A great pop single is a work of art. A great song will stand the test of time and become a timeless classic. Think Motown, 60’s British pop, Elvis, Chuck Berry. All have one thing in common; they made perfect pop singles, which as a rule were less than 3 minutes long – and plenty were even shorter.
Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” was 2.08. Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day”, 2.16, the bulk of early Beatles’ hits were all just over 2 minutes.
Here is a great example of a classic pop single. On this day in 1978, United Artists released The Buzzcocks single “Love You More”, which at 1 minute 29 seconds was at the time the second shortest single ever released. (Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs 1960 hit “Stay” was the shortest hit at one minute 28 seconds).
The Buzzcocks like other punk and new wave groups were rebelling against ‘dinosaur rock’ and the excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They created fast, hard-edged music with an emphasis on short and punchy songs, delivering everything they needed – in around 2 minutes.
The 3-minute single had remained the standard during the 1960s when the availability of microgroove recording and improved mastering techniques enabled recording artists to increase the duration of their recordings. In 1968 songwriter Jimmy Webb shattered the standard 3-minute format with “MacArthur Park” which exceeds 7 minutes length.
The golden age of the single was on 45’s in the 1950s and early 1960s in the early years of rock music. Starting in the mid-sixties, albums became a greater focus and more important as artists created albums of uniformly high quality and coherent themes, a trend which reached its apex in the development of the concept album. Seven-inch sales peaked in the UK in 1979, when a staggering 89 million of them were sold.
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