Saturday, February 13, 2010

PMCPP PRESENTS: Fool on the Hill

PMCPP Analysis #20
Key: D Major... and Minor
Rhythm: Chunk

I've never really been a fan of this song in ANY sense, in fact Magical Mystery Tour is probably my least favorite Beatles album. Being my least favorite Beatles album isn't exactly what I'd call a tough break since I love all the Beatles output so much, but the point stands! Frankly I'm just amazed I hadn't done this one yet!

THE PIANO: This is a bread-and-butter example of your usual McCartney piano song with one particular difference; he's using that sustain pedal this time! True to form, he doesn't know when to let up with it and has it held down for just about 100% of the song. Strangely though, the piano seems to randomly have jutted ends between chords even though the chords themselves are flowing quite nicely. Almost sounds like he recorded one chord, stopped, took a break and a cup of tea (or a joint, considering the point of Beatledom this was written in) and then recorded another chord. At the end, copy paste!

This song is engineered almost to be easy to play on piano chord-wise. True, it's in the key of D, with 2 frightening sharps to contend with. But almost half of the verse takes place on an Em chord, not only a lazy 1 step away from the root D, but also consisting of no sharps at all! Just about the only bit of interest in this song is the inflections he's stuck onto the chords, with the D chord getting an added 6th and the Em chord getting it's usual minor 7th attached to it. Naturally, he plays every chord in an inversion that makes all the notes just that much closer together, with the Em chord anchored on the D in the right hand right after playing the D6 chord on the D as well. And did I mention this entire thing is on a pedal of D in the bass? A couple of more interesting chords (A7 and Bm7 to be precise) appear, but only for 1 measure a piece.

The chorus uses the classic old time strategy of switching the key to the parallel minor to add interest or in Paul's case, shift from 2 accidentals to 1! Similar to the chorus, this is nothing but 4-on-the-floor smashing of a D minor chord, occasionally adding an augmented 5th to the mix, but not for more than 1.5 measures of the whole thing. And to avoid playing anything difficult in the vein of that +5, he skips straight to a C chord the only spot in that chorus he doesn't have it on the D. And once again, almost all of this takes place over a repeating D in the bass. The difference? He was using tied whole notes in the verse, he just lets loose in the chorus... with half notes. THE MAN IS CRAZY I TELL YA!

LAZINESS IN SONGWRITING: The major/minor switch is something the Beatles did quite often in their songs, but it was mostly a gambit used early on when they were still experimenting around with their style, like in And I Love Her. Even then, it was mostly used for flavor, to give songs an ambiguous 'what's the key here?' feeling to them. But they stopped using it by the time they had reached this point in their careers... except Paulie-o of course! It's quite a cheap gambit to add flavor to what would probably have been an incredibly repetitive song otherwise. Look at the form! It's basically the old folk cliche of Verse-Chorus ad nausem with a solo stuck in there.

And a gang of flutes + a piano isn't exactly what I'd call a rockin' song, poor Ringo was almost left out of this one minus some incredibly light cymbal work. I imagine this was yet another of Paulie's "I'm going to record everything on this track I possibly can, like it or not" tracks.

WHY PAUL GOT AWAY WITH IT: Everyone was pretty high on acid at the time this was released.


This series and blog is totally tongue in cheek. I really do love Paul McCartney.