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Love for Sale

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Fred W, Jul 26, 2003.

  1. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    The new Theory Forum seems the right place to air out a little theory question that's nagging me. In the Cole Porter standard Love for Sale, all the fake books and hand-written chord sheets I've seen show the tonic chord(3rd bar) as a minor. Why? The melody opens with octave, 6 5... no hint of a minor tonality. In fact the natural 6 strongly suggests major chord to me. Also, the key signature is always the major. (i.e. the song is usually in Bflat the key sig is 2 flat not 5 flats) But the Bbflat chords are all minor! My ear tells me that Bb has a major third. What does Talkbass Nation say?
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    The major 6th needn't imply major tonality at all, it could imply melodic minor.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    That's an interesting question, especially the key signature part. I think it's important to remember before going too far into questions such as this that purpose of music theory is to have a tool that acts as a scientific reference to information about what music has often done in the past. It's easy to get into hot water pretty quickly if theory starts to be viewed as a set of rules describing what music should do.

    Having said that, I think that part of what makes this progression effective is the fact that it defies the expectation that it sets up by using the deceptive resolution. Other tunes, like Porter's own "Night and Day" and McCartney's "Fool On The Hill" do the same thing with mode mixture to great effect, and in all three of these cases, there is some kind of reference to this mode mixture in the lyric that accompanies the resolution. In the case of "Love For Sale", I think the juxtaposition is extremely effective...after all, the tune does have a fairly dark subject, no?

    "Love.....for Sale
    Appetizing young Love...for sale
    Love that's fresh and still unspoiled
    Love that's only slightly soiled
    Love for Sale

    Who will buy?
    Who would like to sample my supply?
    Who's prepared to pay the price
    For a trip to paradise?
    Love for Sale

    Let the poets pipe of love
    In their childish way
    I know every type of love
    Better far than they
    If you want the thrill of love
    I've been through the mill of love
    Old love, new love
    Every love but true love....."

    I mean, jeez, if that isn't a seriously dark lyric, then what is? Still, good question. It'll be interesting to see what folks have to say about this.
  4. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Chris, that's another reason the tune sings to me in a major tonality. Yes the lyrics are dark and ultimately pathetic. But on the surface it's a sales pitch, a jingle. So the juxtaposition is pretty sophisticated, a la Porter. So Chris, which Bb do you hear? And has anyone here seen a copy of the original sheet music and can tell us what chord is written for the tonic?
  5. I have a copy of what I presume to be the piano transcription used for copyright filing. This was the common medium at the time. Warner bought the copyright and publishes it. Fake books are another story.
    Basically, the song is AABA form (expanded).
    First A: 2 bars Eb, 2 Bbmi, 2 Eb, 2 Bbmi
    2nd A: 2 bars Eb, 2 BbMa, 2 Eb, 2 BbMa
    Last A: 2 bars Eb, 2 Bbmi, 2 Eb, 2 BbMa

    Go figure. But this is a quintessential Porter touch. The subtleties of his changes are routinely smashed on records. In "Get Out Of Town", an ABAB tune, the first A is in G minor; the second A is G major. I get alot of arguments when I play it that way.

    "Love For Sale" finishes in Bb major; key signature is 2 flats.

    Side notes on Love
    1.In the landmark album "Somethin' Else," Sam Jones plays D natural throughout. In a blindfold test in Downbeat, Ron Carter publicly lambasted the bassist for playing the major third throughout what he considered a minor tune. As I listen again today, I hear it usually on 4 going to the Eb chord; an argument could be made that its function is less the spelling of the current chord and more as a leading tone to the next chord. I don't buy it. I think he just wanted to avoid the shifts to get Db and back to Eb.
    2. (On their CD)On the head, Kenny Barron and Peter Washington play Bb major at all times, to fit a harmonic device used in the intro. When they get to the 2nd improvised chorus, they go to Bb minor throughout.

    Sorry you asked, Fred?
  6. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Glad I asked. So with the same melody Porter harmonised 1st A section minor, 2nd major? Does that make me half right? Probably half wrong.I gotta root for Sam Jones vs Ron Carter anyway.
    There's no doubt Cole Porter chose an ambiguous tonality for the melody.He was a famous bisexual so I suppose it's fitting his harmony goes both ways.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I hear the Bb as a minor chord, but probably only because I've played it that way about a thousand times with singers. I wouldn't have a problem resolving to major if it was in the chart, or if I heard the rest of the band doing it consistently.
  8. There's an old story about Ben Webster, in the middle of playing a beautiful chorus on a ballad, suddenly stopping. Asked why he stopped, Webster is alleged to have said "I forgot the words."

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