Two Times Dope: Bring back incredibly awesome long-ass two-part rock songs

WRITTEN BY
Chuck Klosterman

Do you know what song I was listening to last weekend? I supposeyou don't (and if somehow you do, shouting the correctanswer in the general direction of this magazine will do you nogood whatsoever, unless you happen to be a psychotic drifter, inwhich case this act will seem consistent with your day-to-daybehavior). Well, the song I was listening to last weekend was"Layla," by Derek and the Dominos, which is surprising, because Igenerally like listening to Eric Clapton about as much as I likegetting kicked in the throat by Jet Li. However, something struckme about "Layla" that made me consider the state of contemporarypop music, particularly a certain artistic quality that--forwhatever reason--seems to be on the decline.

Do you know what song I was listening to last weekend? I suppose you don't (and if somehow you do,shouting the correct answer in the general direction of this magazinewill do you no good whatsoever, unless you happen to be a psychoticdrifter, in which case this act will seem consistent with yourday-to-day behavior). Well, the song I was listening to last weekendwas "Layla," by Derek and the Dominos, which is surprising, because Igenerally like listening to Eric Clapton about as much as I likegetting kicked in the throat by Jet Li. However, something struck meabout "Layla" that made me consider the state of contemporary popmusic, particularly a certain artistic quality that--for whateverreason--seems to be on the decline.

"Layla" is fucking long.

"Layla" is twice as longas logic would dictate; this is because it's a two-part rock song. Infact, that was the reason I was compulsively playing it last weekend:Someone told me that the second half of "Layla" (the evocative pianocoda, best employed by Martin Scorsese in GoodFellas) waswritten by the Dominos' drummer, a guy named Jim Gordon. In 1983,Gordon gave in to his schizophrenic urges and murdered his mother witha hammer and a butcher knife. I was relistening to the song because Iwanted to figure out what kind of music a crazy person would write. I'ma big fan of Crazy Dude Rock. However, the main thing I found myselfthinking was, "You know, nobody constructs songs like this anymore--orat least nobody famous." There just aren't stellar two-part songs thesedays. As a result, rock music is hindered from realizing its fullpotential.

Now, I will concede that there are obvious downsides totwo-part rock anthems, the biggest being that not many normal peopleseem to like them. It is rare to walk into someone's apartment and hearthe dulcet strains of Meat Loaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" orBlack Sabbath's "Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener" or the RollingStones' "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'," unless you happen to be enteringthe home of a melodramatic hash dealer unhealthily obsessed with theopening scene from Johnny Depp's Blow. The last major band torecord "binary-form" rock tracks was Guns N' Roses, who did so withsurprising consistency (the clearest example: "Rocket Queen," a songwhose coda is--almost without question--the best two minutes and 47seconds of music from the entire 1980s). You'd think this is the kindof song Radiohead would write all the time, but they don't; the closestthey come is "My Iron Lung," which is two songs intermittently splicedtogether. Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" is in the two-part vein, butI suspect that was an accident. At the moment, Wilco might be the onlygroup remotely interested in this concept, illustrated by the excellent"Spiders (Kidsmoke)," a Kraftwerk song that becomes a Bob Seger song.

Still, "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is not "Layla": It's not like afully developed radio ballad welded to a fully developed midtempo AORcut. It's more akin to The Grey Album (Jay-Z + the Beatles), Jay-Zeezer (Jay-Z + Weezer), and The Slack Album(Jay-Z + Pavement), where the idea is to turn two unlike songs intoone. I'd love to argue that this trend is culturally significant, sincemash-ups imply a doubled pace of cultural consumption (so much media,so little time). However, I have a feeling artists are producing thesealbums simply because they're (for lack of a better word) neat, andpeople are listening to them simply because they're available on theInternet. The individual songs on Danger Mouse's The Grey Albumdon't seem important at all. When John Lennon laid multiple tracks ontop of one another and made "Strawberry Fields Forever," the wholebecame greater than the sum of its parts; whenever I play The Grey Album'sversion of "Dirt off Your Shoulder," I find myself wishing I waslistening to "Julia." Ideas that are cool aren't necessarily good."Layla" is the opposite: It's not cool, but it is good. It hasa largeness that has disappeared from the pop landscape. I want itback. I want bands that dream of being late-period Zeppelin. I want"Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" (which technically has three parts)and "Bohemian Rhapsody" (which actually has something like six or sevenparts, but you get the idea). I want another "Layla," only longer andmore self-indulgent.

Somebody get the Darkness on this.

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