I love this bit: the musical sublime, part 2

More pattern recognition of sublime transitions in music, the “I love this bit” bits we can’t hear enough of. Part one of this two parter is here.

I won’t spend too much time discussing the chord at the start of “A Hard Day’s Night” or the snare hit at the start of “Like a Rolling Stone”. These moments of musical sublimity have been discussed by others elsewhere. Needless to say, there is something quite brilliant and joyful about a guitar chord so mysterious that people are still discussing it nearly 60 years later. This audio clip on YouTube does a good job of explaining it, and you can even hear the happiness it brings.

6. Coming out of Mike Campbell’s guitar solo on Wait it Out (2:20)

Another song that starts with a (less famous) snare hit is Tift Merritt’s “Wait it Out” from her second album Tambourine. This album is not like her others, and represented a real push for commercial success, which succeeded to a point. The album reached #21 on the Billboard chart, was nominated for a grammy, and received good reviews (although those idiots at Rolling Stone only awarded three stars). The record features no less than two Heartbreakers and two former members of Lone Justice, and is full of wonderful music. The moment I’m referring to happens at the end of Campbell’s guitar solo. The other instruments drop away for two bars and the guitar stands alone until that snare hits again and Merritt’s vocal comes in, bigger than it was before. It’s viscerally exciting music, when it kicks in.

7. The “I am yours” bit and then the string coda on Party of One (3:50)

A brilliant song by Brandi Carlile (though I could honestly do without the silent emoting by the actors in the video) which suddenly becomes sublime just at the point when a lesser songwriter would have ended it. “Oh, I am tired / And I’m coming home…” she sings, as if about to rest, but then she plucks a new melody out of the ether and repeats, “I am yours…” until the string section takes over and brings it home. Avoid at all costs the syrupy duet version with someone called Sam Smith and stick with the original.

8. The breakdown in Tunnel of Love (3:24)

Dire Straits were a silly band in many ways, not least because they bopped around the stage like an overenthusiastic Eurovision entrant, and were unfortunate in coinciding with the absolute worst in fashion trends. But I love the breakdown that leads into the first solo at 3:24 in the video above. There’s more sublime action later as the whole thing quiets down and Knopfler builds up to his big finish, which is beautiful, along with the lovely piano arpeggios. This Old Grey Whistle Test clip isn’t too unbearable, because at least there are no cutaways to Normals in white socks and stonewashed jeans. Any resemblance to the Bruce Springsteen song of the same name and era is purely coincidental.

9. The ooohs and then the horns coming in on Let it Loose 

The Stones have never done this live apparently, which is not a surprise, because they’re not a very good live act, but it can be done, as this clip shows (I’ve no idea who any of these people are). It’s very good, but we have to link above to the original recording on Exile on Main St because it’s the transition (it’s always a transition) from the ooohs that come in at the two minute mark to the horns that come in 30 seconds later, and then take us into the glorious second half of the song. Everything about this track is perfection, from Nicky Hopkins’ rolling piano and Jagger’s vocal, Keith’s guitar played through a Leslie speaker, to the brilliant backing vocals, featuring that same Clydie King who sings on Dylan’s “Pressing On”. Dr John is in there somewhere, too.

10. The last six minutes of What Goes On (2:53)

It was one of the joys of my boyhood when I first heard this track from the Live 1969 album. This is a 3-minute pop song strung out to almost nine minutes because it was 1969 and time for a freak out. The rhythm guitar is furious, the organ is properly swirly, and after the first three minutes of it, you see the face of God. I still prefer the slightly muddier sounding original 1969 version to the crisper Matrix Tapes release. As I suggested in my Alternate History of the Velvet Underground, this would have gone down a storm at Woodstock.

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