Nice songs with one ugly chord?

I recently stumbled on this song, Chasing Butterflies, by Mane. Listening to it on the car radio seemed to mask some of the details and once I got a chance to listen through headphones I was pleasantly surprised by just how ugly the last chord of the opening riff is. It boldly hangs out of the song like a giant wrinkly scrotum on a well groomed poodle. I haven’t had the chance to work out what the chord is exactly but it seems even more discordant than the augmented 5th Jimmy Hendrix used in Purple Haze.

Any other good examples of nice tuneful songs that feature an ugly chord?

The Beatles, “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” has a doozy on the fourth word (“name”) – G flat 7 aug/B flat bass.

I had a friend. Who had a band. That he’d let me sit in on. Best of both worlds, I didn’t have to run off on road gigs with them. But I could play (and sing backup) whenever they were in town.

And it was a 60s cover band, which meant when he announced a song, I already knew it. Handy. BUT… this friend had a penchant for going with more complex chords whenever he could sneak one in. G’7aug/B? Pffft, that was nothin’ to this guy…

But what it meant was that I’d be singing harmony, a D major chord would be coming up, and I’d hit the fifth. A nice, confident belt-it-out Concert A, 440 Hz, just like downtown… but there WAS no A. Because he’d just replaced that nice solid D major with a Bmin9/C… Aarrrgh!

That was 30 years ago and I still wake up from memories of being up in front of a packed club, sounding like I’d made the biggest mistake a vocalist can make, humiliated all over again.

If you’re talking about the “Jimi Hendrix chord,” that’s an augmented ninth. (E7#9 in “Purple Haze.” It gets its grit because the #9 is the same note as a minor third, so you kind of have the minor third crashing against the major third an octave below it.)

I always thought Yes’s “Siberian Khatru” was a relatively nice enough song, with a chord that I always found…curious…

Not one chord, but a brief smidgen of ugliness at the end of the Stones’ quite pleasant “She’s a Rainbow”.

Gary Wright’s saccharine, dreamy “Dream Weaver” is book-ended by a menacing, sinister, minor-key synth riffthat would be more at home in a soundtrack for a horror flick where victim #5 is about to get beheaded at the end of a dark hallway.

Maybe not the ugliest chord (when the strings come in), but in comparison to what it followed, certainly a jarring, very arch-sounding change from Wakeman’s tinkling piano, in Bowie’s “Life On Mars” at exactly 0:32


I guess we have a little leeway, here, on what constitutes “nice”. :stuck_out_tongue:

^ Be nice! :wink:

Laura Nyro’s great 1969 album New York Tendaberry ends side one with the upbeat “Save the Children,” which ends with one fucking ugly chord in the brass.

On the CD it makes sense, because it segues right into “Gibsom Street,” a gloomy and downbeat and thoroughly unpleasant song about her illegal abortion. (Brilliant song, though)

On the original LP, you would have had to get up and flip the record. A total downer if you were stoned.

Richard Strauss’s 1905 short (90 minutes) opera Salome features an absolutely sickening chord just before the end, when the “heroine” is holding up the severed head of John the Baptist. Just as she kisses it. And in contemporary performances, places it between her legs.

That chord probably figured larger in any of the thumbs-down musical reviews of the time than Salome’s action.

Sorry, I meant diminished 5th and I thought it appears in the opening couple of bars of Purple Haze before the main riff starts.

Ah, yes. The bass plays an Eb, while Jimi simultaneously plays an A, so there’s a tritone (augmented fourth/diminished fifth) interval going on there.

King Crimson’s “Prince Rupert Awakes” kicks off with a pretty ugly mellotron blurt, which hilariously pops up sporadically, like here at the :36 and :42 marks.
Yeah, it’s Fripp, and everything…

Whilst it’s nice to have people who really understand music on the thread, it is also kinda intimidating too, so I’ll pose this as a question. At the very end of Steely Dan’s Pearl of the Quarter ( there is a tiny out-of-place keyboard - uh - flourish. It sprang immediately to mind.

Is there a particular* musical* reason for this that I don’t understand? I always told myself it was done to detract from the (otherwise) perfection of the song. I mean, if you reach perfection on your second* album, it sets the bar way high.


*Yes, I am aware of earlier work by Becker and Fagen.

It doesn’t seem all that out-of-place to me, but I can get what you’re getting at. I mean, no, there’s no reason that two-note piano “tickle” (my description, not a term of art) has to be there, but it does sort of fill in the phrase the slide guitar sets up. That said, it would have sounded fine without the ending flourish, too. The notes the guitar phrase ends on are “ending notes.”

So, basically, it’s just there for color/character.

Not exactly a chord, but ELP’s “Still… You Turn Me On.” There’s this nice melody going, and then after Lake sings the song title, that jarring, out-of-place wah-wah guitar lick. The live version is better.

“Save The Country,” right? What kind of a Laura Nyro fanatic are you, anyway? :wink:

At the end there is the pedal steel guitar (Baxter). It sounds like it’s doing what a steel guitar does at the end of a song if it’s called upon to end it. Do you mean the little piano notes? That sounds like the pianist playing with the steel player to me. It got “left in” like a lot of things on rock records, as sounding good.

Take a listen to Bodhisattva. The end is a big chord, just because they wanted to, and it sounded good.

Hm. Matter of taste, maybe. Not a huge fan of that inversion, but the chord itself seems fine to me.

We can’t really say what musicians “should” or shouldn’t do, we can only talk about how we think it relates to established forms, and what we think about that.

I’d call this case a stinger, a small note or phrase to accentuate transitions, beginnings, or endings.

Some composers like to throw a curveball just to be a little less predictable or conventional. At the end of a song our ear expects chords to resolve as we’re accustomed to them. Usually that means a chord in the main key of the song, with the leading voice landing on the tonic (the main note, for lack of a better word).

Here the stinger is a 3rd… just a bit more unconventional, but not much. You’d hardly notice except it’s preceded by a 2nd as a grace note, which is mildly dissonant, but again not overly unconventional. Then the final interesting bit is that it’s rhythmically a bit out of place, after the rest of the combo has hit the last note.

As a musician why would I do that? Personally I’d do it as a fun improvisational thing to be cute and get the last “word” in a performance.

It doesn’t bother me at all, and the above is an explanation why, but I can see how it might hit some people’s ear funny or annoying. You kind of know he’s being a smartass.

You may be right. I think it is the bass note that sounds out of place to me.

I thought he was talking about the very beginning, during which Jimi plays a series of Bb/E, E/Bb double stops before the real lead guitar comes in. If E is the tonic, the Bb is a flatted fifth. I don’t have a guitar nearby, am I remembering those notes correctly?