There is an unnamed melody which everyone knows in their heart of hearts, heard in the mind’s ear, appearing in variations from Pop and Classical to Nintendo. Let’s call this melody the “Wart Melody” after the villainous frog: King Wart.
In 1988′s Super Mario Bros. 2, the agile Luigi takes on final boss Wart while his haunting 8-bit theme plays in the background. The frog-king’s chamber is designed for intimidation: walls lined with Phanto masks, never-before-seen tiles on the ceiling and ground, and a dream machine in the center that spits out crit-hitting vegetables.
Like many Halloween movie themes (such as Halloween), Wart’s Theme evokes the spooky by using adjacent Minor Keys. Listen to the bustling bassline separately to identify the switch from G Minor down to F# Minor.
Click to hear bass solo
And the melody up top is a series of Minor Sixes chromatically descending in parallel.
Click to listen to Wart’s Theme
The chromatic melody avoids dissonance by passing through just as the bass does in speedy horizontal movement, and resolving into a Minor Seventh chord (G Bb [from the bass] D F [in the melody]). The voices are inverted Minor Thirds (Major Six) and along with the chromatic movement add to the overall spookiness of Wart’s Halloweenesque Theme.
The Los Doggies song “Buddha Thompson” utilizes this melody in fakebook form. The harmonic movement found in the descending Natural Minor key (i VII VI) is known as an Andalusian Cadence.
Click to Listen
Instead of the modernist polytonality found in Wart’s Theme, we have a flattened-out diatonic version of the melody, a cliche found in countless songs and honored here in “Buddha Thompson”. The composer of Wart’s Theme is Koji Kondo, and along with game designer Mr. Miyamoto, he is named directly in the 2nd line.
When I was an Andalusian cadence yes and how I played yes on the busky streets yes in minor in mind in me a cover of Tales by Yes and yes I said yes I will Yes…
Variations on Wart’s Theme:
“Tales” by Yes
“Dunkirk” by Camel (Full Song)
“Vital Transformation” by Mahavishnu Orchestra
Can you think of more songs that sound like this melody? Put them in the comments below. It’s no coincidence that the only examples I could think of were Prog and Mario as Mario is Prog.