Saturday, 30 May 2020

Ticket 77: Repeat The Final Line



You can signal that this really is the end of your song and tie things up with a pretty bow by repeating the end of the chorus. This works best by singing the final line twice or three times.

Double Final Line

All I've Got To Do
When I Get Home
Think For Yourself
Yes It Is

Triple Final Line

Nowhere Man
One After 909
Please Please Me
Your Mother Should Know

If your final line ends on the tonic/root chord (I) - which it almost certainly will - you can combine this ticket with Aeolian Cadence (Ticket 10) by ending the penultimate line on the six minor (vi) instead of the root chord (I). Octopus's Garden is a great example of this (2:30)

In an octopus's garden with you (F G Am)
In an octopus's garden with you (F G Am)
In an octopus's garden with you (F G C)

She Loves You finishes on the I but then moves to the vi to set up further repeats (1:47)

With a love like that you know you should be glad (Cm D G Em)

The vi chord isn't the only substitute for the I chord when you want to delay the end and set up for a repeat of the last line. The iv, IV, bVI are just a few that would work (The False Picardy - Ticket 46).

I Want To Hold Your Hand is another great example (2:08), delaying the root first with the III (B7) then IV (C) before finally ending on the I (G)

I Want To Hold Your Hand (C D G Em)
I Want To Hold Your Hand (C D B7)
I Want To Hold Your Hand (C D C G)

I Will delays with the bVI before an altered version of the title line and a wordless coda (1:22).

Your Mother Should Know uses the VI to delay the end (twice) and I Saw Her Standing There has two lines ending on the I chord before delaying with the IV on the final line (2:30)

Since I saw her standing there (E B7 E)
Since I saw her standing there (E B7 E)
Since I saw her standing there (E B7 A E)

Sometimes the ending is better set up by repeating a lyric just before the end. I'm Happy Just To Dance With You delays with the vi chord but changes the penultimate line of lyric to better set up the original final line (1:37)

I've discovered I'm in love with you (A Baug C#m F#m G#)
Cos I'm happy just to dance with you (A Baug C#m F#m G#)

before five more “oh”s round the whole thing off. Adding a musical or lyrical phrase after the 'last line' like this can be just the ticket. It's Only Love adds a final “loving you...” (1:36) after the repeats (1:28) and P.S. I Love You adds a final, higher “I love you...” over it's repeated chord progression (1:49).

You can find more examples in the Ticket 77 Playlist.

Ticket 77 Playlist: Repeat The Final Line



In order to better understand the influence of ideas on and by the Beatles songs are laid out in chronological order.

This page is a work in progress. Errors? Typos? Suggestions? Did I miss an example? Leave a comment below!

For more on this songwriting tip go here - [link coming!]

1962 P.S. I Love You - The Beatles (1:49)
1963 Please Please Me - The Beatles (1:39)
1963 Ask Me Why - The Beatles (2:10)
1963 I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles (2:30)
1963 She Loves You - The Beatles (1:47)
1963 All I've Got To Do - The Beatles (1:39)
1963 I Want To Hold Your Hand - The Beatles (2:08)
1964 When I Get Home - The Beatles (1:58)
1964 I'm Happy Just To Dance With You - The Beatles (1:37)
1964 What You're Doing - The Beatles (1:58)
1965 Yes It Is - The Beatles (2:26)
1965 It's Only Love - The Beatles (1:28)
1965 Nowhere Man - The Beatles (2:14)
1965 Think For Yourself - The Beatles (2:01)
1967 Your Mother Should Know - The Beatles (1:58)
1968 I Will - The Beatles (1:22)
1969 One After 909 - The Beatles (2:03)
1969 The Ballad of John and Yoko - The Beatles (2:31)
1969 Octopus's Garden - The Beatles (2:30)
1986 Earn Enough For Us – XTC (2:36)
1998 Acquiesce - Oasis (3:08)
2006 No Buses – Arctic Monkeys (2:57)

Thanks to Chris Henson, Jamie Osbourne and Tom Slatter for help with examples.

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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Ticket 4 Playlist: Recycle Your Os

  • In order to better understand the influence of ideas on and by the Beatles songs are laid out in chronological order.
  • Songs written or performed by the Beatles are in bold.
  • Songs covered by the Beatles, or to known to have had an influence on them, are in italics.
This page is continually being revised. Errors? Typos? Suggestions? Did I miss an example? Leave a comment below!

Read a detailed explanation of this ticket here - Plant A Chorus: Grow An Intro.

1962 P.S. I Love You - The Beatles - intro
1963 All My Loving – The Beatles - outro
1963 From Me To You - The Beatles - outro
1963 Please Please Me - The Beatles - intro
1963 She Loves You - The Beatles - intro/outro
1964 Help - The Beatles - intro
1964 Can’t Buy Me Love - The Beatles - intro/outro
1964 I'm A Loser - The Beatles - intro
1966 Dr Robert - The Beatles - outro
1968 Julia - The Beatles - intro
1968 Martha My Dear - The Beatles - solo
1968 Piggies - The Beatles - intro/outro/solo
1968 Blackbird – The Beatles - links
1969 The Long And Winding Road - The Beatles - outro
1969 Here Comes The Sun - The Beatles - outro
1977 The Modern World - The Jam - intro (0:00) from chorus (2:05)
1986 You Give Love A Bad Name - Bon Jovi - intro
1991 Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana - solo
2001 One Day - Nik Kershaw - bridge
2009 Secret Door - Arctic Monkeys - intro
2012 I Knew You Were Trouble - Taylor Swift - outro
2012 Let Her Go – Passenger - intro (0:00) from chorus
2013 Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High? – Arctic Monkeys – outro (2:18) from chorus
2017 Jekyll - Plastic Inevitables - intro/outro



Thanks to Curtis Pea for examples

See the full list of songwriting tips here - Tickets To Write

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Wednesday, 13 May 2020

10:68 Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (pt.2) Four Beatles In Search Of A Groove


Written in Rishikesh and originally titled Obla Dee Obla Da, the received narrative about this song is that Lennon hated it and furiously forced it over the finish line, propelling the band at breakneck speed with his drug-crazed piano playing.

McCartney was always the musical visionary who could complete what Lennon started but on this song the tables were turned. For once McCartney was at sea musically and it was Lennon that came to the rescue.

A walk through the different versions reveal a clear plan and stunning failure to execute it.


  • Esher demo
  • Version 1
  • Version 2 – this is the version on The White Album
  • Version 3 – abandoned after a couple of takes and unreleased


All version were played in A but on the Esher demo the guitars are tuned down a semitone to Ab and on version 2 the tape is varisped up a semitone to Bb.

That the song was always intended to be a ska-influenced recording is clear. Calling the song "one of the first examples of white reggae" Stewart Copeland says, "Ob-la-di has an accent, ob-la-da has an accent, 'life goes on...' sort of leads you into that ska feel. There's a definite scansion to those lyrics, which is probably why they ended up playing a ska beat"*. Paul's lyrics and ska-approved vocal percussion "chicka-bum" and Lennon's studio comments "Oobladi-blada. Brutha!", "Yassuh! Take one, and de Mighty Jumbo Band!” show their heads were somewhere more tropical than St. John's Wood, NW8.


Version 1 has been released as an Anniversary Edition bonus track ('Take 3') and on Anthology 3 ('Take 5'). The latter features the (uncredited) creator of the chorus lyrics, Jimmy Scott Emuakpor on congas.

Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away.*
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


The Esher demo and Take 3 feature very straight ahead drumming and strumming – the only hint of ska is the chord fill in the bridge (1:29).

Take 5 (the same take with overdubs) add a lovely tiny cowbell, some busy sax parts, Jimmy's very busy congas and Paul's extremely busy bass.

There is zero groove at this point - no skanking* from guitar or piano and ultra 'white bread' drumming. The bass runs all over the place and the only semblance of a groove comes from congas and cowbell patterns that are messy and confused. The whole thing is a hyperactive hot mess, the result of adding more and more to a track that isn't working. Ringo has no idea what to play and McCartney, uncharacteristically, isn't able to help. Geoff Emerick stated the obvious saying "Paul wasn't happy with the rhythm of the track … he was after a Jamaican reggae feel and he wasn't satisfied that the band had nailed it"* but then went on to tell the tale that has become legend.

When Paul announced he wanted to … start the song again from scratch, John went ballistic. Ranting and raving, he headed out the door, with Yoko trailing closely behind, and we thought that we'd seen the last of him that evening. But a few hours later he stormed back into the studio, clearly in a highly altered state of mind.

"I AM F**KING STONED!!" John Lennon bellowed from the top of the stairs … swaying slightly, he continued, waving his arms for emphasis. "I am more stoned than you have ever been. In fact, I am more stoned than you will ever be! … and this," Lennon added with a snarl, "is how the fucking song should go." Unsteadily, he lurched down the stairs and over to the piano and began smashing the keys with all his might, pounding out the famous opening chords that became the song's introduction, played at a breakneck tempo.*

Truth From Fiction


Lennon didn't play the song "at a breakneck tempo". Version 1 was recorded at 121bpm. Version 2 is only 112bpm even after varispeeding up. It was played at 107bpm – significantly slower. Lennon didn't speed the song up, he slowed it down to a tempo that allowed to song to breathe.

Side stepping the fruitless search for 'authenticity' he played what Ian MacDonald describes as a "mock music-hall piano"* intro giving it an instant instrumental hook (Ticket 3), before playing what the song had been crying out for all along the 2, 4 skank pattern. He was incapable of overplaying as McCartney and Emuakpor had been doing and Lennon's limitations as a piano player saved the track. Harrison fell in with a similar rhythm on acoustic guitar and Paul created a new, simple grooving bass line built on arpeggios on 1 2+ 3 4+. And Ringo ? Ringo played the same beat as before. But you can't have everything.


Once the track locked together, other ideas presented themselves. Compare the improvement in the rhythmic accompaniment on "Desmond and Molly Jones" from Version 1 (1:21 – Take 3, 1:23 - Take 5) to the Lennon-driven remake (1:30). There are some childlike plinky piano overdubs (2:32) and a sped-up gliss that sounds like a video game (2:08). McCartney's bassline deserves special mention, using a distorted acoustic guitar (0:02) to doubling the very simple bass line, Paul plays both instruments with a plectrum, adding funky ghost notes on the bass (0:06) that really make the song move.

Mind Blown


It's understandable that Paul would listen to Reggae/Ska and subconsciously absorb melodic ideas. So it forgivable that the start of the bridge has the same melody and almost exactly the rhythm as the opening line of River of Babylon by The Melodians.

In a couple of years
A A D D E F# (landing on a D major chord)

By the rivers of Babylon
D D G G A B B B (landing on a G major chord)

But here's the bombshell. Paul's song was released two years earlier! Did the Beatles have a influence on the seminal 1970 song?*



Footnotes

One of the first examples of white reggae
Stewart Copeland: Musician Magazine (1988)

perfection is attained
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Wind, Sand and Stars (p. 31)

Paul wasn't happy with the rhythm
Geoff Emerick: Here, There and Everywhere (p.246)

Skanking
Sharp off beat chord hits which are the foundation of reggae & ska (on beats 2 and 4 in reggae and the 'ands' between beats in ska).

Paul wanted to start the song again from scratch
Geoff Emerick: Here, There and Everywhere (p.247)

Mock music-hall piano
Ian MacDonald: Revolution In The Head (p.295)

Seminal 1970 song
It was a no 1 hit in Jamaica on release and reached an international audience via The Harder They Come Soundtrack which is credited with having "brought reggae to the world" (L.A. Times).


Thursday, 30 April 2020

10:67 Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (pt.1) Melody and Lyrics


For the record I don't think Ob-La-Di is a terrible song – it's a great piece of family friendly lowbrow entertainment written and played with real craftsmanship and made to look deceptively easy. It's like the perfect McDonald's meal. It's probably not good for you as your only diet but I'd like to see you go behind the counter and put one together yourself.

McCartney (with a little help from his friends) displays his gift for doing the very simple and accessible brilliantly. The building blocks are mundane. The structure is V C V C B etc. The chords almost entirely diatonic ('in-key') with only the Bb7 in the bridge (2:16) implied by saxes, venturing 'outside' (Ticket 28). The bridge builds back into the verse with via the V chord (1:31) just like they did in Twist And Shout (Ticket 65). We have a bit of a descant (Ticket 58) coming in at 1:01, the helium effect the obvious result of varispeeding the tape.


Two Melody Tips


One very simple way McCartney generates memorable vocal melodies is through repetition.

In the chorus he repeats the same three notes for

Ob-la-di / ob-la-da / life goes on

Secondly, in the verse he develops a musical cell (Ticket 9), essentially taking a melodic fragment and moving it up one scale tone each time.

Desmond has a barrow in the mar...  D D D D D D C Bb A
Molly is the singer in a...  E E E E E E D C Bb
Desmond says to Molly, girl, I...   F F F F F F E D

All We Hear Is Radio Bla-Da


A third simple trick he employs is using the 'Aeolian Cadence' (Ticket 10) finishing on the relative minor chord instead of the tonic chord. Here he uses it to delay the ending rather than change it.


Most songs finish with the melody arriving on the root note on the final syllable as the chords land on the tonic chord (in this song a Bb note on a Bb major chord). In the chorus, the melody

D C Bb (Life goes on) happens over an F to Bb chord progression (1:06).

But the final time the same melody occurs over F to Gm (2:57).

This still works, because there's a Bb note in Gm. But that chord (the relative minor or vi chord in the key of Bb) makes us feel like we've been left hanging. Then Paul sings "and if you want some fun..." before the melody walks all the way back down "...sing ob-la-di, bla-da" and Bb note reunites with Bb chord. Hi honey we're home!

Winston And The Trolley Problem


It’s a very me song, in as much as it’s a fantasy about a couple of people who don’t really exist, Desmond and Molly. I’m keen on names too. Desmond is a very Caribbean name. It could have been Winston, that would have been all right.

Paul McCartney*

Paul likes to Write Like A Novelist (Ticket 70) but here the story is a pretty straight forward 'boy meets girl' verse married to a non sequitur chorus

Him: Will you marry me?
Her: Life goes on!
Him: Wait. What? Is that a yes?

Again Paul uses old, familiar tools to build a catchy song.

A ridiculously simple and repetitive rhyme scheme (ABAB) - place/face, band/hand in verse 1, 3 and 4 (reversing hand/band in 3 and 4) and store/door, ring/sing in verse 2. Straight repetition in the two bridges and verse 3 and 4. And parallel lyrics (Ticket 24) to increase the stickiness everywhere.

The bridge has

In a couple of years / with a couple of kids

but the structure of the entire song is built on the lyrical framework of 'Desmond does this, Molly does that' – though Desmond and Molly's positions shift around the verses as aren't always at the same melodic points.

Desmond has a / Molly is a / Desmond says / Molly says this
Desmond take a trolley / takes it back to Molly
Desmond let's the children / Molly stays at home

This is even more pronounced in the bookending between verses 1 and 3

Has a barrow in the market place / happy ever after in the market place
The singer in a band / sings it with the band
Molly … I like your face / Molly ... does her pretty face
Takes him by the hand / children lend a hand
Desmond says to Molly / Molly says this

Very workmanlike but very effective. The only part that stands out is the clever internal rhyme

Desmond takes a trolley / takes it back to Molly

which is surely a result John and Paul's fantastic ear for how words 'sing' than any grand plan. Why else would you take a trolley?

The Beatles had a long history of spoofing lyrics*, constantly messing about for 'laffs'. Paul's first impression of John was to marvel at the way he rewrote lyrics that he didn't know or couldn't remember. So perhaps Paul's "genuine mistake" with the line “Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face” (2:34) was simply playing for laughs as Lennon did with the song in the Abbey Road sessions: "Desmond has a sparrow in his pocket book, Molly had an eagle in the Strand" finishing off with "And if you want some jam!.."




This spoofing is not confined to the lead vocals either. Amid the laughter, genuine (3:06) and fake "ha ha ha" (1:34), there are barely audible asides from John and George all designed to let some air out of Paul's beautiful balloon.

1:42 After the line "lets the children lend a hand" (George: "arm", John: "leg")
2:33 After the line "lets the children lend a hand" (George: "foot")

Though premeditated to some degree, this is still an example of leaving your mistakes in (Ticket 72). Just like counting in, musicians mess around all the time, but most of the mess is cleaned up before the song is offered for public consumption.

Next time: John Lennon the unlikely musical saviour of Paul's granny music.


FOOTNOTES

It’s a very me song
Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now (p.348)

The Beatles had a long history of spoofing lyrics
The frequently altered lyrics live, name-checking local vicars, Bob Wooler and other audience members and changing "shimmy, shimmy" to "shitty shitty" in I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate and "I'm so blue and lonely" to "I'm so bloody lonely" in I Forgot To Remember To Forget. Raining In My Heart became Raining In The Yard and Sharing You - Shaving You.
Mark Lewisohn: Tune In (p.128, 419, 429, 539, 606, 680, 821).

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The Revolution Is Over!


I've finally finished working my way through Revolution and/or Revolution 1!!!

Here's all the posts


10:61 Revolution (pt.1) Did George Play Bass on Revolution 1, or was Paul just having a bad day at the office?
10:62 Revolution (pt.2) - What's The Difference between the album, single and video versions?
10:63 Revolution (pt.3) Will the real Revolution please stand up? Album or single - Which is the definitive version?
10:64 Revolution (pt.4) All We Are Saying: Lyrics - rhyme schemes and structures
10:65 Revolution (pt.5) - Don't Bore Us, Get To The Pre-Chorus - structures, out of key chords and the V chord
10:66 Revolution (pt.6) Fake Mistakes - embellishments, edits and extensions

70+ Songwriting Tips From The Beatles
The Be-Atletudes
About Beatles Songwriting Academy

10:66 Revolution (pt.6) Fake Mistakes

Embrace (or Fake) Your Mistakes


One little detail that gives Revolution 1 the edge over Revolution for me are the little editing mistakes in the album version (Ticket 72: Embrace your mistakes).

At the beginning of the track there is studio chatter, a false start on guitar, followed by engineer Geoff Emerick saying "take 2"* and Lennon saying "OK" and near the end (3:23) a tape edit spliced together incorrectly resulting in an unintended 2/4 bar*. Lennon can be heard talking on an unmuted track (3:28) and you could even make a case for Lennon's "count me out … in" as something of a 'deliberate' error.

These all contribute to a very specific loose vibe for the track and what's important to remember is that though all of these things were genuine 'accidents', their appearance on the finished recording were not. Even with the fairly primitive recording gear available, they had the opportunity to go back and mute channels, redo tape edits and even take five minutes to say "John, make up your mind – are you 'in' or 'out'?". But they didn't. They chose to 'put a frame' around the mistakes and make them part of the art. Sometimes mistakes will result in a musical choice that you would never have thought of (the 2/4 bar) and sometimes it just helps to communicate a mood. Here the band wants to say "we're just having a jam, everybody join in" but rather than play sloppy with no rehearsal, the
band is tight but communicates the mood by these little extras*.

Every time you hear a count-in on a Beatles record it's a deliberate choice. After all, most takes started with a count-in and almost every one was later edited out. But I Saw Her Standing There, Yer Blues and Taxman retained theirs, to communicate the "we're gonna rock out!" vibe. And not just retain them. Each count-in was edited in from a different take, presumably one that had more energy*.



On my album Fifty Five Stories Down I wanted the listener to have the feeling of being 'in the room' rather than being a distant audience. So I recorded every sessions in entirety and cherry picked snippets of conversation between me and producer Daniel Wright to bookend the tracks (some so long they merited their own track). Nothing was staged or scripted* but comments were spliced together or moved to different songs to improve the flow. And there were happy accidents too like the mournful police siren during the song River of Suffering (3:08).

Edits And Extensions: The Strange Rhythm Scene Of John Lennon

I dig the people that notice that I have a sort of strange rhythm scene, because I've never been able to keep rhythm on the stage. I always used to get lost. It's me double off-beats.
John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview (Nov 23 1968)

The unintended tape edit in the chorus is not the only 2/4 bar. Every other section has one as part of the composition. The verse is a classic example of The Lennon Extension (Ticket 52) where his "well you know" needs a extra space to fit in. Try singing without the "well..."

You say you want a revolution, you know
We all want to change the world

The lyrics fit into 4/4 and is the way someone without 'double off-beats' might play it. The single-only solo retains the same half bar. The end of the pre-chorus has a 2/4 bar to allow a full two bars of building.


Cool And Unusual Embellishments


Though the 'shooby doo' is a pretty mundane example of a descant (Ticket 58) it's also a musical idea borrowed from another genre, in this case Doo-Wop. The guitar's shuffle pattern is borrowed from the blues and the switches from A to D and E hint at a 12 bar blues progression. The vocal melody utilises the major pentatonic scale almost entirely except for 'bluesifying the melody' (Ticket 22) with a b3 on "it's gonna be AL – right". All of which gives this folk song a playful, doo-wop/blues flavour (Ticket 25).

The song has some great instrumental hooks (Ticket 3) - the acoustic guitar riff at end of each chorus, the electric guitar fill at the end of verse 2 and the 'Indian' bass run down in the (album version) pre-chorus.

There's a couple of unusual choices too. It's normal practice to edit down a song for single release and the first thing to go is usually the solo but Revolution one of the few songs to add a solo rather than take it out. The single's solid blues ending is an improvement on the album's fade out. Fading is something the Beatles hardly ever did but on this song even the Esher demo fades.

Footnotes


Geoff Emerick saying "take 2"
As the take is actually Take 18, It's unclear why he is saying "take 2." It may be in response to Paul "humorously announcing the next take off mic as "take three?" or be a clipped part of a longer phrase "I'll take it to...".

Humorously announcing the next take off mic as "take three?"
Beatles Book.com

Unintended 2/4 bar
As 2/3rd of a triplet you could make a case for it being a 5/4 bar or even a 14/8. But that's above my mathematical pay grade.

The band is tight but communicates the mood
Ironically Give Peace A Chance uses the opposite method to achieve the same effect. It genuinely is sloppily performed and badly recorded and required later studio vocal overdubs to make it acceptable for release.

Each count-in was edited in from a different take
If you listen to Taxman you can hear two overlapping count-ins.

Nothing was staged or scripted
As a example of 'staged recording' listen to the start of Cigarettes And Alcohol by Oasis. The hissing guitar amp (and whistling) was overdubbed later for effect on top of the track, which becomes clear when it slowly fades out when the rest of the band enters.

Other posts on Revolution/Revolution 1