Apr 262011

I love “Sweet Jane.” Although its chord progression and rhythm are probably part of the extended rock ‘n roll lineage of 3-chord classics like “Louie Louie,” “Wild Thing,” and “Gloria,” I would argue that its distinctive rhythmic hitch established the song as its own dynastic chord progression.

Last night, while watching the John Hughes “classic” Pretty in Pink for the first time in my life I kept waiting for the title track to play, hoping against hope that it would inject a little excitement into this simplistic, overly nice film that I felt justified for having been “too cool for school” to see when it was all the rage in my college years. Maybe the song plays at the beginning of the movie, the first 15 minutes or so of which I missed, but let me tell you, I was pretty pissed when… [SPOILER ALERT!] nice guy Duckie (looking like he walked off the set of The Undertones’ “Love Parade” video) set Molly Ringwald free to track down nice, rich guy Andrew McCarthy and the movie ended without blasting The Psychedelic Furs‘ big hit!

The one silver lining is that I spent so much of my evening watching the long, nice, mostly pointless scenes of this movie in anticipation of a small jolt of identification with a song I was once not too cool to fully dig (ie, when it was just the title track to the Furs’ second album, prior to its remake for the wildly popular movie I had no interest in ever seeing) that I had time to realize that “Pretty in Pink” is an example of a song that is a direct descendant of “Sweet Jane.” And that, Townspeople, is my long-winded way of introducing today’s Last Man Standing: Songs That Are Based Around the Chord Progression and Rhythm of “Sweet Jane.”

So any songs in this LMS must have been written/recorded after “Sweet Jane” and must tap into that song’s distinctive hitch around a I-IV-V chord progression (with or without the “secret sauce” of Lou’s minor chord tucked in there). The hitch, I believe, is the telltale trait in this rock song dynasty.

As I was composing this post I spotted a note on another Townsperson’s Facebook page reminding me of a second entrant in this competition. I’ll let him—or you—provide that answer and whatever other answers might arise in this thread.


  36 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Songs That Are Based Around the Chord Progression and Rhythm of “Sweet Jane””

  1. Well, Moddy, I’d have to say Cornershop’s 1998 single, “Brimful of Asha” definitely fits the bill in this category…

  2. Not to get all geeky on you but I need a clarification. To make things easier, I’ll assume that all songs are in G.

    Louie Louie and Wild Thing are both I-IV-V progressions (although the V in Louie Louie is a minor) so they would be G-C-Dm and G-C-D respectively). I’m not sure what the numbers for Gloria would be but it’s not I-IV-V. The chords would be G- F-C.

    Sweet Jane is a I-V-VIIm-IV progression. (G-D-Em-C), so it’s more like Mr Postman than the three chord songs. Is that what you’re looking for? Songs with a I-V-VIIm-IV progression?

  3. The chords I mentioned are right but what I referred to as a VII might be a VI. I’m no good with theory or math.

  4. No, I’m looking for songs that work around 3 main chords (I’m not a music major either, but regardless of the order of chords, G, C, and D would be the I-IV-V in the key of G, no?), with or without a relative minor, AND that have a hitch, or syncopation, similar to that in “Sweet Jane.”

  5. Did you say, “*not* to get all geeky”? I think if it sounds reminiscent of the riff on the studio version of SJ, then that’s what we’re looking for….of course, I’ll leave it up to Mod to lay down the law on this….

  6. Mmm, I don’t think so. That’s a 3-chord wonder, but it doesn’t have the hitch or feel of any version of “Sweet Jane,” not even the eventual Rock ‘n Roll Animal version, does it? To me that song’s rhythm is more in line with “Can’t Explain,” no?

    Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha,” as Mr. Bittman put forth, is EXACTLY the sort of offspring I seek. Clearly that song is heavily indebted to “Sweet Jane.”

    I should apologize for making this such a difficult, particular LMS. I’m aware that most of you probably were not watching Pretty in Pink for the first time last night. I had A LOT of time to think about this.

  7. And I get what you’re saying about the ORDER of the chords, cdm. What I meant was the 3 main chords in whatever keys (what do they call it, tonic, dominant, subdominant???) in, more or less, the “Sweet Jane” rhythm. The chords can be in any order and with or without the VI because after a cyclical chord rhythm can be heard starting on any of the chords and still make sense.

  8. You are currently Last Man Standing! Perhaps this will be one of those long-sought LMS competitions that stump us beyond the initial entry. Presently I know of only one other song that fits this bill – and that’s only the song’s coda – but most likely I’m forgetting some other obvious examples.

  9. bostonhistorian

    I was saving this for something else, but here The Kooks manage to bash together Sweet Jane and Beast of Burden: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkV639KzHjI

  10. Whoa. That just blew my mind.

  11. mockcarr

    Baba O’Riley?

  12. Closer than some other suggestions, but that never develops into a groove.

    Man, this is harder than I thought it would be. I guess my designation of “Sweet Jane” as a “dynastic chord progression” was a rare bit of hyperbole from me.

  13. “Sweet Jane” is my fave song of all time, hands down (though I never cared for the Cowboy Junkies’ cover of the Live 1969 version). That said, in my official Lou Reed songbook thingy for guitar, etc., the chords for the song are “D-A-G-Bm-A,” repeat ’til blissed.

    I dunno if that’s changed in the latest Lou Reed guitar book, and I’ve seen Lou and others play it differently, but this seems to be the progression that works best to my ears.

    That is all. I really don’t have an entry here, lest it be “Sheet Rockin'” by Deering and Down.

  14. BigSteve

    I keep thinking that one of those early Neil Diamond songs with big acoustic guitar chords might meet the criteria, but A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You is the closest I can come, and they’re not the right chords.

  15. BigSteve

    Trying to find a Bowie song that fits the bill I came across teenage Wildlife:


    It’s more of a I-IV riff, but it has a little of that rhythmic hitch in it. Same with Heroes.

  16. Good one – the judges will accept “Teenage Wildlife.” That leaves at least one sadly obscure example.

  17. ladymisskirroyale

    This is not very obscure but might do the trick:
    “Short Skirt, Long Jacket” by Cake from the :28 mark on.

  18. I’d never heard this song:


    Yes, this is the sort of thing I had in mind. You are currently LMS!

  19. How about Bowie’s “Queen Bitch”? Obviously Bowie would have spent a lot time spinning “Sweet Jane.”

  20. ladymisskirroyale

    Or J. Geils “Love Stinks”?
    Mwah, hah, hah.

  21. BigSteve

    I think Queen Bitch falls into the ‘three-chord wonder but no Sweet Jane’ category. The riff is too fast by half. Now Love Stinks is an interesting one. Not a band you would think would be Lou Reed fans, but still …..

  22. I agree with BigSteve: that’s a surprising one that just goes the extra mile that “Queen Bitch” and “Do Ya” do not.

  23. trigmogigmo

    Take it up a whole tone, and Sweet Jane becomes the chorus of “Just What I Needed” by the Cars.

  24. That’s a good one – and I believe Ocasek was one of those Boston-area Velvets groupies along with Jonathan Richman (and David Robinson, perhaps?).

  25. ladymisskirroyale

    One last idea: How about “Crimson and Clover”?

  26. Interesting. I hear the similarities, but technically it preceded the release of “Sweet Jane,” so maybe it was Lou’s inspiration! (I doubt it, but it’s funny to consider.)

  27. hrrundivbakshi

    Possibly the worst Jam song ever: “Innocent Man” — the B-side of News Of the World.”


  28. I couldn’t tell you the progression, but I thought “Three Marlenas” by Jakob Dylan was a dead rip of “Sweet Jane” the 1st time I heard it:

  29. trigmogigmo

    Yeah, I don’t have the details right, but I sense some kind of connection from VU to Television, and Ocasek has collaborated with Richard Hell. Could use a Pete Frame poster for that branch of the Rock Family Tree!

  30. misterioso

    It is, indeed, a terrible song. Thank God they never followed through on their ill-advised plan of releasing an entire album of songs with the same titles as Billy Joel songs.

  31. Now that I’ve had a chance to hear that bad Jam song, it’s funny that a Jakob Dylan song would – presently – be Last Man Standing. That’s because the Jam song reminded me of a song by Pere Dylan, which is also related to sonny boy’s song: “If Not for You.”


  32. Ok, 10 years later im watching this site and made a playlist with these songs you all mentioned, I have noticed this proggresion on many songs too and always used to point that out to my friends.

    And in ten years nes songs have come out with this progression, really good songs.
    Here are two, just cause I know you guys will appreciate…

    Nathaniel Rateliff – Still out there running

    and this new artist just came out with this song and I thought to myself “that enough im making a playlist”…

    Check it out…

    Keli Holiday – We Dont Have to Know

    LMS still going?

  33. Jumping in as Last Man Standing ten years on. Well played!

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