Monday, January 20, 2014

Billy Joel - "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (1977)

This song is based on a five-part construction that repeats twice, the second time with the first part removed. The parts play cleverly with perceptions of verse and chorus function to end up navigating a unique path.

After the intro, the vocal starts in with four lines of text over eight bars, the obvious sense of things being that we are in the verse. The fifth line starts as though the verse is continuing or the second verse is beginning, but diverts itself with an unexpected echo of the last syllable.

Working hard can give you a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack

The next line - "You oughta know by now" - appears to be the beginning of the chorus, but it cuts off afterward and we're back in the verse. This time, however, the verse ends after only four bars and now the real chorus begins.

Oh, it seems such a waste of time
If that's what it's all about
If that's movin' up than I'm
Movin' out

As I say, the whole thing strikes me as a singular structure where the original diversion to the chorus is subverted and brought back to the verse only briefly in order to wind itself up a little more as a springboard into the chorus, the function of which is clearly to wind down.

The whole thing starts again at 1:11 in the song, repeating the exact order of events, and again at 2:07, beginning this time at the divergent line with the echoing syllable at the end. Apart from some vamping on the last words, these represent the sum total of lyrical events in the song (a #17 hit on the U.S. Billboard chart).

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful analysis of a 'sounds easy/ain't easy' Billy Joel composition.
    Most of Joel's song structures are much more complex than most people realize.
    When you actually start to deconstruct those songs in order to learn how to play them, you can understand what a true genius he is.