I was telling my kids today how in the olden days, most pop and rock songs were about 3-4 minutes long. The expectation was that artists would record songs of that length if they wanted radio play.
. . . Oh, by the way, this post has nothing to do with British TV. The beauty of having your own blog is that you get to write about whatever the heck you want. So today that's Mark Knopfler. At least he's British. . .
Anyway, starting in the 1970s artists were really pushing those "limits" and creating much longer songs - 5, 6, 7 minutes, whatever. The conventional wisdom was that this was just too long for radio play, so either those longer songs didn't get released as singles, or separate radio-friendly singles were cut, or, as happened to Dire Straits' Sultans of Swing, the stations (in America anyway) just truncated the tail end of the song.
Doing that to Sultans of Swing is a crime against nature. Because the best guitar solo ever recorded plays in the last 45 seconds of that piece. Sultans, at 5:43 in length, usually got butchered by stations right at the 5 minute mark. They would just fade it out as Knopfler was launching into guitar heaven.
The thing is, the good quality radio stations were smart enough to realize there was a true gem at the end of Sultans and played the whole dang song. But I still remember hearing the song on the radio and wondering what kind of a station I was on -- the kind that would cut? or the kind that would play? (Kinda like Clint Eastwood, "do you feel lucky today?")
Of course nowadays I can listen to the full track anytime I want -- especially the ending (and loudly) -- but the funny part is, I realized when I played it for the kids today, that I am so conditioned to worry about what will happen at the end of Sultans of Swing, I still get nervous listening to it. Its an amazing tune and if you haven't done it lately, pop the song into your iPod and listen -- to the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.
I can't find a video that really shows what I want, but I like this one the best for a couple of reasons. First, it came from a BBC program! Ha, that converts this post into one about British Television after all! And second, its one of the few videos I could find that shows him playing a riff pretty much like the one on the record. Enjoy.