Making it different

November 17, 2007

Last month I wrote about the very popular chord progression from the 50s: I vi IV V and played you a video of seven versions of that song. In case you didn’t read it:

Paul McCartney said that he and John Lennon always tried to make their songs “a little different” implying that they prefer to not repeat themselves. One of the most popular chord progressions of the time before the Beatles came on the scene was the I vi IV V chord progression (a common variant is I vi ii V). For you non-music theory nerds out there, think of the famous “Heart and Soul” song from the 50s.

Compare this looped chord progression to what Lennon and McCartney do here. Instead of the I vi IV V we get the almost-Russian variant: I vi iii V. And part of me wonders — the part of me that knows how to musically “push buttons” — is it that sexy and profound “iii” chord that is making those girls scream and cry? I think then answer is yes. But the fact that the Beatles were too poor to afford a third microphone for George, and so he always had to share with Paul. And that microphone sharing was just as sexy for those girls as the chords, and as the “oooooh”s and as those cute long-haired boys from England.

Here are the lyrics with the chords above them. I had never appreciated how sophisticated the progression is. And this EARLY Beatles. It was their interest in continuing to “make it different.”



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