Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


In pre-rock pop songs, the introduction to a song is called the “verse.” Most jazz singers and almost all jazz players have skipped the verses of most songs. There aren’t very many examples of songs from the rock era with pre-rock style introductory “verses.” The only ones I can think of are by the Beatles: “You’ll never know how much I really love you, you’ll never know how much I really care” -- to introduce “Do You Want to Know a Secret”; and “To lead a better life, I need my love to be here,” which introduces “Here, There, and Everywhere.”

In pre-rock pop songs, the main body of the song is called the “chorus.” Jazz crit is full of talk about soloists “taking” X number of choruses on any given tune.

One of the songs for my November project, I wanted to write a pre-rock-style “verse,” because I had the words for it written, and the words and music for the main body of the song, which is in the rock-era style verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure (which derives from folk ballads). The introduction I had written is prosy and contextual, not given to lyric emotion. Yesterday I started singing the introductory words to the melody of a well-known Civil War-era tune that became a hit in the 1950s with different words. I like the quotation for a few reasons, which I won’t go into here, but I may be breaking the rule of “one cover only.” But this isn’t a cover, it’s a quotation! Of a traditional, anonymous song! (Another song for the album sets an anonymous bit internet doggerel to music.)

Thinking about it, and working it out yesterday and this morning, it occurred to me that the verse-chorus structure of Tin Pan Alley song is analogous to the recitative-aria structure of opera. The recitative and the verse set the scene and convey the context, the chorus and the aria burst forth into a heartful of song. Generally speaking, of course.

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