Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things We Said Today

Yesterday I featured a song that had some nifty major-minor chord changes and today we have a song that further demonstrates the charm and originality of switching from A minor to A Major. When Skip Batchelor and I heard the Exotics play this song in Durango CO in 1965 we were flabbergasted. We'd never heard anything like it and we'd been analyzing songs for over a year. Even surf songs wouldn't dare have the verse in A minor and then switch to A major for the chorus. And since when can a song have two -- count 'em -- two choruses?

I've always claimed that having surf music as the first music I learned was a great boon to my enjoyment of playing songs. Prior to surf music (which started around 1962 in most of the world; California a bit earlier) we knew where the chords were going to go, at least in pop music. If people were going to sing the catchy melodies of the 50s the chords had to make sense.

But surf music was 90% instrumental, and a guitar drenched in reverb can play any melody, even one that makes no sense to sing. So the chord structure of surf music wasn't constrained by tradition or reason. You could go from C to A flat to G minor to F diminished -- although I'd go a bit slow on the diminished chords in surf music -- and who's to stop you? 

Skip and I wrote a few surf songs that made no chordal sense, and loved it. But we never thought of switching from major to minor (or vice versa) until the Beatles came along and showed us it could be done, even with melodic singing. Another great Beatle tune that has the same pattern is I'll Be Back -- which, not so coincidentally, is coming up soon here at Knees Calhoon's Midnight Ramble .  

What the hell, here's the Torques version of the song, from a November night in 1965 at the Farmington NM Boys Club, with Skip Batchelor (whom you can see live in the Albuquerque/Santa Fe area) doing the singing honors.