Saturday, July 30, 2005

Mr. Sandman

Today, we're going to do a close listening to The Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman" (1954), one of the greatest pop songs ever.

0:00 - Handclaps
Apparently a Chordette trademark, similar handclaps open their other hit, "Lollipop." The handclaps persist throughout the first verse.

0:02 - Bom bom bom bom...
Notice how the first two "boms" are held throughout the rest of the melodic phrase. By the way, the "boms" arpeggiate the Bbmaj7 and Cm7 chords.

0:10 - Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, etc.
Brilliantly, the keyboard picks up where the "boms" left off, doing the same arpeggio. Upright bass plays on the beat.

0:14, 0:19, 0:23 - Bom bom bom bom (at the end of each line)
These "boms" (mixed into the foreground) help move the song along. In particular, the first set of "boms" helps the keyboard cut out without sounding weird.

0:29 - Sandman, I’m so alone, etc.

0:45 - Add light, jazzy drums, like the kind that Ian likes to play

0:55 - Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream, etc.
Upright bass playing fancy jazz bass line. Saxophone licks at the end of each line (instead of the "boms")

1:23 - Please turn on your magic beam... oo-wah!
The "oo-wah" is a perhaps musical enactment of turning on a magic beam. Really. Synesthesia!

1:28 - "Boms" with different chords!

1:37 - Mr. Sandman (male voice: "Yes?") bring us a dream, etc.
Let's not rush to judgment here. It's a male voice swooping down from the sky. Does it work? Imagine the song without it. Would it still be as much of a dialogue? Does it not add another dimension to the song?

The bass is noticeably less busy in this verse.

1:46 - Give him a lonely heart like Pagliacci (sax lick)

1:51 - And lots of wavy hair like Liberace (piano glissando)
Liberace was a pianist and a popular entertainer.

1:55 - Mr Sandman, someone to hold (someone to hold)

2:03 - So please turn on your magic beam (faint keyboard)
Quoting the beginning of the song is a way to signal the end of the song, like the end of the cycle or something. Mark did this on "The Clapping Song."

2:08 - Saxophone plays low notes, further signalling the end of the song

2:17 - "Boms" end the song

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