Springy: Yes, “I’ve Seen All Good People” (1971)

“WAKE UP, little Susie, WAKE UP!”

I’ll call this “wake up” figure a ONE-AND because it emphasizes those parts of the rhythm:

WAKE UP                                                 lit   –     tle
1    AND     2        and      3          and      4          and

Su               –                  sie,
1    and      2        and      3          and      4          and

1    AND     2        and      3          and      4          and

[Chart spacing set for mainpage]

“Wake Up Little Susie” (Everly Brothers, 1957)

The ONE-AND, an initiative-seizing gesture, is common in jazz (the proverbial “be-bop” is a ONE-AND) but rare in rock even though it offers a remarkable spring-loaded kind of kinetic energy.  As random proof I note that it occurs only twice in the twenty-seven #1 Beatles hits, namely in the title lines of “From Me To You” (on the 2 and 4 beats) and “Get Back” (just on the 4 beat).[2]  I suppose we don’t hear it much in rock because rockers are dedicated to stomping and swaying on the main beats.[3]  Their listeners aren’t generally interested in taking initiative or responsibility rhythmwise; they want a train to carry them along.

There’s an exception to this rule, however, in rockabilly, which does invoke rhythmic responsibility in the form of finger-snapping.  As a finger-snapper you’re a junior associate in hitting the beat; you get the repeating feeling of being the one to decide on it and do it, just in time!  Finger-snapping can be a compelling alternative to stomping.  See Billy Setzer do it:

On now to my main object of interest.  ONE-ANDs and finger-snapping are lurking ingredients in what I find to be the most impressively springy of all rock tracks, one that despite some resemblances doesn’t sound much at all like bebop or rockabilly or any other genre I could name:  “I’ve Seen All Good People” by Yes.

“I’ve Seen All Good People”

As best I can tell, the quality is produced by a tall stack of superimposed patterns.

(1) Probably the most basic reason “I’ve Seen All Good People” is springy is that like a lot of songs it’s in a swinging rhythm of one-and-uh triplets:

Dum   –    de -DUM   –      de -dum   –      de-DUM   –       de –
1    and    uh    2    and    uh    3    and    uh    4    and    uh

(2) The sung words land mostly on uhs, though, so the uhs are emphasized by the urgent lyric at the same time that they’re deemphasized for the tripping rhythm:

……………..I’ve seen          all                   good                peo –
Dum  –     DE-DUM    –     DE- dum   –       DE-DUM   –      DE –
1    and    uh    2    and    uh    3    and    uh    4    and    uh

(3) Yet another pattern is layered in by the emphases of the lead guitar part:

DA      –          DE     –     DAA     –                   DE      –     De (yadadeda)
1    and    uh    2    and    uh    3    and    uh    4    and    uh

This is a swinging version of the “Wake up!” figure, starting sometimes on 2 and sometimes on 4.  But just as the emphasis of the vocal notes ran athwart the emphasis of the basic rhythm triplets, (4) now we encounter another seeming cross-purpose when drummer Bill Bruford hits the toms at the very same points—two + uh and four + uh—with the effect not of pressing us forward but of generating suspense by widening the gap between beats (I mean the longer gap between 2-uh and 4 compared with the gap between 3 and 4) so that you feel you really need to snap your fingers to make beats 2 and 4 happen.

–               de -DUM   –   DUM    –             de   DUM   –    DUM
1    and    uh    2    and    uh    3    and    uh    4    and    uh

“I’ve Seen All Good People” toms

(5) And we should not fail to mention the forward thrust provided by conventional rhythm guitar strikes on 1, 2, 3, and 4 and aggressive on-beat bass work that makes the track indubitably rock.

In sum:  “I’ve Seen All Good People” trips along with its 1-and-uh triplets, pulls us up (DUM – DUM) in the drums, and yanks us forward with hurry-up figures in the lead guitar (DE – DAA) and vocals (DUM-DE – DE – DE -).  And altogether it’s sweetly tangled and springy, not all knotty like this analysis.


P.S.  While we’re on the subject of singing on the shuffle uh-, the hurry-up effect of putting emphasis on that uh- instead of on the regular beat stands out in Grand Funk Railroad’s marvelously stripped-down “Some Kind Of Wonderful,” where “kind” is sung on it:

“Some Kind Of Wonderful” (Grand Funk Railroad, 1974)

……………………………………….She’s SOME      KIND                 of
1    and    uh    2    and    uh    3   and    uh    4    and    uh

won –     der – ful                   (Yes          she   is)
1    and    uh    2    and    uh     3   and    uh    4    and    uh

But “Some Kind Of Wonderful” is definitely a song for stomping, not finger-snapping, and can’t touch the springiness of “I’ve Seen All Good People.”

[1] The “wake” of the second “wake up” in the line starts a little early, before the ONE, lengthening and swinging the phrase slightly—a wonderful variation.

[2] Also in a subdued way on the 2 beat in “Yesterday”:  “Far  A-WAY,” “here TO STAY,” “I BE-LIEVE,” “Yes-TER-DAY.”  But “Yesterday” isn’t a rock song.  There are a couple of other places where you can make it happen by adding emphasis on the AND:  the second syllable of “tripper” in the title phrase of “Day Tripper,” “till I (can’t go on)” in “We Can Work It Out.”

[3] A good rock declaration of initiative should land on a main beat, as in the unusual ONE-AND-TWO of “Start Me Up.”


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
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2 Responses to Springy: Yes, “I’ve Seen All Good People” (1971)

  1. Great post Steve. I am convinced by the argument, but sad about it, because in my view Bill Bruford’s replacement by Alan White all those years ago moved Yes in a crude vulgar direction, one that Chris Squire was much happier with, either because of laziness and/or a desire to rock America all night long. [See the Professor of Pop’s post of 2/19/11 on this subject.]

    SAGP is I feel a poor display from Bruford — the only Yes track that he detracts from due to the lack of syncopation on them toms and what sounds like a really bad date between Bill and Chris. It is the ONLY Yes song where I prefer Alan White’s groove to Bruford’s original studio effort.

  2. Steve Smith says:

    I need to know what your superior ear detects and share your sadness, Professor, alas! but must forget this now, to keep getting my kicks.

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