Formerly: This is a Blues Riff in B
The classic twelve-bar blues: (I, IV, I, V, IV, I; often all of them being 7
chords). A Chord Progression
that started out being used for blues songs (hence the name) but later worked its way into big-band swing and particularly early rock-and-roll, where it became all but omnipresent up until the mid-60's. Like the Doo Wop Progression
, it has a distinctly "classic" feel to modern listeners. It's so recognizable that all Marty McFly had to tell his backup band in Back to the Future
was "This is a 'blues' riff in B" and they were able to properly accompany his rendition of "Johnny B. Goode" (until he started channeling Eddie van Halen, anyway).
The progression isn't strictly 12-bar, though. For example, "Heartbreak Hotel" is written with an 8-bar cycle, but otherwise uses the same chords as the standard progression.
Compare The Four Chords of Pop
, which seem to have replaced this from the late 60's to the present as the dominant chord progression in popular music.
Songs using this chord progression:
- Glenn Miller's "In the Mood"
- Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode"
- The Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"
- Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll"
- Bill Haley and His Comets' "Rock Around the Clock"
- Ellis Hall's "Flip Flop and Fly" (as heard in Chicken Run)
- The Hippie Battle theme from MOTHER 1 and 2, as well as "Rock and Roll (Mild)" and "(Spicy)" in 3 use this progression as they are in the style of 50's rock.
- The blues standard "Hound Dog", made famous by Elvis Presley.
- Also from Elvis, "Heartbreak Hotel", though as noted above, it's in 8-bar rather than the traditional 12-bar.
- "Greased Lightning" from the Grease musical and film.
- The legendary Robert Johnson, the king of the Delta Blues, recorded many examples of this, including such classics as "Crossroad Blues", "Sweet Home Chicago", and "Love in Vain".
- Pink Floyd put a straight-forward 12-bar blues song, "Seamus", on their album Meddle. Just to keep things from seeming too normal, though, they used an actual dog to howl along with the instrumental section. A different dog performed live on their concert film, Live at Pompeii.
- From Little Richard, "Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally", "Lucille" and many others.
- Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots fame released an album by this name. And yes, the songs matched this progression.
- The surfer tune "Wipe Out", first performed by The Surfaris in 1963.
- "Johnny C. Bad", that upbeat piano and bass tune that plays in a crowded bar and later the Dragon's Neck Coliseum in Final Fantasy VI.
- Bob Dylan did quite a bit of 12-Bar Blues, most notably on Subterranean Homesick Blues.
- The Louisiana Gator Boys in The Blues Brothers 2000, fronted by B.B. King and with a literal all-star lineup, seen here singing "How Blue Can You Get." (The ending falls into a 16-bar blues style.)
- "Mighty, Mighty Man" by Roy Brown is one of the songs in constant rotation on "Galaxy News Radio" in the video game Fallout 3.