We take for granted that some songs end and some songs fade out on recordings. This facet of songwriting could only have come into being with the advent of recording. Either some brilliant artist or engineer had conceived of this trick for when you can’t end a song. Does anyone know the name of the first recording to use this technique, the artist and/or the “inventor” of fading out songs?
The real question is WHY do songs need to fade out at all? Instead of just repeating the same old lines, or riffs, can’t the writer just reach a definite ending? Is there some advantage to fading out?
Just a WAG here, but maybe it helped your song get played on the radio back in the days when disc jockeys actually were in the studio and announced the name of the song and the artist at the end of every record.
I think fade outs are often the result of lazy songwriting – the composer couldn’t be bothered to write a coda. On the other hand, lots of popular music makes use of vamps and improvisation. If the band launches into a jam session at the end of a song, they just go on for as long as they feel like it. Then later in the mix, they realize that three-minute guitar solo was interesting for only the first thirty seconds, so they fade it out. This has resulted in the phenomenon wherein the album version of a song may be longer than the single version (or vice versa).
I have no idea who invented the technique, but I imagine it developed very early in the history of recording. Probably, somebody cut a single that was considered too long for radio airplay, so they just did a fade out after 2:50 of playing time.
Songs fade out so DJs can talk over the end of them.
I’m sure when the fadeout was invented, but you never hear fadeouts on records from the 30s or 40s. (Most music on the radio at that time was live; DJs playing records didn’t come to dominate radio until the early 50s, I think.)
I wish I had some insight with which to help answer your question, but alas, I do not. I do, however, feel the need to post here because I often bitch about the fade-out with friends. I think it is often the weakest part of a song, and can often ruin for me an otherwise great song. I can justify it though when paired with a rarer production technique, the “fade-in”.
I would guess that many times when a song fades out the artist wants the listener to feel that there IS NO END to the song. It gives the illusion (or at least tries to) that the song continues indefinitely. To me, this feels like the song is abandoning me; I was present for the beginning of the song, but then it decided I wasn’t good enough to conclude for and slowly leaves.
With a fade-in and a fade-out (as in Boston’s “More than a Feeling”), I really do get the feeling that the song is infinite in both directions and I’m glad that I had the chance to listen in on part of it. There’s no promise of loyalty at the beginning and therefore no letdown at the end.
Although the fade-out is very convenient I find it to be a very unimpressive way to . . .
and remember, you’re listening to WSDX, where we cut off the beginning word of every song we play…
…-otta smile, that seems to me…
grrr I hate that.
As was already mentioned, fade outs are often the result of the musicians having fun and jamming out at the end of a song… the end might be 10 minutes off in the distance, or may have been really disorganized.
For the most part, I do feel jipped (gyped? gheipt?) when I don’t get to hear the end of a song.
Listen to the Christine Lavin song What was I Thinking?. The premise is that she can’t think of an ending for the song. Her asides (which get progressively quieter as she and the chorus fade out ) as the chorus keeps repeating the refrain are hilarious. They’re something like this:
“Oh, my God, how am I going to end this? I know – I’ll just do a Fade Out! That’s what they’re doing when the end a record with a fade out – they just Don’t Know How to End the Song! Except for Spanky and Our Gang doing Like to Get to Know You/. That was an artistic decision. But the other ones are only doing it because they don’t know how to end the song!
What? Are you still listening? You must have ears like a Dog!”
I’ve always heard the Beatles were the first to do a fade-IN, at least on a pop song, with “Eight Days a Week”. Is that factual? Anybody know of one that precedes it?
And now a word from our Knead-doesn’t-have-anything-substantive-to-add-but-hasn’t-posted-much-today-and-is-feeling-anxious Department:
In Nicholson Baker’s Vox, the female character talks about how she likes to imagine that on songs that fade out, the band just keeps on playing for hours and hours, jamming until late in the night. She also says that if you get to know a song really well, you can start turning up the volume at just the right speed to counteract the fade and wind up hearing the entire fade-out part at full volume until the song actually ends.
Now, back to our show …
How often does a song fade in, and then ends (no fade out)?
… and Jeff Lynne made reference to the fading like the Beatles on Hey Jude in ELO’s song Telephone Line