Minor dominants

Typical pop and folk songs in the major mode use major chords for the tonic (T), subdominant (S), and dominant (D). Hence, Loui Loui: TTT-SS-DDD-SS-… etc. Minor chords are used for the relative minors. Nevertheless, some pop songs employ a minor dominant, with dramatic effects.

  • Someone’s gonna break your heart, by Fountains of Wayne. Dramatic T-mD-S riff. A-Em-D to be precise (I use bold type for actual notes). (Could be D2, actually.)
  • Looking for Lewis and Clark, by The Long Ryders. This a very mixolydian song, with a strong presence of the subtonic (ST). It goes T-ST-mD. In fact, A-G-Em. Perhaps this is all there is to it: a minor dominant contains the subtonic note (the G note  in this song).
  • Barstool Blues, by Neil Young. Actually, it sounds like T-mD-S when the voice comes in, but it is not, the actual tonic is “D”. In particular, the chords are A-Em-D twice, but then resolves to D, and it’s clear D is the tonic.
  • From Mr. Young: Cinnamon girl. This song also features a minor subdominant in its weird bridge. It is also a candidate for the upcoming list of great one-note solos.
  • The great 60s band The Remains in Why Do I Cry (btw, this video is live from just a month ago!  Good to see these fellas are still rocking.) This is a bit different: a song in the minor mode, with a mT-S-mD. It is the S which is major, and it sounds great. (Major D in a minor mode is really standard.)

This contrasts with the explanation I got some time ago about the necessity of having a strong dominant that should be major, even in minor songs, this leading to the harmonic minor scale (that contains a leading-tone instead of a subtonic).

See also: leading tone and subtonic tone in wikipedia. The leading tone is called “sensible” (sensitive) in Spanish.


Nuevo Rock Americano

A quick look back to some groups that got bunched into the “Nuevo Rock Americano”, at least in Spain. They had some things in common, at least the ones at the top of  the list… but others were clearly misplaced (The Cramps).

A highlight of this period: a song that was a great success back then: The Long Ryders’ Looking for Lewis and Clark. I mean, it was the only decent song that played in the sorry places I used to visit when I was young. I still love the AGEm riff, really dramatic (due to the “m”, of course).

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