Friday, September 25, 2009

The Four Tops - "Bernadette" (1967)

OK, we can assert here that the verses are in two sections, but I'm going to label the first section A and the second section B because sometimes one of the sections will occur without the other. If we label the bridge section as C (the song has no chorus), then the basic structure of the song is this:


This is discounting the return to the A materials at the end of the song (first abbreviated, then repeated as a vamp for the fadeout), but let's look at what we've got otherwise. The two-section verse, both sections very distinct and separated by a pause, certainly seems to me to be a structural curiosity. It's a very long verse, over forty seconds, and its length naturally had to be reckoned with in terms of the overall compositional structure. The song itself is not incredibly short for a pop record of the time; it's over three minutes (barely, but it is), and yet it manages to run that long without a chorus and without an instrumental break.

This leaves the full duration of the song open for Levi Stubbs' lead vocal part to run as a very singular, linear utterance. And three minutes is a pretty long time for that singular drama to unfold.

"Bernadette" on Lala.

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