Chain Reaction

So operation BeeGee is in full flow. Theme Night #25 is less than a week away and the performers are getting stuck into learning and preparing for the show.

The more we all get into the stuff, the more we realise how sophisticated these guys were as songwriters. I thought I’d write today about a few things I have noticed…

  1. Odd meters: As their career moved on and their writing developed, they weren’t afraid to include bars with unusual number of beats. Their early stuff is almost all written in 4, but later songs written for others such as Guilty, Heartbreaker and Immortality to name a few are tricky to navigate with bars of 2, 3, 5 and 6 dotted throughout.
  2. Chord progressions: They are big fans of starting a verse with the 1 chord followed the 3minor chord. First of May, I Started a Joke, How Deep is Your Love, You Win Again, Too Much Heaven are all examples of this.
  3. Instrumentation: While strings are used regularly in their music, their use of horns was far more sparing.
  4. Key changes: They use them brilliantly throughout their music. There are the classic, widely-used lifts at the end of a song – You Win Again goes up a semitone and Heartbreaker goes up a tone for example, but their use of the key change isn’t limited to this by any means. I love the drop from C to Ab for the second verse in Islands in the Stream, and best of all are the key changes at the start and end of the second verse in Guilty – so well disguised!

Finally, as was common at the time, many of the songs fade out at the end so we have to come up with our own live endings. The hardest one was Chain Reaction – what a great song first of all, but if you think of what a Chain Reaction is – it’s when one thing leads to another, and then another…and then another, with no fixed ending. And the song is just like this. Very difficult to end as one section seems to lead back to another, and then another, and you’re stuck in this loop. So clever.

Here’s a short snippet of our rehearsal for this number today. Featuring Emily Meades.