Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Another kind of love song--with a prelude

I just thought of a clever way of linking my post on the unmeasured prelude with my posts on the love song that is pictured at the head of this blog AND with my claim to have a look at popular culture from time to time.

There is one relatively recent love song that has a fascinating introduction--prelude--with some really cool harmonies. This one:

That's from A Hard Day's Night, the film that was one more stride from obscurity to world fame for the Beatles. A lot of their apprenticeship had been served in seedy clubs in Hamburg where they developed a high-energy stage show. The last Hamburg engagement ended Dec. 31, 1962. A year and a half later they were well on the way to becoming not only the most famous musicians in the world (their single "I Want to Hold Your Hand" had leaped from #43 in the US to #1), but the most famous people in the world. In March 1964 they started shooting A Hard Day's Night one of the more durable popular music films. "If I Fell" was probably written during their stay in Paris--residing at the Georges V hotel--and possibly completed during a subsequent US tour. John's song "If I Fell" comes just as their careers were really taking off. It is a remarkable song, but you have to listen closely. The most amazing part of the song is that little throw-away introduction which perfectly captures the singer's indecision about falling in love: IF I Fell.

What better to express both falling and indecision than harmonies that are very distant from the real key of the song and that fall note by note. The chords are D# minor, D major, C# major, A# minor, then repeated D# minor, D major, D# minor, A7, which is the dominant and as the song proper begins we finally have D major as the tonic key. This descending line that magically finally arrives in D is pretty much unique as a song introduction. Wow. Where did this come from? The remarkable imagination of one John Lennon...

(In the very useful collection of all the scores to Beatles songs transcribed by four very devoted Japanese fans: Tetsuya Fujita, Yugi Hagino, Hajime Kubo and Goro Sato published by Hal Leonard http://www.amazon.com/Beatles-Complete-Scores/dp/0793518326/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307456062&sr=8-1 there are a few errors. In this song, they notate the chords of the intro differently in a way that obscures where they are actually going.)

So there ya go: a slightly unmeasured prelude (the drums don't come in until the song proper) with rich harmonies.

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