Many people have asked me about the band Cheap Trick, and they are mildly shocked when I say I'm not at all familiar. “They're so similar to The Beatles,” they enthuse, “you'd love them!” So the other day I listened to their self-titled 1977 debut album. And indeed they are similar to The Beatles! With this post, I'm launching a blog series on the comparison, starting with 'Mandocello', the ninth track of Cheap Trick.
Here's a structural analysis and transcription:
0:00 Instrumental Intro
0:21 Riff and groove established
0:31 Verse 1 ("I can hear you laughing")
0:48 Verse 2 ("I will never leave you")
1:05 Instrumental Break
1:19 Verse 3 ("the thoughts you're thinking")
1:37 Verse 4 ("I can see you crying")
1:53 Abbreviated Instrumental Break
2:02 Bridge ("Look at me")
2:39 Abbreviated Verse 5 ("I can hear you thinking")
2:52 Verse 6 ("I'm the dream you're dreaming")
3:09 Terminus ("We can go down slowly")
3:37 Guitar Solo
3:47 Concluding Instrumental Verse
4:14 Instrumental Coda
The first similarity I hear to a Beatles song is in the intro (and coda), where a C major chord (shown in red in the graphic below) moves to a CMM7 (shown in blue).
This progression is heard four times in 'Mandocello' - twice during the intro and twice more during the coda. It's a pattern that has been used many times in other songs, including in the verses of George Harrison's 'Something'.
Second, there is another similarity to 'Something': The first instrumental break of 'Mandocello' incorporates the peculiar progression Eb-G-C (bIII-V-I in C major), which is nearly identical to the famous opening riff in 'Something'.
Third and most significantly, each verse of 'Mandocello' features a syncopated 5/4 bar (transformed into a 12/8 bar during the instrumental concluding verse) with a descending bass pattern and arpeggios...
...which bears a striking resemblance to Harrison's other song on Abbey Road, 'Here Comes the Sun'.
Fourth and least significantly, the bridge of 'Mandocello' opens with the lyrics "look at me", which, coincidentally or otherwise, is also the title of a John Lennon song written in 1968 but not released until 1970 on his debut solo album John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.
The similarities, though modest, are still present - similar melodic contours and lyrical content.
Given how familiar Cheap Trick was with The Beatles' output, it seems too close to be coincidence. I'm guessing this is conscious on Cheap Trick's part.
Fifth and lastly, this "look at me" bridge employs progressive extended tertian vocal harmonies. The first phrase extends only to the 3rd and 5th; the second and third phrases extend to the 7th and 9th; and the fourth and climactic phrase of the section extends to the 11th and 13th.
While not common, extended tertian vocal harmonies are significant in Beatles music, too. A good example can be heard in their 1965 song 'Ticket to Ride', which similarly builds up to a 7th and 9th above the root.
So there are my thoughts on Cheap Trick's 'Mandocello'. I look forward to writing additional blogs comparing and contrasting with The Beatles as I listen through Cheap Trick's catalog.
Aaron Krerowicz, pop music scholar
An informal but highly analytic study of popular music.