Breaking the rules

The Eagles demonstrated a considerable degree of confidence when they refused to cut the length of “Hotel California” to suit the demands of their label to accomodate corporate radio. At six minutes and 10 seconds, the song is precisely three minutes longer than radio generally expects, so only a seriously compelling tune will force the DJs and producers to play one song in the place of two. And, as history shows, the Eagles were exactly right to stand fast. What on Earth would you cut? Even at over six minutes, the song contains no musical fat.

I find their stubborness intriguing, because it shows how some bands clearly know when they’ve written something that is, if not necessarily great, at least destined to be very popular.

Of even more interest to me in this regard is “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. I find it impossible to believe that it is merely an accident that the chorus, and the words that make up the title of the song, don’t appear until three minutes and 21 seconds into it, 11 seconds after the widely known “radio limit”. This displays a degree of confidence in the strength of the chorus, as the band utilizes a “missing chorus” technique after the second verse to build to what results in a powerful and aurally satisfying musical climax that doesn’t appear until AFTER the guitar solo.

Given that timing, I suspect that the band knew perfectly well they were breaking the rules of radio by doing so, even in the album-oriented era. It’s fascinating that what some have described as “the perfect rock song” so completely violates what are understood to be the rules of pop music.  Of course, they also broke the rules of urban geography as well, for as Steve Perry admitted, he loved the way “south Detroit” sounded, “only to find out later it’s actually Canada.”

So, that’s your random thought for the day. This is the sort of thing that happens when I don’t switch to my playlist in the car. Aren’t you glad you don’t live with me?