Friday, 27 May 2011

Baby You Can Drive My Truck

No posts this week as I've been so busy doing gigs with students and posting series on how David Allen's GTD (Getting Things Done) personal management system can help you with songwriting. Oh and songwriting of course.

Here's something to get your heads round while I get my head round Something. Dominic Pedler, author of brilliant Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles (which I'll be trying to read in the half term holidays) penned a brilliant article on the truck drivers key change. Where is it? On a web site solely devoted to suddenly upward key changes. It's niche world out there.

One interesting observation is how sparingly the Beatles used it - four times in 186 songs. Whereas Whitney Houston seems to use at least one in every song she records... here's a sample

Penny Lane

The charge:
A blatant truck driver's modulation as the penultimate chorus in A major is repeated, verbatim, a whole step up, in the key of B.

The defence:
If you look at in isolation, then yes, your honour, guilty as charged. Look at the song as a whole, however, and you'll see that it is not a truck driver's shift at all, but an inspired twist which creates structural unity in one of Macca's finest compositions.

Up until this closing gambit, what we have is a chorus in a key a whole step below that of the verse. It's a brilliant twin-key scheme that serves famously to delineate McCartney's detailed observations in the verse key of B, with the euphoric sing-along celebrations in the chorus key of A...faced with the problem of how to end this type of structure Macca opts for a truck driver's shift into second gear – but notice that, ingeniously, his target is not some contrived new harmony, rather the tonic that originally started the song!

Read the rest of the article here


  1. A really interesting piece, but the picture at the top is making me feel old now. Thanks

  2. Haha - Marv it was weird finding that picture - I'm my memories it was Hasslehoff playing BJ - but I knew that wasn't right!!!

  3. hi Matt, I've really been enjoying your blog for a couple of months, reading back to all your posts. On your rec I read Geoff Emerick's Here There and Everywhere, as well as just finishing Philip Norman's The Life, Barry Miles' Many Years From Now, and Joshua Greene's Here Comes the Sun-- that's 2199 pgs, and my wife still knows about me! I suppose I should ask about a Ringo bio here, but alas life needs some mystery. As a lifelong songwriter it is so enriching to read how much care & crit fans of great songwriting can voice. Your crits have consistently been if not spot on then at the least super enjoyable reads. Please don't stop man! And if you have a moment, check out some of my tunes [you can take this part out of the comment, I'm really not trying to spam your blog, I'm fishing for discerning ears]
    With the White Album as my Rosetta Stone, I hope one day to translate a thought in my head into a great song. Thanks!- alt hitman

  4. Thanks Alt - I only remember recommending one of those books - do you have the right blog? I have The Life to read and the Emmerick book is on my list, and never heard of the Greene book...

    will check out your music. As I slog through Abbey Road and dread most of Let It Be , I have to confess it's thoughts of the White Album that keep me going...

  5. Matt, I just realized it was Rob from Amersfoort in a comment thread here:

    Love your blog, and I'm wondering if your motto above might be the real story behind the conspiracy of Paul's missing shoes on the crosswalk...

  6. That's right MT I started the whole Paul is Dead thing! He didn't need those sandals anyway!

    But seriously - you have given me a great idea for some artwork at some point...