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4.   Analytical Findings


4.5.3   Beat

The most common time signature was 4/4, used in 93 songs. ‘I Hope I Never’

and ‘Sensitive To A Smile’ were both analysed in 2/2 time, although this difference is somewhat trivial. Three ballads were written in compound time,

‘Oughta Be In Love’ in 12/8, and ‘Julia’ and ‘Not Given Lightly’ in 6/8 time.

Thus, there was an overwhelming preference for time signatures with two or four beats to the bar. Only ‘Andy’ and ‘Blue Smoke’ were in triple time.

These figures reflect the predominant time signature in each song. A number of songs had very brief changes in time. The most common changes were a single bar of 2/4 or 3/4 in 4/4 time. Good examples are the bridge of ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat’ and the opening verse of ‘I Got You’ which are fifteen and thirty beats long, respectively.

One can also note the introduction of ‘Dominion Road’; it is four bars of 4/4, but the harmonic rhythm is slightly skewed to give the impression of shorter bars. The first four bars read: I (4 beats) – bVII (2 beats) – IV (8 beats) – bVII (2 beats). The rhythm guitar accents the bVII chords on the final two crotchet beats of the fourth bar. This unusual pattern, compared to the expected ‘strong-weak’

50 Bowman, “The Stax Sound,” pp. 303-304.

51 Everett, The Foundations of Rock, pp. 318-321.

emphasis, further disorients the metre and undermines the 4/4 time signature.

McGlashan, however, pointed out that the kit remains firm in its 4/4 beat and, thus, any metre changes were unintended. He likened the effect to the title line of The Beatles’ ‘Any Time At All’; one could add the refrain of ‘I Fought The Law’ as another case of a ‘strong-strong’ stress on consecutive beats in a bar of 4/4.52 These examples are outlined below in Figures 4.6, 4.7 and 4.8.

Figure 4.6 Lead Guitar, 'Dominion Road,' Refrain

Figure 4.7 Vocal, 'Any Time At All,' Refrain

Figure 4.8 Vocal, 'I Fought The Law,' Refrain

These techniques are, therefore, conventional songwriting fare, either as a means of avoiding unnatural word setting or to provide greater rhythmic drive.

The truncated first bar of ‘I Got You’ works on both levels. The rigid guitar riff and drum beat necessitate a snappy lyric; a bar of 2/4 provides the solution in conjunction with a line that is only three syllables in length.

Despite the homogeneity of time signatures, there is some variation in the type of beat. 80 songs rely upon a straight-eight beat with alternate kick-snare

crotchets supplemented by even quavers on the hi-hat or cymbal. This normative pattern crosses stylistic boundaries, including ‘Victoria,’ ‘I See Red,’ ‘French Letter,’ ‘Loyal’ and ‘System Virtue,’ although subtle variations are heard in different songs. The songs in compound time have the same drum pattern but with each crotchet divided into three quavers. ‘Andy’ uses a much sparser

52 Everett cites Bobby Fuller; The Clash’s remake further emphasises this metrical feature. Ibid., 315.

percussion section and does not have a drum beat, per se, but the cymbal pattern breaks each crotchet into two quavers.

The remaining songs have a swing or shuffle beat of some kind. The first group use a standard shuffle beat in which quavers are swung in triplet rhythm as long-short. Often the drums emphasize only the kick and snare on each crotchet; the swinging quavers are then added by the rhythm guitar, keyboards or vocal, as in

‘There Is No Depression In New Zealand,’ ‘Forever Tuesday Morning’ and ‘I’ll Say Goodbye,’ respectively. That said, in each of these songs, drum fills on the toms highlight the triplets at the ends of phrases.

In line with the conventional swing beat, there is an implicit drive towards the first and third beats in each bar, by presenting quavers only on beats two and four. This is heard in the chorus vocal of ‘I’ll Say Goodbye’ and in the bass line of ‘Cheryl Moana Marie.’ ‘Counting The Beat’ relies in part on this technique, as is evident in the electric guitar’s four-bar introduction. The song’s energy, however, stems from the slight variation of this pattern in the bass guitar.

The bass riff works in two-bar phrases. The bass guitar, generally, outlines crotchets for the first six crotchet beats, although sometimes swung quaver are added to the second beat of the first bar. The third and fourth beats of the second bar are then divided into swung quavers, generating extra momentum towards the next phrase. This pattern is subverted in the second verse, when the vocal

“oohs” (instead of lyrics), have swung quavers on beat three, leading to beat four; by comparison, the lead guitar swings, first, quavers on beat three, then, beats three and four, and finally, on each beat throughout the bar. The drums continuously alternate between kick and open hi-hat on beats one and three, providing a solid foundation for the dynamic patterns above.

The final group of songs has a half-time shuffle beat, a groove that requires some explanation. In a conventional bar of 4/4, the kick and snare play on alternate crotchet beats, with the hi-hat on even quavers. In half-time, this pattern is extended over two bars; thus, the ‘backbeat’ on the snare moves to crotchet beats three and seven of the two bars. Crucially, half-time does not

142 slow down the tempo, but gives the impression of a slower tempo because the kick and snare beats are temporally spaced further apart. A good example is the beginning of the chorus in The Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’; the vocal rhythms remain the same, indicating no tempo change, however, Starr’s drumming pattern is halved in time, which affects the song’s rhythmic feel.

This time pattern relies on changes within a song. By comparison, the half-time shuffle is often used as a standalone beat, notwithstanding songs such as Def Leppard’s ‘Rocket’ or The Beatles’ ‘Martha My Dear’ and ‘Something.’

The same principles are at work — the snare backbeat is heard on beat three of each 4/4 bar, with the crotchets now divided into triplet quavers. This basic pattern is the foundation for the grooves famously employed by Bernard Purdie, John Bonham and Jeff Porcaro on ‘Babylon Sisters,’ ‘Fool In The Rain’ and

‘Rosanna,’ respectively. In these songs, the busy instrumental and vocal lines intimate a moderate-fast, not slow tempo, as would be derived from the kick-snare beats. Thus, ‘Fool In The Rain’ falls around 130 bpm, ‘Rosanna’ around 170 bpm.

Ultimately, the tempo marking and notated divisions are immaterial; the half-time shuffle can sound like a slow 4/4 beat with even quavers but triplet

semiquavers. Figures 4.9 and 4.10 demonstrate this point. The triplets are on the hi-hat; the kick drum is the bottom space on the stave, the snare is on the middle space.

Figure 4.9 Half-Time Shuffle Single Bar

Figure 4.10 Half-Time Shuffle Two Bars

At a tempo half as fast, the drum pattern in Figure 4.9 sounds identical to that in Figure 4.10. The beat divisions, as outlined in Figure 4.9, are best heard in Jimi

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Hendrix’s version of ‘Hey Joe’ — the kick and snare beats sound slow, although the bass guitar plays fast crotchets after the solo (ca. 2’45”) and the tom-tom fills at the end of each verse are often played in triplets. The most important feature is that the time between the downbeat and backbeat, as heard on the kick and snare, is divided into two and then further into three equal parts; thus, one can count six triplets between the kick and snare.

The term “half-time shuffle” refers, here, to this particular division of the beat, which, in the case of Nature’s Best, is present in ten songs. Of the ten songs,

‘Can’t Get Enough’ is arguably closest to the classic “Purdie shuffle,” which is not surprising given the influence this beat had on later funk and hip-hop music.53 At the fast tempo, the drum line is quite sparse. It relies mainly on the kick and snare with hi-hats fractionally behind the beat hinting at triplets; the stronger triplet groove is achieved by the horns and rhythm guitar. In the hip-hop genre, ‘Screems From Tha Old Plantation’ and ‘Chains’ have a related beat.

‘Pacifier’ is similar in that the triplet groove is rather explicit in the guitar riff and the double kick drum pattern — each downbeat is preceded by a kick on the third triplet. As per above, it does not matter whether ‘Pacifier’ is 120 bpm or 60 bpm, however, the latter seems more appropriate. The hi-hat plays repeatedly in the guise of straight quavers; similarly, the distorted guitars and elongated vocal delivery gives the impression of a slow tempo. ‘Suddenly Strange’ also

incorporates a double kick as the song progresses to add a little swing.

The remaining songs have a much more subtle semiquaver shuffle. All are underpinned by a 4/4 beat with even quavers, as typified by ‘In The

Neighbourhood.’ The semiquaver shuffle is not clearly delineated, but rather implied from one part. In ‘Renegade Fighter,’ for example, the hi-hat is struck on each quaver offbeat. It is hit open and then shut to cut the sound. It is closed just before the subsequent crotchet beat. This rhythm is not as rigid as a dotted rhythm, and suggests a light semiquaver swing. One can identify this rhythmic

53 See Jim Payne, 100 Famous Funk Beats (New York: Face the Music Productions, 2006).

feature in the acoustic guitar of ‘In The Neighbourhood’ and the vocal of ‘Four Seasons In One Day.’

This is only a brief introduction to the rhythmic foundations of Nature’s Best songs. Overall, however, the drum patterns are relatively standard within popular music conventions and there is almost no recourse to complex time signatures. More analysis could consider the different drum patterns used within the larger subsets; this would distinguish between, say, the metal patterns of Shihad’s ‘Bitter’ and the Latin-infused beat of Shona Laing’s ‘Mercy Of Love.’

Further analysis could also employ computer programmes to break down the beats into minute segments; one could then analyse in detail particular beats, such as the more intricate shuffles. It would be highly beneficial to move from accurate but interpretative descriptions, as has been done above, to precise measurements that explain exactly how a groove is constructed.