I'm trying to figure out what's going on in David Bowie's song, Battle for Britain. (The intro ends at 0:35 or so.) These are the chords, near as I can tell. One chord per measure.

B   F#   A    A 
B   F#   A    A 
B   F#   A    A 
B   F#   A    A 
G   F#   E    E
G   F#   E    E
G   F#   A  (skipped measure)
C   G  Bbmaj7 F  

The first 4 lines follow the common I-V-bVII sequence (or V-I-IV if you prefer).

The next 2 raise the tension by switching things up somehow. I think maybe it's good to say the key changes? Changes to E and there's some kind of chromatic planing, or is the F# after G a substitution for something, or...?

In the next line it goes to A instead of E, and somehow it sounds like a new key all of a sudden! It sounds like the A suddenly acts like secondary dominant V/V in G. Then on the next line you can say IV in G follows, as commonly occurs after a V/V in pop music.

On this next line you then have IV-I-bIII-bVII, similar to the common I-V-bVII-IV except the tonal center is on the second chord.

So what's going on in lines 5-7? Specifically, what's happening to the tonal center? Can the rest of my analysis be improved?

1 Answer 1


I'm inclined to say that you could view those two phrases as bVI - V - IV in B major.

If you consider the vocal part in those phrases - all the vocal melodies use G#, A# (this is the crucial note), and B which fits the B major pitch set which was the key from before. If you're hearing the tonal center around E in those measures I think you could say it's E Lydian, being that the pitch set fits B Ionian and the mode centered on E is the fourth mode of B Ionian.

Hope this helps!

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