, as Henly would be unlikely to have written and recorded it in its original form if he didn't prefer it that way.

I'm not talking about morning shows, some of which seem to be willing to do away with music altogether, but all of the time. I'll often hear the short versions even in the middle of the night when there's no dj and all you get is music and prerecorded station id's (which I consider the perfect format--no news, no weather, no inane chatter, just music/commercials/station id), though the longer versions are more likely to show up after midnight.

Is the record companies that like these shorter versions and release them this way, or do the radio stations put pressure on the record labels to produce shorter versions for air play? Or is this a consumer-driven idea in which the stations and labels have discovered people want shorter songs so that they can get more of them in a given time period, not realizing that more songs isn't more music?

What you are talking about is the difference between the single version and the album version. The single version will often drop a chorus or a verse and maybe even a guitar or instrumental solo. It's actually a way for the artists (and the record company)to make more money, as very devoted fans will often buy both the single of a song and the album that the song is on, thus ensuring that they have all possible versions.

Incidentally, Hey Jude by The Beatles is officially the longest song to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, clocking in at 7:08.

American Pie by Don McLean is longer, lasting 8:38, but on the single release the song was divided into two parts, American Pie part 1 and American Pie part 2 each occupying one side of a single. American Pie did not become one of the rare Double A-Side singles, something that both Elvis and The Beatles achieved.

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