Music education always & always looking forward.

Give in to the Gear Shifts: Direct Modulation in Cheap Trick's "Surrender"

Not one, but two! unexpected gear shift modulations!

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It's very common for an artist to get entirely sick of their signature song. But some bands never do. Ask Ian McCulloch of Echo & the Bunnymen about their signature song, 1984's "The Killing Moon", which he believes is essentially better than any song any other band has ever put out and more than 30 years on, never tires of singing it.

In terms of Cheap Trick though, even after 5,000 live shows and forty years since their big break in the States, their signature song is a matter of debate. How good does a song have to be to unthrone the absolute anthemic pop that is "I Want You to Want Me" as a band's signature song? Whatever magic that must be, I think "Surrender" has got it. Two (count 'em two!) unconventionally placed key changes may be the trick, although not quite so cheap here. 

Intro: Although not one of the biggest selling rock bands of yore, Cheap Trick is considered to be a highly influential band, particularly in reference to alternative rock & power pop bands that followed them 15-20 years after their heyday. A more straightforward rock band, releasing their debut album at the height of punk rock did not help them gain in popularity. Four decades of consistent touring with their original members, including an essential tour of Japan, have cemented their popularity. In deference to their influence & longevity, Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

Analysis: The gear shift key change has been referred to as a “cheap trick” in songwriting, thus making the multiple gear shift key changes in this song make the band sound somewhat self-aware. The song begins in the key of Bb, with only two chords (the non-diatonic Ab & Bb, or bVII-I), shifting up a direct half step at :15 in the video recording heard above. The chords in the verses make up a standard progression (I-V-IV-I), adding in a iii m7 and a IVsus4 chord in the choruses. The second key change follows the third interlude (heard here using the chords A-B, with the key change occurring at 2:20 in the video recording). Both changes are as direct as modulation can get, simply shifting right up a half step. The second change (from B major to C major) seems appropriately placed for a 1970s rock song; it's the first one at :15 that ensures the listener is paying attention.

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no profanity or objectionable material, although the lyrics are slightly non-sensical, discussing relationships and family in a very abstract way. Because of the unpredictable key changes, it makes for a good listening example.

Traveling Key Changes: Two Altered Common Chord Modulations in Oasis's "All Around the World"

I'm not going to lie. I'm really proud.