Head Over Heels
The song of the week is the Flatt and Scruggs classic 'Head Over Heels' in the keys of Bb and G The song of the week cycle is now four weeks long instead of only three.
Here is the original recording of the song, and I recommend using this version as your main point of reference for playing it at the jam:
Flatt and Scruggs - key of G
Form & Arrangement
'Head Over Heels' has very short verses and choruses, much like 'Nine Pound Hammer', 'Sitting On Top Of The World', and some versions of 'Handsome Molly'. The verses and the chorus are half the length of a typical verse or a typical chorus for a bluegrass song. For this reason, breaks for this song are played over both the verse and then the chorus progression - and most often by a single instrument. Half a break goes by fast enough in this song to make it difficult to cue split breaks at a jam when leading the song.
The progression (for a verse and chorus together) is:
[In the key of Bb: 4 = Eb, and 5 = F. The Bb chord consists of the notes Bb,D, F. The Eb chord consists of the notes Eb,G,Bb. The F chord consists of the notes F,A,C. Together, these notes make up the Bb Major Scale: Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G,A,(Bb)]
This is not a very common progression. But each of its halves are part of other more common progressions. The first two lines of the progression are identical with the last two lines of Progressions V1 (e.g., Gathering Flowers From The Hillside), X1 (e.g., the chorus of I'm Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open) and V3 (e.g., I'll Fly Away) on the Basic Chord Progressions handout. And the last two lines of the progression are identical with the last two lines of Progressions V4 (e.g., You Are My Sunshine), and V10 (e.g., Little Darling Pal Of Mine).
As another way of relating this progression to other progressions you may be already more familiar with, it might help to notice that this progression differs by only one measure from the progression used to play 'Hand Me Down My Walking Cane', which is:
In order to lengthen the song on the recording, notice how Scruggs goes into a banjo break after the last verse and chorus, but only gets 3/4 of the way through a complete break until Lester comes in singing the last line of the chorus to finish the song. (On the next link below, only 1/2 a banjo break is played near the end, allowing the song to end with a complete chorus.)
A more straightforward alternative to these ways of ending the song when one wishes to lengthen it is to simply sing the first verse and chorus in full after a final complete break.
I would like for us to try all three of these ways of arranging the ending of the song at the jam during its song of the week cycle.
Banjo players might notice that Earl's breaks consist almost entirely of some of his most commonplace licks. Due to that characteristic of the banjo breaks in this song, playing these breaks can sometimes make for a good warm-up exercise for me. Because of that same characteristic, I suggest that banjo players who do not already play Scruggs' breaks for this song, and who have very little experience in learning breaks from records, might find trying to learn Earl's breaks by ear a helpful exercise in learning from records.
Guitar players might notice how frequently Lester makes use of the G run in this song. Observe how the last note of the run really 'pops'.
Another Great Version
Here is the first version that I ever heard of 'Head Over Heels'. It has a somewhat different feel to it than the original, and is a really good example of a bluegrass band covering a classic bluegrass song in a way that both displays their familiarity with and respect for the original version, and showcases their skill for arranging a song in a way that makes it uniquely their own.
When I look at the individual differences between the Boone Creek arrangement and the Flatt and Scruggs arrangement, there is nothing that I find that is peculiar to Boone Creek: unless I have overlooked something here, all the individual components of the arrangement were commonplace in bluegrass prior to Boone Creek: so it is not the individual elements of the arrangement that distinguish it as a Boone Creek arrangement, but rather the cumulative effect of the way these components are put together. I have found over the years that arrangements like this, namely, ones that are neither carbon copies of the original, nor are idiosyncratic, bur rather are somewhere close to the middle between the two extremes, tend to be the kind of arrangements that have the most success in terms of becoming popular amongst bluegrass jammers as arrangements that have staying power as a main point of reference for the song.
This version is on the Boone Creek record titled 'One Way Track'. It is one of the first bluegrass records I ever listened to, and it is still one of my very favorites.
Boone Creek - key of Bb
Have a happy Easter!
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Jason's Intermediate Jam Blog 2017 - 2018
started as Beginner Jam in Jan 2015
Songs regularly called at Bluegrass Jams and links from Jason's "Song of the Week" emails. (from Renee)
in alphabetical order