One of the principles of harmony is the notion of tension vs. relaxation. The Beatles knew this well and often used it effectively, such as in 'Please Please Me' (1963). The ascending vocals (shown in red) contribute to the rising tension.
The Rolling Stones used this technique, too. On '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction', Mick Jagger's sings progressively higher, building more and more tension.
Both examples (and particularly The Beatles' example) are likely inspired by The Everly Brothers, who used the same ploy in recordings several years before The Beatles or The Stones. A good example, as pointed out to me by a fellow who attended my presentation at the Newton Free Library last week, can be found in 'This Little Girl of Mine' (1958).
And since The Everlys' 'This Little Girl of Mine' is a cover of Ray Charles' 1955 original, we can in turn trace this tension-building technique back to him.
Furthermore, the lyrical repetition in each of these passages ("Come on, come on...", "I try and I try...", "Why, why...", "I, I...") highlights the building harmony. Since there are no new lyrics to distract a listener, emphasis is instead placed on the growing tension to be climaxed in each song's subsequent phrase.
Of course, the notion of harmonic tension goes back long before Ray Charles, too - back to the origin of functional harmony many centuries ago. It's a technique as old as tonal music itself, but revamped in a mid-20th century pop context.
At 43.9° north and 69.6° west, my presentation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine last Saturday was both the most northernly and most easternly position of this tour. And now I begin working my way a little bit south and a lotta bit west as the trip starts to wind down and takes me back to central Indiana.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Southwick Public Library, 95 Feeding Hills Rd, Southwick, MA
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.