In pop music, the ‘hook’ is the part of the song that grabs the listener (at least in theory). Not all songs have them. A few have more than one.
Talking about the hook in the Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun seems to me like sacrilege. It’s one of the greatest songs in popular music, a song that people put on when they need cheering up. Not only does it have more than one phrase that grabs the listener, the whole thing is so great it’s its own hook.
Still there is one bit that particularly stands out for me. And it relates to the hook I talked about in You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.
The beat pattern in Here Comes the Sun is the standard 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Like most rock, it has a back beat (you can hear Ringo’s drums emphasizing the 2 and 4 beats, the “back” beats). Listen to this bit. Try counting the four beats to it.
But after that, as in Hide Your Love Away, the song totally messes with that beat. See what happens when you try counting four all the way through this clip. I’ll give you a head start to get the beat established.
You probably noticed that it ran along normally until the riff after “It’s all right” when your 1-2-3-4 count ran over music that was NOT going 1-2-3-4. (If you didn’t notice, listen to the clip again.)
So, what is going on in those two off-beat bars? First, the melody suddenly gets organized in groups of three at double the time of the rest of the music. There are four threes (12 notes), then four descending notes, giving us 16 quick notes (eighth notes) to fill out two bars. In the rest of the song two bars contain eight notes (quarter notes).
But it’s not the double time that throws off the beat. It’s the threes. Each group of three notes has its own beat on the first note (and Ringo’s drum emphasizes this). This graphic illustrates how that goes counter to the beat. The blue is the new three-note pattern. The pink is the normal beat.
See how the blue triples ignore the beat and even run over the bar line. The strongest beat the ‘downbeat’ is usually the one right after the bar. The blue triple pattern completely ignores the bar. It’s a radical shift, and it takes a great musician like George Harrison to make it work.
This same bit gets reused in a slightly different guise in the very long bridge as Sun, sun, sun, here it comes. Listen:
Sorry, let that go a little long. But I just love the way the bridge ends.
Here’s the whole song from YouTube for your enjoyment.