Thursday, November 8, 2012

Song #295 of 9999 - Tell Her No by The Zombies

Song #295 of 9999 

Title: Tell Her No
Artist: The Zombies
Year: 1965
Album: N/A - single release only

The Zombies are an interesting anomaly in the British Invasion because (you may need to fact-check me here) they may be the only successful band to emerge from that movement led by a keyboard player. Rod Argent (who delivers a wicked solo on The Zombies' first hit "She's Not There") is the chief songwriter for the group, whose sound is distinguished by his overdriven electric piano.

On the surface, the instrumentation of the group may seem to be solely responsible for the unique sound The Zombies create. But I think there is a deeper reason. The piano and guitar (the instrumental choice of all the other British Invasion bands) are very different instruments and, when played at a rudimentary level*, will lead you in somewhat disparate harmonic directions. The guitar favors basic major and minor chords, 7th chords, diminished chords and The Beatles' beloved 6th chords (think the last chord of "She Loves You"). Even a novice can create chords of much greater complexity on the keyboard by adding major sevenths or ninths and/or pairing an alternate bass note with a major or minor triad.

And this is what makes Argent's classic "Tell Her No" so unique. The song is dominated by major 7th (and minor 7th) chords which would probably sound too dense or flowery on the electric guitar of this time, but seem to work fine on Argent's slightly distorted electric piano. You can hear this sound at the beginning of each verse and at that great moment following the syncopation of the chorus when he sings "Don't hurt me now...", the melody of which is a descending Emaj7 arpeggio in and of itself. Even the song's brief intro benefits from idiomatic keyboard harmony with Argent alternating F#m9 and F#m/B.

And that's how music works! :D

(*which is well enough to be in a British Invasion band and that's not a slam—many great musicians emerged from these groups but they weren't going to be sitting in with Miles Davis any time soon)

1 comment:

  1. Hey Frankie,

    You forgot Manfred Mann, who were also led by a keyboard player. Manfred of course didn't sing, until the occasional song on his 1970s LPs under the name of "Manfred Mann's Earth Band".