Friday, February 1, 2008


Let me begin by saying I am not a musician, nor do I know anything much about music theory except for a few tattered scraps of info left over from the pre-teen years. At fourteen, I may have won the battle with my mom - and was allowed to quit taking piano lessons - but I am the poorer for it today. I truly wish I'd picked another activity to assert by budding independence with. Having said that, I do recall that intervals of harmony were named after the number of "steps" apart they were on the scale. The most frequent and pleasing harmony, to Western ears anyway, is the third. Practically every rock and roll ballad from my teen years utilized them. Some of the prettiest third harmony that comes to mind were by the Everly Brothers. To me, thirds sound kind of sweet and almost comforting, even if the lyrics of the song happen not to be. However, much as I like the sound of thirds, I think if I had to pick my favorite harmony of all it would be the fifth. I'm not sure why, but there's something different about fifths. Maybe it's me, but a fifth sounds exotic, even a little haunting, corny as that sounds. It's like it comes from another time or place. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that fifths were more popular in the Middle Ages, or something like that. Well, I don't know about those oldies, but when it comes to vintage rock and roll, I have a fifth I'd like to share with you (sounds like I'm going to pour your a drink!). Well, sorry, no happy hour - the fifth I'm talking about is in the song "Ginny Come Lately" by Brian Hyland. With thirds and fifths, I think this is one of the prettiest loves songs of any generation. If you're biting your lower lip about now trying to remember why his name sounds familiar, Brian Hyland had two huge hits with "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and "Sealed With A Kiss." He was one of those 60s teen heartthrobs who had a much better voice than I think he ever got credit for. I saw him on TV a while back, on one of those PBS rock reunion shows, so he's probably still performing and touring around. But you don't have to wait until a show comes to your town. Thanks to YouTube, we can all hear Brian and his fifths right now.

Ginny Come Lately

This is the original AM radio version, but the video may have to be taken down soon. That's too bad, because the fifth harmony is clear as a bell, e.g. in the first line of lyrics when he sings "couple of days ago."

Here's another one of the same song, in case we lose the one above, but it's been re-recorded and changed; the fifths are much harder to pick out.

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