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Great Bridges in Pop Music


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The ABBA thread got me thinking about great bridges in pop music...probably one of the more overlooked tools of songwriting. A great bridge can totally make a song.

 

My first example...

 

The bridge of "Jessie's Girl". Totally hits a groove and moves the tune in a different direction.

 

Thoughts?

My band Thousand Houses: www.thousandhouses.com
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Originally posted by Dan South:

Rush - Free Will

 

"Each of us, a cell of awareness..."

 

Gives me goosebumps even after all these years.

I always though of that as a half of a verse as opposed to a bridge. It's the same harmonically as the earlier verse sections ("Kicked in the face, you can pray for a place..." etc.).

 

When I first learned the bass solo preceding that section, I thought I was THE MAN! It is indeed one of my favorite Rush tunes amongst their poppier stuff (as opposed to "Farewell to Kings" or "2112").

 

- Jeff

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Yeah, it's technically part of a verse, but the octave jump in the vocal and various instrumental subtleties (or non-subtleties) make it sound like a different section.

 

If you can play that bass solo convincingly, you ARE the man.

The Black Knight always triumphs!

 

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Best to study the masters. When I learned these songs as a kid, I felt something intangible during the bridge, like I was being simultaneously released from and captured by the song.

 

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Jerome Kern and Otto Harback

 

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

 

Deef

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Originally posted by Dan South:

Yeah, it's technically part of a verse, but the octave jump in the vocal and various instrumental subtleties (or non-subtleties) make it sound like a different section.

Sure.

 

I think the classic bridge, in definition, is an entirely diffeent musical motif than the prevailing verses or choruses. The Beatles were definitely masters of the bridge, but for the interesting reason that often it was "the other guy's" contribution, i.e., if it were a McCartney song, Lennon would do "the middle eight" as they called it, or vice-versa with a Lennon tune. McCartney's section in "A Day in the Life" is perhaps the most obvious example that comes to mind.

 

One of my favorites, all-time: Elvis Costello's mini-bridge in "Accidents Will Happen":

 

Yeah it's the damage that we do and never know;

It's the words that we don't say that scare me so."

 

Four bars of excellent pop writing.

 

If you can play that bass solo convincingly, you ARE the man.
Did I say "convincingly'? I'd prefer a term like "adequately", "decently" or "good enoughedly". :D

 

My drummer who I've worked with since high school likes to rock out on some Rush now and then, so every once in awhile we'll do "Freewill" with me on bass. Fun tune, for sure.

 

- Jeff

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That part that feels like the bridge is actually the chorus, by definition. Wacky, huh?

 

I assume you refer to this:

 

"Some day I'll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far behind me

Where troubles melt like lemondrops

Away above the chimney tops

That's where you'll find me"

 

It's the only section of the tune that's repeated. The other repetitive part that feels so chorus-ish is having the first line of each verse be "somewhere over the rainbow". Very memorable. Good pop hook.

 

- Jeff

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Originally posted by Bob Keelan:

Originally posted by Deef:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

Aha! There's another one that starts on the bridge, no?
There's a seldom sung intro for "Over the Rainbow":

 

When all the world is a hopeless jumble,

And the raindrops tumble all around,

Heaven opens a magic lane.

When all the clouds darken up the skyway

there's a rainbow highway to be found

Leading from your window pane

To a place behind the sun

Just a step beyond the rain...

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Originally posted by Deef:

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

You win.
Actually, maybe I jumped the gun. I was thinking of this section...

 

If happy little bluebirds fly

beyond the rainbow why

oh why can't I

 

But that is actually a "tag," I guess you'd call it. That middle section is what most people would call a chorus. However, I think the Beatles often called that a bridge. Which has always confused me. Like, what the hell is it, bridge or chorus? If it repeats, to me, it's likely a chorus.

> > > [ Live! ] < < <

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Originally posted by skipclone 1:

off the top of my cranium, `Is she really goin out with him`, Joe Jackson

 

`cause if looks could kill

there`s a man who`s marked down as dead...`

Good call! I always loved that line.

RobT

 

Famous Musical Quotes: "I would rather play Chiquita Banana and have my swimming pool than play Bach and starve" - Xavier Cugat

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Originally posted by skipclone 1:

off the top of my cranium, `Is she really goin out with him`, Joe Jackson

 

`cause if looks could kill

there`s a man who`s marked down as dead...`

We have a winner! That is indeed a bridge, and a great one at that.

 

- Jeff

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Best bridge in a pop song I've heard in a while is the WAY too short bridge on Seal's Prayer For The Dying. When it takes off I feel like I just jumped aboard a rocket.

 

Another good bridge on an old song is Your No Good by Linda Ronstadt. It is the guitar - always struck me as George Harrison-like.

 

Day

"It is a danger to create something and risk rejection. It is a greater danger to create nothing and allow mediocrity to rule."

"You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at." W.H. Auden

 

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Yes, there is a significan structural difference between the typical rock/folk/blues song structure and the Great American Songbook song structure.

 

SOTR is a great example. The part that goes:

 

"When all the world is a hopeless jumble,

And the raindrops tumble all around,

Heaven opens a magic lane.

When all the clouds darken up the skyway

there's a rainbow highway to be found

Leading from your window pane

To a place behind the sun

Just a step beyond the rain... "

 

would have been called the Verse in 1939, and probably wouldn't have been repeated in typical performance. A Chorus of a song is the whole song, a second chorus would be the whole song repeated. This was sourced from the European and American art songs of the mid 19th century.

 

From Folk music (sourcing with the Troubadours and Trouveres in medievil France), the verse/chorus form came directly from the British Isles Childs' Ballads to the melting pot of New Orleans. It was here that it met African and Spanish (largely Arabic) music to form Blues, Jazz, Country, and Ragtime songs that led to Rock.

 

Paul Simon is an intersting example because he came from the Folk side, but while writing the "Still Crazy..." album, he adopted a discipline of using all twelve possible notes in each and every song's melody at least once (listen to the album for this), and his song structure was not traditional in any particular way.

 

IMO the Beatles furthered the rock song bridge tremendously, probably because of Paul's habit of jumping in to John's songs, and vice verse.

 

Also Becker and Fagen probably came up with the deepest array of great song bridges than anyone else in the rock era. Too many to mention.

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Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

That part that feels like the bridge is actually the chorus, by definition. Wacky, huh?

 

I assume you refer to this:

 

"Some day I'll wish upon a star.

It's the only section of the tune that's repeated.

Well, I guess what to call a section in a pop song is open to endless debate. To me, the song has no chorus, same as many others. Whatever it is structurally, it functions for me emotionally as a bridge (in my little world's definition of such). And the Beatles repeated plenty 'o bridges, so why, oh why can't Arlen and the Yipster?

 

Deef

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Yup, that's true.

 

i think the interesting thing that's coming out in this thread is the fact that these definitions are more open to interpretation based on feel than any hard set of rules. In pop songwriting of the last 40 years, the only simple bridge definitions are where you have a structure like...

 

V1-C-V2-C-B-V3-C-repeat/fade

 

But not all songs are like that (thank god).

 

For me, the defining point of a bridge is that it has to introduce a new theme that hadn't been broached earlier in the tune (or later in the tune, if that's are where the predominant verse/chorus sections reside). This can be done by moving to a relative minor, an entirely different key, a new rhythmic motif or damn near anything that separates it.

 

Even a 2-bar scratch breakdown in a hip-hop tune is a bridge, come to think of it.

 

- Jeff

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I basically agree with this but the Beatles used the bridge twice on a ton of songs.

 

From Me to You

I Wanna Hold Your Hand

We Can Work it Out

 

it's more of a feel thing than a definition thing to me.

 

Good thread :)

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Originally posted by Jeff Da Weasel:

Even a 2-bar scratch breakdown in a hip-hop tune is a bridge, come to think of it.

In Nick Lowe's "Cruel To Be Kind", you know the 2 bars with the "Ooh-ooh-ooh" vocals that precede the guitar solo (over the changes of the chorus)? Is that a bridge?

 

Which brings up a question. In a song with vocals throughout, a bridge doesn't always have lyrics, right? I was thinking of the instrumental section in the middle of "God Only Knows" which acts like a bridge to set up the last verse and out chorus.

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