Yesterday, while driving from Kansas City, MO to Springfield, MO, I listened to James Taylor's sophomore album Sweet Baby James. The title song struck me as particularly noteworthy, and so after listening to the entire album straight through I returned to that track to listen a dozen more times. While the lyrics and harmonies are quite conventional (and pleasant), the structure and rhythms caught my ear.
Structurally, it involves two distinct verses (Verse A and Verse B). That's somewhat rare, as it's far more common for songs to employ a single verse. These two verses are followed by a chorus, and the entire song so far is repeated (sans intro) to create the whole.
0:00-0:05 Introduction (4)
0:05-0:31 (A) Verse A1 (5+5+4+7)
0:31-0:59 (B) Verse B2 (4+4+4+4+6)
0:59-1:25 (C) Chorus 1 (4+4+4+4+4)
1:25-1:51 (A) Verse A2 (5+5+4+7)
1:51-2:19 (B) Verse B2 (4+4+4+4+6)
2:19-2:49 (C) Chorus 2 (4+4+4+4+4)
The total form, then, is ABC|ABC, or ABC x2, which can be classified as a "compound simple" structure.
As a side note, The Beatles never used this exact structure, though a few songs are similar:
'It Won't Be Long': ABC|ABC|AB
'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds': ABC|ABC|ACC
'You Never Give Me Your Money': ABC
'Maxwell's Silver Hammer': ABC|ABCC|ABCC
'The End': ABC
Rhythmically, the song is a standard waltz, in 3/4 meter (q = ca. 140). But in highly unusual fashion, each section plays with hyper meter - the grouping of individual measures to create large-scale compound rhythmic groupings. This will be observed and analyzed below on a section-by-section basis.
The A verses are a standard four phrases, but in an unusual 21 measures which can be divided into the highly unusual 5+5+4+7 (shown below as a graphic, rather than as text, to preserve the formatting):
Where verse A features a standard number of phrases but in unusual phrase lengths, verse B is the opposite - an unusual five-phrase section but in standard phrase lengths (4+4+4+4+6):
More like verse B than verse A, the chorus also features an unusual five phrases but in standard four-measure segments (4+4+4+4+4):
The finished song nicely balances the conventional with the unusual.
The tour continues tomorrow with another round of "Band of the Sixties":
Tuesday, 13 September 2016, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Christian County Library Central Library, 1005 N 4th Ave, Ozark, MO
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.
As a preview for the program (and one somewhat related to the metric analysis of 'Sweet Baby James' above), here's a BEATLES MINUTE analyzing meter in 'Here Comes The Sun':
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.