Monday, January 5, 2009

The Lost Chord of "A Hard Day's Night": Different Theories

There has been an ongoing debate for many years as to the name of the "lost" chord used to open "A Hard Day's Night." Recently, Professor Jason Brown of Dalhousie University advanced the theory that the "secret sauce {of the note] includes five piano notes apparently played by producer George Martin." Well, maybe.

For years, George Martin, a classically trained musician, claimed he had no idea what the note might be. He is indeed credited with playing the piano on the track (and also played an electric organ since George could not play the lead interlude fast enough), but even if there is a "piano backing" to the note, the electric guitar clearly carries the day and is most prominent in the overall sound effect.

I have believed for years that the mystery is easily solved. The note appears to be a D7 suspended. A D7 is made, but the third finger on the first string (high E) slides from the second fret to the third, creating a very mild dissonance. Played on an electric guitar, it sounds exactly like the opening note for the song (especially if one takes into account that George would have played it on his Rickenbacker 360 12-string).

The song was recorded on April 16, 1964 at Abbey Road and released as a single in the UK and USA on July 10 and July 13, 1964 respectively. Film director Richard Lester insisted to Lennon that they use another "Ringo-ism" as the title for the movie and the song, a malapropism (a hard day's night") that Lennon had already used in his book In His Own Write. Lennon agreed and delivered the song the following day. He said Paul only sang on some parts because he (Lennon) couldn't reach the notes.

Pic: Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0

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