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So...who does what?
11 August 2011
5.29am
kedame
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As I've said before, I really do not know a whole lot about music or roles in a band, and I was listening to Paperback Writer and Daytripper and wondering,"Who comes up with those intros/riffs?" So, is it the lead guitarist on the song or the songwriter who comes up with those?

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
11 August 2011
5.37pm
mr. Sun king coming together
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kedame said:

As I've said before, I really do not know a whole lot about music or roles in a band, and I was listening to Paperback Writer and Daytripper and wondering,"Who comes up with those intros/riffs?" So, is it the lead guitarist on the song or the songwriter who comes up with those?

If it was a Paul song, typically it was Paul, but on John's songs it would be John with a semblance of an idea which George would finish. But generally, intros and riffs are songwriter inventions.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
12 August 2011
1.33am
GniknuS
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I wouldn't say John would automatically go to George to clean up his ideas. Don't necessarily sell him short now, I Feel Fine is really hard to play, lot of pinkey action there, and I believe he played it live as well as sung which must have been really tough.

I would definitely say that John's stuff is the most riff oriented, his harder stuff like Cold Turkey and Well, Well, Well feature some nasty riffs, but his acoustic stuff like Dear Prudence, Julia and Octopus's Garden feature similar riffs that are based around his travis picking technique.

Riffs to me are either one of two things, either a) they are the gravy, they're like the hook that pushes a song from being okay to being really cool. Uncle Albert is a great example with that sweet flugelhorn riff which gets stuck in your head like nobody's business and brings you back to the song. Or b) the whole song is built around the riff, examples being something like Working Class Hero which is built around that little hammer on that John does with the alternating bass line or Pink Floyd's Money or Paul's Coming Up. Rarely is there a riff that's just sort of there doing nothing, it's purpose is usually crucial to the song.

Not always, but usually, my other favorite band, the Meters, are completely built around funky riffs and they are always being played by a different member, whether it's guitar, bass, hammond organ or drums so I'd be very interested to hear what those guys have to say about their songwriting process. And jazz guys veere in many different directions but always come back to the main riff which caused all of the madness to begin with.

So, I would agree with Sun King that the songwriter is usually responsible simply because he has the clearest mind of the song in his head before it is layed down and he knows what he wants out of it. But not always, there are no hard and fast rules in music.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine
12 August 2011
2.00am
mr. Sun king coming together
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Oh, I think that most of the time a John song with a riff was developed by John, but John was more willing to go to George to finish a riff then Paul was. But I like your last line, Gnik. There are no rules. But generally, the songwriter typically wrote the riff. And Kedame, welcome back.

I tried to think of something powerful and moving… and failed.  "You were given a choice between war and dishonor - you chose dishonor, and you shall have war" - Winston Churchill
12 August 2011
6.35pm
kedame
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Thanks for the responses! And thanks for the welcome back. I still read here and check in from time-to-time, but it's been a busy summer!

"You can manicure a cat but can you caticure a man?" John Lennon- Skywriting by Word of Mouth
11 September 2011
3.12am
Into the Sky with Diamonds
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With regard to intros, there was no rule:

It's Paul's piano intro on George's "While My Guitar…"

Paul's guitar intro on John's "Ticket To Ride"

George's intro on Ringo's (Octopus Garden)

John's piano intro on Paul's "Ob la di…"

 

IMHO, this lack of hierarchy and rules was one of the many secrets to their success….

"Into the Sky with Diamonds" (the Beatles and the Race to the Moon – a history)
11 September 2011
3.27pm
meanmistermustard
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Certainly later on Paul was generally more controlling over his songs, usually having it worked out before the band would record it (George staying in the studio booth after trying to play an answering guitar phrase on Hey Jude) but would occasionally listen to ideas. John was more open to suggestions. I think George was pretty much left to get on with working his songs out on his own, even if he wanted help. They all would offer Ringo help with George playing a major hand in making Octopus's Garden into a fully crafted song.

In the early days they all would thrown in ideas.

As for who played what it depends on the song. Early on they would usually stick to their own instruments with occasionally one playing a piano/keyboard part as well. As time went on that all changed.

For examle:

John plays the guitar solo on Honey Pie and Get Back, bass on Let it Be and The Long And Winding Road.

George does the bass on Old Brown Shoe, Birthday, Drive My Car.

Paulo plays lead on Taxman, Drive My Car. Drums on Dear Prudence, Back In The USSR (as do John and George as well) and a host of other White Album tracks, Ballad of John and Yoko.

"Well, probably we'll sell less records, less people'll go to see the film, we'll write less songs, and we'll all die of failure" (John Lennon 8/64)
2 October 2011
10.35am
mjb
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"Into the Sky with Diamonds" said:

John's piano intro on Paul's "Ob la di…"

 

Reminds me of a brilliant anecdote I read about this where John was so fed up keeping on trying out new ideas for this song, that he just waltzed into the session and slammed these chords out on the piano and said this was it……and Paul liked it! Hence the song was finally created as we hear it…..

"If we feel our heads starting to swell.....we just look at Ringo!"
2 October 2011
11.03am
mjb
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This bit is interesting from a recent interview with Paul:

 

MOJO: Any other moments where George really brought something to the song?

PAUL: I think George always brought something to all the songs. Me, George and John originally had a little set-up with just the three of us on three guitars. That was our first kinda little incarnation. And we would go to talent shows and lose them with that line-up. [chuckles] So what I mean is, any of us could take the guitar parts. So, for instance, I Feel Fine was John's riff and started off by him leaning the guitar inadvertently against an amp and it fed back so we used that into the… [sings the opening riff]. But often opening riffs – certainly solos – would be George. I could go through 'em all and just say, That's George, that's George, that's George. 'Cos I was there, you know. [chuckles]

"If we feel our heads starting to swell.....we just look at Ringo!"
2 October 2011
3.06pm
Joe
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Hey, good to have you back mjb.

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