Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Song #268 of 9999 - #9 Dream by John Lennon

Song #268 of 9999

Title: #9 Dream
Artist: John Lennon
Year: 1974
Album: Walls and Bridges

Well, I guess I kind of blew it by not featuring this song yesterday on John Lennon's birthday, but it was TWOsday after all! (Yes, I could have added "Whatever Gets You Through the Night"—stop second-guessing me!)

But anyway, here we are on October 10 and I am enjoying revisiting this top ten hit from 1974 with the unusual name and even more unusual lyric in the hook ("Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé," which apparently has no meaning and just came to Lennon in a dream). The title, "#9 Dream," reveals the source of inspiration for the track and Lennon creates an ethereal backdrop for his trippy lyrics, incorporating slithery cello lines that would not have been out of place on a late-period Beatles record. Less obviously contributing to the dream-like quality of the song are uneven phrase lengths, extended vamps on one chord and tempos that occasionally slow to a halt.

Interestingly, the harmonic progression during the verse of this song comes very close to mimicking that of the two songs I wrote about yesterday. Lennon also incorporates a major mediant (III) to subdominant (IV), but only after passing through the minor mediant (iii) first. The entire progression (I-iii-IV-III-IV-II-IV-V7) is quite clever as it supports a vocal melody that is frequently at odds with it, forming 9ths, major 7ths and even a flat-3 over a major triad! Lennon's instincts for these kinds of melodies, as well as the uneven phrasing and the unorthodox song structure, made him such a unique figure in pop music and go a long way toward explaining why his songs still resonate with us so many years after his untimely death.

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