Monday, March 1, 2021

Sonic Sorcery: Exploring the Magic of Song

Part ONE of a series where we will examine ultra-cool songs from specific viewpoints - sometimes chords, sometimes rhythm, sometimes melody, sometimes lyrics, and so on.

Rather than long-winded introduction, let's just jump right in!

I was recently reminded of the classic 80s song "Tempted" by Squeeze, a song not well remembered by most or known by younger generations. But an absolute gem that reminds me of the flare and bravado of folks like Sting and Prince and the Beatles. I'll chart it below with just the primary chords (editing out passing chords and embellishments so that we may get a clear look at the structure).

"Tempted" Squeeze (1981)

intro
B - - - /E - - - / repeat

verse
B - - - /G#m - - - /C#m - - - /Em - - - /
Bm - - - /F#m - - - /G - A - /
E - - - /G - - - /B - - - /A - C# - /
D - - - /E - - - /D - B7 - /E(7) - - - /

chorus
B - - - /E - - - /B - - - /E - - - /
C#7 - - - /F#7 - - - /
B - - - /E - - - /B - - - /E - - - /
C#m - - - /Em - - - /Em - - - /


Oh, my! Now that is an unusual set of chords! So,what's happening - how do we make sense of this?


Well, for those not quite as familiar with chord progressions, if we put the opening line in C, we'd be looking at C, Am, Dm, Fm (almost your usual C, Am, Dm, F, except that 4 chord is minor). We'll explore that Fm more when looking at minor plagel cadence options. Suffice to say for now that it was a delicious move to go from C#m to Em!

Then the switch from the key of B to Bm (D) with the second line (Satriani refers to this as a pitch pivot - a popular example found in the Beatles "Norwegian Wood", though they apply it between verse and chorus rather than mid-stream in the verse). Then midway through the 3rd line they pivot again to a B mixolydian (E) and use the final chord (E7) to launch back to the original key in the chorus!

You don't see that sort of key modulation much these days!

Once in the chorus things are pretty straight forward except for the secondary dominants and that final minor cadence.

Wow....that was intense.

Luckily, I've built an entire exercise for this sort of thing for our Songwriting Workshop, so if it all seems a tad heavy, don't fear! You CAN apply these cool devices!

Side note: Dig that irregular bar structure!

Perhaps next time we'll look at some more chord trickery with The Beach Boys "Surfer Girl" or a study in prosody with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" or dive deep into the groove with any number of examples from Nile Rogers!

Send me your thoughts!

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