Elements of Great Songwriting: Fleetwood Mac and the Art of the Lyrical Coda

f mac

The great rock artists usually have a distinguishing characteristic that sets them apart. Think Freddie Mercury’s semi-supernatural voice or Eddie Van Halen’s scale-shredding guitar, Elton’s piano or McGuinn’s Rickenbacker.

fleet album

Fleetwood Mac were always a more democratic operation in that no single member’s talents dominated their recorded performance; they seemed more concerned with playing, harmonizing and producing great music as a unit. With no less than three capable hit-producing writers–and as many lead vocalists able to put those hit songs across–they relied on no single member’s talents as a calling card.

But there was a distinguishing characteristic to this band, though it was one subtle enough that even fans may not have given it a second thought. In their heyday the thing that often set a Fleetwood Mac song apart from other radio fodder was the presence of a lyrical coda at the end of a song.

What’s a coda? The word is Italian for “tail” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s a part of a song distinct from all the parts that precede it. It usually takes the form of a repeated phrase at the song’s conclusion that has never appeared previously within the song.

Let’s call on four guys who know a little about songwriting to demonstrate…

This is the verse:

This is the chorus:

And this, which is neither verse, chorus or bridge, but rather the song’s musical and lyrical “tail”, is the coda:

And now a few Fleetwood Mac codas, all of which were taken from the Fleetwood Mac and Rumours albums. Most or all will be familiar to you, although you may not have realized just how frequently the band employed this songwriting tact:


Blue Letter:

Say You Love Me:

Second Hand News:

Don’t Stop:

The Chain:

You Make Loving Fun:


Sadly, the coda is just one more underutilized musical technique these days (along with tact, lyrical subtlety, articulation…) Seems no one’s playing pin the tail on the song anymore.

Fleetwood Mac are the go-to source for a budding songwriter to learn by example how to add a catchy tag to the end of a hit tune.

Science Suggests Bassists Are Far More Important Than Most People Realize


(via Music.Mic)

by Tom Barnes

When Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, he made a classic bass joke. “Thank you to my friends for finally remembering my phone number,” he said, looking over at the rest of the band.

Like any good joke, there’s some truth to it: Bassists are criminally overlooked and underappreciated members of most every band. Yet there’s scientific proof that bassists are actually one of the most vital members of any band. There are powerful neurological and structural reasons why our music needs bass. It’s time we started treating bassists with the respect they deserve.

Read more: http://mic.com/articles/120137/science-suggests-bassists-are-far-more-important-than-most-people-realize

Some Important Observations On Steeleye Span, Experiments In Folk Rock And Cows


(via 90.9 wbur in Boston)

I want to talk to you about what it means to experiment. Let’s begin with the following sentence: “We did try a reggae ‘Spotted Cow’ and we weren’t terribly convinced by it, so we stopped doing it.”

You’ll be needing a little context for that. “Spotted Cow” is a song from around 1740. It’s about a woman who’s lost her cow. She complains about it to this guy she runs into. He’s like, “Lady, I am game to help you find your cow. Let us do this.” They go off to a field to find it. Obvious place to start, right? Before long … well, you know how fields are. Sexiest thing in nature. So they decide to do what comes naturally to a man and a woman in a field, which isn’t really looking for cows. From then on, whenever the lady’s looking for a bit of you-know-what, she finds some guy and tells him about her cow.

The speaker of that sentence was Maddy Prior, singer of the great English folk-rock band Steeleye Span. This is a band that she’s led since 1969, and they’re playing on July 24 at Johnny D’s in Somerville.

So, to sum up: ‘70s English folk-rock band, cow used as cover story for Georgian booty call. And then: reggae.

“When you’re experimenting with things they can’t all be winners,” she says. “I’m pleased that we tried things.”

Read more: http://artery.wbur.org/2015/07/20/steeleye-span

Video of the Week: Dan Wilson Explains How He Hid His Hit Song’s Meaning in Plain View


Dan Wilson, singer and songwriter of the band Semisonic, reveals the true meaning behind the band’s biggest hit at his 25th reunion at his alma mater, Harvard.

Possible Follow-Up Songs for One-Hit Wonders

(Reprinted from McSweeney’s Lists)

by John Moe

How Are We Going to Get These Dogs Back In?

Bust an Additional Move

Seriously, Eileen, Come On

(Won’t You Give Me A Ride Home From) Funkytown?

Remember When You Lit up My Life? That Was Great

I Will Now Pass the Dutchie Back to You and Thank You for Passing It to Me Originally Because I Really Enjoyed the Dutchie

The Morning That the Lights Came Back on in Georgia

Everybody Was Kung Fu Making Up

Whoomp! There It Continues to Be

867-5309 extension 2

We Never Took It and Persist in Our Refusal to Take It

Songs You May Have Missed #540


The Police: “Canary in a Coalmine” (1980)

You could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to the early work of Talking Heads or something by 10cc on your first hearing of this 1980 album track by the Police.

It clocks in at just under two and a half minutes and serves as a reminder that not all the work of the “classic rock” bands needed to be epic and ponderous–or contain a flashy guitar solo for that matter. The lyric here is merely a sketch. It could very well have ended up un the Zenyatta Mondatta cutting room floor as an idea that needed more fleshing out.

Thankfully the band instead let it stand as what it is: a couple minutes’ worth of catchy, idiosyncratic pop rock.

Video of the Week: Wheel of Musical Impressions with Jamie Foxx

See also: https://edcyphers.com/2015/02/27/video-of-the-week-wheel-of-musical-impressions-with-christina-aguilera/

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