In an earlier post on odd meter the main question was, How can a song rock when it doesn’t stay in one of the physically cogent “regular” meters repeating two, three, or four beats? In that context it seemed remarkable that “Money” can really rock in seven, for example, and “My Wave” in five.
The reverse of this question is, How can a song be most metrically disturbing without breaking out of a normal meter?
“A New Day Yesterday” by Jethro Tull is wonderfully, violently undanceable in its verses while upholding a rule of four. Like a dangerous horse it lunges, balks, and drags, creating such odd units within the repeating cycle of four (in two measures of 6/8) that you can count the slow four pulses underneath (marked as 1s) only with effort:
1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 1 – 2 – 3 –
The notes arrive as follows:
(I’m switching to vertical format to avoid the crazy variability of horizontal spacing on different screens)
1 E – D
2 A (in verse, more upsetting: C)
3 A# (B)
1 B (A)
2 D (B)
3 D# (G)
The key to the mischief is the early G that cuts short the second 1-2-3-. That emphatic G starts everything over, so we expect to count 1-2-3- from it, but then the concluding five-note sequence starts early again after just 1-2-. Scrambling to construe the pulse in that sequence, the best I can do is to treat the first two notes as a repetition of the 1-2- that started with G and then the last three notes as a final three, restoring the normal overall order. So I realize in the end I’ve heard a 3-2-2-2-3. Ian Anderson helps me find the inner pattern of 2s when he sings “My first and last time with you . . .”
The riff makes such a simple and bold statement, you really wouldn’t know how to object to it. But it does make you flinch. For the song to be loveable, some reconciliation is needed so that the odd part doesn’t seem just an ornery outburst. Happily the latter part of each verse brings us down into a normal blues feel (starting with “I want to see you so . . .”) that is perfectly complementary.
I’d say these guys heard “Manic Depression” and took another step.