“Hey you, don’t make it bad” was unnecessary advice for aspiring musicians, but record companies also once insisted, “Don’t make it longer than three minutes.” If it exceeded much beyond that length, a song had no chance of becoming a hit.
Fortunately, The Beatles shattered that theory exactly fifty years ago, when they scored a huge hit with a song that ran twice that long. “Hey Jude” had a running time of over seven minutes, yet it still managed to reach number one and stay there for a record eight weeks.
In the fifty years since Paul McCartney wrote that long chart topper, many songs running well over that traditional three minute mark have become big hits. In fact, one that ran longer than eight minutes even hit number one a few years after “Hey Jude.”
Not only does “American Pie” by Don McLean have the longest running time ever for a number one hit, but it contains a record number 980 words in its lyrics. That total is more than three times than that found in “Hey Jude.”
Here are seven of the other best tunes that play longer than that now fifty year old classic by The Beatles.
Cowgirl In the Sand by Neil Young
Checking in at over ten minutes, this track from Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere is highlighted by several guitar jams.
Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin
Even though this standard from Led Zeppelin IV never made it to number one, it has become more well-known than either “American Pie” or “Hey Jude.”
Desolation Row by Bob Dylan
Robert Zimmerman always had a lot to say through his songwriting, and he uses over eleven minutes to make his point on this closer from Highway 61 Revisited.
I Just Sit There by Sonny Bono
His only solo album opens with this fourteen minute track, which criticizes everyone from politicians to movie stars to The Beatles.
Danse With Me George by Ambrosia
Chopin and his romance with author George Sand was the inspiration for this criminally underrated epic from the group’s second album, Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled.
Us And Them by Pink Floyd
Anyone looking for the dark side of the moon could wait for it while listening to this psychedelic single, which runs nearly eight minutes.
Deacon Blues by Steely Dan
When Donald Fagin says “Sue me if I play too long” in the last verse, he falsely assumes that someone would find this Aja hit’s length unacceptable. Most fans wish it went on even longer.