Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock Vol. 1

Deconstructed Hits: Modern Pop & Hip Hop

Deconstructed Hits: Modern Rock & Country

Introducing The Deconstructed Hits Series

The books that give you an X-ray look inside the hit songs you know and love.

Inside each book you’ll discover:

Insider facts and trivia about your favorite hit songs

The secrets to listening to a song like a pro to pick out even the tinniest sound, arrangement and production elements

The song form, arrangement and production characteristics common to all hits

An in-depth blow-by-blow of the arrangement of each song not found anywhere else

Listening tips and tricks used by the world’s best audio engineers and producers

An insight into the production of each song that only another producer can provide

An insight into the sound of the hit that only another engineer can provide

A comparison to other hits in the genre

and much more!

What It's About

Producer/engineer/author Bobby Owsinski takes you deep inside some of the most iconic hits of all time, many that you’ve grown up listening to. Using a technique refined after years of listening to songs under the microscope of the studio, each of Bobby’s song analysis describes exactly how the song was constructed and why it was a hit, examining in detail the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

A must-have for everyone who loves music, Deconstructed Hits will be valuable to the musician trying to learn more about arrangement, the producer wanting to learn how hits are constructed, the audio engineer wanting to analyze the sounds of the hits he loves, the songwriter wanting to look inside a hit’s secrets, and the fan who loves the facts and trivia of a favorite artist and wants to enjoy his favorite songs in a different way.

Every song analysis has numerous “Listen to” moments in each song pointing out small but significant changes in the arrangement or sound that you might not have been noticed before. Plus you’ll get all the song facts never found all in one place like release date, songwriters, recording studio info, number of units sold and chart position.

The books in the series include Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock Vol. 1, Deconstructed Hits: Modern Pop and Hip Hop, and Deconstructed Hits: Modern Rock and Country.

One thing’s for sure, after reading Deconstructed Hits, you’ll never listen to music the same way again.

Let's Look Inside

Table Of Contents - Deconstructed Hits: Classic Rock


How To Listen

Characteristics Of The Average Hit Song

The 5 Elements Of An Arrangement

The Hit Song Secret

All Along the Watchtower (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Sunshine of Your Love (Cream)

Gimme Shelter (The Rolling Stones)

Peaches en Regalia (Frank Zappa)

Stairway to Heaven (Led Zeppelin)

Maggie May (Rod Stewart)

Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)

Rocky Mountain Way (Joe Walsh and Barnstorm)

Dream On (Aerosmith)

Living for the City (Stevie Wonder)

Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen)

More than a Feeling (Boston)

Detroit Rock City (KISS)

Suffragette City (David Bowie)

Hotel California (The Eagles)

Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits)

Refugee (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers)

Tom Sawyer (Rush)

Back in Black (AC/DC)

In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins)


Bobby Owsinski Bibliography

Deconstructed Classic Rock Excerpt - AC/DC "Back In Black"


Album: Back In Black
Writers: Malcolm Young, Angus Young, Brian Johnson
Producers: Robert John “Mutt” Lange
Studios: Compass Point (Nassau, Bahamas), Electric Lady (New York City)
Release Date: 1981
Length: 4:14
Sales: 2+ million (single), 50+ million worldwide (album)
Highest Chart Position: #37 US Billboard Hot 100

“Back In Black” is by many accounts one of the greatest hard rock songs of all time, and it’s the title track from AC/DC’s seminal Back In Black album, an album that’s one of the best sellers of all time. This was actually the 6th album by the band, but the first without singer Bon Scott, who had died suddenly, causing the band to briefly consider disbanding. With the newly hired Brian Johnson as their new lead singer and lyricist, and Mutt Lange (who had previously on theirHighway to Hell album) set to produce, the band was soon to reach heights that no one could have anticipated. What most people don’t know is that Back In Black is the 2nd biggest selling album of all time, with 49 million copies sold world-wide (22 million in the US alone).

“Back In Black” is a very typical rock song form-wise. It uses mostly arrangement techniques to develop the song rather than varying too much from the normal rock song form. It looks like this:

intro ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse (solo) ➞ chorus ➞ bridge ➞ chorus ➞ verse (solo)

As you can see, there’s basically only two sections – a verse and chorus. The solo happens over a verse, and a different guitar line with a variation on the chord changes of a verse is used to change it into a bridge.

The lyrics never feel forced in the song and they feel good as their sung thanks to their natural rhythm. They’re in many ways a tribute to previous singer Bon Scott dying as not so much the tragedy of his death, but a celebration to carrying on while honoring him.

In their typical style, AC/DC keeps this song as pure as possible with almost no overdubs except the lead guitar. First of all, listen to the turn around between 8 bar phrases during the solos. It’s still a verse, but it sounds different thanks to this slight change of bass and rhythm guitar. There’s nothing added to the 2nd verse to develop it, which is unusual, but it still works great, as do the background answer vocals added to the last chorus.

Arrangement Elements
The Foundation: bass, drums and rhythm guitars
The Pad: none
The Rhythm: unusual for a rock song, the vocal is in double time to the pulse of the song in the verse so it adds motion
The Lead: lead vocal and solo guitar
The Fills: lead guitar between the vocal lines in the verse, background vocal answers in the last chorus

The other thing that’s interesting is the dual count off, first with a guitar and then the high-hat. Countoffs are almost always cut off from a song (they’re the sure sign of a demo), but here it just adds to the live feel.

The sound of this record is great – big, pristine, very real and in your face, but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than it seems. Although the record seems bone dry, the rhythm guitar has a long reverb tail that only appears on the same side (the right channel) and the lead guitar has a short double that’s panned to about 1 o’clock of the rhythm guitar side.

Brian Johnson’s vocal is doubled, but the second voice is not at the same level and instead just there for a bit of support. The snare has a nice room ambiance, but also has an ever so slight bit of delayed reverb added to it as well. Angus Young’s solo guitar is overdubbed and placed up the middle.

Listen Up:

To the vocal countoff way in the background before the song begins.

To how far behind the beat the snare drum is played.

The the vocal double being slightly different on the last “Back in black’s” in the choruses.

To how the guitars are actually more clean than they are distorted.

“Back In Black” is such a band oriented song that except for a few extra parts for support, what you hear on the record is exactly what you hear live. In order to pull this off, the band has to be exceptionally tight during the recording, which AC/DC certainly is.

The thing to listen for is how disciplined the band is. They play only what’s necessary, with no extra ghost notes, slides or other things that you’ll hear most copy bands play when doing this song. Also note the way the attacks and releases are played by the bass and two guitars. They’re perfectly in sync.

Finally, listen how far behind the beat drummer Phil Rudd is, giving it that tension that the song needs to really work well at that tempo.

Table Of Contents - Modern Pop And HipHop


How To Listen

Characteristics Of The Average Hit Song

The 5 Elements Of An Arrangement

The Hit Song Secret

Beautiful (Christina Aguilera)

Born This Way (Lady Gaga)

Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)

Crazy In Love (Beyonce)

Crazy (Gnarls Barkley)

Drop It Like It’s Hot (Snoop Dogg)

Firework (Katy Perry)

Get the Party Started (P!nk)

Grenade (Bruno Mars)

I Gotta Feeling (The Black Eyed Peas)

In da Club (50 Cent) * Lights (Ellie Goulding)

Poker Face (Lady Gaga)

Sexy and I Know It (LMFAO)

SexyBack (Justin Timberlake)

Super Bass (Nicki Minaj)

Turn Me On (David Guetta)

Umbrella (Rihanna)

We Are Young (fun.)

Written in the Stars (Tinie Tempah)


Bobby Owsinski Bibliography

Deconstructed Modern Pop And HipHop

Album: Do-Wops & Hooligans
Writers: Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Moe Faisal, Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Andrew Wyatt
Producer: The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, and Ari Levine)
Studio: Larrabee Recording Studios, Levcon Studios (Los Angeles)
Release Date: September 28, 2010
Length: 3:42
Sales: 7 million
Highest Chart Position: #1 US Pop and Billboard Hot 100, #1 in Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

“Grenade” was the breakout single from Bruno Mars from his debut album Do-Wops & Hooligans, which went on to become a huge worldwide hit. Not only did the song hit #1 in 15 countries, but it also charted Top 10 in eleven others while selling seven million units. The album also went on to sell over 4 million copies, going #1 in six countries and Top 10 in thirteen others. “Grenade” was nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and the Pop Solo Performance Grammys, losing all of them to British singer Adele.

The song took several months to write, then was recorded with a different, more guitar-based arrangement that was 15 bpm faster. After hearing Mars perform the song live at the slower speed, the record label asked for a recording of the slowed-down version, which became the hit we’re familiar with.

The Song
If you were going to write a straight down the middle pop song, this is the way to do it. The song is unusual in that it begins right with the verse with no intro, but other than that it’s formula all the way, not that there’s anything wrong with that if it works (it does here). Basically the song looks like this:

verse | chorus | 2 bar interlude | verse | chorus | bridge | 2 bar interlude | verse (outro)

The good thing about “Grenade” is that it has a great melody, which is something that’s sometimes sorely lacking in much of popular music. The lyrics are finely crafted and tell the age-old tale of unrequited love. They sing better than they read, but they’re still put together well.

The BPM of the song is 108.

The Arrangement
Just as the form of the song follows a formula, so does the arrangement. It develops from the sparse first verse to the big chorus, then drops to a less sparse second verse, and finally peaks at the bridge. The tension is released by the stripped-down last outro verse, which is very unusual since most outros retain the big sound, and the tension, to the end.

There’s an organ that plays just underneath everything that acts as the Pad and glues the track together, which is a pretty common use for the instrument. What’s interesting is that the arpeggiated electric piano line in the verse acts as the Rhythm element, but during the chorus the rhythm switches to the double time feel of the drums.

The song starts with a synth build and the goes right into a verse with the lead vocal in the center, arpeggiated electric piano sound on the right channel and the organ on the left. Half-way through the verse the three part background harmonies enter along with bass drum, plus a very low in the mix tom and percussion, which propels the track forward.

In the chorus the piano is lowered in the mix and a new synth pad enters, as the drums now play a tom figure, but no snare drum. The three part background vocals behind the lead vocal act as both a fill element in the beginning of the chorus and as an additional pad element in the second half.

In the second verse, the drums continue to play the tom feel but a snare also enters. There’s also a higher piano that plays effects fills, and percussion that plays fills as well. Three part harmony is added to the lead vocal to emphasize the lyrics.

In the bridge a new higher synth pad enters, then goes to the beginning of the intro without the vocal, which resolves to the V chord and back to the chorus. The outchorus has the lead vocal adding ad libs to add tension. The outro is similar to the intro, only with the verse drum feel and added percussion. The song then ends on a vocal ad lib with a repeated echo effect.

Arrangement Elements
The Foundation – Bass and drums.
The Pad – Organ
The Rhythm – Arpeggiated electric piano line in the verse, the double time feel of the drums in the chorus and outro, percussion
The Lead – Lead vocal
The Fills – Background vocals and the occasional percussion sound effect.

The Sound
This is a very well made record in that it’s not too compressed and the ambience is layered in a pleasing, ear-candy kind of way. The vocal has a medium-long reverb decay on it in the beginning, but then a timed and repeated quarter note delay is added during various times during the song. The other instruments have their own short ambiences that make them seem more in-your-face, except for the percussion effect that has a long reverb with a very long, timed pre-delay.

The Performance
Make no mistake about it, Bruno Mars is a star. He’s got the chops and his vocal shows considerable passion that effectively sells the song. That said, this is a very well produced song from a number of standpoints.

First of all the song has effective dynamics, breathing in the right spaces, from the less intense verses to the big sounding choruses, then the drums play a tom pattern to add motion to the song rather than the snare, although a small sounding snare (which actually fits the song perfectly) enters in the second verse. Using the drums in this way is not only unusual, but really interesting as well.

The add to all this the use of fills to keep the listener engaged on a subliminal level. You’ll find percussion, vocals, piano and synthesizers all sharing that duty. Finally, the background vocals, which are now becoming a Bruno Mars trademark, are also well-executed and add to both the motion and the tension of the song as well. This song was a huge international hit and the the production is a big reason why.

Table Of Contents - Modern Rock And Country


How To Listen

Characteristics Of The Average Hit Song

The 5 Elements Of An Arrangement

The Hit Song Secret

Beautiful Day (U2)

Best of You (Foo Fighters)

Blood Pressure (Mutemath)

The Cave (Mumford & Sons)

Clocks (Coldplay)

In the End (Linkin Park)

Just a Kiss (Lady Antebellum)

Moves Like Jagger (Maroon 5)

Pumped Up Kicks (Foster the People)

Rolling in the Deep (Adele)

Rope (Foo Fighters)

Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes)

Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)

Soak Up the Sun (Sheryl Crow)

Somebody That I Used to Know (Gotye feat. Kimbra)

Tighten Up (The Black Keys)

Under Cover of Darkness (The Strokes)

Wake Me Up When September Ends (Green Day)

What Hurts the Most (Rascal Flatts)

Uprising (Muse).


Bobby Owsinski Bibliography

Deconstructed Modern Rock And Country Excerpt - US "Beautiful Day"

Album: All That You Can’t Leave Behind
Writers: U2
Producer: Daniel Lanois, Brain Eno, Steve Lillywhite
Studio: HQ (Dublin, Ireland)
Release Date: October 9, 2000
Length: 4:06
Sales: 500,000+ (single), 12+ million (album)
Highest Chart Position: #21 US Billboard Hot 100, #1 UK Singles chart

“Beautiful Day” was the lead single from U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album released in 2000, and was a huge commercial success and one of their biggest hits ever. The song won a Grammy for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and hit #1 in many parts of the world despite only making it to #21 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Rolling Stone has rated the song as #345 of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time, while VH1 rates it at #15 of Greatest Songs of the 00’s.

“Beautiful Day” originated as a song called “Always” and was a standard rock tune, but after Bono wrote the lyrics the track took a different direction. The song had a long gestation period as the band argued over the direction of the guitar sounds that Edge was creating, since he wanted to use the vintage U2 sound of their earlier albums. The mixing also took longer than usual as the arrangement was tweaked, with Bono adding a guitar part, a keyboard part was changed to a guitar part, and the bass line was changed in the chorus.

The Song
“Beautiful Day is like many U2 songs in that they don’t follow what might be considered a standard song form. In this case, there are two bridges, and sometimes the chorus changes melody and arrangement-wise to almost seem like another section. The song form looks like this:

intro ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ verse ➞ chorus ➞ bridge 1 ➞ intro ➞ bridge 2 ➞ chorus ➞ bridge 1 ➞ chorus/solo ➞ intro

The lyrics to “Beautiful Day” seem pretty forced. There’s no specific instance of the dreaded “moon – June” rhyming scheme, but it’s pretty close. Their cadence is also forced, to the point where Bono sometimes has a mouth full of words that are difficult to sing in the course of the phrase. The melody in the chorus and bridge is pretty strong, as is the hook of the song, which makes you overlook the lyrics of the verse.

The Arrangement
This is one of the few songs that has all five arrangement elements (and sometimes even more) simultaneously playing. There are a lot of different sounds that sneak in and out of the verses, but the chorus and bridges are about as dense as can be

The song starts with a keyboard pad, electric piano and bass outlining the chords, and what sounds like a drum machine kick drum. When the vocal enters after 4 bars, so does a snare drum doubled with a tambourine. After 4 more bars, a guitar enters on the right channel and a keyboard pedal note on the left. On the last 2 bars of the verse, a heavily reverbed background vocal enters on the right.

For the chorus the band cranks up the vocal with the drums entering in full with a power chord guitar on the left and the same reverbed background vocal on right.

The second verse changes in that the bass is now playing 8th notes and driving the beat, with different guitar fills on the right and keyboard fills on the left drifting in and out of the mix. During the second chorus, a new background vocal enters on the right, this time lower in pitch and drier, so it’s more up front.

The same primary instrumentation continues during bridge 1, with only drummer Larry Mullen switching his snare pattern to the toms. The song then drops in intensity to another 4 bar intro, this time with a modulated guitar on left, and then it’s into bridge 2.

The first half of bridge 2 lowers in intensity with no drums, the bass playing whole notes, a keyboard pad, and the Edge playing a guitar arpeggio. The drums enter for the second half, building it up to a chorus, but it’s unusual in that it’s 4 bars of string and keyboard pads and background vocals.

Then we’re back to bridge 1 for a second time with exactly the same instrumentation as the first. It then goes back into a chorus, but only the first line is sung and a guitar solo enters on the right. The outro breaks down to only a tremolo guitar on the left and feedback that pans left to right.

Arrangement Elements
The Foundation: bass, drums, drum machine kick, tambourine doubling the snare
The Rhythm: Edge’s signature arpeggiated guitar
The Pad: various synthesizers
The Lead: lead vocal
The Fills: back ground vocals, various keyboards and guitars

The Sound
“Beautiful Day” is a very dense mix with many different synth and guitar sounds appearing for short periods of time then disappearing, some never to be heard again. There’s a lot of sonic layering both with reverbs and delays. Edge has always been the master of delays on his guitars, but this song features deep dense reverbs on some of the synths and background vocals.

One of the cooler things is the panning during the song. The keyboards lean left and most of the guitars lean right except for the power chord guitar in the choruses, the arpeggiated guitar in the second bridge, and the vibrato guitar at the very end, which are all panned left. The background vocals are always on the right side (most unusually), and while Edge’s high vocal is bathed in reverb, Bono’s low vocal is drier and up front.

The drums are very small and tinny sounding (especially the snare), but this might be because that was the only way to fit everything together in such a dense mix with so many elements. The snare also has the tambourine doubling it on the verses, which makes it sound a little thinner than it really is.

Bono’s vocals are dry so he stays in front of the mix and the other layers.

Even though there are times during the song when more than 5 elements play, it still works because of the mix. As new elements are introduced, the older ones are pulled back in level, allowing everything to live together.

Listen Up:

To the background vocals that always appear on the right channel.

To the second lower background vocal that appears on the second and subsequent choruses.

To the feedback panning left to right and back at the very end.

To various keyboard and guitar fills in the left channel during the verses.

The Production
“Beautiful Day” has all the hallmarks of a song where overdub after overdub was tried in an effort to come up with something that works, then they decided to keep pieces of everything when it came to mixing. That’s the production trick here, where so many different tracks are able to blend together in the end and not fight one another.

That said, one of the best things about this recording is the dynamics. While most records use different elements entering and exiting to build momentum and dynamic tension and release, “Beautiful Day” uses the plentiful dynamic skills of the band to go from a whisper to a roar. U2 has never been afraid to play quietly, and when you hear the transition from the first verse to the first chorus here, you understand how valuable an asset that is. Since it’s release, “Beautiful Day” has been one of the band’s concert staples, and it’s easy to see why.