The Greatest 55 Seconds

No there aren’t the ramblings of a premature ejaculator.  I’ve seen lists like “MY TOP 10 FAVOURITE SONGS OF ALL TIME”, “LAWL MY LIKE 12 BEST SONGS ABOUT KITTENS”, “THE BEST 15 SONGS IN THE WORLD” (the last one is a bit unfair, they never include songs outside of North America or Europe) very many times, I decided to do something differently.  These are my ten favourite five seconds of songs EVER, IN THE WORLD…ABOUT KITTENS!

(YOU CAN SKIP ALL OF THIS TO GET TO THE LIST IF YOU WANT.)

Like any list, I didn’t really compile it very carefully, who knows if this is the right order, or if there are other things that should be on it.  It always makes me wonder when people make these lists, how do they determine the order?  Do they start with every possible item, eliminating them all one by until they get to the last ten?  Then imagine out of those ten if they had to banish all but nine of them from existence which would they be?  Then the same with eight and so on?  That’s how I would do it anyway, if I didn’t write this to get me off the hook.

I wonder why it is we like lists.  It seems that whenever anything is ranked and presented in ascending order it becomes interesting.  Maybe it’s because it’s well organized, people can just look at at certain items and skip others.  It’s also always nice to read little blurbs about a bunch of things, and compare the items on the list to the ones you might put on the list.

Well anyway these are my top eleven five second clips of songs.  I didn’t know whether to make it my top ten, totalling fifty-five seconds, or my top twelve totalling 60 seconds.  Basically whether I want to conform to our tendency of lumping things into groups of ten, or into groups of 60 seconds.  I chose neither, what a rebel!  But really, why is it that whenever we do anything it’s grouped into groups of ten, and if it’s time based we always group things into set of 60 seconds, usually in multiples of ten.  Isn’t this arbitrary, just based on our number system, and not really the most accurate way to go about things?  Why is it that when we microwave anything it’s always in groups of 60 seconds?  That’s probably not the BEST amount of time, maybe it’s 1:43, or 2:13.  Well, anyway…

I tried to find videos where the times matched the album versions, and I didn’t even have to rely on videos made up of clips from animes!

Like I alluded to before, this order is a little bit arbitrary, based more on the order that they came to me.  Also looking through the list I noticed that these are all pretty famous songs, it seems like when people make lists like these they go out of their way to mention obscure songs to show off.  But these songs are all famous because they are good songs, and maybe since they are good songs I’ve listened to them more often than other songs so I’ve noticed more things about them.

THE LIST!

11 Wonderwall – Oasis – 0:44 to 0:49 (Including the 44th and 49th, so I guess these are technically my favourite 6 seconds of songs, oh well)

It’s been called one of the most perfect songs ever written, definitely one almost everyone knows and likes.  To me it’s one of those few songs that makes you drop whatever you’re doing and listen whenever it comes on.  But like Noel says, it’s a shame that some people may end up remembering them only for this one song.  I’ve always loved the way the drums come in on this song, on the fourth beat of the first line of the verse.  There is a bit tension created by the cello (I think?), while you wonder where the drums are?  Then they kick in and settle into a really fantastic groove that underlies the whole song.  Those three beats before the drums come in feel a little bit like the amazing feeling you get before a sneeze, then when the drums enter they’re like the pure ecstasy of the sneeze itself.

10 Wild Horses – The Rolling Stones – 5:03 to 5:08

(Sorry I couldn’t find a youtube video of the original album version.)

Probably my favourite Stones song, the intertwining acoustic guitars, the lyrics that truly feel like they’re coming from Jagger’s heart and some of the most emotional lead guitar played throughout all make it a fantastic song.  Towards the end you think the song is over, but the guitars keep going.  A beautifully peaceful solo glides along and then as if it finished saying (in the most hushed and sympathetic voice you’ll ever hear) what it needed to say it realizes that it made you see it’s point of view, without overpowering you.  It then brings back the chorus gently, yet with as much power as any other solo ever did.  It’s as though it called you outside of the room to privately and privately go over any misgivings you might have had, then warmly brings you back into the room with your full cooperation.

9 You Never Give Me Your Money – The Beatles – 2:47 to 2:52

One of Paul’s masterpieces, it opens the medley that makes up the second side of Abbey Road.  It consists of five distinct parts that go together very well.  After you’ve heard it a few times you come to anticipate these five seconds throughout the whole song.  It builds up to this point, and then when you reach the top of that climb all of the tension and anxiety is released into pure giddiness.  From there the song calms, a feeling that carries on into the next track.

8 Born Under a Bad Sign – Jimi Hendrix – 0:08 to 0:13

Off Jimi Blues, a collection of his renditions of some blues classics, plus some of his own.  This is his slowed down instrumental version of an Albert King classic.  It starts off with a slow and swaggering bass riff, originally played much faster and by horns on the original.  Then Jimi makes one of my favourite guitar entrances ever, that always makes me picture him sliding onto a stage in his socks, like that scene in Mrs. Doughtfire.  It’s a lick that you could practice for hours and still not be able to play it like he did, a blend of soul, energy and showmanship.  It’s like a party where you’re really waiting for a friend to show up, and they’re a bit late, but when they show up they liven everything up and you’re so happy to see them that you don’t mind that they were a bit late, that’s what his entrance on this song feels like.

7 Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones – 2:59 to 3:04

This song features Merry Clayton, at first singing with Jagger, then just going off on one by herself after Keith’s solo.  She repeats the line “Rape, murder; It’s just a shot away, It’s just a shot away,”, getting more and more intense each time.  Her voice is filled with desperation and disdain and soaked in soul; she holds onto the first syllable of ssshot just a little bit to add even more character.  The song is meant to channel the coming of the end of the world, and the emotions that precede it.  Her vocals reflect that, one can almost imagine it being performed in a gospel church just before the rapture, the windows aglow from the fires outside.  In this particular time through, her voice reaches a note that defies classification, a moment of utter desperation.  What I love is that after she hits that otherworldly note you can hear Mick go “wooh” in the background, like the cool fucking guy that he is.  It is so great that that made the final version, it embodies the rawness that made the Stones great.  How many of the popular bands nowadays can you imagine having something so spontaneous and natural, as these five seconds are (Merry singing completely in her own, probably unrehearsed way, and Mick reacting to it), appear on an album.

6 Death of a Martian – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2:55 to 3:00

Death of a Martian, the song that closes the Chili Peppers’ double album Stadium Arcadium, and does it perfectly.  The whole song has an oddly classical, yet psychedelic feel to it; written about Flea’s dog Martian who died before recording the album.  The song has two halves, a verse-chorus affair contrasted with Anthony reciting strange poetry over an interesting chord progression with guitars and a fuzz-bass soloing.  Amazingly the switch between the two halves isn’t as sudden or drastic as you’d expect, John provides some ‘aahs’ that segue beautifully between the two sections, fitting perfectly within the two completely different sections.  It’s like two very different pieces of metal being warmed by his vocals so that they can be attached and blended together.  If I could isolate that ‘aah aah aah’ bit, and loop it for five minutes, I would do so, and it would probably end up as one of the most played tracks on my iPod.  John’s ‘aahs’  (I have a feeling there is a better way to refer to them, but I can’t think of one) add another dimension of colour to the already very colourful songs that the Chili Peppers create.  On Star Trek instead of taking water showers, they take sonic showers.  I imagine they’d feel something like John’s ‘aahs’.

5 You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – The Beatles – 1:13 to 1:18

The second appearance by The Beatles, this one coming off of a much earlier album: Help!, released in 1965.  This album was a precursor to Rubber Soul and Revolver, which would launch them into a new direction of song writing, pushing every boundary possible via songs that were as accessible as they were revolutionary.  This song in particular is evidence of a new direction in John’s songwriting, expanding into more personal and lyrically unconventional territory; Bob Dylan is often cited as a major source of inspiration in this regard.  One thing I noticed about this song is that instead of the word “you”, very present in their early songs, John uses “she” here.  The word “you” made every girl in the audience feel like The Beatles were talking to them, John doesn’t concern himself with that here, instead singing a song to express himself and tell a story.  Whether or not they deliberately used “you” earlier on to form a connection with the audience, I don’t know.  But it could be seen as representative of the turn their songwriting took, towards crafting the best songs they could with themselves as the audience, working in an insular fashion inside the studio, less concerned with how the public might react.  Maybe this is reading too much into things, I’m not even sure if their mindset in the first half or second half of their career actually was the way I’m describing it.

As for this line in particular, I love it because it is John at his most guttural, one of the most sneering deliveries I’ve ever heard in a song.  This isn’t the same Liverpool lad who happily sang Please Please Me, or at least this is a very different side of him coming through.

4 Around the World – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 1:59 to 2:04

The wild song that opens Californication, the record that greeted Mr. John Frusciante back into the band.  Apparently the words to this song were originally supposed to go with the music of Road Trippin’, it’s interesting to imagine what that would have sounded like.  Nevertheless we do have a fantastic song here, containing the two widely divergent elements that make up the Chili Peppers, wild unholstered rambunctiosity; and an infectious pastoral sense of melody.  In the first few seconds of these five we hear the former, John, Flea and Chad strumming, slapping and pounding away (respectively) with reckless abandon  (we musn’t forget Anthony’s yell that lasts for ages).  Then Chad rallies them and they are suddenly all completely within a single groove.  It’s like a basketball team full of talented hooligans playing streetball, until a coach comes in and tames them, not removing any of their talent, but channeling their raw abilities to a singular goal.  It’s like three raging rivers suddenly meeting to form an even wilder but united raging river.  It’s like I should stop using similes and get on with it.

3 Desecration Smile – Red Hot Chili Peppers – 2:09 to 2:14

I know I already spent #6 talking about John’s ‘aahs’, and this is similar, but I loved both of these examples so much that I had to put them both in.  Besides here we hear John’s ‘oohs’, totally different!  If for some reason I lost the ability to get autonomically get goosebumps from the cold, and I really needed them to keep me warm, I would listen to this wong whenever I went outside in winter.  (You can tell I’ve been writing this for too long!)  In each of the verses several of Frusciante’s voices repeat the second line of the verse in his falsetto, and every time I hear that I get goosebumps.  What gives me even BIGGER goosebumps is what happens in the second half of the second verse, when he mirrors the guitar with his ‘oohs’.  Such a delicate and gentle sound; words won’t do it justice.

Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses – 4:03 to 4:08 (3:21 to 3:26 in the video because MTV cut parts of the song out)

Sweet Child O’ Mine, everyone knows it, .  A rare ballad on their first LP, appearing among some of the grittiest hard rock you’ll ever hear.  Whenever you read anything about this song, or hear about it on the TV, what you’ll always hear about is how Slash came up with the intro riff as a joke, a circusy thing he used to warm up.  What sometimes changes is the band member who claims to have said “hey that’s cool, play that again”; according to Slash’s book it was Izzy.  Among other things this song has got one of Slash’s best guitar solos, depicting both sides of his guitar playing.  They are put on display almost separately here: a heartfelt extremely melodic section followed by bluesy and slithering hard rock licks; none of it stock, all of it hummable.  The section contained in these five seconds is where Slash shifts gears from the former to the latter.  It’s as if we were along for a serene drive through the country, then Slash finds an open road and stomps the gas pedal through the floor.  We’re left clinging to the back of the car, our feet dangling behind us, but we don’t want to let go and miss one second of what is about to come.  These few seconds remind me of that moment in Men in Black when Will Smith pushes the little red button.  I remember this being the holy grail when I started playing guitar, I thought if I ever got to a point where I could play this, I could do anything.

1 A Day in the Life – The Beatles – 2:47 to 2:52

Ahh number one; it’s a lot harder making these lists than I thought!  Funnily enough this song is probably my favourite song by probably my favourite band.  But of course those coveted positions might change by the time you read this, IF anyone reads this.

This is the song that closes their experimental masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, called the greatest album ever made, by Rolling Stone.  This song of course contains two Lennon sections sandwiched around one of McCartney’s.  I was going to say that each of their verses’ is representative of them as songwriters, but I think that sells Paul a bit short.  But in terms of either’s broad style it might be an accurate over-generalization, if such a thing exists.  Paul’s verse is catchy, with a happy bouncy feel to it.  It feels well crafted and pristine, that being said, it is still very insulting to say that this verse represents the entirety of what this god of a songwriter could do.  The same can be said for over-generalizations made about John’s verses, but I do feel like they do a great job portraying that ethereal yet extremely tactile and tangible quality that characterized his songs.  But again, pigeon-holing either of them into the music contained within a five minute song isn’t right, they wrote many songs that don’t sound like their contributions in this one

This song has a dreamy, distant and uninvolved sadness to it, a quality that makes it completely unique.  John’s two sections portray someone gazing from afar at all of the sadness in the world, while Paul’s talks about someone becoming involved and living a normal life.  The latter sounds completely clear, a perfect contrast to the hazy feel of John’s sections.  After Paul’s character experiences real life he goes into a dream: another John verse; to bridge the gap we have what happens in these five seconds.  No singer other than John could have made this sound the way it does, it’s like walking into a smoky, incense filled room.  You are called in by a ghostly, distant, whispering and mourning voice, made all the more so by the ‘normal’ verse that preceded it.  I always felt like this part of the song had a certain confidence to it, as if it is coming from someone who is entirely secure where he is.  Whether that place is a sad or happy one is open to interpretation I suppose, like he said: “no one I think is in my tree, I mean it must be high or low”.

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