3/19/10

Music Lists #11: 25 Greatest Codas in Popular Music


Songs are composed of various different structures: the chorus, verse, bridge, etc. They're put together, and if it's done right, it sounds like one cohesive unit, each part is inter-linked. For this post, I'm looking at one section in particular - that last piece, the coda.

A coda is basically a separate section which brings an end to a song; In popular music, it's sometimes referred to as an "outro"; the opposite of an intro. It's not necessarily long- "cold outros" as in "What I Like About You" by the Romantics end abruptly (and are a DJ's worst nightmare). I'm speaking more of the "fade-out coda" -the undeniably greatest example in popular music being the "Na Na Na" part of "Hey Jude". 

The "Hey Jude" fade-out coda is so brilliant, I could probably listen to the same repetetive lyrics all day and not get tired of it - close your eyes and listen and it's about as close as a song can get to pure hypnotic euphoria. It got me thinking about other songs that made good use of an outro, and this list is the result. 

Let's be clear, the list is not arranged by the quality of the entire song - I'm only looking at the coda. Please drop a comment for suggestions to add to this rather short list, I know there must be a good deal more great ones I'm forgetting.

  1. Hey Jude - The Beatles
  2. (I've Been) Searchin' So Long - Chicago
  3. Head Over Heals - Tears for Fears
    "... and this is my foooour leaf cloooover..."
  4. Layla - Derek & the Dominoes
    Allman's closer is sublime 
  5. Lucky Man - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
    Moog-tastic
  6. Atlantis - Donovan
    "Way down below the ocean. Where I wanna be."
  7. Aquarius - The 5th Dimension
    "Let the sunshine in"
  8. I Am the Walrus - The Beatles
    King Lear and "Joob, joob, joob!"
  9. When the Levee Breaks - Led Zeppelin
  10. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
    A guitar solo coda that makes the one in "Hotel California" look bad
  11. Come Sail Away - Styx
    They're not angels, they're aliens!
  12. Baba O'Riley - The Who
  13. November Rain - Guns N' Roses
    Gives me goosebumps
  14. Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie
    "My mother said, to get things done, you'd better not mess with Major Tom"
  15. Beautiful Girls - Van Halen
    "I love 'em. I need 'em. Can't do without 'em.
  16. Alec Eiffel - Pixies
  17. Love Removal Machine - The Cult
  18. Golden Brown - The Stranglers
    Short, but chilling - especially when you know the song's topic
  19. Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin' - Journey
    The coda is where the song goes from average to anthem
  20. Sunrise - Pulp
    A sonic explosion if there ever was one
  21. Karma Police
    "For a minute there, I lost myself"
  22. I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home) - Grand Funk Railroad
    So long and repititious, it used to drive me insane. Now I love it.
  23. All You Need Is Love - The Beatles
    "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah"
  24. Sweet Child O' Mine - Guns N' Roses
    "Where do we go now?"
  25. Guitar Man - Bread
    I'm a sucker for when the orchestra kicks in
Simon & Garfunkle's "The Boxer" has a great "La-de-di" fade-out, but doesn't qualify as an outro, because it technically doesn't end the song; the very last part resumes the earlier verse. The same would probably apply to "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "Stairway to Heaven".

14 comments:

  1. "Society's Child" by Janis Ian, terrific organ coda. Also "Indian Reservation" by Paul Revere and the Raiders has a good one. Great list!

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  2. "Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In" by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition

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  3. The guitar solo fade at the end of Bowie's "Moonage Daydream" is just bone-chilling! Mick Ronson may not have worn out the fretboard like everyone else in the early 70's, but he had one of the best sounds. Listen to it, and imagine you're riding with the Silver Surfer.

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  4. The outro to "Star Collector" by The Monkees (from their fourth album, 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd'). A slice of Moog Heaven, and predates "Lucky Man" by a few years. Album was the first pop record to use a Moog synth.

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  5. I'd have to include "Indication" by the Zombies - this bright rave-up of a song suddenly goes into an equally driving minor-key riff that hypnotically repeats and repeats for about a minute, drums pounding harder and harder, vocalese following the keyboard line...awesome stuff.

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  6. I don't know if this qualifies or not, but the ending of Cheap Trick's "Ain't That A Shame" live at Budokan is one of my favorite song wrap-ups. Very interesting post!

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  7. Great suggestions!... a few of these I haven't heard, and will have to check them out.

    "Moonage Daydream" by Bowie will have to be listened to - sounds very promising!

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  8. "One Summer Dream" by ELO has a beautiful coda - and a very special intro too.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH4pp248RVQ

    Then there is something on the coda of another Jeff Lynne song, "Blown Away" from Armchair Theatre, that gives me goosebumps. It's that Del Shannon falsetto at the end...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWiXZNfhQU4

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  9. Silver Jews, Federal Dust:

    They don't cry and they don't die in South Dakota.
    They don't match and they don't hatch in South Dakota.
    Here comes the coda:

    Not much water coming over the hill...

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  10. The final resolution to 'All These Things I've Done' by the Killers always does it for me.

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  11. Belle and Sebastian - lazy line painter jane. aahhhhh, so good.

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  12. Steve Gadd's drum coda in Steely Dan's Aja is as good as any.

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  13. "The Concept" by Teenage Fanclub

    Puts you in a sugary coda coma

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  14. Living in the USA by Steve Miller........."somebody get me a cheeeeseburger!"

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