Hooks, Ultimate

Jonathan Bellman

A head's-up:  Steve Smith, a Philosophy/Religious Studies guy at Millsaps College, has a blog/chronicle/study of hooks, specifically hooks in rock songs.  Smith's project is off to a fine start, and while I admit that our definitions of "hook" differ, it still makes for enjoyable and thought-provoking reading.  Just to explain the difference: my idea of a hook has always been an instrumental riff that grabs you by the collar (or something else) and doesn't let go—ever.  Obvious examples would be the the opening electric piano lick from "Summer in the City" (Lovin' Spoonful), the closing piano lick from Paul McCartney's "Venus and Mars," the signature guitar licksfrom the Beatles' "Day Tripper" (yes, Clapton did it first in the Bluesbreakers' version of Ray Charles's "What'd I Say," but still), Sugarloaf's "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You," the Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," the Move's "Do Ya" (much superior to ELO's), etc.  You know what I mean, right?  It's a hook!

According to Prof. Smith, the definition is somewhat broader, including "Trying," "Odd Meter," or even "The Greatest 'F— You.'"  So, on that basis, I'll suggest one.  The category is the greatest dismissive laugh, the most devastating (in laugh form) negation of a girl, all her ancestors, her entire gender…by a wronged singer.  My nomination: the second (not the first, which is a mere "ah"), laugh in Dion and the Belmonts' "Lovers Who Wander."  The line is "Look at me now (hah!); you'd never know it"  and the second time it's pretty much fatal.

Agree?  Disagree?  Let Steve know.

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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2 Responses to Hooks, Ultimate

  1. Steve Smith says:

    Professor Bellman has gone unerringly to my kind of hook, a magic particle that could be found anywhere in a track. Dion’s laugh seems great to me because it’s no raggedy cackle but totally in his flow, still in his style, like his life without the unfaithful one. The singer is sovereign. But what are the other great laughs? What subcategories should be considered? Joyful, wicked, dumb?

  2. Sara says:

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