We’re losing you…the fade fades out

The fade out is disappearing fast from pop music.  Once upon a time gradually attenuating your finished track and leaving the listener with the impression someone had stolen the microphone and was making their getaway was a very standard production trick, but times have changed.  Prior to tape the fade was the special-ist of special effects, try moving a heavy gramophone away from ensemble singers in a confined space, it ain’t easy.  The big F’s popularity grew from about 1959 for both ballads and rockers leaving as they did a sense of possibility or wistful retreat.  From 1964 they started to become ubiquitous – 50% of Beatles singles feature one – and remained so until the 1990s when the surging popularity of dance music (which hates a fade) led to a gradient reduction of gain to zero.  Why? The ease with which digital tracks can be skipped, the tyranny of radio mandating 3.30-3.45 as the perfect length for a top 40 rap/r’n’b track, the fact that clubs require beat-driven songs that can be easily cut and shut by DJs.  All of these and the reality that fades suggest a sense of bittersweet irresolution; and we can’t have that in the 21st century.

Fades can conceal or reveal all kinds of information about a record was made.  These are some which display real creativity and make an interesting hook of necessity.

Elvis Costello – Oliver’s Army

What happened here?  After three minutes of pop perfection Elvis seems in a mighty hurry to get out of earshot.  Incidentally Armed Forces is fade-tastic, every track drifts away.  Except for Busy Bodies which with a nice touch of irony fades in!

Monkees – Pleasant Valley Sunday

Turning up the reverb until the tail throttles the music in sheets of white noise subsequently became a cliche.  Here it was a first and still sounds outre.

Buzzcocks – ESP

A track lasting 4.47 with a fade that starts at roughly 3.05.  The band power on while the volume drops excruciatingly slowly.  I love it.  See also Roxy Music’s Jealous Guy.

ELO – 10538 Overture

The rest of the band go home and leave the strings to it.  Double bubble MU rates for the last 30 seconds.

Elton John – Song For Guy

Well before the end Elton starts scat singing and absent-mindedly hitting the piano chords harder and harder while holes open up in the track until it falls apart like a moth-eaten jumper.

Raspberries – Overnight Sensation

A power pop song about transient fame that features an epic false fade.  First it goes all AM radio at 2.59 before bursting back to life at 3.15.  Then at 4.08 it’s all over, until a massive j-turn on the drums at 4.18, massed harmonies, power chords the lot.

Billy Swan – I Can Help

He wraps his easy country pop tune up to an appreciative crowd in the studio, but they ain’t letting him go.  No less than two codas to whoops and cheers.

Love – 7 And 7 Is

Utter garageband rave up until God smites the players of the Devil’s music down!  When the smoke clears the next band booked at the studio is warming up with a lame blues jam.

Beatles – Paperback Writer

Someone starts assembling a bedside cabinet during the brief fade.  See also Clash’s I Fought The Law.

Teenage Fanclub – The King

Nothing but endings – AND IT FADES OUT!!!!!


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