"Halleluwah", by Can
While we are on the subject of long songs, "Halleluwah" is the jam to end all jams. Liebezeit's drumming grabs you from the outset and doesn't loosen its grip for the next 18 minutes. How does he keep it up? If they had performance-enhancing-drug testing for musicians he would be high on the list of likely suspects.
I am not sure whether I am allowed to say that I find "Tago Mago", if taken, in the modern way, as 72 minutes of uninterrupted music, frequently too diffuse, too unanchored, to sustain my interest, particularly over much of the second half. But if you consider it as it originally was, way back in 1971, as two 12-inch pieces of vinyl, I think it makes more sense. There is a natural separation between the three rather engaging tracks on side one and the two slightly less engaging but equally rewarding tracks on side four, and the two epics that make up sides two and three. "Halleluwah" makes its case. "Aumgn", on the other hand, doesn't (my opinion), but when changing from disc one to disc two it is just as easy to flip straight over to side four as it is to cue up side three (youngsters, just go with this; you will likely have no idea of what archaic witchcraft I am speaking).
"Black Sweat", by Prince
I started thinking of this song when I was out in the garden this morning, trying to get a few things done before the heat kicked in, working up a skinny-white-dude sweat, imagining Prince conjuring up this song while doing his own weeding, or perhaps a bit of digging and planting. It's warm work either way.
(Regrettably, Prince won't let you listen to the song via YouTube. You can watch the clip, but only in silence. Boo, Prince.)
"Song To The Siren", by This Mortal Coil
As written about by Martin Aston in yesterday's Guardian. Seems I wasn't the only person not to realise that the words weren't written by Tim Buckley. I bought a vinyl copy of "Starsailor" in the early 1980s (I have since lost it: easy come, easy go) from the room up the back of Greville Records that subsequently disappeared and then, some years later, reappeared again, as if by magic. I have bought many fine records from those few square feet, some of which I have managed not to lose. It was the first Buckley I had ever heard. I didn't understand what I was listening to, but "Song To The Siren" is its own reward, and is the one thing from the record I kept with me. A couple of years later, being a Cocteau Twins uberfan, I was knocked out to hear on the radio the unmistakable voice of Elizabeth Fraser singing that song. It leaves me speechless, and spooked, to this day. People can (and probably will) continue to cover "Song To The Siren" until the cows come home, but Tim and Liz will always be the be-all and the end-all.
"Beachy Head", by Veronica Falls
Moving abruptly to the present day, don't be surprised (or, necessarily, care) if "Veronica Falls" ends up being one of my favourite albums of 2011. People seem to have them tagged as "twee", but really they aren't any more twee than (to pick a couple of echoes at random) The Cramps (I swear I can catch them in the sound of the guitars), The Raincoats and the fabulous, underrated Electrelane. Style never goes out of fashion.