MUS 210 class notes 1964-1975


Motown history

·         founded 1959 in Detroit

·         targets crossover

·         market –

·         commercial soul

·         moves to LA in 1973

·         collective effort of name performers, songwriters, producers and session musicians (Funk Brothers)


Motown Artists & Motown Success

·         Miracles, Four Tops, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Supremes, Jackson Five


Motown Sound

·         smoothed out rough edges of R&B (target white & black middle class market)

·         rich textures – melody & countermelodies; sustained chords; steady but gentle pulse with a clear backbeat; free, often intricate, bass (James Jamerson)

·         well-mixed recordings, with each layer at a different volume level, all subordinate to the the lead vocals

·         moderate tempos, around 100-120 beats per minute

·         moderate syncopation


Some examples

·         The Supremes, “Stop! In the Name of Love”, 1965 

·         Temptations, “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” 1971

·         Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” released 1968

·         Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?,” What’s Going On?, 1970 

The Beatles

Hard Day’s Night

Film, A Hard Day’s Night, 1964.  Comments in lecture based on A Hard Days Night, Stephen Glynn, Turner Classic Movies British Film Guide, I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2005, a short (102 pp.) guide to the film.


Consider the film a primary source for a historian.  Secondary sources are things like history books and textbooks that are about a subject.  Primary research materials include recordings of the music itself and artistic works such as the film, reviews, letters, and newspaper reporting contemporary with the event.  Other data would include things like financial and information.


Primary sources are often the nitty-gritty details of the subject.  For example, I met a historian who worked on tax records in France in the 1780s, the period just before the French Revolution.  This information gave them a detailed picture of income and income distribution.  And this gave him not just speculation but some interesting insight into why some revolutions happen.  And is that not interesting to everyone who wants social change?


Another aspect of the film is a chance to practice empathy and imagination.  What was it like for the people who first saw this film in 1964?  Practice empathy and imagination.


This film both documents and participates in manufacturing Beatlemania.  Real Beatlemania started occurring in England in the fall of 1963, and it hit America with the Beatles appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in January 1964.  The film was written in that period, and shooting started in March.  The film took about 10 weeks to complete, and was in theaters in the summer of 1964.


The screaming so vividly depicted in the film -- in fact it is the first sound one hears at the beginning of the film -- has some long-term consequences, as it was one of the reasons why the Beatles stopped performing live.  There was so much screaming in their concerts, they could not actually hear each other play.  This led them to focus on making albums in the recording studio, and that changed popular music forever.


The film is in many ways a critique of pop culture even as it itself is pop culture.  This is best seen in the scene with the fashion executive who talks about trends being scheduled to expire in three weeks, and so on.


In many ways, the Beatles were just as manufactured -- their haircuts and their Beatles suits were carefully chosen.  Before the suits and haircuts, they had the appearance of Liverpool toughs, with rock 'n roll leather jackets and blue jeans.  Prior to being cleaned up, their image was similar to the Rolling Stones, who'd definitely embraced the hard-edged image, in part as a way to differentiate themselves from the rival Beatles.


The film plays out many conflicts – one is the obvious generational conflict between old and young people.  There is also a strong element of class conflict as well as English North/South (London) rivalry.  The strongest note is the conflict with authority figures, whether they are the police or managers.  (Of course some of this was quite silly, such as the Beatles being "assigned homework" of answering their fan mail.)


The relationship with authority is translated it into the visual language of the film.  The camera is often at a low angle, so the ceiling is always captured, giving a confined, even claustrophobic feel to the film.  When the Beatles burst out and sing the song, it's the first time we see the sky and we feel the release.


The director, Richard Lester, worked in television comedy sketches before directing HDN, his first feature film.  The surrealism comes from that particular TV comedy experience and the British sense of humor in the late 50s and early 1960s.


In the age of the individual Beatles at the time of this film was

Lennon (1940-1980)  23

McCartney (1942) 21

Harrison (1943-2001) 20

Ringo Starr (1940) 23


What is the age of the characters in the film?  They are not the real Beatles of course, they are for carefree lads that are playing the Beatles.  In real life, for example, John Lennon was married.  The construction of the single and available Beatles is again part of the marketing and creation of a persona to fuel the fantasy of availability for all those screaming young female fans.


The ultimate comments on the manufactured nature of it all was the choice to do the film in black-and-white, just like press photographs and the inexpensively produced record album sleeves for the early Beatles albums.


Song analysis notes

 “A Hard Day’s Night” – what makes it rock?

Not blues, but blues elements.

 Interesting hybrid form combining a 12-bar AAB pattern with the more general AABA song form























4 bars












Harmony: Similar to blues; instead of using the I, IV & V chords, the closely related I, IV and bVII (“flat seven”) chords are used in the A section.  The very bluesy flatted seventh scale degree is prominently heard in the melody on the second syllable of “workin’” (“and I’ve been workin’ like a dog”).  (This is on the note F; the melody descends a triton to a B, also reinforcing the bluesy “dominant seventh” sonority.) 

The harmony in the B section is very much unlike the blues, featuring the use of the minor iii and vi chords . 

Text painting examples.  The second time the word “home” is used in the B section, the chord is the I chord (G) and sounds very much like the home chord (tonic), which it definitely is!  Another text painting example is the setting of the word “tight” on a high note that is apt to be produced with a sound of vocal strain or effort, and thus sound “tight.”  It is also on a note in the melody that clashes with the underlying chord (an A clashing against the Bb in a C7 chord). 

Other good comments in class concerned tempo (fast), rhythm (active, busy, dense; duple subdivision) and the variety of guitar sounds.

“If I fell”

The song’s seemingly simple harmony is actually complex, something to discover if you try to sing along with the introduction.  The harmonic complexity is not just there for its own sake; it is expressive text painting.  The opening chords sink chromatically (“fall”) and the surprising twists and turns of the harmony seem to reflect the hesitation of the prospective lover singing the lyrics.  Another nice text painting detail in the harmony is the shift from major to minor on the word “pain” in the B section.

The form is very simple: 8 bar introduction, then AABA, but with slightly irregular phrase lengths.  The A idea is basically 9 bars long, but has 1 extra bar at the end in the first statement.  At the end of the second statement of A, this extra bar is elided into the 7 bar B phrase. 

The texture of the two voices is distinctive.  The two voices, although nicely blending in terms of their timbre, are easily heard as two separate voices because they are widely spaced at times and at times move in contrary motion.  Solid technique!

After those early songs (1964), the Beatles encounter Dylan, the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds, drugs, and their own artistic growth in creating their Revolver album, including the song “Eleanor Rigby.”

Bob Dylan (official website)

Lyrics for The Times they are a Changin.  See Garofalo p. 178.

Lyrics for A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall


Folk music – non-commercial music of a cultural group – versus “folk music” a marketing category/musical genre of the late 1950s-1960s rooted in the folk music of Appalachia, the mountains in the eastern part of the US. 

“Folk music” genre traits

·         ACOUSTIC guitar, harmonica, string bass, banjo

·         Singable ‘sing-along’ melodies

o   Modest range, middle register

o   Simple harmony for support

o   Few leaps or gaps in the melody

o   Slow to moderate tempo

·         Form – repetitive, strophic

·         Lyrics –

o   often narrative (telling a story) (ballad)

o   often political


Pete Seeger, “Bring Them Home” 1969.  political sing-along


Notes on “Eleanor Rigby”


simple form:


intro phrase


verse 1


verse 2


return of intro phrase


verse 3



interpretation:  no bridge; Miss Rigby and Father McK don’t get out much; they certainly don’t travel far


simple, static harmony (just 2 closely related chords, not even tonic-dominant)

interpretation:  Miss Rigby and Father McK don’t get out much; they certainly don’t travel far


simple, square rhythm in the accompaniment. 

interpretation:  Miss Rigby and Father McK are square


small group of string instruments as only accompaniment – no typical rock/pop instruments.  chamber music feel from a double string quartet (4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos – a string quartet is 2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello) which notably does not include the lowest string instrument, the bass. 

interpretation:  not just “old” instruments, but old instruments in an old-fashioned, ‘classical’ texture = Miss Rigby and Father McK are old. 


unusual phrase length in the verse (5-bars)

interpretation:  there is something not right about this isolated, lonely life; there is something wrong with a society that lets people fall through the holes of the social net; the music is alienated from normal 4-bar phrases (which we get in the chorus)


syncopation in the melody – emphasizes key words in the lyrics;

interpretation:  as subtle as it is, this is a protest song (protesting the deadening effects of conventional society) and the melody – and The Beatles – resist those deadening effects


Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band

Powerpoint presentation in large pdf format (best for viewing on a computer) or pdf handout format (6 slides per page, best for printing, but the font on the lyrics is pretty small)

Supplemental Music examples for the discussion of The Beatles


Example of unusual phrase length

song title: KahaluNyuhe.  Performer: Joanne Shenandoah.  CD title: Matriarch -- Iroquois Women's Songs.  Native American music.  6 bar phrases and a 4 1/2 bar phrase in an AABA pattern.


Example of a multi-movement work

Beethoven Symphony No. 1 (Norrington conducting)


Indian music examples

George Harrison raga lesson with Ravi Shankar (YouTube)

Ravi Shankar audio lesson on raga, tala and the art music of India from The Sounds of India, an album released by Ravi Shankar in 1968. 


Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, youtube clip.


Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gesang der Jungliche, YouTube clip


David Meckler, Feb 2010

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