Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Song #465 of 9999 - Dream Police by Cheap Trick

Song #465 of 9999

Title: Dream Police
Artist: Cheap Trick
Year: 1979
Album: Dream Police

I hadn't intended to write about Cheap Trick's "Dream Police" tonight. It seems a little too silly for such a...serious blog. But I saw it on my list and hadn't given the song a proper listen for quite some time so I gave it a (virtual) spin. 

The dream police, they live inside of my head
The dream police, they come to me in my bed
The dream police, they're coming to arrest me, oh no.

So it's not Bob Dylan. But it may be Paul McCartney. Are the lyrics really any more ridiculous than "Band on the Run"? In fact, the two songs kind of remind me of one another except "Dream Police" manages to be even more ambitious in terms of harmony, yet more cohesive in terms of structure. The two songs are certainly equals where bombast is concerned.

But let's look at the harmony because, as my three regular readers will tell you, that's where I live. The stupidly catchy chorus that opens the tune offers nothing spectacular, I-V-IV in the key of E major. But the next bit, centered around F# Minor offers some fine counterpoint between Robin Zander's lead vocal and Tom Petersson's bass:

Bang this out on the piano and you'll be amazed at how classical it sounds. The next section ('cause they're waiting for me) benefits from the combination of a pedal tone in the bass and some great syncopation (on the words every single night) that sets up cascading chords, most of which are borrowed from the parallel minor (E D C Bm A). In fact, on the second descent (those men inside...), even the tonic (I) is replaced with its minor equivalent (Em D C Bm B).

After the repeat of these three sections (let's call them A B & C), we're presented with a D section (I try to sleep...) in E Minor that is adapted from the bass line in the first two measures from the graphic above (E B C G | A E F C). And when it's time for the guitar solo to begin, the band simply returns to the pattern in F#m as before—brilliant!

Following the third C section, guitarist Rick Nielsen plays a rising chromatic line over the dominant B Major which hints at a dramatic fifth section that makes extensive use of chromaticism. This rather dissonant instrumental interlude is made even more riveting by meter changes and syncopation. But the band doesn't forget who they are, wisely returning to the catchy chorus that opens the tune. For those keeping score at home, the final structural form of the song: A B C A B C D B C E A.


  1. As one of your three readers, I have a few comments:
    1) You, Schlosser, Wagner, and Siegel must dress like Cheap Trick in the pic above for your next concert.
    2) I Want You To Want Me was one of my least favorite songs at one time...I now usually keep it on when I hear it on the radio
    3) I'm hoping that through continued reading of your blog I can analyze songs at a level other than "It's got a good beat, but you can't dance to it."

    1. Haha. I will work on #1 and #3. #2 seems like a real breakthrough.