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Sebastian: Opening chord30 Jun 2006 05:32

I got interested in the deal with the first chord of every song and run briefly through the discography. Some conclusions:

- Most of the songs obviously start off on the tonic. That includes virtually every track from Races to Hot Space with the only exceptions of Seven Days (V) and Put Out The Fire (IV)

- The riskiest album in that aspect is of course A Night At The Opera: Seven songs out of eleven they wrote don't start on the tonic (or its relative): '39 & Good Company (subdominant), I'm In Love With My Car (dominant of relative), Sweet Lady, Love Of My Life and Seaside Rendezvous (dominant), Death On Two Legs (relative of subdominant). Talk about Sgt Pepper's influence...

- Liar and Ogre Battle they both begin on the 'ii' function. No wonder they were both written on guitar and averagely at the same time. It's A Hard Life (composed more than a decade later) also begins in 'ii'.

- Brian's Put Out The Fire begins in the subdominant as well as John's Break Free

- There are several numbers beginning on the dominant: Someday One Day, Brighton Rock, Sweet Lady, Black Queen, Seaside Rendezvous, In Only Seven Days, Ride The Wild Wind.

- Death On Two Legs begins on Ebm while the key is (imo) Db/Bbm. Not a very unusual chord then, and it corresponds to Fred's use of the 'ii' function before.

- Three unusual starting chords have been found so far: The Hitman begins in the key of F#m but the opening chord is Am7, Princes Of The Universe begins on the V-of-V function (like Sgt Pepper's) and Lap Of The Gods begins in biii of Dm (or something like that).

Speaking about Sgt Pepper's, note a similitude with '39:

Sgt Peppers: | A | A | C | G  |
'39:         | A | A | C |f# C|

It's a small world :)

1.PD 30 Jun 2006 13:26

- That includes virtually every track from Races to Hot Space
A very interestesting observation

- Sweet Lady,
From the top of my head it does start on tonic.

- Liar and Ogre Battle they both begin on the 'ii' function.
"Pain...Pleasure" too. But wait a minut!
Liar starts on A..., it may modulate to G.
Battle: how exactly?

- John's Break Free
you mean the single version...

> Death On Two Legs begins on Ebm while the key is (imo) Db/Bbm.
That intro is very non-functional thus I would not interpret the intro chord
in contect of the later parts of the song.

Sgt Peppers: | A | A | C | G  | -
'39:         | A | A | C |f# C|

I > bIII > vi > bIII for '39 - bridge
II > IV > I          for pepper intro

not very similar. The A to C progression in this particular harmonic rhythm must be something more common(?).

2.Bohardy 01 Jul 2006 02:01
Just to confirm some of PD's corrections and a add a few of my own...

- The fact that '39 starts on the subdominant is merely 'coincidence', given that the initial C is  just one of a stream of deliberately obtuse and unexpected chords found in the middle-section. It obviously isn't functioning as a subdominant in that context.

- Sweet Lady definitely starts on the tonic.

- Surely Death On Two Legs starts on the relative minor of the dominant? And of course I agree with PD about it's function here; c.f the C in '39.

- Liar starts in A and is mainly in D, so no ii chord here.

- I can see where you're coming from saying Ogre Battle starts with a ii, but in the context of the chorus you could also say it starts on the tonic.

- Someday One Day starts on the tonic.

- There's no way that Brighton Rock starts on the dominant. The first chord is not really definable in any kind of harmonic context, and the first discernible chord is a C#. The song's not in F#, so I fail to see where the dominant is.

- Ride The Wild Wind starts on a C doesn't it? That doesn't feel like a dominant to me. Perhaps the dominant of the relative major, or the tonic itself, but I wouldn't class it as a dominant.

- Princes Of The Universe starts with a D/E kind of chord. If this was a V-of-V that would place the song as being in D or C, depending on your interpretation. The song to me has many key-centres, none of which are really C or D, so again I fail to see where you're coming from with this one.

- I don't see any interesting similarity between the section of '39 you mention and the section in Sgt Pepper. Sorry.

But Seb, despite my pedantry and nitpicking, I applaud your research and effort once again. It's a nice area of investigation, and it's thrown up some interesting points. :)

(Denes: I know I owe you a reply to your email. Please bear with me...).
3.Sebastian 01 Jul 2006 05:08

Sweet Lady: yes, I was wrong about it. Since the first chord progression is E > D > A, I thought it was sort of V > IV > I (like in Don't Try So Hard), but indeed the pre-chorus makes it clear that E is the tonic and that the verse is I > bVII > IV.

Liar: Yes it's D (the key), so I was wrong again :)

Ogre Battle: The song seems to swerve from G to Am (or C) a lot, but imo it's G Major during the first part (including the intro). Of course I'm counting the "opening chord" as the first one played in the riff (omitting the backwards outro).

Break Free: Yes, I forgot about the album version.

'39: I actually interpret it as being all the time on G Major, with some deliberately and strategically placed alien chords, most of them imported from the parallel key (other examples: White Queen, Why Don't We Try Again, Scandal). Especially the end-of-phrase on VI chord, I see it as a nice Brian-esque detail, and it's actually much more interesting than the Sgt Pepper's point now that I think of it:

'39 (intro):                       | C    | -    | Am    | E   |
Father to Son (verse-last part):   | C    | D    | G  Bm | E   |
White Queen (last solo):           | C  G | F  C | Bb    | E   |

Death On Two Legs: Similarly to 'My Fairy King', the intro probably starts off in a different key to the rest of the song. In fact DOTL uses several unusual pitch-sets all throughout. Well not quite, but for some extent (foreshadowing Slightly Mad). In my opinion it begins in Db (ii > V > I > iii) before going somewhere else and finally setting on B(h)m.

Someday One Day: I'll double-check

Brighton Rock: You're right about the key.

Ride The Wild Wind: It does start off in C. Isn't F the key? For what it's worth, perhaps I'm confusing it with one of Roger's solo numbers...

Princes: The intro seems to resolve in C to me, even after some disorienting chords put there (see my '39 comment).

"Pedantry and nitpicking": There's no offence taken, and I don't see those comments as such. I appreciate that you point out whatever you may find inaccurate. It's always easier to detect mistakes from the outside, plus I've surely learnt a lot from this forum and I see this research approach as a healthy vice. At least it's better than smoking or drinking ;)

Thanks to both of you. I'll correct my points asap.

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