I got this question the other day on the email@example.com list and it turned into a lively discussion which I am reproducing here, as I think it is of interest to all songwriters. I replied with this:
the middle eight is usually the bridge. the first time that i heard that reference was in a beatle interview about song writing. most classic american songs of the forties and thirties followed the eight bar verse, eight bar chorus, and then the middle eight bars, the bridge and then back to verse and chorus. this was a form that dominated american songwriting literally until dylan broke the mold by going on as long as he wanted. people accustomed to the form where boggled by dylan's stretching technique. the evolution is such that now you can make a song however you like.
James like the A-A-B-A thing?
more like a verse, b chorus, a verse, b chorus, c bridge (middle eight), a verse, b chorus, b chorus. that's pretty standard.
Yeah, The Who use the middle eight a lot, that's where I first heard the term. I've noticed that in quite a bit of the later albums (Who's Next, Who Are You mostly) there would be a middle eight that Pete would sing (while Roger sung the rest of the song). So in those songs the middle eight really stands out.
And bobby replied:
ok but where is the A?...
Is anybody familiar with Roxette?...They are a sweedish duo that had a bunch of hits in the late eighties and early ninties
next to John Lennon I held their writing highest in my esteem...they are still up there
anyhow their songs would frequently have verse then at the end of the verse there would be a lyric that would be the same here's an example:
Tried to make it little by little,
tried to make it bit by bit on my own.
Quit the job, the grey believers,
another town where I get close to the bone.
Whatcha gonna tell your brother? - oh oh oh
whatcha gonna tell your father? - I don't know!
Whatcha gonna tell your mother? - Let me go...
ok so would the "whatcha gonna tell your...." be considered a brige/middle eight or becos the melody and is the same would it be considered just the end of the verse?...The eight bar thing that you were talking about James would prove this I'm assuming...but it made me have a mild anxiety attack just reading it...I do not kid...well I do but this time I'm not...
SO whats the verdict...if not technically a middle eight I would consider that part of the verse a bridge...or a fill of some sort...
one more thing this song (Dressed For Success) is from an album released in the states in '89 titled "Look Sharp!...the sound to me has always been close to that of James' "Even Cowgirls..." Album
Robert F wrote some interesting asides:
I suspect several people on this list already know this, but for those who don’t, that is where Genesis got the name of the song ABACAB.
Yes, I have heard a bunch of clips of the Beatles over the years where the middle 8 is mentioned. It also happened that John or Paul may right most of the song, then the other wrote the middle 8.