4

The song Golden Brown by The Stranglers has a particular time signature on some parts of the song:

|| 3/4 | 3/4 | 3/4 | 4/4 ||

This song may be considered as a hit because it ranked top charts in different contries (#2 in UK, #7 in Belgium, #10 in Netherlands, #3 in Ireland).

Most great hits have easy listening 4/4 or 3/4, so I was wondering what would be the greatest hits that feature uncommon time signatures (e.g. 5/4, 7/4 etc...).

  • This is an infinite list question and will never be fully answered and isn't good for our format so I'm voting to close it as too broad. Just to illustrate the issue, three Beatles song off the top of my head fit this "Here Comes the Sun", "Revolution", and "Strawberry Fields Forever" and Soundgarden's most popular songs "Black Hole Sun" fits the bill along with many other songs in their collection most of which have charted at some point like "My Wave". I also haven't even touched Led Zeppelin which also has a lot of varying time signatures. – Dom Jun 14 '17 at 2:47
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    Let's narrow the subject down to hit-songs with uncommon time signatures as a main feature. I'm guessing there won't be hundreds? Golden Brown would be alright because the theme with uncommon rhythm is quite characteristic to the song. Pink Floyd's Money and Take 5 by The Dave Brubeck Quartet might still be the best scoring answers. – Draakhond Jun 15 '17 at 11:07
  • @Draakhond I just listed 5 songs that are considered hits that have non standard time signatures. I could go on since a time signature is but a small part of a composition and people who are good at composing will use nonstandard ones without anyone realizing it. – Dom Jun 15 '17 at 15:34
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    @Dom I think some of the songs you listed don't have uncommon sign signatures as main feature. What if we would say the question is about strikingly uncommon rhythms? But this could become an infinite discussion. BTW I am an experienced composer, specializing in rhythm, that's why I like the question. – Draakhond Jun 15 '17 at 17:24
  • @Draakhond they do. It may not be through the whole song, but they all have them as a very memorable sections of the song. What's here comes the sun without the bridge or black hole sun without the solo?The example given 3/4 and 4/4 alone are not special, but them being in the patterns they are is which makes a lot about this question very arbitrary. – Dom Jun 15 '17 at 17:33
10

"Take 5", in 5/4, is the top-selling jazz single of all time. It hit 25 on the pop charts as well. The Dave Brubeck Quartet, which recorded it, was known for unusual time signatures. It was composed by saxophonist Paul Desmond. The album it comes from, Time Out, is one of the biggest selling jazz albums of all times. Every song on the album features either multiple time signatures or unusual time signatures --the album as a whole was inspired by Brubeck encountering a characteristic Turkish rhythm, 2 + 2 + 2 + 3 / 8, and composing a song ("Blue Rondo a la Turk") in that meter.

Juliana Hatfield's pop song "Spin The Bottle", also in 5/4, hit #97 on the charts in 1993.

By the way, there's a wonderful recording of "Golden Brown" by the Jolly Boys, although unfortunately it omits the extra beat.

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    It should also be added that, as an album, Take 5 is one of the biggest selling Jazz albums of all times and the theme of the entire album is unusual time signatures. – DA. Jun 12 '17 at 17:18
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    @DA Thanks, I have incorporated your comment into the answer. – Chris Sunami Jun 12 '17 at 17:24
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Of course, we have Pink Floyd's Money.

Roger Waters and David Gilmour have made recent comments stating that the song had been composed primarily in 7/8 time, it was composed in 7/4, as stated by Gilmour in an interview with Guitar World magazine in 1993.

It reached

No. 10 in Cash Box magazine and No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Also

In 2008, Guitar World magazine listed Gilmour's solo on "Money" as No. 62 among readers' votes for "The Greatest 100 Guitar Solos". The song also was ranked No. 69 on the list of "The 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time" of Rolling Stone.

Wikipedia

4
  • On My Radio by The Selecter features a 7/4 time signature, but just in the chorus and that was probably a happy accident. It reached #8 in the UK and #13 in the Netherlands.

  • Everything's Alright is a song with 5/4 time signature from Jesus Christ Superstar. Released as a single in 1971 by Yvonne Elliman, reaching #92 in the US and released in 1992 by John Farnham, Kate Ceberano and Jon Stevens, reaching #6 in Australia.

  • Rendezvous 6:02 by UK apparently did not reach the charts in its homecountry although it was released as a single. It did hit #24 in the Netherlands. The chorus is in 7/8 and there is an instrumental interlude in a kind of 5/4 time signature.

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The original Mission Impossible theme is in 5/4. The newer version adds a bridge section in 4/4. You can hear it at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAYhNHhxN0A

  • Can you add some more detail to back this up ? – Angst Jun 7 '17 at 17:17
  • The famous bassline is 1 (&2) & (3&) 4 (&) 5 (&) repeated. – Richard Jun 7 '17 at 18:02
0

Back Together Again was a number 3 hit in the UK in 1980 for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.

For the most part, the time is four-on-the-floor dance, but it does an odd thing as it moves from the chorus through a bridge to the next verse. Listen from 1:45 to just after 2:00 and the time changes in such a way that the on-beat and off-beat become swapped.

Unfortunately, I'm not knowledgeable enough to be able to put a name to the time signature, I just remember being very surprised by it when I first noticed.

  • I can't hear anything different with the time signature... the drum beat stays quite the same. – Bebs Jun 7 '17 at 11:27
  • No, it doesn't. You're not alone in not being able to spot it either. If you listen and note the bass/snare/bass/snare in your head as it goes through the drum break, you will realise that it come out the other side with the beats inverted. – Lefty Jun 7 '17 at 13:02
  • @Bebs - I think Lefty is correct. Try counting "1-2-3-4" through the break. Technically, I would call this one bar of 3 instead of 4. I don't know if this counts as an odd time signature however, since it only occurs once, and during a drum break. – Chris Sunami Jun 7 '17 at 13:41
  • @ChrisSunami I genuinely never have been able to work out if it does 3 or 5 beats in the break but it must be an odd number. It actually occurs TWICE in the song; both times it goes from bridge to verse - but I take your point that it's not the same as a song entirely composed in an odd signature like "Take 5". – Lefty Jun 7 '17 at 13:55

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