Ever walk in to a silent bar? It’s weird. Either the silence begets more silence (meaning no one’s talking at all in some sort of inexplicable observation of the sound void), or, on the complete opposite end of the awkwardness spectrum, conversations that you have no business hearing in the first place are impossible to avoid (and even more impossible to unhear).
Music, for whatever reason, has evolved to become a baseline in our day-to-day lives. Public bathrooms, elevators, cabs, lobbies, phone calls on hold: all of these experiences have soundtracks. The barroom is no exception.
While many a bar, pub and tavern has embraced offering live music or DJs in the evening hours, other establishments rely on you, the bargoer, to man the digital 1’s and 2’s. In recent years, the TouchTunes system has become the bar owner’s digital jukebox of choice (that giant smart phone-looking screen mounted on the wall), placing an immense amount of responsibility in the form of a seemingly endless selection of songs from a huge cross-section of artists and genres at the customer’s fingertips.
In an effort to keep the music budget low (and the bar tab budget high), I’ve been conducting field research over the last few years to compile a list of songs that are as valuable in quality as they are value-driven. The criteria: they don’t suck, and are also really long. Ordering up a custom track from the TouchTunes catalog usually runs you a $1; why not squeeze those four quarters for all they’re worth?
According to TouchTunes’ data, the number one most-played song in the country (and in Pennsylvania) in 2014 was “Bottoms Up” by Brantley Gilbert (whoever the hell that guy is). The track weighs in at 3 minutes, 42 seconds. If you spent $1 on that track, the cost of “Bottoms Up” is $0.27/minute. Not so great. The selections below each cost less than $0.15/minute, providing the most bang for your buck (literally and metaphorically).
“Spiders (Kidsmoke)” – Wilco
I started relying on this A Ghost is Born classic while I was playing in a local APA pool league a few years ago. It helped put me in the zone, and I was convinced that the at-times-erratic guitar solos would mess with my competitor’s concentration.
Length: 10 minutes, 48 seconds
“SpottieOttieDopaliscious” – Outkast
As soon as the opening drum roll hits, you know that a smooth, hip-hop classic is comin’ in hot. Time and again, it’s proven to be a great foot in the door for conversations about pre-Stankonia Outkast.
Length: 7 minutes, 7 seconds
“Goodbye Sky Harbor” – Jimmy Eat World
Somewhere around minute 4, you’ll likely see a few eyebrows raised up. It’s OK. They’ll start to get in the groove.
Length: 16 minutes, 15 seconds
“Lily, Rosemary And The Jack Of Hearts” – Bob Dylan
Yes, Bob Dylan has a song longer than “Hurricane.” He’s got a few, actually. But this standout from Dylan’s 1975 album Blood On The Tracks tells a wild story about a bank heist, murder, romantic trysts and more. Read up on the story and its proposed meanings before you dial it up and wow your friends with some Bob Dylan trivia (like the fact he’s reportedly only ever played the song live once).
Length: 8 minutes, 54 seconds
“Under the Pressure” – The War on Drugs
The lead track off of the Philly-founded rockers’ 2014 chart-topping album Lost In The Dream, “Under the Pressure” has a little something for everyone, from its somewhat ’80s-tinged beat to lead singer Adam Granduciel‘s melancholic voice to a groove that will find you if you don’t notice it first.
Length: 8 minutes, 51 seconds
“Oh Comely” – Neutral Milk Hotel
This one might turn some heads in your direction. The good news is that some of those heads will be Jeff Mangum fans wondering who they should thank. The rest, however, will be all WTF. Just smile and lip the words “You’re welcome.”
Length: 8 minutes, 18 seconds
“Spanish Key” – Miles Davis
Everyone loves Miles, right? Right??
Length: 8 minutes, 18 seconds