What tune does it use?
The much-loved Canon by the 17th century composer Johann Pachelbel.
Pachelbel (1653-1706) was a composer and organist who seems destined to be celebrated for just one work. He seemed to specialise working in very strict forms such as the chaconne* and the canon, whose rules dictate that once the harmonic progression is heard it must be repeated with almost exact precision for the rest of the piece. What happens above this progression is up to the composer.
This way of working fits in perfectly with pop music, because a lot of pop songs use the same chord progressions throughout – so to make a song over a predetermined chord sequence is a great challenge. The Village People did it in their use of Pachelbel’s Canon:
So did Pet Shop Boys, in their cover of the same song:
Even Kylie Minogue and her production / writing team of Stock Aitken & Waterman used a very similar sequence for the chorus of I Should Be So Lucky. Indeed Pete Waterman went as far as to describe it as ‘almost the godfather of pop music’. Having listened closely the references are not quite as obvious…but Pete’s comment illustrates how it was inevitable Arcana would be mentioning this piece early on!
Yet another pop song to use the chords is an altogether different dance track, The Farm’s 1990 hit All Together Now. It even adopts the same key as the Village People:
How does it work?
It really is as simple as a direct lift of the chord progression from the whole Canon. Village People take the chord structure as outlined in the clip below:
They even keep it in the same key as the original:
What else is new?
The Canon has been arranged for literally hundreds of musical combinations – but it is worth remembering it is not the only piece of note by Pachelbel. Here is his Chaconne in F minor, for instance. Who can spot any pop tune that uses this? I can’t yet…but it wouldn’t sound out of place in a record by any band from the so-called ‘Canterbury scene’!
*chaconne – a form of music commonly used in Pachelbel’s time, where a repeated, pre-determined cell of chords and / or bass-line would become the foundation for a whole piece