Ignored, Maligned, and Forgotten Music

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Does Music Fade? A Six-Decade Answer

Legbamel Not-Pop

A fade to silence used to end what seemed like every song. Radio stations would lay the beginning of the next track right over the fade out of the last in a seamless manner that that little space between songs on a record couldn’t quite match. When we started making mix tapes we could either time it or roll back the tape enough to get the same effect. Ah, finally we could all feel like our own DJs, back when, to most of us, that meant someone playing discs on the radio rather than mixing and sampling.

These days, it seems to me like almost all songs end with, well, an ending. That means, of course, that you cannot use the crossfade feature on your mp3 software without cutting off the song. It used to be that the beginning of the repetitive fade signaled the end of the song so you expected a new one. Now songs go until they stop, and you never know if there’ll be something extra at the end (much like movie credits, these days).

But don’t jump to the conclusion that I’m going to rant about the loss of the fadeout. I don’t miss it. It seemed like a lazy way to end a song to me. To check my own perceptions, I went through a few songs from the past six decades. Here are the results of my non-scientific survey. This will actually be a three-part series because it’s so long.

I started in the 50s, with Jimmy Rogers’ Honeycomb. That song doesn’t fade out, though the last note is held for three seconds or so and could be crossfaded, I suppose. Dion and the Belmonts gave us five seconds of fade at the end of The Wanderer. Little Richard had the Heeby-Jeebies for 2:15, however, and stopped dead on a saxophone toot.

In a few days I’ll post a few more decades’ worth of random songs and how they end. Check my finding for fade in the 60s, 70s, and 80s and whether this is the end of the fade. Any one have predictions?

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