Songs and arrangements, 1

(Or maybe 15 or 20…it’s been a while.)

The songs I’ve kept–specifically, the 800-odd songs on my Sansa Fuze, chosen from my collection of a couple thousand–are there for various reasons, mostly pure pleasure.

That pleasure sometimes comes from the arrangements not just the songs. And sometimes what I believe to be the key theme of an arrangement…isn’t.

Two cases (only the second speaks to the paragraph just above):

I haven’t kept all that many old war protest songs, but I have kept Tom Paxton’s Lyndon Johnson Told The Nation. That’s partly because of the lyrics (the YouTube version I link to includes them; consider the wonderful chorus–“we’re sending 50,000 more to help save Vietnam from the Vietnamese”–but also the penultimate verse. Both say a lot about the Vietnam conflict.

But there’s another reason the song’s on my Fuze: It’s one of the few songs I have that uses a 12-string guitar in its orchestral/organ mode, the really mighty sound of a well-played 12-string acoustic. (Back in Berkeley, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, I knew of a local who played Great Gates of Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition on the 12-string–or maybe he played the whole suite. It was damned impressive.)

The second one’s entirely different: Uptown Girl by Billy Joel. That’s the one where what I always remember as the key element of the arrangement…really isn’t.

To wit–well, play the song. At 2;20 there’s a drum riff (two groups of three strikes). It’s repeated four times, I think.

My auditory memory tells me that the riff is used throughout the song.

It’s not: It’s only used during about 15 seconds near the end of the song.

[I always think of Uptown Girl as Joel's tribute to the Four Seasons, but I may have the wrong group in mind.*]

Then there’s the single passage in James Taylor’s Gaia that makes it almost a test record for one aspect of speakers and headphones…but that’s another post.


*Or not. According to Wikipedia, Billy Joel says the Four Seasons served as inspiration for the song.

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