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Top 5 Rock Song ‘Suites’

July 18, 2013

Metallica’s …And Justice For All did not adhere to the standard verse-chorus-verse songwriting structure.  Sometimes, that can be a great thing, as demonstrated by these 5 tunes.

To qualify, each song must have at least 2 distinct sections.  The instant I hit publish, I’m sure I’ll think of a bunch of songs I foolishly overlooked!

Top 5 Rock Song ‘Suites’

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5. The Tragically Hip – The Depression Suite (2009)
The longest track in the hip catalogue is also among its strongest.  3 movements, all 3 equally moving, from one of the more consistent groups in the business.

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4. Metallica – Fade to Black (1984)
A toss up between this one and, well, One.  Tie goes to the earlier single.  Great acoustic intro, ideal cover band show closer.

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3. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
The recording date is 1975 but more accurately, it was immortalized in 1992.  Wayne’s World (incidentally the finest motion picture of all time) brought the song to a new generation.  Though karaoke DJs may shudder when they see this classic requested, it should continue to delight the rest of the world indefinitely.

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2. The Beatles – Happiness is a Warm Gun (1968)
McCartney’s Band on the Run and Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey are certainly post-Beatle highlights.  When compared to perhaps the best song on perhaps the best album by perhaps the best group at the peak of their powers, it’s hard to picture anything else being #1…

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1. Radiohead – Paranoid Android (1997)
…unless the song is called Paranoid Android and the group is called Radiohead.  An absolute triumph.

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14 Comments
  1. Paranoid Android and Happiness is a Warm Gun score over Bohemian Rhapsody because Bohemian Rhapsody is more IMpressive than EXpressive. Like all Queen songs – it isn’t really about anything other than its own virtuosity. The Beatles and Radiohead are capable of expressing an actual emotional state, and, furthermore, an emotional experience that connects in an uncanny way with a great many listeners.

    This is a good list – and the top two are absolutely right.

    I was in a pub with Thom York once. I didn’t see him – but he saw me. Which is better.

    • Thank you sir – I like the distincition between im/expressiveness. There was very little understated about Queen!

  2. Wonderful list. Add half the Rush catalogue, too!

    • Rush wrote the book on unconventional song arrangements! Side note: I love how in Rush, despite Alex Lifeson’s considerable talent, the lead guitarist is the furthest from the spotlight. Neil Peart is most people’s choice for a drummer in a supergroup and there’s only one Geddy Lee!

      • Yes agreed. Alex can wail a solo out, but I’m drawn to his textures frequently. Especially in the 80’s, I really like the way Alex complements the players and songs.

        Geddy is bar none my favourite bass player in the world, probably followed by Geezer Butler.

      • Speaking of out of the spotlight, tough for Butler competing with Ozzy for attention in Black Sabbath! With Geddy you get the multitasking as well, who else can play bass, pedal synth, and hit those improbable vocal notes?!

      • I can’t imagine playing the bass, pedal synth, AND singing all at once. Then add in, as you said, 1) the notes. 2) the complexity of the music, and 3) the tongue twisting lyrics!

        “Aboard my ship, the Rocinante, wheeling through the galaxies!”

      • Priceless – even for those who aren’t Rush fans, you have to admire the musicianship. No other trio gets such a full sound.

  3. Hahah I was going to throw in Rush too (Natural Science sprang to mind). But Mike beat me to it.

    • I think I forgot Rush because I couldn’t think of one of their tunes with a conventional pattern! 2112 & Moving Pictures made it into the 1001 albums book, so I’m pleased they weren’t overlooked there.

      • Not sure I can think of many either now you mention it! Glad they made it into the 1001 list… I’ve never looked at that book. My library might have a copy so I’ll be picking it up for a nosy soon.

      • It’s worth a look – I have to keep reminding myself it’s not the ‘1001 best’ but more ‘1001 that were significant.’ There’s everywhere from Britney Spears to ZZ Top, some bias towards some artists (Elvis Costello, Neil Young), some shocking omissions, but overall it’s a nice 50 year summary.

  4. OK, Rush showed up in the comments. Many prog pieces are “suites”. What about Tull’s Thick as a Brick? Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”? Many others from these bands, and others.

    Rush is probably the group which has a) three equally good musicians and b) all of them at the top of their field. Lifeson only appears less prominent, and Peart most prominent, because there are many good guitarists, a few good bassists, and very few good drummers. Add to that the fact that, in Rush, the drummer writes the lyrics but doesn’t sing? Any other band like that? It’s also a group where I can’t see any member being replaced.

    • Absolutely – Rush continuing without the current trio would be as ridiculous as the band (however talented the replacements may or may not be) currently masquerading as “Guns n’ Roses”

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