I heard an especially egregious offender (Bryan Adams) while in the pharmacy today, and was reminded of this website.
1. Who or what is a truck driver’s gear change?
Many writers and arrangers feel that when their song is in risk of getting a bit tired, it can be given a fresh lease of life by shifting the whole song up a key, usually in between choruses, towards the beginning of a “repeat-till-fade” section. You may have heard this technique informally referred to as “modulation”, but the correct ethnomusicological term for the phenomenon is thetruck driver’s gear change. This reflects the utterly predictable and laboured nature of the transition, evoking a tired and over-worked trucker ramming the gearstick into the new position with his – or, to be fair, her – fist.
Contrary to what many people seem to think, the truck driver’s gear change is in no way inventive, interesting or acceptable: it is in fact an utterly appalling and unimaginative admission that you’ve run out of inspiration and the song should have ended one minute ago; but you’re under pressure to make something which can be stretched out to the length of a single. The concept of the truck driver’s gear change seems to transcend all musical styles, from Perry Como to The Misfits, although my investigations reveal that it’s most prevalent in mainstream pop, and, let’s face it, it’s unlikely to feature in hip-hop. But who’s to say.
This may perhaps all sound a little abstract. So for recommended initiation into the concept of the truck driver’s gear change, I suggest you check out Crazy Crazy Nights by Kiss, which is a perfect example of the, ahem,oeuvre. Many experts agree that the single greatest gear change of all time is Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, though you should be aware that it may make you physically sick. In a subtler vein, gear changes like Gabrielle’s Sunshine are for the experienced listener only.
Once this has been pointed out to you, you will start hearing it all over the damn place.