Generic Norms, Irony, and Authenticity in the AABA Songs of the Rolling Stones, 1963-1971

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David Carter


AABA form was in decline in popular music in the 1960s, yet the Rolling Stones made extensive use of it at a crucial point in their career. In this article I examine the relationship between Jagger-Richards AABA songs released between 1963 and 1971 and established AABA norms. I use analysis of a corpus of 138 AABA songs (112 by other artists, 26 by Jagger-Richards) to compare existing defaults with the Stones’ approach to factors such as starting and ending bridge harmonies and melodic form in the verses. This analysis shows that the band’s approach to AABA in this time period bifurcates into two main approaches, each associated with a tempo extreme: either 1) using the form ironically to critique wealth and privilege, or 2) employing it in a sincere way that invokes soul artists and thereby claims authenticity for the band.

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