Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Beginning with “El Paso” (Marty Robbins), I became somewhat fascinated with the artists and labels producing singles with running times well in excess of the 2:00 to 2:30 tunes that dominated the airwaves.

A few years later, the Righteous Brothers had back-to-back hits that ran about four minutes: “You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling” and “Just Once in My Life.”

Some others from the '60s that ran even longer are “Stay in My Corner” (Dells), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris), and “Hey Jude” (Beatles).

Bob Dylan's “Like a Rolling Stone” ran about six minutes, but they split it into two parts for the single. Then along came the very lengthy “American Pie,” also split into Part 1 and Part 2.

The same thing may have been done with “Light My Fire,” by the Doors.

I also believe all of these lengthy tunes made the Top 10.

Is “Hey Jude” the longest of the bunch? It seems to me it goes on for about eight minutes.
—Kevin Black, New Haven, Conn.

DEAR KEVIN: Pretty much the same question came from Paul Fredricksen, of Brookfield, Wisc.

Those are all in the running, but the longest commercially available, original issue single is “MacArthur Park,” which runs 7:29. This Richard Harris track peaked at No. 2 in the summer of '68.

Clocking in at 7:06 is “Hey Jude,” making it the runner-up long song. This single came out about one month after “MacArthur Park” dropped off the charts.

As for Don McLean's classic, a 1992 single-sided pressing of the full-length (8:30) “American Pie” exists, but the track was split between two sides at the time of the hit (1971).

The LP version of “Light My Fire” is 7:06, but they simply edited the track down to 2:52 for 1967 single release. Thus it is not another of those Part 1, Part 2 splits.

The same fate befell the Doors' 1971 hit, “Riders on the Storm.”

Yes, every one you mention landed in the Top 10, with five of them hitting No. 1: “El Paso; : You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling; Light My Fire; Hey Jude;” and “American Pie.”

DEAR JERRY: I have been trying for many years to locate a song by Ronnie Milsap. I am not sure of the title but it might be “I Can Almost See Houston from Here.”
—Tammy, via e-mail

DEAR TAMMY: The tune is “I Can Almost See Houston from Here,” but the hit single, a January 1976 issue, is by Katy Moffatt (Columbia 10271), not Ronnie Milsap.

However, about 10 months later, “Ronnie Milsap Live” (RCA APL1-2043) came out, and this performance, recorded at the Grand Ole Opry, includes “I Can Almost See Houston from Here.” This is likely the track you seek.

I have not seen “Ronnie Milsap Live” — the CMA Album of the Year for '76 — on compact disc, though numerous copies of the vinyl original are on eBay, all for less than $10.

Here is the final chapter in the effort to alphabetically document many of the 1950s and '60s record labels named after individuals behind the company.

This week we have T through Z:

TNT [Tanner 'N' Texas] (Bob Tanner); Val-ue (Felix Valdera); Vee-Jay (Vivian Carter & James Bracken); Vic's (Victor Robertson); Von (Joe Von Battle); V-Tone (Venton Caldwell); Wheeler (Harriet Wheeler); Zanca (Lenny Zanca).

IZ ZAT SO? Any discussion of lengthy pop songs invariably triggers interest in the shortest chart hit song, so let's not keep you waiting.

Issued in 1964, “Little Boxes,” by the Womenfolk, is the all-time blink-and-you'll-miss-it champ, running just 1:02.

Dee jays like myself who played “Little Boxes” knew not to attempt a run to the coffee machine, or anywhere, with the Womenfolk on the turntable.

Some other charted quickies are Duane Eddy's “Some Kind-A Earthquake” (1959) at 1:17, Ersel Hickey's 1958 “Bluebirds Over the Mountain (1:25), and “Let's Get Together”(1961), by Hayley Mills & Hayley Mills, at 1:28.

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