Rock & Pop Critiques For Geeks

“I have no idea what aeolian cadences are........they sound like exotic birds”    John Lennon


And, as we look for a possible inspiration for Not A Second Time’s ambitious climax, is it just a coincidence that Cathy’s defining D-Em drop occurs on the word “time”?

Whatever its origins, it seems we have found Mann’s Aeolian cadence without too much trouble. But if you really want to get to grips fully with the various challenging nuances of the original Times reference there are several loose ends to tie up, starting with Mann’s very particular choice of words.

Why, indeed, The Aeolian terminology? Click here to continue the quest........


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BLOG 2 :    Found! The Beatles’ elusive Aeolian cadence

“…so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of “Not a second time” (the chord progression which ends Mahler's Song of the Earth).”  - William Mann on The Beatles

Checkout, too, the pivotal chord change in The Everly Brothers’ Cathy’s Clown, on the crucial mood-changing line “I die each time......”

OK, so it’s not in an ‘end-of-phrase’ cadential capacity but, nevertheless, it’s a powerful V-vi plunge which The Beatles would undoubtedly have appreciated - as they covered the song in their sets for three years after its 1960 release.

While the text and background of Mann’s article are dealt with elsewhere, this page cuts to the chase and attempts purely to find and decipher the highlight of Mann’s many Beatles musings: the Aeolian cadence. Let’s preface it it by saying that we’ll never quite know for sure what Mann meant - and there are plenty of points for debate which we’ll address in later columns. But, for what it’s worth, here is our theory as to the nature of the beast.

To solve the mystery, simply cue up track 13 of With The Beatles, and listen out for that moody musical moment that concludes the B section of Not A Second Time - that’s the bridge or, more accurately, the refrain that marks “the end” of the song’s main A-B form (if not quite the end of the whole song, as some may understandably assume).

As captured on the audio clip, this is heard first at 0.42, then at 1.01 (ending the piano solo) and finally at 1.47, immediately preceding the fading coda.

    Resolution of leading tone (F# to G) thwarted in favour of a plunge to E

Dominant D7 resolves to Em instead of the expected G tonic

So just what is happening at this brief but poignantly plunging moment?

Specifically, the effect is down to the sudden appearance of a dark E minor chord in the harmony when we were expecting our familiar ‘home’ tonic chord of G major. This Em chord supports a similarly ominous E note in the melody (on the word “time”) when the ear would have subconsciously expected a less challenging G note, again representing the stable ‘home tone’ of our parent major scale in the key of G.

Yes, we’ve heard an Em in the song before (in both the verse and the bridge) but not at what is the climax in terms of both the form and the lyrical theme. Here we would normally expect a Perfect cadence, with a D7 chord (the dominant in the key of G) cadencing to (or resolving to) G major - just as it does at the end of every seven-bar verse (first at 0.13).

With apologies to Lennon/McCartney, this is what the same moment might have sounded like if they had gone for the predictable ‘perfect’ resolution of a ‘typical’ songwriter

Not A Second Time........with a Perfect Cadence instead

Dominant D7 resolves V-I to the expected G major chord

Leading tone (F#) resolves conventionally to G tonic

However, in replacing this expected closing G with its relative minor, E minor, John Lennon has performed an ambitious sleight-of-hand, the musical equivalent of dealing us a card from the bottom of the deck. Our cosy G major has gone AWOL in a moment that epitomises the notion of musical ‘surprise’, as if the rug has being pulled from under our feet.

What we have here is what most music writers - both then and now - would call a Deceptive or Interrupted cadence, defined as a dominant chord (like the D7 here) that resolves - at pivotal point in the song structure - to a chord other than the expected tonic chord of the key. Hence the formula for the Deceptive cadence in this example is captured as V-vi (D7-Em), and in bold defiance of the expected Perfect cadence V-I (D7-G).

Back in the early 1960s, the vi chord was usually used only as a gentle ‘colouring’ of the tonic harmony - as in, say, the common I-vi-IV-V progression that marked the first tentative departures from the Three Chord Trick songs built on just I, IV and V.

But a Deceptive cadence that delivers an unexpected relative minor instead of a tonic was quite a novelty. Nevertheless, the Beatles would have heard its poignant melancholic power in select songs like the Everly Brothers’ Crying In The Rain. They even tried it for themselves in their early covers of The Sheik Of Araby (Anthology 1) and The Honeymoon Song (Live At The BBC) [the latter is, strictly speaking, a ii-vi rather than a V-vi, but the principle of ‘cadential deception by a subversive submediant that twarts a resolution to tonic’ is the same.

Listen to the cued clips and check the crucial chord change (depicted by the broken lines) in my summary analysis.

             Deceptive/Aeolian cadences......some early Beatles inspirations?

   “ ...crying in the rain..”                

A---------------------Bm A Bm  

V----------------------vi   V vi                       

“...Sheik of Ara----by......”

         D7       G---Am    G

         II7        V----vi      V        

“to each other by love...”



Crying In The Rain

The Everly Brothers

The Sheik Of Araby

     The Beatles

The Honeymoon Song

        The Beatles