Choruses are defined by three primary elements: 1) repeated lyrics, 2) high energy, and 3) thick texture. These three factors all contrast verses, which typically use different lyrics with each iteration, are comparatively less energetic, and usually feature a thinner texture.
Take 'Yellow Submarine', for example.
1) repeated lyrics
Each of the four verses of 'Submarine' implement the same music but different lyrics.
Verse 1: "In the town where I was born..."
Verse 2: "So we sailed unto the sun..."
Verse 3: "And our friends are all aboard...."
Verse 4: "As we live a life of ease..."
But the choruses feature both the same music and the same lyrics:
Choruses 1, 2, and 3: "We all live in a yellow submarine...."
2) high energy
The choruses, in comparison to the verses, elevate the energy levels. That's not to say that verses are - or have to be - low in energy, but typically they are lower in energy. And that distinction is easily discernible listening to 'Yellow Submarine'.
3) thicker texture
Ringo sings the verses by himself, but he's joined by many more voices in each of the choruses. This helps provide the "thicker texture" characteristic of choruses.
Those three factors are the primary distinguishing factors when interpreting any given section as a chorus. Of course, there is some ambiguity when it comes to distinguishing choruses from refrains, which also employ the same lyrics on each iteration. But refrains are dependent on the verse, whereas choruses are independent of the verse. In other words, you can't have a refrain all by itself but it's common to find a chorus all by its lonesome For more consideration on the sometimes difficult decision, see my blog Ambiguity in 'The Fool on the Hill'.
With those factors in mind, 66 (31.3%) of The Beatles' 211 tracks use at least one chorus. And those 66 songs use their choruses in a number of different ways.
4 (6.1%) of those 66 are based on the verse, meaning the verse and chorus are strongly related (same pacing, same harmonies) even though the choruses are clearly distinct from the verses.
14 (21.2%) of Beatles choruses are "faulty bridges" (John Covach's words, not mine) in deceptive AABA forms. The Beatles looooved AABA form, using it in 57% of their songs. For those not already familiar with AABA structure, the BEATLES MINUTE video below explains it, using 'Please Please Me' as an example.
But AABA designs require a bridge. And several songs, though literally AABAs, don't function as such because the B section is a chorus instead of a bridge. These are called "deceptive AABA" structures.
A song's structure typically begins with the first verse. Anything prior to that first verse can be thought of as introductory. Choruses, being high-energy and catchy by nature, often make ideal introductions because they quickly hook a listener's attention. 19 (27.8%) Beatles songs use an introductory chorus:
Similarly, though more ambiguously, choruses can also be used at the ends of songs. Concluding choruses are iterations of the chorus, but are somehow altered to propel the song to its conclusion. This is often a repetition of the final phrase (such as "And with a love that like, you know you should be glad" in 'She Loves You'), or a fade out (example: 'I'm Down'), or occasionally a combination of the two (see 'Little Child'). 33 (50.0%) of songs use a concluding chorus:
Almost all (52 - 78.8%) Beatles songs to use choruses use them as part of a compound module, meaning that the chorus combines with another section (almost always a verse) to create a module that is then repeated (sometimes partially, though usually in full) throughout the song.
Lastly, 6 (9.1%) Beatles songs use the chorus in unique ways, and will therefore be considered individually.
It is tempting to call the first chorus an "introductory chorus" because it precedes the first verse. But, highly unusual, in this case the structure begins with the that first chorus and not with the first verse.
The fifth and final chorus, on the other hand, is clearly a concluding chorus.
'Slumbers' is also the only Beatles song to use a "chorus + refrain". A refrain typically cannot appear in a chorus because there's no way to discern the "chorus proper" from the refrain. In 'Golden Slumbers', however, the reprise of the refrain found in the verses makes that distinction.
Careful readers might notice that, unlike other Formal Level sections, choruses are typically used in more ways than one within a single song. In fact, only 15 (22.7%) of the 66 tracks listed above use the chorus in one way only:
The remaining 51 (77.3%) use choruses in multiple ways. For example, the four choruses of 'Can't Buy Me Love' are used in four different ways: the first is an introductory chorus, the second is a "faulty bridge" as part of a deceptive AABA, the fourth is a concluding chorus, and the second through fourth are all part of compound modules.
Sooooo, The Beatles' use of choruses is widely varied and at times convoluted. And this is complexity is compounded by the fact that so many songs use choruses in multiple ways within the same song.
Tomorrow is the first of four double bookings over the next week.
Monday, 17 October 2016, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Beverly Public Library, 32 Essex St, Beverly, MA
Shadow Ball: A History of The Negro Leagues
When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball on 15 April 1947, it marked one of the sport's greatest historical moments. But it also served as the beginning of the end for the Negro Leagues. This 60-minute multimedia presentation will observe and discuss the rise and fall of Negro League baseball.
Monday, 17 October 2016, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Topsfield Town Library, 1 S Common St, Topsfield, 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.
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This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.