Monday, August 2, 2010

Ellie Pop - "Can't Be Love" (1968)

Really remarkable Beatles-influenced song. The intro is in A major, but there's a quick interruption after only three bars. An abrupt shift in tonality occurs here, too, as the verse begins on a B major chord (sounding like the tonic), then moves to F# major (V), but only for an irregular bar of two beats. Next is a bar of G major, which could be a bVI chord in the key of B, but is instead used as a pivot, turning out to be a IV chord in D major. The progression then moves from D major (the new tonic) to E minor (ii).

That E minor ii chord goes nowhere, though, as the third line of the verse then phrase modulates back for a repeat of B major to F# major. The G major chord follows once again, but this time it has no function, as the fourth line then occurs over a repeating progression of the (harmonically unrelated) B minor to E major.

These chords, naturally, sound like a ii-V progression in A major, and the song allows this to play out when, after the completion of the second verse, the bridge begins on a tonic A major chord. (Remember, this is the same key that the song started in!) Immediately, however, they throw a curve ball by switching to the parallel A minor. Next chord is an E major (the dominant), followed by C major (III), but then they reassert the major tonality with an A major tonic chord.

This is a tonic resolution to A that works despite the fact that there is no cadence and that it occurs at a weak rhythmic point, the beginning of the seventh bar of the bridge. It is also a slight variant on the chord progression heard in the intro, creating a wonderful sense of compositional cohesion.

"Can't Be Love" on Amazon.