Here comes the hook

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.

Here Comes The Sun beat pattern

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.

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About charles thiesen

I live in Dorchester, MA with five housemates and a cat named Chat Cousteau. I write novels and ride a recumbent bike, among other things.
This entry was posted in pulleys + levers, rock to world and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Here comes the hook

  1. Tigereye says:

    I’ve loved this song so long, I didn’t think I had anything else to notice about it. And as I so often am, I was wrong. That little set of 123/123 is going to leap out at me from here on (I mean that in a good way).

  2. thirdculturemom says:

    What Tigereye said.

  3. Pingback: Time Out | ravishdears

  4. John Owens says:

    I see you’ve gone over to the dark side, Mr. Blogger.

  5. Julian Gerstin says:

    Hey Charles — Nice job, I’d never counted through these bits of this song. The bridge is a little more complex than you’ve said, however. Hard to explain without musical notation, but here goes. It’s a three-bar phrase and I can’t get it to fit on one line:

    sun sun here we | come
    | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 & | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
    snare x x x x x

    Sun
    | 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
    – – – – – – – – – – x x x x!
    drum fill guitar & drums ending w/ crash on first “sun”

    The singing starts on a pickup on the & of beat 4 at the end of the phrase (or before the first iteration). Ringo’s snare follows the singing, starting on a backbeat (the second “sun,” in the first bar of the transcription), returning to backbeats in bar 2, then following the guitar riff at the end, into the first “Sun”).

    As you point out it’s got triplet 8th notes against the beat, starting with the pickup on the first “Sun” and going through bar 1. But it also stretches bar 1 out to five beats. Basically, the effect is a bunch of strongly syncopated “suns” leading to “here we come,” with the final word, “come,” firmly on the downbeat. A relaxed, ordinary back beat feel in bar 2, then the turmoil begins again in bar 3 with the drum fills and guitar riff leading to the next set of “suns.”

  6. ravishd says:

    Julian! Thanks so much. I wasn’t thinking of you as a percussionist when I asked you to take a look. The beauty of a blog is that you can improve it over time. I’ll try to apply some of what you say here (giving you credit of course). Thanks again.

  7. Julian Gerstin says:

    I’m sorry, the graphic I sent you didn’t work at all. I had all the words and x’s lined up neatly over the numbers, and they came out condensed over on the left. I wonder if there’s a music notation program that is compatible with the program you’re using to make this blog.

    Let me put it this way: The lyric line starts on the & of 4 at the end of measure 3 “Sun”), then in measure 1 there’s a “sun” on beats 2 and the & of beat 3, with “here we” on beats 5 and the & of 5. “Come” is on the downbeat of measure 2.

    Ringo’s snare hits are with the two “suns” and “here” in measure 1, and on beats 2 and 4 in measure 2. In measure 3 he fills the first two beats, then plays with the guitar riff on 3 & 4 & (ending with a cymbal crash on the & of 4, where they sing the first “Sun”).

    Try writing it out with numbers and “&”s and you can see it graphically.

    • ravishd says:

      Julian!

      I’m going to put together what you say here and maybe consult you about it to be sure I understand it, then make an addition to the post so that everybody who reads it gets the benefit of your knowledge. I’ll credit you, of course.

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