Here's a true B-Side classic. Harmony was
originally released as the B-Side to Bennie and the Jets,
one of many great songs on what is arguably Elton's finest
album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.
Harmony is one of those irresistible Elton songs. The melody
and lyrics in the chorus, kicked off by a 1-octave vocal
leap, are so memorable that you can't help but sing along.
This is definitely an Elton melody at its very very best.
Ostensibly the song is about Elton's relationship with his
musical muse who is personified by the name Harmony. This
gives the song an element of introspection even though the
lyrics SEEM to be more about a love relationship with a person.
So let's look at the music. Harmony starts with
one of the most beautifully ambiguous chords I've come across.
The piano plays an open Cb-major chord with an Eb bass. No
problem there. But Elton sings the major-7th. When combined
with the Eb bass, this sounds more like an Eb-minor chord.
Check it out. You'd swear you were listening to a minor chord,
but it's not. I labeled this chord a CbM7/Eb.
OK then you say, so WHAT ABOUT ALL THOSE DAMN FLATS? Sorry
guys. That first chord is a Cb chord. I know you want to
call it a B because it's easier. B and Cb are enharmonic
equivalents, but there is no way theoretically to modulate
from B to Eb. I'm trying to maintain some musical standards
here! Therefore the song has to be notated in the key of
Ebm (the relative minor of Gb) so that it can make a parallel
modulation to the key of Eb at the chorus. Frankly, once
you get used to the flatted C, it's not all that hard to
It's also worth mentioning that in recent years, Elton has
lowered Harmony a half step to Dm. The transcription presented
here is from the original recording.
The remainder of the verse moves downward towards a true
Ebm and then to a Bb7 turnaround with a 2/4 extension tag.
The Bb7 also serves as a segue, being the dominant 5th for
the Eb major key as well.
|| CbM7/Eb | Db | Abm Gb | Ebm Bb7 || Bb7 ||
The modulation from Ebm to Eb at the chorus is one of the
most dramatic and glorious moments in Elton's songwriting
history. Bb7, which is the V-chord in both keys, is the modulation
chord. The power of this moment is heightened by several
- First of all, the melody in the verse is mostly in the
lower register. But when we reach the chorus, we get that
1-octave "you know, oh, oh, oh, oh" melodic jump
and the melody stays up in those upper registers throughout
the chorus. All by itself this heightens the excitement.
- Second of all, the strings, which were arranged by Del
Newman, and backing vocals are brought in as well. From
the sparse sound of the verse, the chorus literally jumps
out at you with a huge dense sound.
- And finally, as mentioned before, that modulation from
Ebm to Eb just sparkles. Starting with the ambiguous opening
chord, there is a harmonic tension in the verse as it moves
diatonically downward along the pentatonic scale. That
tension is released dramatically through the modulation
to Eb-Major where the harmony shifts to a circle
of 4ths progression.
Harmonically the chorus follows an old standard pop progression:
ii-V-I-vi, ii-V-I. Although he mixes it up a bit, this pattern
creates a sing-along feel to the chorus. You old-time piano
players may hear the "Heart and Soul" piano chords
in this section. Elton's truly taking one from the classics
Elton's playing in Harmony is not terribly difficult. He takes a fairly open
approach to his accompaniment, not filling up the space with piano. The overall
approach is Eltonish in feel and rhythm, but there really isn't much in the
way of trademark riffs to point to.
This is a great song from a great album. Hope you enjoy
it as much as I do!