While driving past New York City out to New England for October's lecture tour (30 speaking engagements in the next 27 days!), I listened to John Lennon's 1972 Some Time In New York City. In my opinion, it's the worst album Lennon ever released! While I appreciate the feminist philosophy behind songs like 'Woman is the Nigger of the World' and 'Sisters, O Sisters', they're musically and artistically abysmal.
But I also appreciated that the choruses of 'Attica State' used a particular chord progression that might be called a "flat mediant plagal cadence" because the plagal motion (IV-I) is preceded by a flat mediant (bIII), making the complete cadence bIII-IV-I.
It's one of the cliches of pop music that is extremely rare in classical contexts. The Beatles, for example, would use the same progression in twelve different tracks. I associate it most with the choruses of both title tracks of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), arguably the band's best album.
But they first used it in 1965's 'The Night Before' to connect verses (counting the solo as a verse iteration)...
... and 'The Word', recorded about eight months after 'The Night Before':
Since 'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967) is in many ways a sequel to 'Sgt. Pepper's', it should come as no surprise that this flat mediant plagal cadence returns throughout the MMT verses.
'Helter Skelter' (1968) uses flat mediant plagals at the end of each verse...
... as does 'Mother Nature's Son' ...
... and 'Back in the USSR', all from the same year.
The Beatles also chose to conclude The Abbey Road Medley (1969) with perhaps the most obvious or important flat mediant plagal cadence they ever used, at the very end of 'The End':
So far, all of these are Paul songs. But there is one John song that uses flat mediant plagals: 'I Am the Walrus' (1967).
And there are two George Harrison songs: 'Think For Yourself' (1965) ...
... and 'Only A Northern Song' (1967).
Of course, The Beatles are not the only band to use this progression. I vividly recall the first time I became consciously aware of this progression in Fatboy Slim's 1998 mega-hit 'The Rockafeller Skank':
Shortly before that, Savage Garden used it in the choruses of their own mega-hit 'I Want You' (1996):
And 'You Oughta Know' from Alanis Morisette's 1995 album Jagged Little Pill uses it, too:
More recently, in 2011, Parachute released 'Something To Believe In':
Indeed there are a great many more songs that use this progression - far too many to create an exhaustive list here.
Meanwhile, the tour proper begins tomorrow. And what better place to speak about John F. Kennedy than in his home state of Massachusetts?:
Monday, 3 October 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Wilbraham Public Library, 25 Crane Park Dr, Wilbraham, MA
From the Shadow of JFK: The Rise of Beatlemania in America
Many Beatles authors have cited John F. Kennedy's assassination on 22 November 1963 as a cause of the Beatles' sudden popularity in the United States in early 1964. Their logic: Kennedy's assassination made America sad, then the Beatles made America happy again. But this commonly accepted answer is overly simplistic. The real answer is that Kennedy's life and death inadvertently primed the nation for the Beatles' arrival and success. This 60-minute program will explain how and why.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.