Marvelous Middle Eights – Discuss

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Better late than not at all….


A spooky thing happened to me last week on my way home from work and when cooking dinner a bit later.  I had a random playlist on in the car (always far too loud so as to distract me from the annoying traffic), for once I was really listening to the music rather than allowing the issues of the day to invade my subconscious and begin to worry me.  A song called Shining Light by Ash came on.  It’s a sweet tune from 2001 with some lovely lyrics you could send to someone in the hope they’d pick up your meaning…it’s not as rocky as Girl from Mars, but still passable commute listening.  As the song progressed, it suddenly changed tempo and key “Ah that’s a lovely little middle eight right there” I thought to myself – I never think of these things generally, so it was a weird thought to have.  End of little anecdote number 1.

Here’s the track as a reminder:

Later I was cooking dinner with a new releases round table discussion on the radio in the background.  They played the new St Vincent release called Los Ageless. (which is a great track btw).  The panel members loved it, but one of the guests (Jimbob from Carter USM) mentioned how brilliant the middle eight was in her track.  How bloody weird!  I’ve never really thought about middle eights and there it was; twice in the space of a couple of hours.

I agree with Jimbob; a good middle eight keeps you interested and moves the track on.   There are loads of great Motown tracks I can think of with very good middle eights – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough as a starter.  The Beatles and The Beach Boys were pretty good at middle eights too.  I love the middle eights in Stevie Nicks’ Edge Of Seventeen and in Justin Timberlake’s Rock Your Body.  Both tracks ramp back up after their middle eight lulls, propelling the tune to its end.

Since last week I have tuned into so many middle eights in the songs I’ve listened to; I notice them even when I’m not really paying attention.  There was a middle eight RR topic back in 2009 and the songs that made the list are all good examples (although I can’t claim to like all the songs – Kaiser Chiefs???).  So, yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to discuss this issue. What do you know about all of this? What are your favourite middle eights?  Or maybe you think they are a waste of time and an attempt by the artist to self indulgently show off?  Discuss.

16 thoughts on “Marvelous Middle Eights – Discuss

  1. I remember the topic well – I’ve never spent more of a long weekend nominating tunes, mostly those great American songwriters, and Paul McInnes didn’t pick any of them. I was so outraged that those great writers weren’t represented that I had a bit of a strop about it, probably the low point of my RR etiquette. It seemed to matter at the time, and of course I was younger then….

    Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II spring to mind:

    You are the angel glow, that lights a star
    The finest things are know, are what you are…”

    All The Things You Are

    • I liked PM’s lists he never picked any of my tunes, so I just used to troll and shoehorn tunes after a few months. When he finally listed one of my suggestions he described it as “three men shouting”. That’s a rubbish description cos there were only two.

    • I certainly agree with you about the Great American Songbook writers. I think I suggested It never entered my mind, Lorenz Hart with Richard Rodgers.

      you have what I lack myself
      and now I even have to scratch my back myself

      • Well, I picked it for “innuendo” as the only example of hinting and implication that wasn’t overtly sexual. Although, that “scratch my back…”

  2. I can remember being totally unable to grasp what a middle eight is; Chris (I think) explained it very carefully but I think it all went over my head. I get the concept but I can’t work out how many bars a piece of music is, without seeing the sheet music. Probably because my maths is crap and I usually play by ear.

  3. Wasn’t involved in RR back then but given I am musically illiterate I wouldn’t have been able to participate.

    I understand the concept i.e. it is a break in the middle of the song that is ‘significantly’ different to the parts either side (I think) and can recognise that type of change in a song when i hear it but wouldn’t necessarily be able to pinpoint that it’s a middle eight as I couldn’t tell you what a bar is other than that venerable institution where I sometimes hang out and nominate songs (Ed. apologies not intending to be political]

    • It’s really not that mysterious- take DP’s post above. Normally a standard “line” of a song is 4 bars, so two “lines” make 8. Add a different melody to two lines of text, pop it in after the second chorus and you have a middle eight.
      Or, more basically, take a variation on the musical theme of the verse, make it about half as long as a standard verse, and add some words to fit.
      Traditionally you’d put it after two verse/chorus cycles and then finish with a final verse/chorus and a playout.

        • I think it’s basically a case of “well, after playing the same thing twice over we need some variation before the big finale”, and it also gives the lyricist a chance to spice things up a little outside of the corset of the main rhyme scheme. Often in the GAS tradition in a musical, the middle eight would be a chance for a witty couplet or a self-reflective moment.

    • Probably your feeling for the music would tell you if you weren’t thinking too hard about counting. The best thing about the week when we did it was the penny dropping for DarceysDad and getting himself an A-lister with an Eels song.

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