FAMED BEATLES AUTHOR WRITES MUSICAL ANALYSIS OF THE HAPPYMAN’S MUSIC
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been obsessed with Dominic Pedler’s 800 page book Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles (see separate review). Then he wrote a mini review of my album “Great stuff, great attitude and lyrics as well as cool songs. Not to mention brilliant titles, The No Tantric Woman Blues and Dickless Wonder are probably my favorites.”
An even greater honor for me is that he wrote the following musical analysis of my new song Emotional Issues. If you can understand it and apply it you get an “A” in musical theory. As The Happy Man says “music theory is good, though musical reality is even better!”
Note that this song is “slighty” PG 13 for those with sensitive ears!
Emotional Issues – tonal analysis
While the verse features chords in the diatonic family of D major, the progression in context strongly suggests G as the effective key centre.
The opening move establishes the atmosphere with a G chord moving repeatedly to a suitably ambiguous B chord with no obvious 3rd degree (hence B5 or, I suggest, an implied Bsus2 if you were to extend the harmony).
The following A-to-D move (at 0.20-0.25) is best interpreted as an Imperfect Cadence (II-V in the key of G, returning us to G after each 9-bar cycle (itself suitably ambiguous in terms of non-standard form). Some might argue that the A-to-D move is a V-I in D major but I feel this misses the overall nature of the tonal effect.
In stark contrast, the 10-bar chorus then takes the listener to a new tonal centre of F major (at 0.44) which is itself ‘tonicised’ (i.e. formally established as a temporary tonic) by its V chord, the C. Within this progression, the A chord is heard as a Non-Functioning Secondary Dominant acting, firstly, as a (III) passing chord on the way to this new temporary dominant of C, which itself returns us to F. However, at the end of the chorus (0.53-1.03), the A now acts as a slippery II-of-G: sliding down a whole tone to cue the next verse (rather than going via D as might be expected).
In terms of overall songwriting appreciation, this dual-key arrangement [G verse/F chorus] is suitably appropriate in the lyrical context, with the chorus key providing a distinct, separate musical backdrop against which to present the emotional issues of the other person who the singer is deliberately choosing to keep physically separate – and hence also musically ‘at-arm’s-length’.
Especially inspired is the way that the maverick A chord (or rather A5) grows in significance towards the end of the song, hanging precariously from 2.02 until the close. Aside from the ambiguity provided by the chord’s lack of 3rd degree, the A harmony represents a musical and emotional ‘No-Man’s Land’ between the key-of-G verse (representing the singer and his frustrations) and the F bridge (the other person and their emotional issues). More poignant still, is the way that the A chord is potentially the instant gateway to the elusive D major which represents a ‘promised land’ of musical and emotional resolution.
We fleetingly glimpsed the comfort of that D major back in the verse with that ‘Imperfect cadence’, and we now have the chance to reach it ‘Perfectly’ with a final A-D move that, subliminally, we crave as a musically-reassuring closing tonal centre. However, the songwriter keeps it tantalizingly out of reach, ensuring that the resulting tonal ambiguity captures the continuing theme of the unresolved inter-personal struggle between the two parties.
That final procrastinating pivot chord ultimately reinforces the mix of tonal teasing and lyrical semantics that gives the song real depth. I hope it gets the recognition it deserves!