We've all been there - you're on the bus to work, Slash's guitar solo on 'November Rain' is coming up; you're in a world of your own. Then suddenly - PING PING! - the bus is stopping and it's time to get off and venture into the world of nine to five. But wouldn't it be great if there was a song you could squeeze into the time it takes you to get off your arse, walk down the staircase (careful if it's wet) and out the bus doors? Well thanks to Musicmuso.com, there is! Several, in fact. I decided to take a look at the best songs under sixty seconds long - some weird, some wonderful, all of them over in the time it takes a hormonal teenage boy to reach climax after seeing a pair of tits...
FOR THOSE IN A REAL HURRY (0-10 SECONDS)
For people in a mega-rush, there are still some musical entertainment to be had.
NAPALM DEATH - YOU SUFFER (from the album 'Scum', 1987) (0:01)
Officially recognised by Guinness as the shortest song ever recorded, with a precise timing of 1.316 seconds, 'You Suffer' was written by Nicholas Bullen and Justin Broadrick from the band (seriously, it took TWO of them?) and to be fair, they do admit it was 'a comedy thing...utterly retarded, but it was hilarious'. Not content with having the shortest song ever recorded, Napalm Death released the song as a 7" single, split with another band called The Electro Hippies, with their song 'Mega-Armageddon Death Pt.3' also lasting around one second, making the 7" the shortest single ever released as well. Huzzah! Musically, the track sounds like an electric guitar vomiting. Really. For those of you who love slow-motion replays, here is a video that slows the track down by 800%. It sounds like an exorcism.
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE - THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON (from the album 'There's A Riot Goin' On', 1971) (0:03)
Concluding side one of the album of the same name, 'There's A Riot Goin' On' has always been somewhat of a mystery. It was believed that the song, listed on the album as having a time of zero minutes, zero seconds, was a reference to a riot that took place in July 1970 in Chicago, in which the band had been cited as starting. Over a hundred people were injured before a free concert by the band, although this has since been dismissed by Sly Stone in interviews. Sly insisted the track has a non-existent time because 'I felt there should be no riots'. The 'song' as it is, does have a running time of three seconds, and is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it-oh-look-there-it-goes twang of bass that I hope nobody got a writing credit for.
THE ORB - 72 (from the album 'Orblivion', 1997) (0:06)
As Napalm Death released the shortest single ever, so we travel to the outer reaches of chart-conformity with The Orb, everyone's favourite ambient chill-out group. Back in 1992, the band released 'Blue Room', an extended version of a song from their album 'U.F. Orb' (that was already some 17mins long on LP) and cast a 40min version of the song out as a single. Whether it was truly regarded as a single or an actual, one-track album is still a matter of debate, but thankfully the band saw sense and 'played' a shortened version when they appeared on 'Top of the Pops'. But the group did dispense with their reputation for their songs 'going on a bit' when this little ditty appeared on the arse-end of their 1997 album 'Orblivion'. Featuring a sample from the 1960s musical 'Hair' (in particular, a vocal sample proclaiming: "The youth of America on LSD!") that's pretty much your lot. The album track did feature a 'hidden' song thought to be called 'Initials' that started some five minutes after this bizarre sample, but to date it remains The Orb's shortest 'song'. This video clip plays the actual song, then if you skip forwards to about the five-minute mark, the hidden track from the album.
CHAS 'N' DAVE - TWO OL' GIRLS FROM CAMDEN TOWN (from the album 'A Cockney Christmas With..., 2001) (0:08)
Everyone loves a bit of Chas 'n' Dave; hell, if you read my article 'An Open Letter to Ben Elton Pt. 2' recently on this very site, you'll know of my interest for a West End musical to be written about them. They also contribute to our list of really short songs, with an entry just for Londoners. This song, taken from a Christmas-themed album, is really part of a massive suite of songs mashed together to form one long Chas 'n' Dave medley, ideal, one would presume, to soundtrack a Christmas Eve party in the Queen Vic or something. It may only be a snippet of the full song, but it's indexed as a separate eight second track, so that's good enough for us.
FOR THOSE WITH A FEW MORE SECONDS TO SPARE (11-30 SECONDS)
If you're not desperately late, music has these soothing tidbits to caress you with.
THE WHO - MIRACLE CURE (from the album 'Tommy', 1968) (0:12)
'Extra! Extra! Read all about it - pinball wizard in miracle cure. Extra! Extra! Read all about it, extra!' goes this wee interlude track from the seminal concept album about, umm, pinball, deaf/blind children, spiritualism and Elton John in fucking huge shoes (go watch the movie). Is it really a song? Well, the whole band contribute to it, and it forms a link between the more story-driven tracks on the album, so yes. It's a proper song. And at twelve seconds, it'll still leave you time to pick a piece of apple out of your teeth or unwrap a stick of chewing gum!
'WEIRD AL' YANKOVIC - HARVEY THE WONDER HAMSTER (from the album 'Alapalooza', 1993) (0:21)
Appearing on Weird Al's eighth studio album, this piece was apparently a request from one of his 'Al TV' specials. The album that spawned this wasn't received too well by the critics, who felt Al was out of touch, but the song is wonderfully amusing. Telling the story of a cute little chap who 'doesn't bite, doesn't squeal, just runs around on his hamster wheel', it's over in under thirty seconds and begs for a repeat listen.
THE BEATLES - HER MAJESTY (from the album 'Abbey Road', 1969) (0:23)
Regarded as one of the first examples of a secret track on a rock album, this song's title was initially
excised from the sleeve of 'Abbey Road' before being included on later pressings. Originally part of the 'medley' of songs on the album's second side, it was edited out at the request of Paul McCartney, but was reinstated to become the unexpected ending to the album. At a brief twenty-three seconds, it is long enough to include a full verse about the Queen to a polite acoustic melody, but the last chord of the song is missing, as it was due to segue into the album track 'Polythene Pam'.
THE YOUNGBLOODS - SEA COW BOOGIE (from the album 'Rock Festival (Live)', 1970) (0:26)
For those not familiar with this group, they were a folk/bluegrass duo who performed predominantly in Canada in the 1960s, before adding more members and recording a few albums together. They didn't really have a lot of sucess, their highest placed single being 1969's 'Get Together', which peaked at #5. 'Sea Cow Boogie' is about as far away from this song (which later was included on the 'Forrest Gump' soundtrack) due to the fact it sounds like a chicken interfering with someone's bass guitar. I honestly have no idea what's going on, but hey, it stops you being bored for half a minute.
MASON WILLIAMS - LIFE SONG (from the album 'The Mason Williams Phonographic Record', 1968) (0:27)
The man behind the famous instrumental 'Classical Gas', Williams was also known as a comedy writer, contributing to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and Saturday Night Live. On this beguiling piece, he remarks: 'isn't life beautiful, isn't life gay/isn't life the perfect way to pass the time away?' before buggering off. Very profound, I think. Although you get the impression you kinda knew that already, which means that rather than enriching your life, Mason has just wasted a portion of it. And you've just wasted more time reading these words telling you about a song that tells you something you already knew, so...you know, the joke's on you, really. In lieu of a video wasting yet more of your time, here's a reminder of what 'Classical Gas' sounds like...
ANAL CUNT - EXTREME NOISE TERROR ARE AFRAID OF US (from the album 'It Just Gets Worse', 2009) (0:30)
Ah, you have to love those Anal Cunt boys. Despite having an anatomically incorrect band name (seriously, what is an anal cunt? There's probably a porn film with the same title delving deeper into this, excuse the pun). Having disbanded in 2011 following the death of frontman Seth Putnam (probably all that shouting and screaming that saw him off early) we've had to look back at past glories for our A.C. fix - including this delightful number about how another grindcore/noise band (Extreme Noise Terror - check out the video of them performing live with The KLF at the 1992 Brit Awards) are scared of them. This song is a deep and meaningful look at what fear really is, and how we as humans can live with it. Oh, who am I kidding - it's fucking awful. Really awful. Although I would laugh my arse off if I ever found this on a pub jukebox...
FOR PEOPLE OF LEISURE (30-45 SECONDS)
We're really entering 'epic' territory here. If you're one of the few people nowadays with up to 45 seconds free time when you're not checking emails/making dinner/cleaning/dropping the kids off at baccarat practise/screwing the nanny, you can enjoy some of the following musical wonders.
APHEX TWIN - LORNADEREK (from the album 'Drukqs', 2001) (0:31)
Aphex Twin, or good old Richard James to his mum and dad, turns the tables on his loving folks on this song taken from his ambitious 2001 double album. Rather than composing any music, he sticks an answer-phone message from them (I presume his parents are called Lorna and Derek - it's just a hunch I have) sending him some birthday wishes. I have to say, I think this is one of the best renditions of 'happy birthday' I've ever heard on record. They should get their own record deal, or at the very least contribute more records to their son's material. We're also left on a real cliffhanger - Richard's mum comments that 'I hope your card came', but we'll never know the outcome of this, which is a shame. Perhaps they'll do a follow-up song sometime.
NOFX - I GOTTA PEE (from the album '45 or 46 Songs That Weren't Good Enough To Go On Our Other Records', 2002) (0:32)
Formed by Fat Mike and Eric Melvin in 1983, NOFX have been crafting skate-punk anthems for quite some time now. This track comes from a 2002 compilation, a record that would contain all the songs that weren't quite good enough for their proper albums might sound a bit of a cop-out. Lyrically, the title is really all you need to know, which is accompanied by some mad thrash riffs and enthusiastic drumming. The irony is, if the band had refrained from singing this for the thirty-two seconds it lasts for, the singer would have been able to get to the loo a lot faster. They just didn't think that through.
BURIAL - UNTITLED (from the album 'Burial', 2006) (0:36)
Elusive London based ambient musician Burial probably won't be offering much in the way of insight into this track taken from his 2006 debut LP. Featuring what appears to be background train noise, and some muted, creepy narration (think Tom Waits seeking a crack dealer in a back alley), it's over before it's begun, but still manages to sound menacing and frightening. Definitely not one for listening to on a deserted Tube station platform at 1am.
MINUTEMEN - THE MAZE (from the album 'Paranoid Time', 1980) (0:40)
An effervescent bass and guitar buzz accompanies a shouted, punky lyric on this breezy little number. Named after their unusual song structure and willingness to keep output to under a minute long, the Minutemen did venture further afield in terms of song length, sometimes breaching the three-minute border! Fans of Captain Beefheart, Wire and Gang of Four, they were also known for punk covers of the likes of Blue Oyster Cult, Steely Dan and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Trivia: The first thirty-seconds or so of Minutemen's track 'Corona' was used as the theme tune to MTV comedy series 'Jackass'.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION - JOHN MY SON (from the album 'Babbacombe' Lee, 1971) (0:44)
Part of a concept album about John Lee, nicknamed 'The Man They Couldn't Hang', this song featured on Fairport Convention's (rather deep) LP. After surviving three separate executions after being convicted for murder, he was given a life sentence, which was finally revoked some twelve years later when he was released after petitioning the Home Secretary. This song is a brief passage focusing on Lee's time before he joined the Navy, with his father pleading with him not to go and instead stay with his family. It's all very folk, but the whole album is worth a listen; especially if you're from Devon. This has to be the only album I know to mention Babbacombe, Newton Abbot and Exeter, all of which I lived near when I was growing up.
ECCENTRONIC RESEARCH COUNCIL - THIS IS THE NORTH (TRAVELOGUE #2) (from the album '1612 Underture', 2012) (0:44)
Actress Maxine Peake narrates a short piece about the North on this concept album about the Pendle Witch trials, which accompanies a primitive synthesiser backing track. She helps conjure up images of the place with her broad Manchester accent and descriptions of 'hard grafting bastards where even the children have Vimto moustaches'. This is a feature from The Culture Show focusing on the group:
YOU'RE JUST TAKING THE PISS NOW (46-60 SECONDS)
What's this? You have a WHOLE MINUTE to spare? You'll get bored without having something to listen to, you know. Which is why it's jolly decent I can offer thee the following fine cuts...
MATT BERRY - AN AWAKENING (from the album 'Witchazel', 2009) (0:46)
Matt Berry is more well known for his comedy work than his music, and that's a shame. Check out Musicmuso's review of his latest long-player 'Kill The Wolf' for a taste of what's happening. This curious clarinet piece serves an an introduction to Berry's third solo album. It flourishes into an orchestral crescendo beautifully, laying the path for the rest of the album, which ain't half bad either, guv'nor...
THE FALL - LIVE AT THE WITCH TRIALS (from the album 'Live at the Witch Trials', 1979) (0:51)
We just had witches on the Eccentronic Research Council track a couple of entries ago, and we're back on the same topic with Mark E. Smith and The Fall. Featuring some rambling from Smith about 'It's still one step ahead of you...I still believe in the R & R dream', while someone apparently tunes a guitar in the background. It makes no sense, yet invokes a feeling of dread, of terror, that something isn't quite right. And thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can listen to the entire 'Live at the Witch Trials' album here:
RICHARD CHEESE - 99 LUFTBALLONS (from the album 'I'd Like A Virgin', 2006) (0:54)A seemingly live recording of parody singer Richard Cheese reinterpreting the 1980s Lena classic as a cocktail lounge number, complete with cheesy piano flourishes and pidgin German. Worth a listen if only for Cheese apologising that he touched an audience member's breast, then asking to touch the other one.
SVEND LUNDVIGS ORKESTRA - HVOR HAR DU VAERET I NAT? (from the album 'Julefrokost Vol.1', 2011) (0:55)
I have no idea how I stumbled across this one, save that I was perusing Spotify's wares and ventured upon some rather odd Swedish (I presume it's Swedish - I could be wrong) drinking songs. This appears to be from some form of celebratory occasion, although quite what they're singing about I have no idea. Still, it's all rather jolly in a sort of brass band kind of a way.
LUKE HAINES - WHAT THE PLUMBER SAW (from the album '9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early 1980s') (0:55)
For anyone who listened to Haines' solo album '21st Century Man', which included a three-part short story about a conman posing as an art dealer, this is for you. More sinister, dead-pan delivery from Haines over an eerie electronic backing covers an unlikely scenario in which a plumber comes to fix a boiler in the home of George Gilette, while enduring wrestling villain Kendo Nagasaki takes in some TV. Bizarre.
Pete Muscutt is currently working on making a song that lasts precisely 1.302 seconds long, and thus beating Napalm Death's current world record. So far he has failed.