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Back to the Fade: The 60s, 70s, and 80s

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Legbamel Not-Pop

The other day I started a lengthy consideration of the history of the fadeout in commercial music. I started in the fifties because, well, a lot of what I have from the 40s is live big band and swing which generally ends a great deal differently than studio recordings. Let’s turn to the next three decades.

For the sixties I tried Manfred Mann’s Do Wah Diddy Diddy which ends abruptly after about twelve seconds of repeat and The Angels with My Boyfriend’s Back that closes after about seven seconds of fade with a little noodling just before it. The Dixie Cups only sang Iko Iko for 2:03 but the last ten seconds was fadeout. Martha & the Vandellas gave Jimmy Mack about five seconds to fade.

In the 70s I went for Boogie Nights from Heatwave, which fades for a whopping 40 seconds at the end, and The Guess Who’s Clap for the Wolfman, with a shorter fade of about five seconds but about twenty-five seconds of fade-able repeat before that. And Styx stayed true to form with about 25 seconds of fade at the end of Come Sail Away. Even The Clash got in on the act with twenty faded seconds at the end of All the Young Punks.

Then I moved to the 80s. I tried Run DMC and Aerosmith’s Walk This Way, which doesn’t fade but includes about ten seconds of basic sample loop at the end. The Pointer Sisters closed The Neutron Dance with fifteen seconds of fade after about thirty seconds repetition. The Housemartins noodled around for about twenty seconds to finish Freedom but the only actual fade is about two seconds of the last note. U2 took their own 30-second repeat (and a quick, two-second fade) at the end of New Year’s Day but Prince, after a full minute of self-indulgent wailing, ends Let’s Go Crazy with a scream and a downstroke.

And so we see a general expansion of the fadeout in the seventies and a backing off into the 80s, but not without exceptions. I’ve purposely stuck with more mainstream music for these examples. I wonder if the expansion of the fade was a record company push or if the musicians or producers heard and liked it. You can read the end of this series and see if I think this is the end of the fade. Any thoughts?

2 Responses so far.

  1. Sean says:

    Although I could be absolutely wrong about this, I think a large part of why songs in the 50's and 60's had extremely short fade-outs is because a lot of that music was sold on 45's, where time, and vinyl space, were at a premium. Of course this idea is as un-scientific as your study, so I could be totally off target!

  2. legbamel says:

    That's an excellent point. I bought mostly LPs and 45s well into the 80s so I hadn't considered that the format change may have a lot to do with it. Thanks!

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