Notes On… Series by Alan W. Pollack

Notes On… Series
by Alan W. Pollack
In 1989 the American musicologist Alan W. Pollack started to analyze the songs of the Beatles. He
published his first results on internet. In 1991 — after he had finished the work on 28 songs — he
bravely decided to do the whole lot of them. About ten years later, in 2000 he completed the analysis of
the official Beatles' canon, consisting of 187 songs and 25 covers.
Copyright © 1989-2001 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced,
retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact
and in place.
These song analyses were published on The 'Official' rec.music.beatles Home Page. In case you want
to quote these pages, please refer to the original sources. So for Pollack's remarks on “Free As A Bird”
refer to: Pollack, Alan W. (1995), Notes on “Free As A Bird”. Notes on ... Series no. 194, 1995. The
'Official' rec.music.beatles Home Page (http://www.recmusicbeatles.com).
How The Songs Are Arranged
The first 28 song analyses (1-28). Pollack started his series with a selection of songs from the
Beatles' songbook. Looking at these songs, Pollack concentrates on the central elements and
characteristics of the musical idiom of the 'Fab Four'. Next to insightful analyses, this series offers a
short course in the necessary musicological concepts.
Beatlemania (1962-1964) (29-64). In their first years as song writers and performers, the Beatles
developed their own style of popular music out of the roots of American rock 'n' roll and rhythm and
blues. Here Pollack analyses the peculiarities of these early Beatles' songs. This series of 36 pieces
includes the first singles and songs on the albums Please Please Me, With The Beatles, A Hard Days
Night, and Beatles For Sale.
Becoming artists (1965-1966) (65-103). In the middle of the sixties rock musicians began to see
themselves as artists. The Beatles stood at the front of this movement, treating their music as an artistic
expression of their emotions and a serious reflection of their feelings. As a result, growing further away
from their musical roots, the songs on the albums Help!, Rubber Soul and Revolver show a growing
independency of style.
The studio years (1967-1968) (104-160). From 1967 on the Beatles operated as a studio group. A
number of themes and techniques, Pollack writes, which appear with gathering momentum on their
earlier albums and singles now can be seen to converge and blossom fully forth during this psychedelic
musical season on albums like Sgt. Pepper's, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album and Yellow
Submarine
Get back (1969-1970) (161-195). In their last years as a recording group the final split of the group
slowly becomes visible in the growing number of solo projects. As an antidote in January 1969 the
Beatles initiated their Get Back project at the Twickenham Film Studios in London. Some of the results
of this tribute to their roots are collected on the last albums Abbey Road and Let It Be. To his analyses
of these songs Pollack adds his views on the two original songs on the recent Anthology CD's.
The First 28 Songs
Pollack started his series with choosing 28 songs more or less arbitrarily from the songbook of the
Beatles. These articles are especially interesting, because Pollack spices his analyses with some lucid
explanations of his musicological insights and knowledge. If you are unknown in musicological territory,
the best you can do is to read these pieces in numerical order. You'll find the index here down below.
From the left to the right in the columns you'll see Pollack's number of the song, the title of the song, the
year of publication and the number of the song in Ian MacDonald's book Revolution in the Head, as this
last book gives some usefull information for those who want to know more about it than just the
musicological aspects.
Page 1
We Can Work It Out
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We begin our studies of the Beatles' songs with an example chosen on purpose roughly from the middle of the
catalog; it's having been released as one side of a “double A” single together with “Day Tripper” on the same day
as the Rubber Soul album. We'll discover that “We Can Work It Out” is a deceptively simple example of just how
innovative the Boys could be within the framework of what on the surface is just a 2:10 pop single from what we
would later knowingly look back on as a prime nodal point of their songwriting career.
The form is one of small number of standard pop song models. Let's call it the “double bridge with single
verse intervening.” Over the long run it's one that the Beatles would use often, though I suspect the lack of an
intro and inclusion of a complete ending are somewhat unusual variations on the model; at least in terms of pop
music in general, if not the Beatles themselves. A close cousin of this form is the variation where two verses
intervene between the bridges, the second of which is often an instrumental solo. In both cases, the doubling up of
the verses before the first bridge and the single verse trailing the second bridge works very well. If you omit the
repeat at the beginning you feel rushed into the bridge. If you double up at the end, the whole thing starts to drag.
Unique lyrics are provided here for the first 3 of the 4 verses; the 4th is an identical repeat of the 3rd. Even so,
two of the three variations cleverly use a common framework of “Try to see/while you see” for their first and third
lines.
Melody and Harmony
The melody of the song is “appoggiatura” intensive; (i.e. this is a technical term defined as follows: “a ‘leaning
note’, normally one step above the main note. It usually creates a dissonance in the harmony and resolves by step
on to the main note on the following weak beat.” Grove Dictionary, quoted without permission.) Combined with
rhythmic syncopation and a tendency to hammer away on the same note for several syllables at a time, these
leaning tones give the song a persuasively insistent edge. A couple of highlighted lyric fragments to show where
these babies are:
Think of what I'm saying
We can work it out.
We can work it ou-ut.
... and there's no ti-i-i-i--ime for fussing and fight -ing my friend
The choice of keys and chord progressions here is straightforward compared many another Beatles song; no tricky
chromatic progressions (e.g., “Help!” intro) nor remote modulations (e.g., “You're Gonna Lose that Girl” midsection). The verses are in D major and the bridge is in b minor, the “relative minor” of D; pretty standard.
The opening phrase relies on the modal flat-VIII chord (C Major) in order to establish the home key instead of
the "V" (A major) chord. The latter doesn't make an appearance until the very end of the verse section.
The verse and refrain have different harmonic shapes. The verse is open ended in that it procedes from the
tonic eventually to the dominant chord which ultimately wants resolution: I -> flat-VII-> I-> IV-> V. When it
Page 2
flows into the refrain, it's with a “deceptive cadence” (technical term used to describe the situation where you get
a different chord than you expected) to the b-minor (vi). It's this hanging dominant chord which requires the brief
outro to tie things up neatly.
The bridge has an harmonic shape completely closed off but in its contrasting key. This closed-ness is part of
why the return to the original key seems somewhat abrupt; of course the rhythm (see below) plays a part in that
too.
Arrangement
The basic backing consists of acoustic rhythm guitar, bass guitar, drums and tambourine, onto which are
superimposed a part for harmonium and the vocals.
The appogiatura motif is followed through on the backing track. On the incomplete non-vocal take 1 you can
hear a lot of leaning tones in the top line of the rhythm guitar. It even carries through to the final melodic riff of
the outro. Perhaps the best example (and also one of the highlights of the entire song) is in the bridge where the
harmonium sustains the note B-natural through a change of chord from b-minor, to G major (where it belongs)
and continues to hold it through the shift down to F# Major before letting it fall finally to A#. Again, the take 2
we're privileged to have with the forward-mixed harmonium really underscores it.
For the verses Paul sings a double (triple?) tracked solo lead. In the bridges he's joined in parallel thirds by
John.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
Here's where things really get interesting! Compared to other songs (e.g. “Can't Buy Me Love”) where the phrases
are all 4-measures long and come in 16 measure sections of 4-times-4, this song does some fancy things. The
verses are indeed 16 measures long but are divided into three phrases in a 6+6+4 AAB pattern. This lends them a
bit of a free-verse quality in spite of the underlying steady 4/4 rhythm.
D:
----------------------- 2X ---------------------|D |- 9-> 8|- |- 9 |C 3-> 2 |D
|
I
flat VII I
|G 9-> 8|D
IV I
IV
|G 9-> 8|A
V
|
The melodic leaning tones add several harmonic disonances I've notated above. The most interesting one is the
way the appgogiatura 9th (E) in measure 4 is not allowed to resolve until the next measure where its resolution
note (D) is now become a dissonance over the new chord change.
A precious Beatles “detail” moment: in the lone middle verse, they throw in a syncopated dotted rhythm
into the final measure of the second iteration of the first phrase above. It's the only place in the song where it
happens. In consequence, you wind up feeling as if they're winking at you when, in the same measure of the final
verse, they blithely play even quarter notes with a casual vengeance.
Bridge
The bridge indeed contains only 4 measure phrases but these are organized into a 12 measure section of 3-times-4
which is repeated to make the overall bridge length 24 measure:
Page 3
D:
b:
|b
vi
i
|-
|-
|-
|G |- 6->5
VI
V
D:
|b 4->3
i
vi
|-
|
|F# 4->
|- 3
|-
|
|-
|
The asymmetry of the this three line bridge is effectively underscored by the shift to the “3/4 oom-pah-pah”
rhythm in the third phrase. This rhythmic shift is interesting in that it is done without changing the tempo. The
length of a measure remains the same except it is suddenly filled for one phrase with 3 beats instead of four; a sort
of time warp. When the verse returns after this it sounds faster but isn't really! Another characteristic detail: the
way in which the slow triplets are articulated by tambourine and harmonium only; no drums, because the latter
would be overkill. This type of slow triplet is something we'll discover to be a favorite of John's over the long run.
They tend to connote a kind of rhetorical emphasis not at all disimilar from Macca's hammered leaning tones. A
good precedent setting example of slow triplets that the Beatles surely would have been familiar with is the in
final refrain of Buddy Holly's “That'll Be The Day.”
Again there is harmonic dissonance created by melodic leaning tones which I've notated.
Outro
The outro is a four measure extension of the final verse:
|D
I
|G 6/4
(IV?)
|D 5/3
|-
|
I
The cadence sounds plagal, with the G chord in the second measure sounding like G Major in the second ("6/4")
inversion. You'll get used to me asking you to think of that G chord as neighbor tone motion in the upper voices,
rather than a true root chord change.
This brief little outro makes for an ingeniously unifying effect. The tune, chords, and backing texture feel on
the one hand as though derived from the verse, but the slow triplets are clearly an allusion to the bridge.
The finished track does a neat fade down on the final chord. The unprocessed, rough take 2 mix betrays a
long-sustained and ultimately frayed end.
Some Final Thoughts
There's still more one could say but I think I've overdone it here plenty for one day; is there anyone I haven't
alienated? WARNING: this can (and most certainly will) become part of a series if you don't watch out.
“They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan, but *I* gave him the test.” 021300#1.1
Page 4
Eight Days a Week
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
I'm going to ease my way into this series gradually. At some point I'll bite the bullet and start covering the songs
more or less in chronological order from the beginning, but for now, I'm content to browse the catalog more
randomly, picking out favorite songs that illustrate particularly well one or another of the technical or stylistic
hallmarks and mannerisms which characterize the Beatles sound over the long run.
Last time, with “We Can Work It Out”, we pulled apart an apparently unassuming mid-career single to
discover uneven phrasing, and a shift of meter at its core. This time, we'll step back even a bit earlier in the
catalog to look most closely at chord progressions and the details of an arrangement. In particular, we'll discover
how the harmony of “Eight Days A Week” is built out of a wonderfully teasing exploitation of the special effect
called a “false (or “cross”) relation”. This harmonic idiom is used quite a bit throughout the Beatles' output and I
think that “Eight Days A Week” provides an object lesson worth exploring.
In terms of form, we have another double bridge with single intervening verse. The lyrics are on the light side
in terms of content in spite of the characteristic cleverness of the title phrase. The four verses all end with the
hook phrase, and verse pairs 1/3 and 2/4 respectively contain the same opening couplet.
The one complete outtake and couple of fragments of “Eight Days A Week” on Anthology 1 reveal the
following:
•
•
•
•
•
Using the opening verse chord progression for the intro/outro was already in place, but the scoring lacks
the driving triplets.
Similarly, the “pedal point” for the intro/outro was originally planned for the vocals rather than the bass
line. The chords are played in root position in the outtakes but the top vocal line sustains F# through all
four chords creating the interesting free dissonance of E9 and G#7 in the process.
When Paul is not harmonizing with John's lead vocal he's singing it with him in unison. The specific
content of the backing vocals and their exact placement is different from the official version.
The title phrase at the end of each verse is given an outrageous falsetto flip, an idea abandoned, alas.
There's a small snippet of characteristic studio banter, with Paul dissing John in a “funny voice” that if
something in the next take doesn't come out just right it'll be just “too bad.”
False Relation, Defined
A false-relation is nothing more than a chromatic contradiction between two notes in a single chord or in different
parts of adjacent chords. Within the confines of academic tonal theory this is considered a “syntax error” but it has
been used throughout the ages by composers for expressive effect; a sort of a musical poetic license.
As my one sentence definition above implies, false-relation come in two flavors; both are well loved by
the Beatles and I'll cite examples of each though only the second flavor is of concern in “Eight Days A Week”:
1. Contradiction between two notes in one chord -- the manifestation of this seen most frequently is the
simultaneous use of the major and minor 3rd in a chord; this is one of the factors which makes the blues
sound, well, bluesy. A Beatle example off the top of the head is “The Night Before”; the accompaniment
Page 5
is clearly in D major (which uses F#) while the melody repeatedly incorporates the F-natural of the minor
mode.
2. Contradiction between adjacent chords – this is the more subtle of the two flavors because the ear picks it
up only by following the succession of two chords over time, whereas the flavor #1 above involves an
outright, instantaneous clash. As we'll see, the pervasive application of this effect provides a unifying
influence on “Eight Days A Week”.
False-relations appear in both the verse and refrain of “Eight Days A Week”. The song is in D-major and the
false-relation in each case involves G-natural and G#; note that The G-natural has a melodic tendency to fall to F#
and the G# has the tendency toward A-natural.
Melody and Harmony
The tune throughout stays within a relatively tight range of a 6th; from B up through G. The individual phrases
manage some reasonably interesting melodic contour, but the restricted range is hard to avoid noticing; indeed,
does it perhaps have the side effect of nudging you to pay more attention to the chord changes? A medium-large
group of six chords are used in the song: I, ii, IV, V, vi, and V-of-V.
Arrangement
“Eight Days A Week” provides a fine object lesson in the Beatles art and science of production values;
demonstrating an amazing attention to detail in general, and the use of texture changes to help articulate form.
The backing track contains electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, plus drum kit and hand clapping.
John double tracks the lead vocal and gets strategically placed flashes of backing from Paul.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The four measure intro turns out to be none other than what you'll quickly find out is the 'A' phrase of the verse,
performed here over a pedal point of D; a technique reminiscent of many a prelude-style movement of one JS
Bach.
The intro is faded in, scored without snare drums and sizzling cymbals in the drum kit, and with the bass
line pedal pounded out in seemingly difficult-to-sustain rapid triplets. Other than the outro which is essentially a
verbatim repeat of this section, that triplet figure appears nowhere else on the entire track. The combined effect is
one of building momentum that is allowed to crest on the downbeat of the first verse, at which point (you should
not think it a random event) the drum kit DOES enter together with the lead vocal.
Verse
The verse is a four-square (4 * 4) 16 measures long, with a musical phrasing pattern of AABA':
D:
------------------------------ 2X ------------------------------(uses G#)
(uses G-natural)
|D
|E
|G
|D
|
I
V-of-V
IV
I
|b
vi
(uses G-natural)
|e
|b
ii6/3
vi
(uses G#)
|E
|
V-of-V
Page 6
|D
I
D:
|E
V-of-V
|G
|D
IV
|
I
The A phrases are harmonically closed; the B phrase is a classic harmonically transitional shape, both starting and
ending away from the home key. The harmonic rhythm is brisk yet even-paced. Every phrase of this section
contains a cross-relation. The one in the A phrase is particularly subtle because the G# in second chord appears in
a middle voice while the G-natural in the following chord is in the outer voices.
In the B phrase the false-relation does not happen between immediately adjacent chords. But I still think
you pick up on the G#/G-natural contrast created by the alternation of the e minor and E Major chords. I would
argue that the false-relation is especially emphasized in this phrase by the fact that the E-minor chord appears in
its first inversion with the G-natural in the bass line!
Watch the arrangement:
•
•
•
•
•
Hand claps appear on beats 2 and 4 of the measure in all three A phrases along with drum kit thrashing of
a particularly sizzling nature, typical of the early Beatles sound.
For the B phrase the hand claps adopt a snapping dotted rhythm, and the drum kit completely drops out.
John sings the lead vocal throughout and is always joined in harmony on the title phrase when it appears
at the end of the verse.
Paul also harmonizes on the B phrase of only the second and fourth verse. There's no way you'll convince
me that kind of detail was ever left to chance by them.
On the other hand, I'm willing to imagine that John's election to melissmatically moan in only the 3rd
verse may have originated more spontaneously.
Bridge
In spite of its starting off with a clear declamation of the title phrase, I call the middle section here a bridge rather
than a refrain because its harmonic shape is so open ended. The bridge makes a double-edged contrast to the
verses; with the phrase lengths shortened in half while the harmonic rhythm is lengthened. The bridge is eight
measures long, built out of four short phrases that make an ABA'C pattern:
|A
V
(uses G#)
|E
V-of-V
|-
|b
vi
|-
|G
|-
|`
(uses G-natural)
|A7
IV
V
|
The bridge again contains a cross-relation, but our interest in this section should be more on the V chord. “Eight
Days A Week” makes very spare use of the dominant chord ("V"), and even when it does appear it doesn't always
behave as you might expect.
The V chord's first appearance is delayed all the way until the downbeat of the bridge. It doesn't make any
appearance in the verse, which is a particular tease in that the E-Major chord ("V-of-V") would seem to prompt
for it.
The first appearance of the V chord at the beginning of the refrain resolves “deceptively” to the vi chord
instead of the tonic (I). The V-of-V in the second part of the refrain finally moves to the V itself but by way of the
false-relation-inducing IV chord.
Page 7
The return of the verse following the refrain, then, is the only place in the song that we have a garden variety
V->I ("full") cadence. In other words, the verses by themselves rely on the IV->I (so-called Plagal cadence) to
establish the key.
Again, watch the arrangement:
•
•
•
Drum kit (as well as most of the backing track) conspicuously drops out for measures 3 and 4 of the
bridge but plays for the rest of it.
Hand claps are “supposed” to sit the entire bridge out, but you'll notice an uncharacteristically sloppy
couple claps mistakenly performed in the first couple measures of the first bridge.
Paul's harmonizing all the way through the bridge is particularly stunning, and the latter's a word I try not
to over-use. I hope I've got the following properly transcribed by ear:
Paul
John
Eight days a week
E
E
F# E
A
A
B A
I
D
A
Paul
John
Eight days a week
E
E
F# E
G#
G#
A G#
is
D
B
lo- o- o- o- ove you
E
D E D E D B
B
A B A B A F#
not enough to show I care
E
D E
D E
E G
B
B B
B C#
C# E
The vocal harmonization of the first half of the bridge is in parallel 5ths for the title phrase followed by parallel
4ths for the remainder, on the unusual melissma (the only one of its kind in the song).
Most clever of all is how the second half shifts to less shocking parallel 6ths and 3rds for the most part,
but still exposes that same open 4th (E/B) we heard in the second half of the first line in a couple places in the
second half of the second line. Note how the context differs in the second case: the top note of the fourth (E)
resolves downward, appoggiatura-style over the B that is sustained beneath it. Thus, in the second case, instead of
parallel 5ths we get a momentary flash of the Beatles much beloved added-6th chord (on G).
Outro
The outro evolves out of the final verse, with “three times you're out” reprise of the final phrase. The latter is a
well-established, venerable pop music cliche of which we'll see no small amount of in the rest of the Beatles
songbook. I'm not sure yet whether this is a matter of laziness, true fondness for the gambit per se, or merely a
side-effect of their manifest preference for complete endings over fadeouts. The final part of the outro is musically
identical to the intro but the decision to neither repeat the fade in, or even worse to change it into a truly
symmetrical fadeout, is a good example of avoiding foolish consistency.
Some Final Thoughts
Lest any of you think I'm some dessicated pedant who derives no joy from actually listening to the music let me
share with you: I was in 11th grade when this song first came out. In those days I was a regular little Schroderfrom-the-Peanuts-cartoon who was heavy into classical music and eschewed virtually all popular music.
To make a long story short, I can still remember (and experience) the hair on the back of my neck standing up
when I hear(d) those parallel 5ths/4ths in the bridge for the first time.
So there :-).
By the way, I assume a certain basic knowledge of musical notation and theory in these articles.
“They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan, but *I* gave him the test.”022700#2.2
Page 8
And I Love Her
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major/c# minor – F Major/d minor
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (instrumental) – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
With “And I Love Her” we move still earlier in the songbook to the first of Macca's unabashed original love
songs to be released, and an equally early example of a kind of Major/minor key harmonic twist that emerges as a
much favored stylistic technique of their's over the long run. Indeed, the plaintive bittersweetness of “And I Love
Her” derives in large measure from it's tonal ambiguity; is it in a Major or minor key?
The song continually flip-flops back and forth between a minor key (c#-minor) and its relative Major (EMajor). Another major point of interest (and source of ambiguity) in this song is that it makes a delicious
modulation up one-half step at the beginning of the guitar break, but more on that later.
The form is unusual: one bridge, only, with 2 verses preceding and 3 verses following; and the middle verse
of the final three scored for guitar solo. The first three of the four verses set to words feature different lyrics in a
verbal pattern of “I”, “She”, “the stars.” The final verse repeats the “stars” lyric. The alternate version released on
Anthology 1 features the following major differences:
•
•
•
•
The form does not contain the familiar intro, outro, or bridge.
The string of 3 verses precedes the guitar solo.
The backing track is the more standard electric guitar trio plus full drum set, making the whole thing feel
much less gentle even though the tempo is very close to that of the official version.
The introductory hook for lead guitar is not in evidence.
Major/minor Relatives, Modulations, and Pivot Chords Defined
Technical Background Mode ON
Major and minor keys are said to be mutual “relatives” then they share the same key signature. (e.g., C major/a
minor, F major/d minor etc.). Implicit in the sharing of a key signature is the fact that they share the same chords,
although each chord has a different harmonic/grammatical meaning (i.e., crudely put, a different Roman numeral)
depending on which mode you're in. For example, in the pair of keys C major/a minor, the d minor triad is
common to both but it's the II chord of C and the IV chord of A.
The ample selection of common chords in this situation makes it very easy to modulate between the two
keys. Such chords are called “pivot” chords when they're used to effect a smooth modulation from one key to
another. In terms of aural perception, one experiences such a chord initially in the old key, but within the
following two chords, one retrospectively hears it as part of the new key; a kind of harmonic pun.
Technical Background Mode OFF
Melody and Harmony
The verse tune is shot through with McCartneyesque appogiaturas and has the melodic contour of a sophisticated
sine curve; the first three phrases reiterate an upward trajectory from mid range, with the final two phrases picking
up at the top, traveling all the way down to a low point roughly symmetrical to the earlier peak, finally tying
Page 9
things up right back around the mid point. The bridge tune, by contrast, features a triadic pattern in fixed range.
The six chords common between E Major and c# minor are the primary harmonic vocabulary: E, f#, g#, A, B, and
c#.
Arrangement
The conspicuously sparse backing track contains acoustic lead and rhythm guitars, electric bass, and in the
percussion department nothing more than the gentle tapping of claves (small cylindrical wood blocks).
Paul's lead vocal is double tracked throughout. There are no backing voices.
Resting “on one” becomes a subtle motif for the song; both the opening guitar hook as well as every single
one of the vocal phrases begins with a rest on the first or third beat of the measure.
Other details in the arrangement:
•
•
•
The intro/outro guitar hook appears only in verses 1 and 3.
The delicate arpeggio figure that appears throughout verse 2 is delayed a couple measures from entering
in verses 3 and 5.
The bridge features prominent, slow strumming of rhythm guitar chords on the downbeat. The same
gesture reappears for the final chord.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The four-measure intro repeats the following progression of two chords. I think one hears it as a “weak” (i.e. nondominant, not even Plagal) cadence toward the Major:
E:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|f#
||E
||
ii
I
I won't dwell on it, but starting on a non-I chord in this context is itself ambiguous. Think about it: if you stop the
song after the first chord, what key would you think you were in? The guitar lands with the note C# on the
downbeat of each chord change. In the case of f# minor, that note is part of the chord, but in the case of E Major,
that C# turns the chord into an added 6th; strange shades of “She Loves You.”
Verse
The verse is an unusual 10 measures long and is built out of 5 short phrases in a pattern of AA'ABC:
E:
c#:
|f# |c#
ii
iv
i
E:
I
|E
|-
|f#
iv
|c#
|f#
i
iv
|c#
|A
IV
i
|B
|
V
VI
|
Coming off of the intro we think we're in the key of E major, but as soon as the verse begins we find that the f#minor chord moves to the c#-minor chord in a IV ->I (Plagal) cadence; this is repeated three times and I think one
gets the definite sensation of being grounded in the relative minor. And yet, in the last line of the verse we move
Page 10
from the c# minor chord to a straightforward IV -> V -> I cadence right back into E major again. All this goes
down quite smoothly because of the pivots which are schematically shown above.
Bridge
The bridge is a four-square 8 measures long with a phrasing pattern of ABBC:
E:
|c# |B
vi
V
|c#
vi
|g#
iii
|c#
vi
|g#
|B
iii
|-
|
V
Both verse and bridge have similar patterns of harmonic rhythm; steady throughout but with the final chord
sustained for two measures. The contour of the chord progression in this bridge closely echoes that of the verse;
down a step, back up, down a fourth, etc. I don't believe that the composer actually sits there and conceptualizes
this, but I also don't believe it's a random coincidence, and it does provide a source of subliminal unity. The
harmonic shape converges on the V chord of the Major key, but the direction is unsettled up until that point; with
the c# chord of the relative minor filling three of the eight measures, and the music threatening even to modulate
to the unusual key of g#.
The transition from this bridge to the verse that follows provides yet another harmonic tease with the V
chord denied an immediate resolution to E Major, with the next verse leading off, as usual, with its Plagal cadence
in the key of the relative minor.
Guitar Solo
Instead of a repeat of the bridge, we get a verse-worth's of guitar solo. But not so fast – in the instant in which the
guitar solo commences, the music neatly modulates up one half step; if the original key pair was E/c#, we're now
in F/d; from the world of 4 sharps to one of one flat.
While such upshifts for later verses have been a staple of the 2-minute love song since the fifties, this one is
unusual because the first chord in the new key is its IV chord. It's a real attention grabber because it contains no
notes in common with the previous key. In this specific case, we're talking about a g minor chord (g-b-flat-d)
plunked down in a neighborhood of 4 sharps! A sort of triple cross relation.
Once we get a few bars further and the new tonal plane is established it's no big deal in retrospect; you'd have
to listen to the song several times in a loop to necessarily notice that you've ended up higher. Nonetheless, the
moment of impact of that g triad is special. If I got away with calling the “We Can Work It Out” refrain a time
warp, then this one is the harmonic equivalent.
Outro
There is one final verse following the solo in which everything is as before except that the music is transposed a
half tone higher, followed by an outro very similar to the introduction with one critical difference:
F:
d:
|g
ii
|-
|F
|I
|g
|ii
iv
|D *Major*|-
|
I#3
The song ends ironically on the Major flavor of the relative minor; I would half expect the sheet music to contain
a smiley emoticon at the end. This gambit has been around since the Baroque period in which it was considered
dissonant to end on a minor chord so many pieces in minor keys ended in those days in this manner – the fancy
term for this is the Piccardy Third, no kidding.)
Page 11
Some Final Thoughts
So What's the Answer ? Which relative key is the song in; Major or minor? Consider the evidence:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
The intro is in the Major.
The verse is in the minor for more than half its length yet always shifts to the Major at the end.
The bridge equivocates at first, then comes around to the Major, only to go right into another verse with
its predominant minor opening.
There is only one bridge section, but there are 5 verses including the guitar solo.
The upshift modulation is irrelevant to the Major/Minor question and was added in to relieve what
otherwise would have been a tedium of too many verses in a row without break.
The outro, while ending on the root of the Minor, is nonetheless a Major chord.
On the one hand, if you tally the total number of measures appearing in minor-versus-Major keys, then
minor wins out. On the other hand, the Major key is clearly established repeatedly by the strong IV-V-I
cadences, whereas the V chord of the minor key appears nowhere at all.
If you insist on my making a binary decision, I'd hesitantly give it to the minor key “on points” (like a boxing
match), but it's kind of moot; I myself was recently willing to actually reverse this standing opinion of more than
10 years in order to give it to the Major key
Don't be fooled or confused. It's the ambiguity per se here that is germane.
Uncannily, the opening song of Robert Schumann's (1810 - 1856) Dichterliebe (Poet's Love) has a very
similar tonal design to “And I Love Her”.
Schumann's song is called “Im Wunderschoenen Monat Mai” (In the wonderfully-beautiful month of May ..).
Schumann's song also creates an overall feeling of being in the relative minor key, even though there is no full
cadence ever made to the minor key (its V is always left hanging), and his verse section immediately moves to a
full cadence in the relative Major. Instead of a Piccardy 3rd ending, Schumann ends the song on V7 of the relative
minor; a ballsey move for mid-19th century.
Anyway, if it's good enough for Robert Schumann ...
“They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan, but I gave him the test.”
Page 12
030800#3.3
Day Tripper
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Day Tripper”, by virtue of its handling of harmonic rhythm, ostinato guitar riff, and subtle textures in scoring, is
remarkably instrumental, even orchestral in gesture for a “pop song.” There are also several noteworthy examples
here of one of a composer's trade secrets; i.e., avoid rote (read: foolish) consistency even when conveying
homogeneity. Yeah, I know that Len and Mac were quoted in a 1966 interview that this was a “forced” bit of a
pot-boiler, crafted under pressure of looming deadlines. You'd never guess it from the finished product.
The song has a somewhat compact form by virtue of its single bridge. It is more typical of songs of this period
to repeat the bridge/verse one more time but, as we'll see later on, the nature of the bridge here argues strongly
against that.
The bridge has no “words” per se, but all three verses feature new material. Note the avoidance of foolish
consistency in the switch to “Sunday driver” for the final verse.
This is the first time in this series that we come upon a Beatles song that bears the signature of an
unforgettable guitar riff used to both open and unify the whole production. Like most other musical devices we'll
come upon in our studies, this kind of branding-by-riff may not be something the Beatles necessarily “invented,”
but there's no denying that it is one of several techniques by which they would be known.
Some terms defined
•
•
“Harmonic rhythm” is the rhythm articulated by the chord changes in a piece of music. It affects one's
perception of the speed at which the music moves forward more so than the actual tempo. For example, a
piece with a fast beat and many sixteenth notes in the foreground will still feel lumbering if the chords
change infrequently. The same is true in reverse. Furthermore, harmonic rhythm can be manipulated to
lend a passage a feeling of acceleration and climax, or conversely, a feeling of relaxation. DT
conspicuously manipulates harmonic rhythm to dramatic effect.
“Ostinato” is the term applied to the repetition of a musical pattern several times in succession. While
such a pattern is often part of a bassline, it may also appear as part of an upper melodic line; it may even
manifest itself as a chord progression or rhythmic pattern. DT's ostinato riff is among the most memorable
of the entire Beatles catalogue.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic material is less tuneful than it is rap-like and jagged in terms of both contour and rhythmic
syncopation. Most of the phrases, outside of the bridge, make an overall downward gesture. The familiar I-IV-V
trio of blues chords is supplemented by an equal number of altered chords, not indigenous to the home key: V-ofV (F#), V-of-vi (G#), and Major VI in a Major key (C#); the latter being the parallel Major version of the home
key's relative minor. Think of the chords from another perspective: there's not a minor chord in the bunch. Rather
you have here the Major chords built on the first six scales degrees of the home key's scale.
Page 13
Arrangement
The raw backing track is for bass, lead, and rhythm guitars, plus drums. Tambourine was added during the
overdubbing phase. Paul would appear to have the honor of singing double tracked lead vocal, with John
harmonizing with him much of the way.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The song starts off with an unusually long intro consisting of no less than five repetitions of the ostinato riff,
during which the instrumental texture is continually thickened; first with just double-tracked guitar, second with
bass guitar added, third with rhythm guitar and tambourine added, nothing changed in the fourth repeat, and
finally those terrific drums and cymbals coming in on the fifth repeat. The lack of change in the fourth repeat is
the second example here of an avoidance of foolish consistency.
An obsessive detail to look for in the arrangement: the tambourine in its accompaniment of the riff is double
tracked only for its first two ostinato frames; with a the more familiar offbeat (2 and 4) shots backed there by a
unique piece of eighth-note shaking.
Taking a cue from Paul's count-in (as can be heard on the unreleased session tapes), note that the tempo in
one sense is quite fast, but the static harmony and the outspread arch of the ostinato itself (each repeat fills two
complete 4/4 measures) are in stark contrast to the underlying beat.
To sum up, we have ten full measures which consist harmonically of nothing more than a prolongation of the
E (I) chord. The effect is far from boring. The thickening texture builds anticipation, plus, the verse commences
unexpectedly following an odd (actually prime) number of repetitions, catching us by surprise. In comparison,
four repeats would be simply too four-square, and six or more would make it all too long; think the song through
in your head with these variations and notice the difference.
The melodic shape of the ostinato and its syncopated rhythm are worthy of their own discussion, as is the
manner in which the syncopations of the sung lyrics contrast with it:
|1
|E
&
-
2
-
&
3
&
4
& |1
Fx G# B
E
D
(Fx = f double sharp)
&
-
2
B
&
F#
3
-
&
B
4
D
&
E
|
Paradoxically, the riff has both the overall shape of a non-symmetrical rising arch whose descent does not
completely balance out its ascent, yet it makes an impression of upward bound saw tooth angularity; note
particularly the way it drops a full octave in the space of a single eighth note whenever it repeats. Harmonically it
outlines a bluesy I9 chord (with the flat 7th!). Rhythmically, it places hard syncopations on the eighth note
preceding both the first and third beat of the second measure, while its final three eighth notes provide momentum
that effectively leads into the repeat.
Verse
The verse is a standard 16 measures, alright, but the harmonic rhythm and the progression of the chords are
unusual:
Page 14
E:
c#:
|E
|-
|-
|-
|
|A
IV
|-
|E
I
|-
|
|F#
|V-of-V
|-
|-
|
|A
IV
|C#
VI
VII
|B
V
|-
|-
I
VI
|G#
V
|E
I
I#3
|-
|
The harmonic rhythm effectively mirrors the deferred gratification described by the lyrics; after a ten measure
introduction consisting of one chord, the verse still has trouble getting harmonically off the dime. The long
sustained chord of the first four bars is followed by only one change during the second four. The third phrase
hangs back again on a single chord. Finally, in the fourth four we get a change of chord in each measure providing
long awaited kinetic relief.
The chord progression in the last eight measures also underscores the lyrics' description of being teased
and strung along. The choice of chord for the third four is the V-of-V, a chord which badly wants resolution to the
V. Not only is this V-of-V prolonged per se, but it is not allowed to resolve properly until all the way at the end of
the following four measures; and before doing so, we have an intervening flirtation toward the key of the relative
minor (appearing in Major mode, no less, which makes it sound even more remote than it really is). Incidentally,
when the ostinato on E returns following the verse, it provides a pungent, albeit indirect, cross relation with the
E# of the C# chord two measures earlier.
The first eight measures of this verse are quite bluesy, to the extent that they repeat the same lyrics over eight
measures worth of I - IV - I.
Again, I don't want to digress here but some points worthy of further study in this verse:
•
•
•
The ostinato appears in only the first eight measures of the verse, but the arpeggio quality of the ostinato
continues in the bass line even when the ostinato itself isn't present; another example of homongeneity
without foolish consistency.
The ostinato which is flowing and arch-shaped stands in sharp contrast to the voice parts which are jagged
and downward in gesture. The melody of the voice parts is very difficult to sing, particularly without the
underlying chords to keep you oriented; have you tried singing this song in the shower lately? I believe
that this is one of two major factors which create the overall instrumental flavor to the song.
The different though complementary pinpoints of syncopation between the bass and the voice parts are
also noteworthy. An interesting exercise would be to write out the composite rhythm of the two lines; if
you are unequipped to do so, try this – concentrate hard in listening and try to hear that composite
rhythm:
Page 15
Got a
Tak-ing
Got a
Tak-ing
|1
&
|E
-
good reason
the easy
good reason
the easy
2
&
3
&
Fx G# B
(Fx = f double
For
way out
For
way out
4
& |1
E
D
sharp)
yeah
&
2
B
&
F#
3
-
&
B
4
D
&
E
|
Measure 1:
•
•
•
Ostinato puts the accent on 4&
Vocal puts accents on 2& and 3& (the two syllables of “reason”) and 4& (“out”)
I.e. they coincide only on 4& and in alternate lines
Measure 2:
•
•
•
Ostinato puts accents on 2& and 3& - Vocal puts the accent on 1& (“yeah”) and 4& (“For”) - I.e. no point
of coincidence!
I'd argue that the two repetitions of the ostinato (four measures worth) which separate the two verses were
intentionally put there, like a petit reprise of the intro, to rebuild suspense and slow the pace of the game
because of whatever momentum is picked up in those last four measures of the first verse. Imagine the
song without them and see how the second verse feels like the music is starting to hurtle.
More obsessive arrangement details:
o Tambourine plays on beats 2 and 4 in first eight measures, then switches to all 4 beats for the rest
of it.
o Ringo throws in a very subtle little sixteenth note figure on the downbeats of only measures 13
and 14; but he does this in all 3 verses.
Tambourine plays a fast roll in the first two measures of the intro reprise, switching back to the offbeats for the
second half of it.
Bridge
Right off, let's note that this “middle 8” is actually a size 12. Furthermore, it's built on a prolongation of a single
chord (B, the V chord); very reminsicent of the transition from end-of-development-to-recapitulation found in
many classical and romantic symphonies. Melodically, we're treated to the familiar ostinato followed by wordless
harmonization in the vocal parts. All this is very strange for the genre and the time period. I believe it is this
bridge which is the second major factor behind the instrumental feel of the overall song.
The prolongation of a single chord serves a very different purpose here from that of the introduction. No
subtly rising expectations this time; instead we have a powerful, total climax leading back to the final verse.
Rather than continue to slavishly reflect the lyrics, the music takes us well beyond “half way there.” (Sorry for the
sophomoric vulgarity, but you've got to remember that in its time, the lyrics of this song were quite properly
snickered over by many adolescents. Oy!) Given all of this, it's fairly obvious that a second repeat of this bridge
within the same song would create an absurd anti-climax.
If you have any doubt about the climactic intention of the bridge, look at one specific detail: the
breathing/phrasing of the voices in the second six of the bridge. These six measures are sung in three phrases of 3,
2, and 1 measures respectively; the breathing literally gets heavier.
Schematically:
Page 16
voices:
instruments:
|
|ost.
|
measure #s: |1
2
3
4
|Ah----------|Ah------|Ah--|
|ost. |ost
|lead guitar solo ---------|
|
|
5
6
|7
8
9
10
11
12 |
Two other examples of “rising” in the arrangement:
•
•
One of the guitars executes a twelve note scale over the course of this section, starting on B in the
baritone range and ending up on F# and octave and a half higher. Listen for it on the 2nd beat of each
measure.
The top vocal part similarly sings a six note scale over the course of its six measures, starting on D# and
ending on high B.
Outro
The petit reprise of the intro is repeated between the end of the bridge and start of the last verse. After all, you've
got to catch your breath at some point, don't you, in order to be able to go on. The final verse is virtually identical
to the first two and architecturally provides ballast and balance to the song overall. As seems to be a common
Beatle practice, the material for the coda is recycled from the intro. We have the same five repeats of the ostinato
with the same plan for thickening the texture. The voices join in with a repeated pattern which carries us through
the fadeout.
Two last examples of foolish consistency avoided:
•
•
the falsetto variation in the fourth phrase of the verse
in the coda, the voices start in on the fifth repeat of the ostinato, not after it.
Some Final Thoughts
The official recording contains a mysterious, awkward “gap” of an edit during the final verse, which bootlegs of
the raw session tape reveal to be an attempt to retouch a stray bit of mechanical/instrumental noise. But we also
have an example here of an outright performance mistake the engineers tried unsuccessfully to turn into a
(second) gap: There are two or more singers in the coda. The pattern in the lyrics is supposed to be “Day tripper,
day tripper yeah!” but in the first statement of this pattern one of the singers accidentally blurts out “yeah” after
the first “day tripper,” and you can hear a small gap on the track just after the goof up.
Oh well, “it took me so long to find out.”
“They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan, but I gave him the test."
Page 17
She Loves You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“She Loves You” is one of the very first Beatles songs most of us Americans ever heard. Over time, it has
achieved an iconic status with respect to time and place that ironically transcends the Beatles, per se, even while it
so aptly characterizes them in their early career.
Against the backdrop of the first few articles in this series, in which I've chosen to pull apart individual
Beatles songs that demonstrate a conspicuous willingness deal adventurously with compositional parameters such
as form, harmony, phrasing and the like, there are a number of significant ways in which “She Loves You” is not
particularly daring; shades of Norm's warning to the group, let's not pull any strokes or do anything I'll be sorry
for.” In particular:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
The phrasing throughout is totally four-square; the verse is is four times four, and the refrain is a true
middle eight.
The harmonic rhythm is fairly regular throughout with no extremes. The chords generally change every
two measures. The few places where this pattern is broken by chord changes every measure would seem
to be carefully staged, however subconsciously.
The harmonic scheme, in spite of a few localized touches of color, is rather static; the song is firmly in G
throughout.
And yet, the song contains a musical vocabulary and arrangement that is shot through with quirky details
and nuances that were soon to develop into trademarks of the group; their special "sound" is already
apparent.
The first notable thing about “She Loves You”'s form is the use of a refrain (a.k.a. chorus) for the
contrasting sections rather than a bridge. Refer to my sidebar on the hook/verse/refrain question in Note's
on “All My Loving.” For now, just note that “She Loves You” is the first time in this series we've run into
the refrain.
Even more notable is the one-track-mind ubiquity of this refrain. The intro and outro turn out to be
variations of it. The second half of the verse could be said to, content-wise, overlap with it.
Finally, the fact that no final verse intervenes between the second refrain and the outro is an unusual
detail.
Each of the three verses feature some unique lyrics. While the plot line here of a 3rd party go-between who
advises his friend on how to make up to her is one of a small group of archtypal Top 40 themes that hardly
originates with the Beatles, I think the focus here on extreme, raw feelings in the choice of words and imagery is a
fresh twist; “she almost lost her mind,” and “pride can hurt you too.”
Melody and Harmony
The tune covers the range of a full octave. Upward motion in the form of the verse's opening scale and the title
phrase's jumping motif is nicely balanced out, especially by the downward “yeah, yeah, yeah” motif. Also enjoy
the way in which that opening verse scale outlines a awkwardly pungent Major 7th; from the word "think" up to
“saw.” It's the musical equivalent of getting your arm lock/twisted in a funny position.
Page 18
Five out of seven diatonically available chords in the Major home key appear in the song: I, iii, IV, V, and
vi. They are joined by two altered chords: the already familiar V-of-V and, making its first but by no means only
appearance in this series, the minor iv chord; borrowed, as it were, from the home key's parallel minor mode.
The Added-Sixth Chord
On a theoretical basis, that added sixth is called a “free” (in the sense of gratuitous, or non-functional) dissonance.
In most tonal music until the twentieth century, any note appearing in a chord that was not part of the chord's root
triad was considered a dissonance. As such, it was expected to be well behaved by “resolving”, typically stepwise
downward, either to a note that is part of the current or following chord. The most classic example of this is the
way in which the "7" of the V7 chord resolves to the "3" of the I chord:
F
D
B
G
C:
V
->E
->C
->G
->C
I
Textbook dissonance treatment would demand one of the following options of our added-sixth chord of G, B, D,
E:
•
•
•
Resolve the 6th down to D as the 5th of the current chord.
Resolve the 6th down to D as a member of a chord that follows.
Let what is now the 6th (E) be repeated or sustained in the next chord of which it should be a member. In
this case you rationalize added-sixth dissonance as an “anticipation” of the second chord.
By the end of the 19th century, this strict treatment of dissonance broke down even within the so-called classical
domain though not without many raised eyebrows; the free 9 and 11 chords of Debussy for example were quite
the talk of music theory classes 100 years ago. And if you want to hear a particularly early and lush usage of the
added sixth, then check out th ending of Mahler's “Das Lied von der Erde” (1908.) Here, it is the repetitious
insistence of the yeah-yeah-yeah motif (melodically descending G -> F# -> E) enables the G6 chord to sound
flawlessly logical. In the refrain section, that motif always repeats three times in a row, each time over different
chords: e minor, A Major, and then C -> G Major. The note 'E' is a perfectly legitimate member of the first two
chords. By that point, the melodic pattern is sufficiently well established for you to accept it over the G chord
even though it doesn't belong there, strictly speaking.
In the final result, that E sitting on top of the G triad serves no structural musical purpose other than to
give sensuous delight. Think of it as a spice as opposed to a nutrient. You might also want to think of it fancifully
as if it were the I and vi chords superimposed upon each other; i.e. the Major home key melded with its relative
minor.
Arrangement
The backing track sounds like the standard Beatles live combo of bass, lead, rhythm guitars, plus drums. Paul and
John provide a two-part lead vocal in their characteristically which vacillates between unison and flashes of their
characteristically funky counterpoint. George assists in the refrains.
As mastered on CD, the track is maddeningly thick, opaque, and unclear sounding. Alas, it sounds no better
on the vinyl so-called "stereo" pressings from Capitol. I'm frankly of divided opinion whether to think it either
scandalous or ironically appropriate that the nominally authoritative version available to us in the year 2000 of
such an important classic sounds no better than it did at the time of its original release as heard over a cheap
transistor AM radio.
You can find a number of interesting details here in spite of the wall of sound first impression:
Page 19
•
•
•
•
•
Ringo uses sizzling cymbals only in the verse section; the intro, refrains, and outro omit them.
Each verse is introduced by a growling, fanfare-like guitar lick that contains a number of minor key
inflections.
Each refrain is introduced by a short burst of signature falsetto singing on the phoneme, “whooo.”
Paul's bass part uses a rhythmic pattern of dotted quarter followed by an eighth note and half (the boom
pah'boom pattern heard years later in “All Together Now”) just about everywhere in the song except on
that syncopation in the third line of the verse.
Ringo tries for a wrenching syncopation in parts of all the non-verse sections, placing his accents on the
eighth notes preceding beats 3 and 4.
Quite apart from its from harmonic implications already discussed, the added-sixth chord is a factor in the
arrangement; being a surprisingly early example of what, over the long run, would emerge as a Beatles penchant
for mixing stylistic elements that seem to be mutually antagonistic and/or individually anachronistic in ways that
create surprising, Nouvelle cuisine-like effects. George Martin himself is reported as having tried to talk them out
of using the added sixth here, saying it sounded too much like a throw back to the Andrews Sisters, what you
might call a kind of girl group from the Big Band era of the 1940s. Fans of old Abbott and Costello flicks may
recall them as having provided the musical respite in the 1941 features, “Hold That Ghost” and “Buck Privates;”
speaking of Million Dollar Movie.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
To borrow a phrase from ancient Greek drama, the song begins “in medias res.” We get a little drum roll and the
intro starts off as though the song were already in progress. The fact that the intro is actually nothing other than a
variation on (an anticipation of?) the refrain is what creates this effect. The feeling of having started in the midst
of the action is heightened by the opening chord progression. We're not "in" G as much as we are heading toward
it. The intro is eight measure long and its phrasing pattern is 2 + 2 +4, AA'A":
G:
|e
vi
|-
|A7
|V-of-V
|C
|-
|G
IV
|-
|
I
The use of the V-of-V moving to the IV (with the inevitable cross relation) is an early example of what we saw in
“Eight Days A Week”. The opening chord progression which doesn't start on I and takes four somewhat
disorienting chords to finally get there shows up again in, among other place, “Help!”
Verse
The verse is 16 measures long with four equal phrases that make a pattern of AABB'. The harmonic shape of this
section, in contrast to the intro, is “open,” by virtue of starting on I and ending on V:
Page 20
--------------- 2X -------------|G |e7
|b
|D
|
I
vi
vi
V
|G6 |V
|e
vi
|-
|
|c |iv
|D
|V
|
Harmonic rhythm is increased temporarily to a chord change every measure for just the first two lines of the
verse. You don't quite realize this has happened until it already shifts back to changing every other measure.
There's another striking free dissonance near the beginning of the verse: the e7 chord formed by the D in the
voice part (i.e., it's at the top of the rising scale on the word “love”). In a more straight-laced context, that D
would want to get resolved to a C on the next chord. This e7 here is not such a big deal per se, except in
consideration of the period and genre in which it appears.
There's a heavy syncopation that just about pulls us out of our seats at the beginning of the third line of the
verse. It comes right after “She said she loves you” and it occurs on the off beat between the 2nd and 3th beat of
the measure; try this – tap straight 4 with one hand and sneak in a hard whack between 2 and 3 with your other –
you'll see what I mean about falling out of your seat. The fact that this sort of syncopation is used so sparingly
within this song makes this instance the more powerful. Indeed, there are two additional reasons for the powerful
effect here yet again teaching us how “less is more”:
•
•
the same syncopation is not repeated in the next phrase where (rote) symmetry would have argued for it;
play it out in your head – it's very reasonably symmetrical but overall, it vitiates the power of the first
one.
the chord for our syncopation is G but the choice for the low note in the bass is B, putting the chord in it's
first inversion which carries less weight than the root position. Again, play it out in your head -- the note
G in the bass makes for a harder blow, but it's almost too hard and a little difficult to bounce off of; like
stamping hard into mud.
In the second half of the phrase which contains the syncopation we have the lead guitar fill in a space with a quote
of the “yeah, yeah, yeah” motive of the intro and refrain. It's always been there so you take it for granted but step
back and think of the song as a whole; what a unifying impact the use of this motive has on it!
Then of course there's that c-minor chord which begins the fourth phrase and seems to get people in quite
a stir. It's actually not that far out a chord; none other than the iv chord borrowed from the parallel minor of G
Major. Huh?
Not to be confused with the concept of relative major/minor keys, parallel Major/minor (“Please Please Me”)
keys are simply the Major and minor modes of the same tonic root; e.g., G Major and g minor. “Please Please
Me”’s poses a paradoxical quality – they have different key signatures (and hence a slightly different set of
chords) yet they don't really sound at all like remote keys from each other because of the common tonic (I). Going
way back into the classical period, composers frequently have borrowed chords from the parallel minor when in a
major key for effect. The particular favorites choices in this regard are the iv and vi which contain the flattened
6th degree of the scale; that flat 6th has a very strong melodic pull downward toward the 5th degree of the scale.
In spite of all of the scholarly verbiage used here, the minor iv chord is quite a garden variety effect. Think of
the line in “Home on the Range” which goes “where seldom is heard a discouraging word”; a typical
harmonization of this line puts the Major IV under the word “discouraging” and then changes it to a minor iv for
the word "word." If you're in the key of G, you're moving in this example from C Major to c minor and you can
hear that E slide down to E flat in the inner voice; you can even hear the E flat slide down to D in the next line of
Page 21
the song. This sort of barbershop harmony is quite sentimental in effect. In “She Loves You”, the effect is more
exotic than sentimental mainly because the iv chord is jumped into (from e minor, which forces yet another cross
relation: e natural versus e flat) instead of being set up as it more usually is by the Major IV. But it's nothing to get
hung about.
Refrain
The verse ends on nice fat V chord which resolves “deceptively” to the vi which starts the refrain. This provides
some relief from what otherwise (with the exception of the minor iv) is a very straight harmonic scheme. The end
of the refrain is the only place in the song where we ever hear a complete V -> I cadence. The refrain is 8
measures long and bears comparison with the intro. Both converge harmonically on the home key, both have 2 +
2 + 4 phrasing. But the specific chord progression is different, as well as the phrasing pattern; here it is AA'B:
|e |vi
|A7
|V-of-V
|c
|D
|G
iv
|-
|
V
I
The minor iv makes a second appearance in the refrain. This one sounds even more exotic than the earlier one
because of it's juxtaposition to the A7 (V-of-V) chord; i.e. it forces a double cross-relation of C/C# as well as
E/Eb. Harmonic rhythm here is increased to a chord change every measure just for the first three measures of the
second phrase.
Outro
The outro grows out of the final refrain with yet another example of the familiar three-times-you're-out gambit.
Interestingly, the third petit reprise is truncated by two measures, yet it also momentarily steps out of tempo:
|e |vi
|A7
|V-of-V
|c |D
iv V
|G
I
|c |D
iv V
|
|e
vi
|c
|D
|G
iv
|e
|
V
I
vi
|
The latter is followed by the outro, proper; yet another variation on the eight/bar intro/refrain. Note, in particular,
the unique use of the cliche rock chord progression this time, only:
|G
I
|-
|e
|vi
|C
|IV
|G6
|-
|
I
The first iteration of the yeah-yeah-yeah motive in the outro is purely instrumental, with the voices singing only
the final two repeats. Their pride in the sound of that final chord, with their three voices singing B, D, E, close
together, is manifest in the way they sustain it a brief instant after the instrumental sound has died away. The
sensuous experience of single three notes like that with two of your friends is worth having at least once in a
lifetime; something about what acoustcians call the rapid “beats” that result from small intervals that are not
perfect consonants. Again, observe the subtle throttling of harmonic rhythm through this entire section.
Page 22
Some Final Thoughts
Have you ever noticed the peculiar property of the voices of John and Paul heard in close harmony? Sometimes
they sound like a third voice which resembles neither of their own, and sometimes they quite simply make vocal
“sparks”. For some reason, the sparking variety seems to particularly show when they sing open fifths or fourths.
It's a wonder that they ever stumbled onto this. Open fifths in most Western music sounds like an archaic allusion
to Medieval times; thirds and sixths being the typical means of harmonization.
Nonetheless, they somehow went out of their way to sing open fifths and though it's an incidental detail, it
is also a tell tale signature of their early sound. In “She Loves You”, there's a pair of sparkling open fifths in every
verse; in the second measure (as on the word “love)” and in the tenth measure (on the word “bad.”) There's not
much more your learned astronomer (shades of Walt Whitman) can say about this effect; the theoretician stands in
awe of a natural, miraculous phenomenon.
“Sie denkt, ja, nur an dich, und du sollte zu ihr gehen.”
031200#5.1
Page 23
Help!
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Even while you're totally riveted by “Help's” hard driving beat and desparately anxious lyrics, its flat ballad form
and prominent part for acoustic rhythm guitar are at work, adding a folksy stylistic cross current.
The folk ballad form, with its repetitious alternation of verse with refrain, is no stranger in the Beatles
song book, but it appears much less frequently than the more familiar one or two-bridge pop song forms. In
absence of the continuing story line upon which the typical folksong relies in order to sustain interest, “Help!”
makes a couple of formal adjustments to avoid rote monotony:
•
•
The lyrics of the three verses create an A-B-A pattern.
The texture of the instrumental arrangement is dramatically lightened up for the first half of the last verse
by thinning out the drum part and eliminating the backing vocal part.
But I'd argue that this relatively small amount of relief is frankly not enough to dispel an overall closed, static
feeling in the song created by the following factors, independent of, or in addition to, the flat form:
•
•
•
•
The harmonic rhythm is fairly slow and unvarying throughout. In the verse, except for the phrase “help in
any way” where the chords change twice within a measure, the rest of the chords last two whole measures
each. In the refrain, the chords last four measures each!
The 16 measure verse is built out of a musically identical repetition of the same 8 measures.
The harmony from an architectural viewpoint is unrelievedly in one key (A) throughout. In spite of the
nice effect with the G chord, the refrain provides no relief in terms of excursion to, or flirtation with a
different key. (By contrast, think about the space opened up by the middle eight of a song like “From Me
To You.”)
All this is not to say that “Help!” is ineffective or unsuccessful; common sense and experience tells us
you don't need to be versed in music theory to recognize a great song when you hear it; right!?
If anything, I find myself pondering that perhaps, this unusual unrelieved closedness is intentional and actually
part of what makes the impact of the song so strong. The music underscores the urgent single-mindedness of the
message contained within the lyrics; shades of “got no time for trivialities” from a slightly earlier song of the
same composer.
Melody and Harmony
With the exception of the extraordinary upward leap of a sixth to a high C# sung in screaming falsetto (on the
word “please” the climax of each refrain) the tune is centered within a small range of just a fifth, from A up to E.
The narrowness of the range is further emphasized by the predominance in the tune of motifs that are either triadic
or in short downward scale fragments or 3 or 4 notes; the latter all serving to greatly accent the exceptional impact
of the big leap.
An unusually large number of chords are used: 6 out of the 7 diatonically available to the home key, plus the
modal flat-VII (G Major). The flat-VII chord was obviously not “invented” by the Beatles, but they were to use it
Page 24
quite a bit starting from around the time of the A Hard Day's Night album, and I dare say that they are at least
partly responsible for the chord's becoming somewhat of a cliche in late 60s/ early 70s pop music. Flat-VII
appears repeatedly in this song, alternately serving two very different purposes; sort of like a character actor
filling two different roles in the same play. In the verse it is used to make what Wilifred Meller's was talking
about when he used the much ridiculed but very apt label, “Aeolian cadence.” The Aeolian mode is the white note
scale on A, and is one of the modes in which the flat-VII chord naturally occurs, and is used in place of V to make
a complete cadence with I. By contrast, in the intro and refrains, the flat-VII chord appears in the midst of an
unusual chromatic chord progression.
Arrangement
Lewisohn points out how it was in the sessions for the Help! album that the Beatles first really locked on in a big
way to the procedure of recording backing tracks before laying down vocals and other finishing touches as
successive overdubs. This is amply borne out by the rough early takes of “Help!” fortunately available in
unofficial release.
The basic track includes acoustic rhythm guitar, lead guitar, bass, and drums. Initial attempts to capture
the signature rapid arpeggios in the lead guitar at this point are abandoned after George complains it's too hard to
perform the rapid eighth notes evenly in tempo. In addition to all vocals, also missing at this point is the
tambourine and the heavily doubly downward bass line of the refrain. There is much to admire in the detailed
arrangement:
•
•
•
•
Ringo uses a short, one-beat roll to pickup the first verse and round off each refrain, but to lead into the
refrains he opts for the insistent pattern of 7 even eighth notes starting on the half beat after 1. In the first
half of the final verse he plays only on the downbeats where the chords change.
Paul uses the dotted rhythmic pattern we noted back in “She Loves You” for just the verses.
The lead guitar has no part in the verses. In the refrain, it plays percussive chords on the offbeats (where it
is doubled by the tambourine), and it doubles the descending bass line during the big build up. At the
section's climax it overdubs that funky series of chromatically descending arpeggios.
John, of course, provides the double-tracked lead vocal with a complex backing part for Paul and George.
The backers fascinatingly alternate between adding points of bold font-like emphasis to the lead part with chordal
doubling, and providing a form of melodic counterpoint in which both the words and notes they sing subtly
intertwine and overlap with the lead. If you listen carefully, the two sets of words are almost but not quite exactly
matching, nor does either of the parts consistently lead or follow. Is this a Greek chorus of friendly observers
commenting on the protagonist, or is it more likely the protagonist's inner dialog?
The most precious vocal detail is found at the end of the first line of the verse:
lead
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3
|- C# C# C#|C# C# C# C#|C# C# C#E
*
backers
|A -
-
- |-
-
B
4
1 2 3 4
C#|- - B A- |
*
* *
A |G# -
-
-
|- C# E C#B|A
* * * * *
Note how near the end of the line the backers sing the identical pattern of five notes as the lead, but they trail by a
few beats, by which time they not only have to “jump over” the lead (in terms of range), but best of all, they sing
the figure with very different points of rhythmic emphasis; John puts the main emphasis on the syncopated second
C# (on the second syllable of “today”) of the figure, but the backers put the accent on the E at its apex (on the first
syllable of “never”), which in their part falls smack on the 3rd beat of the measure.
Page 25
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is an eight-measure long compressed version of what will turn out to be the refrain section:
|b
ii
A:
|-
|G
||E
flat-VII
|-
|A
|-
|
V
I
The chord progression of the intro is a classic harmonic example of starting a piece out in left field; “classic” in
the sense that early Romantic song writers like Schubert and Schumann loved this gambit. At what point in
“Help!” do you know for sure what key we're in? Below are some of the ways in which I believe the opening
chords can be heard; I think that several of the possibilities below are quickly rejected in retrospect by the ear but
I list them all to underscore the ambiguity.
b
is it
*or*
->G
b:
g:
i
iii
->E
->A
VI
V-of-flat-VII, huh ???
I
V-of-ii, huh ???
VI
V-of-V
*or*
D: vi
*Actually* it's
A:
ii
flat-VII
V, maybe ???
V
I
This is more than just mental gymnastics on paper. Try and put yourself in a frame of mind as though you're
hearing this for the first time (try!), and play it out “Name That Tune” style, dealing out one chord at a time. Ask
yourself at each step, “what key am I in”, “where am I heading?” I think you'll get the picture.
I think one isn't certain of the key being A until the verse actually begins; the possibility of the A at the
end of the intro actually being a V which will go the D as the I chord is very real to the ear. Once you get used to
this progression I believe you hear the overall motion as being from the ii->V->I; a nice subdominant->dominant>tonic cadence. But what of the G chord ? I put a flat-VII under it but I don't hear it that way at all in this context;
flat-VII is a surrogate dominant (V-like) function. What I hear in this context is more of a hard to pigeon-hole
"filler" chord between the ii and the V. In the final analysis (ugh!) I'm not even sure what Roman numeral to give
it, or whether to give it one at all. What makes it work is the contrapuntal movement in the outer voices:
Top:
F#
Bottom:
B
A:
ii
->G
->A
->G
->G#
->F#
??
->E
V
Scale-wise motion, particularly in a bass line or particularly when any line moves chromatically as the top line
does here, can make the ear follow and “accept” some of the craziest chord progressions. In music of the late
nineteenth century (for examples see Chopin or Wagner) this technique could be extended through very long
passages creating a rather floating tonal experience.
Our example from "Help!" is a very tiny example of this technique – it extends over only three chords, the
outer two of which are clear tonal anchors like the towers of a suspension bridge. If you'll allow me to quickly
change metaphors yet again, I like to think of that G chord here making a harmonic "pleat" between it's two
neighboring chords. It's a very pleasing effect; given that the harmonic rhythm is rather slow throughout, this
Page 26
unusual chord progression which is repeated four times in the course of the song is a conspicuous touch which
adds a much needed feeling of forward and outward movement.
On a visceral level you might say that what otherwise is a cock-sured sense of kinetic motion in this
progression is subtly belied by an uncertainty over its exact direction; kind of like the late-adolescent tale told by
the lyrics.
The four-fold repeat of the title in this outro appears to violate some rhetorical rule of three, but more than
makes up for it in the way the final one is literally screamed out; “Ouch!” indeed.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long; built out of a repetition of the following eight-measure phrase which, itself,
breaks down into a 4+4 AA' pattern:
|A
I
|-
|f#
vi
|-
|c#
|-
|
|A
flat-VII I
|
iii
|D
G
IV
Refrain
The refrain based on the same musical design as the outro, but here is stretched out to double the length (16
measures) by multiplying the harmonic rhythm by a factor of two. This latter change reveals a hidden element of
“slow build up” not at all apparent in the faster/shorter intro version:
A:
|b
ii
|-
|-
|-
|E
|-
|E
V
|-
|-
|-
|A
|-
||flat-VII
|-
|-
|
|
I
Outro
I always hear the final phrase of the refrain as follows with a V chord on the word “help” which, though not on
the rhythm track, is strongly implied by the voices:
Please
|A
I
|-
please
(E)
|A
(V) I
help
me
|-
|
This pattern is changed in the final refrain and made into a beautiful example of a deceptive cadence, in pure Bach
style; i.e., the word “me” in the final refrain is given an f# (vi) chord. As in all such cadences, thing are quickly
put right in the following and final phrase. The final chord of this song is another added sixth chord. In contrast to
the splat-like attack on this chord at the end of "She Loves You", the boys use it in “Help!” with great subtlety;
the plain A chord is given on the down beat, and the sixth is added as a melodic neighboring tone, off the beat, in
falsetto voice on the phoneme “Ooh”; but you already knew that.
Page 27
Some Final Thoughts
The public relations hype said that we were all affected especially hard by John's more confessional songs
because they revealed a surprising vulnerability we'd never have expected was lurking beneath his tough, cool,
and zany public personna. The fact that such songs can be found from one end of the songbook (e.g. “Misery”) to
the other (e.g. “I Want You/She's So Heavy”) should have mitigated anything in the way of "surprise" but that's
PR for you. Even in this context, though, the song “Help!” would appear to have pushed the envelope, given its
chronological place within the cannon, just shy of mid-career, and its rather “psychiatric” choice of words. Check
your lyrical concordance; it's the only Beatles song where you'll find the words “independence,” “self-assured,” or
“insecure.” But don't be fooled into thinking that we're dealing with a kind of perverse impulse to recklessly cast
John “against type,” running the risk, big time, of blowing such a carefully cultivated image. Rather it's precisely
because of the cross casting here that the overall production it work as well as it does! Consider the alternatives.
Tough guy singing tough songs is okay but predictable. Nebbish singing nebbishy songs is, yech, pathetic.
Nebbish singing tough songs not fully believable. But take the one who always jokes and laughs like a clown and
have him admit to his private indulgence in copious tears that fall like rain from the sky – and now you've really
got something. Maybe those PR folks really knew what they were doing.
A final footnote on lyrical concordances: the only other Beatles song in which I could find the phrase :you
like I've never done before” other than in this song is in the Quarrymen's parodistic “You'll Be Mine;” just change
the opening verb from “need” to :love.” Is this merely a coinicidence or does it suggest the phrase having been on
John's tongue “for years” just waiting for the right moment to be free?
“...I know for a fact within four weeks he'll be suffering from a violent inferiority complex and loss of status...”
Page 28
033000#6.1
You're Going To Lose That Girl
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“You're Going To Lose That Girl” and "Help!" make for an interesting pair of compositional siblings to the extent
to that both songs similarly exploit (not just utilize) the flat-VII chord, and share a similar approach to their
backing vocals. But “You're Going To Lose That Girl” also does some funky formalistic things of its own which
belie our seemingly straightforward categorization of it as being in the standard “double bridge” model with
single verse (that happens to incorporate a guitar solo) intervening. To wit:
•
•
•
The same title-based hook phrase is used to both open the song as well as end each verse with a kind of
mini-refrain.
The bridge is foreshortened by a single measure shy of what would have been a more expectable length of
eight measures.
The transition into the bridge involves both an extension of the verse's length and an harmonic sleight of
hand. The transition back from the bridge involves both a different harmonic sleight of hand and that
foreshortening of the bridge's length.
More on all of these techniques below. Keep in mind, for now, that details such are these are among the tangible,
susbstantive musical elements that “define” the Beatles style and sound. It matters not that such tricks are neither
unique to this song nor were necessarily invented by the Beatles themselves. Rather it is the freedom and
liberality with which such tricks are deployed throughout the Beatles songbook that stands out dramatically
against the backdrop of standard/average (read: ordinary/mediocre) pop music of the period from which the
Beatles emerged.
The lyrics all three verses are based on the computer programmer's conditional “if/then” clause, with the
third verse being a literal repeat of the first. The two bridges feature identical lyrics that are contrastingly couched
in a consequentially assertive tone of voice.
Melody and Harmony
The introductory hook phrase is notable for its pentatonic flavor and broad arch shape marked by long jumps. The
rest of the melodic material is less sharply characterized and placed in a generally lower range. The tune of the
intro begins with a “pickup” that precedes the first downbeat of the song. The verse and bridge, by contrast, begin
after the downbeat of their respective sections. Compare this with the other songs we've looked at thus far in this
series, and be prepared to track this parameter as we move forward in the series:
•
•
•
•
“We Can Work It Out” has a verse that starts after the downbeat, but both its hook phrase and bridge start
on the downbeat.
“And I Love Her” is a song in which the verse and bridge are after; the hook phrase actually precedes
(aka is a pickup to) the downbeat.
“Day Tripper” has a verse and bridge that is on the downbeat and a hook phrase that precedes.
“She Loves You” conspicuously precedes the downbeat in every section, in many cases just with a single
syllable.
Page 29
•
“Help!” is a bit harder to parse because of the countrapuntal vocal arrangement. Strictly following the
lead line gives us an Intro and Verse that follow the downbeat and a refrain that is emphatically right on
it.
A relatively large number of chords are used, along with a change of key for the bridge section that's a real test of
our skills for dealing with so-called pivot modulations. The harmonic rhythm is fast throughout, with a chord
change on almost every measure except, interestingly, in the bridge.
For the verse the standard, indigenous choices of I, ii, V, and vi are supplemented by V-of-vi (in place of iii)
and flat-VII. The bridge supplements its use of I and IV with its own flat-VII.
The home key of the song is E Major but its bridge is clearly in the remote key of G Major. There's no
flirtation or fake pass here; it's a fullblown interlude in that second key. I call it “remote” because there is no G
chord (either Major or minor) that's native to the key of E; remember, there are four sharps in the key signature,
the third of which is G#. In fact, there are no indigenous chords common between the two keys. The only
“rationalizable” relationship between E Major and G Major is to say that G is the relative Major of our parallel
minor key. Think it over; it may sound convoluted but it's not double talk!
Given the lack of naturally occurring common chords, the pivot modulation is cleverly made by exploiting the
flat-VII chord, treating it, double entendre style as the V of the key of flat III; this is grammatically legitimate
though still a surprise. When we looked at “Help!” last time, we saw there a different, but equally creative and
unusual application of the flat VII chord. It's tempting to suggest that the fact that “Help!” and “You're Going To
Lose That Girl” were composed in close proximity to each other implies more than mere coincidence.
The modulation to flat III which we have here is the more audacious because there is an easier/textbook
alternate way to make this key change – i.e., switch from Major to parallel minor (e.g., “I'll Be Back”), and then
it's a short hop to the relative Major (e.g., “And I Love Her”). Off the top of my head I can't think of a song that
combines both these techniques but it's not unheard of; trust me!
Going to a remote key is one thing, but getting back to the original one can be even more challenging; like
rescuing a cat from a treetop. In this case, the Beatles use a pivot chord we haven't seen yet; treating the F Major
chord as both the flat-VII of G and the flat-II of the original home key. Flat-II is sometimes called the “Neapolitan
chord”. It's actually not all that exotic a chord, at least not in the classical world; a lot of Baroque music employs
this chord in final cadences such as flat II->V-I with the flat II in its first inversion. Usage of the flat II chord in
“You're Going To Lose That Girl” is unusual in that appears in root position and without a V chord between it and
the I. This is not the first time the Beatles used this device; it is used with similarly audacious effect in “Things
We Said Today” to slide back to the home key from the bridge.
Arrangement
The backing track is relatively homogeneous with the standard combo backed up by a bottom-heavy piano part,
and of course, those bongos. They're unessential but delightful; a sort of squiggly pencil border drawn around a
colorful drawing. For a really good time (just when you think you've had your fill of this song) give it a listen,
preferably with earphones, and try and hear the bongo part in the foreground with the rest of the music as
accompaniment. Who said Ringo couldn't do anything intricate?
John sings lead, heavily echoed and double-tracked throughout, with repeated recourse to falsetto for the
notes from high G# and upward that occur at the end of each verses. The Greek Chorus backing vocals of Paul
and John bear some contrast with the ones in "Help!" despite their similarities. Since the backers in this song
consistently trail the lead, their overall melodic impact is more in the way of antiphonal obligatto, in spite of their
frequent overlap with the lead part. In this connection I'm reminded of a Playboy cartoon of the same period in
which a FAB look alike is harranguing his girl friend, in bed with someone else, while his mates standing right
behind him, periphrastically reinforce his message. Don't ask me how I snuck that issue of the magazine into the
house.
Page 30
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is four measures long and has an open harmonic shape, moving from I to V, and nicely motivating the
verse which follows. Label this Phrase "A" for now and make note of it:
|E
E:
|c#
I
vi
|f#9
ii
|B
V
|
We have another “in medias res” opening: no intro, not even a single chord from which the singers can find their
opening notes – a miracle of the recording studio.
Verse
The verse is 12 measures in length, built out of three even phrases in a 3 * 4, "BBA" pattern. The final phrase is
the one we've already heard for the intro. The overall section's like a 12-bar blues frame with very different
harmony; here all three phrases open out from I to V:
Phrase "B"
------------------------------ 2X ------------------------------|E
|G#
|f#
|B
|
I
V-of-vi
ii
V
|E
I
|c#
vi
|f#9
ii
|B
V
|
Label the repeating first phrase of the verse as “Phrase B” and observe how the phrasing pattern running from the
start of the song through the second verse is a symmetrical pallindrome of A-BB-A-BB-A. For all its symmetry,
though, this passage keeps us a great deal more off balance than the more typical four-=sqaure design for a couple
of reasons beyond the obvious uneven nature of a grouping of seven:
•
•
There is an almost hypnotic effect created by the fact that both phrases A and B end with a ii->V chord
progression. If it wasn't for the delightful "9" chord in phrase A (with the falsetto G# in the voices) we'd
have a potential problem with monotony.
From a casual listen, we're not sure how the seven phrases are meant to be parsed; is it two verses of
ABB-ABB with a concluding repeat of A or is it two verses of BB surrounded on each side with a refrain
of A ? But my question is a bit of a strawman.
In the final result, I think it's the delayed entrance of the drums until the first B phrase that help's clarify the
situation, with its hint that the opening A phrase was probably an introduction, from which point the rest of the
analysis falls in place with relative ease. The reappearance of the BBA pattern after each bridge really nails it.
Page 31
Verse'
All verses that are not immediately followed by another verse (which means all the verses in the song except the
first one) are extended to an unusual 14 measure length by the following half phrase which effects the modulation
to G in the bridge by pivoting on the D Major chord:
E:
|f#
ii
|D
flat-VII
G: V
|
The middle verse features a lead guitar solo for the two "BB" phrases, with the backing vocals still hanging on,
and the complete vocal chorus (including lead) resuming in the final "A" phrase.
Bridge
The bridge cruises along nicely in G and then, just as deftly as it shifted there from E, it shifts back as follows to
E for the next verse:
|G
G:
I
|G
I
|C
IV
|G
I
|-
|C
IV
|F
flat VII
E:V-of-flat II
E
|
flat II
I
The section is an uneven 7 measures long, and built out of two parallel but unequal phrases in a 4 + 3, AA'
pattern. The foreshortening of the second phrase subtly draws your attention all the more closely to the harmonic
gambit played at its end. As an experiment, repeat the F chord for an additional measure before dropping to E and
you'll see that it's more satisfactorially four-square in one respect but less, for lack of a better word, “fun.”
Outro
The outro develops out of the final verse at just the point where it sounds like an impossible third bridge might be
forthcoming. Instead, that flat-VII, D Major chord is used as the start of a surprise concluding “double Plagal”
cadence, the only place in the entire song where the harmonic rhythm exceeds one chord per measure:
|f#
ii
|D
A
|E
flat-VII
IV
(IV-of-IV?)
|-
|
I
It's ironic that a song with so much harmonic movement from I to V should choose to end with this heavily Plagal
formula.
Some Final Thoughts
In the Help! film the Beatles appear as though performing this song live in the studio. The scene, for all its absurd,
staged surreality – Paul alternately playing bass guitar and sitting a grand piano, and Ringo alternately behind the
drum kit or sitting on the floor with the bongos – it provides a delightful fantasy of what the real recording
sessions might have been like. The tobacco companies must have also liked this scene. Ringo is shown drumming
with a cigarette precariously clenched in his teeth. And we get a long close-up of Paul and George facing each
Page 32
other, hunched on opposite sides of a single microphone in order tightly execute the backing vocals. The scene is
filmed with back lighting such that you can see the rhythmic thrust of their sung syllables punctuate like
skywriting the generally smoky haze that builds up as the scene progresses. It's the kind of thing that looks cool
enough to persuade a person of a certain mindset to want to start smoking as soon as possible, even if the thought
has never before occurred to that person. So much for not particularly subliminal persuasion.
“Well look after him. I don't want to find you've lost him.” 051900#7.1
Page 33
No Reply
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The intense and complex emotionality of “No Reply” comes as much from its construction as it does from the
screaming, double-tracked lead vocal. We'll do an end-to-end run-through but be forewarned to keep your eye on
the third phrase of the verse in particular.
The overall form is compact. There is only one bridge which is followed by only one verse. The bridge is
noteworthy in that is the same length as the verses; a full sixteen measures. The form is curiously similar to that of
“Day Tripper” but for different reasons. In “Day Tripper”, we saw a bridge so climactic that a repeat would have
been an anti-climax. In “No Reply”, the bridge provides relief from the intensity and dramatic shape of the verses.
The issue here is not so much that the bridge can't be repeated as much as it is that we couldn't handle more than
three verses without feeling burnt out. Play out the two-bridge variations in your head in which either one or even
two more verses intervene between them and you'll see what I mean.
The lyrics for the three verses form an ABB pattern. I suspect the reason for not repeating the first verse at the
end (i.e. ABA) in this case is because the title phrase, first heard in verse A reappears the bridge. The use of a
rhyme scheme that crosses stanza boundaries (i.e. “your face” and “my place”) was on their minds from early on
based on the horsing around with the word "face" on the Anthology outtakes of the song, and curiously reminds
me of Dylan in a way.
All phrasing of all sections here is with pickups that precede the downbeat. As a side of effect of this, many of
the phrases have rests of a full measure or longer at their ends. The latter creates an undercurrent in which the
listener feels as if the singer is dramatically pausing to let his individual points sink in before proceeding in each
case. Note how “She Loves You”, the other song in this category we've looked at so far fills in what would
otherwise be these dead spots with its yeah-yeah-yeahs, which function as much as an obbligato to the tune as
they are part of the tune per se.
The placement of such an unhappy love song in the all-important slot of album opener, followed no less by
two more downbeat originals in the form of “I'm A Loser” and “Baby's In Black,” was unprecedented for the
Beatles, and would, in the long run, turn out to be unique. By contrast, With the Beatles opens with an upbeat trio
of “It Won't Be Long,” “All I've Got To Do,” and “All My Loving;” providing rather an object lesson in the
relative benefits of maintaining Positive Mental Attitude.
Melody and Harmony
The tune is far from being purely pentatonic but several pentatonic licks are conspicuous in the foreground. Keep
your eye out for fragments taken from the descending pitch set of E-D-C-A-G; for starters, you have the opening
figure (“This happened once before”) and the title phrase at the end of the same line (“no reply-y-y”).
The verse has an overall melodic contour of an arch, though all its phrases, except for the climactic 3rd one,
make descending gestures. The bridge is a lopsided arch, the majority of whose melodic action is on the ascent.
Six of the seven indigenous chords of the home key, C Major, are used along with two secondary
dominants, V-of-vi (E Major) and V-of-ii (A Major). We run into a new chord for the first time in this song.
We've already seen a couple of functionally sub-dominant chords in the other songs we've looked at: IV, ii, and
V-of-V. In NR we encounter a new variant, the "ii6/5" chord, which is nothing other than the ii7 chord in its first
inversion. (For you guitar players we're talking about a d minor 7th chord with the f-natural in the bass.)
Page 34
The ii6/5 chord is an especially cute sub-dominant because of its “added sixth” sonority; as though ii and IV
were super-imposed on each other. Its usage here is all the more appropriate because our ears make an alliterative
association between it and the C chord with an added sixth which is used heavily throughout; analogous to the
way that people sometimes say that the blue flecks in your necktie pick up the color of your eyes.
The harmonic rhythm in every phrase of the song other than the 3rd phrase of the verse changes chords on
each of the first three measures, and sustains the 3rd chord through the 4th measure. That infamous phrase 3 of
the verses changes chord in every measure.
Arrangement
The basic combo on the backing track makes prominent use of acoustic guitar and is supplemented in spots by
piano and handclaps. It's difficult to clearly savor the arrangement from the grungy mono mix available officially
to us on CD. The Anthology outtakes, while cleaner, do not feature the final arrangement; rats. For this reason,
the exact nature of the vocal arrangement and the manner in which the ensemble sound is intensified for the third
verse phrase and bridge are particular mysteries. For now I'm willing to suggest the following; alternatives and
corrections, as always, will be appreciated:
•
•
Vocals: John is double-tracked as lead for all verse phrases except for the 3rd one. In the latter as well as
in the bridges, Paul sings in harmony above him. But I find myself wondering if instead of John doubletracked we have John and Paul singing in unison, a la "Misery."
Backing track: We have quiet scoring for acoustic guitar, bass, and drums without cymbals in all verse
phrases except for the 3rd one. In the latter, as well as the bridges, add cymbals to the drumming, piano
and maybe electric guitar. For the bridge also add handclaps.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Verse
We start off, yet again, in the midst of the action; the Boys seem to have liked doing that. Both the rhythmic
pickup of the vocal part as well as the chord progression contribute to this effect. The first downbeat in the song is
actually on the syllable “fore” in “This happened once before.” The first chord of the song is the ii-6/5 which
moves quickly to V -> I.
From a formal perspective, we have a straightforward 4-by-4, 16 measure verse but the dramatic AA'BA''
shape created by the four phrases is worthy of note:
C:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|d
|G
|C
||
ii6
V
I(added sixth)
5
|a
vi
|e
|d
ii6
5
|G
|F7
iii
|C
V
|e
IV7
|
||
I(added sixth)
Page 35
iii
The A phrases are musically straightforward. We have a full cadence with a two-measure prolongation of the
tonic. Note how the tune turns all the C Major chords into added-sixth sonorities.
The contrasting B phrase ("I saw the light/I nearly died") is the focal point of dramatic tension for the entire
song; it's no accident that this material is recycled in the coda. The syncopations here are quite violent, with the
chords changing in each of the four measures on the eighth note just preceding the downbeat. Now let's zero in on
the harmony.
In my personal experience of this phrase I definitely expect something other than a return to e minor for
the last chord, maybe the I chord. The first pair of chords is fine; vi -> iii is a rather logical progression because it
lies along the circle of fifths. Then the tension increases to a peak in the third chord where we move to F with the
tremendous dissonance of e sustained from the previous chord; the note, e, is actually sustained through the entire
phrase. I believe that we expect to go forward from this F chord, not slide impotently backwards to where we
came from, and yet, this turn of events is surprisingly effective because it provides an uncanny foil to the lyrics.
The words are self-assertive and confrontational while the harmony vacillates. This contrast lends a degree of
subtle complexity to feeling projected by the song; it's not clear if our hero is as ready for his moment of
reckoning as he states.
In terms of implied dissonance, the melodic note, A, is left hanging (on the word “light” or “died”) after the a
minor and F Major chords shift back to the e minor chord. You have to resort to the accompaniment to get a sense
of that note resolving somehow downward to E or G.
The repeat of the A phrase at the end of the verse nicely makes for a dramatic “arch” shape; further pulling
back from the emotional peak of the previous phrase. Harmonically, the juxtaposition of this last phrase to the end
of the B phrase provides us with an e-to-F chord progression which finally does move up to G. Focus your ears on
the bass line in phrases three and four of the verse if you want to experience the vacillation and eventual
movement more keenly. After the descent to E, the repeated vacillation between E and F before finally moving up
to G reminds me of the “two-steps forward-one-step backward” physical sensation of pushing a heavy object up
an incline. Here's the bass line of the third and fourth phrase run together (yes, this would be easier with music
paper):
A
G
F
E
E
F**
C
(** In the first verse of the song, if you listen very carefully, you might argue that the second F in the above bass
line is actually a D. However, the other two verses definitely show F, and though you may throw me my own line
about avoiding foolish consistency, I'm going to say that in this case, the D in the first verse was a sloppy
"mistake". Actually, the D instead of the F also makes for a nice melodic bass line too but I still wish they were
consistent in this case. This would certainly be an instance where an alternate take of the song might help settle
the point,) but the Anthology outtakes are just as maddeningly indefinite on this point as the official version. In
the final result I could argue phrase is equally effective with D in the bass line.)
Bridge
The bridge is 16 measures long. It repeats the following eight measure phrase to create an AA form:
|C
I
|E
V-of-vi
|A
V-of-ii
|-
|
|d
ii
|F
IV
|C
|-
|
I
Page 36
The delivery intensifies yet again for this section, but without the hard syncopations, there is little of the earlier
tension. The bridge sounds at first like it's going to stray much further away from home harmonically that it
eventually does. This sort of harmonic wilting of resolve provides still more of a foil to the decisive lyrics. The E
and A chords create a momentary intimation of modulation which is quickly dispelled. The E chord "might" be a
V-of-vi, and the appearance of A Major instead of a minor is a further surprise. In the instant before we realize
that it's only V-of-ii we think we “might” be actually switching keys to A! But alas, it's really turns out to be
"only" V-of-ii and we're right back in the key of C.
A notable example of Lennon wordplay is found here in the way that the lyrics blithely change point of
view twice in the first phrase. “I” appears three times there, referring to the hero himself in instance 1 and 3, but
switching to refer to the antagonist for instance 2.
Outro
The verse is repeated once more following the bridge and then we're treated to a four-measure coda which is a
variant on the B phrase of the verse:
|a
vi
|e
iii
|F7
IV
|C
I9
|
6
In the measure just before this coda Ringo very casually throws in a hard syncopation just before the downbeat,
with the rest of the ensemble conspicuously not joining him. This bears a direct comparison with the way in
which the group casually drops a certain dotted rhythm in favor of even notes in the last verse of “We Can Work
It Out”.
The final chord is special; a sonorous, freely dissonant added sixth plus added ninth (notes A and D sounding
on top of a C chord). It's interesting to note that while the ninth in the final chord is “free”, it's not without
reasonable motivation. If you look back at the first two chords in the phrase (a -> e), there is an inner voice that
moves downward from C in the first chord to B in the second chord. The same thing happens in phrase B above
when the F7 chord slides down to E. At any rate, in our final chord progression, the added-ninth comes into play
when an inner voice moves from E (in the F7 chord) to D (on top of the C chord.) You think I'm pushing it? I say
listen carefully and savor the way they let that final chord ring out!
Some Final Thoughts
The two outtakes of “No Reply” released on Anthology 1, a “take 1/demo” from early June '64 and a “take 2”
from the late September session at which recording of the song was completed, make for fascinating comparison
with the official version as well as with each other.
Demo
•
•
FORM: The most critical and glaring difference is in how the third phrase of the verse is only partially
developed at this point; just two measures long, with one chord change to a minor, and not much
syncopation. Yes, the Beatles were known for using just such half-phrases, but this one sounds
uncomfortably forced. At least for we who are so familiar with how it eventually turned out, it's hard to
accept it as it is in this outtake. At this stage the song ends with just half of a verse following the bridge.
VOCALS: Paul backs John the whole way through, most of the time in harmony rather than unison. Paul
frankly sounds like he's trying to upstage John on his own song with continual horsing around and hammy
vocalizing. A small but telling detail: in the bridge, Paul harmonizes consistently at a 3rd above John. In
one particular spot (when John jumps down from E to C# on the words “that I,” Paul winds up singing G#
Page 37
•
•
to E which sounds terrible. In both the later outtake and the final version, Paul breaks the parallel 3rd rule
to move up from his G# to A; much better.
ARRANGEMENT: None of the quiet-versus-loud contrast manifest in the final product is yet in
evidence. No part yet for piano. And the rhythm guitar part is electric rather than acoustic.
LYRICS: The verse lyrics are deployed in the ABA pattern. And watch out for “forget” instead of
“forgive” in the bridge.
Take 2
•
•
•
•
FORM: The familiar, complete version of the 3rd verse phrase is now in place. The final coda is appears
in part, but breaks down midstream with a comment from John that suggests that it had only recently been
figured out, and by implication, was not yet fluently under their fingers.
VOCALS: The familiar pattern of verse harmonization is in place, though Paul still sings all the way
through with John, doubling him when there's no harmony.
ARRANGEMENT: The familiar quiet-versus-loud pattern is almost there, but sloppily and inconsistently
executed. The first verse is correctly quiet for the first two phrases and loud for the third, but the loudness
is incorrectly sustained through the fourth phrase. The second verse is "loud" throughout with no quiet
contrast. The bridge accidentally starts out quiet instead of loud. The piano shows up intermittently in this
take elsewhere in the verses than just the 3rd phrase.
LYRICS: The “forgive/forget” change has now been made, but the verse lyrics are still deployed here in
the ABA pattern. The decision to go with ABB apparently must have been late breaking.
“Any one at home?”
052900#8.1
Page 38
You Won't See Me
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeoutttt)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Tucked away within the harmonic inner voice leading of “You Won't See Me” harmonic structure are descending
chromatic scale fragments whose recurrence in all sections help unify the song with subliminal efficiency. I said
“voices,” George, not “lights.”!
The form is the familiar two-bridge model with single verse intervening and no solo instrumental section. The
moderate tempo drives the track's running time to 3:22, clearly discouraging any thought of doubling the verse
between the bridges.
The verse lyrics are in a form of ABCC; i.e. unique lyrics for the first three sections, with the final verse
repeating those of the third section.
The verses begin with a pickup, but the bridge (and even the title phrase, arguably) place their stress right on
the downbeat, lending sense of grim pronouncement each time.
Melody and Harmony
The verse tune is roughly arch-shaped. The bridge is less clearly so, though it does end with an upsweep that
provides the song with its melodic high point. All the indigenous chords of our A Major home key are used except
for iii and vi, and we have a chromatic assist from V-of-V. The harmonic rhythm is predominantly one chord per
measure, causing the few places where it is either faster (end of the verse) or slower (throughout the bridge) to
dramatically stand out. But what does "chromatic scale fragments" mean? A chromatic scale is simply a scale
which consists of all semi-tones; e.g., c-c#-d-d#-e-f etc. In our standard major/minor scales you never find even
two such semi-tones in a row. However, the use of chromatically altered chords in a progression (the secondary
dominant, "V-of-V", is an archetypal example) allows us to easily knit fragments of chromatic scales into a tonal
harmonic fabric. It tends to connote a certain kind of sentimentality and can easily become a cliche. You've got to
use it carefully.
Arrangement
The standard backing combo is conspicuously augmented by piano and tambourine. Paul provides an extremely
active and melodic bass part, and Ringo provides unusually detailed patterning to the drumming. Against the
backing track's rock-solid backbeat Paul's double-tracked lead vocal is pervaded almost completely by
syncopations that anticipate the downbeat. The only place in the entire song where Paul does sing on the
downbeat is (no coincidence) the one place in the song where the backing track, itself, provides syncopation on
the eighth note before "3." It's that singular break from the anticipatory syncopation that makes the title phrase
sound as though it starts right on the downbeat, even though, literally, that's not true.
Variation of the vocal accompaniment each time the verse is repeated is another major point of interest in “You
Won't See Me”:
•
•
Verse 1 - Double-track Macca solo, no backing voices.
Verse 2 - Add single part, though double tracked, George singing “ooh la la-la”.
Page 39
•
•
Verse 3 - Add two/three part harmony to "ooh la la-la" including a constant pedal tone of A-natural in the
top part.
Verse 4 - Same as Verse 3 but mixed further forward to sound “fuller,” or perhaps that's just an illusion.
The overall effect is one of the musical texture increasing in density and complexity over the course of the song;
this is somewhat curious in light of the fact that the instrumental texture (piano, bass, drums, and punctuating
chords on the off beat in the electric guitar) is unchanged throughout. In other words, this perceived increase in
thickness is entirely due to the vocals.
If you step back from it all and try and grasp the song “in the big picture” as a totality, I believe that this
steady increase in complexity of the four verses stands in beautiful contrast to the otherwise balanced alternation
of verses and middle-eights in the piece, providing a sort of formalistic counterpoint. Some choice details in the
arrangement:
•
•
•
Ringo's high hat fills: in the verses he does two sixteenth notes as a pickup to 4; in the bridge he does four
sixteenth notes as a pickup to 4. All this is suddenly dropped during the outro.
Starting with the intro, the tambourine is hit twice at the end of every verse coinciding with the
syncopated appearance of the words “see me” in the title phrase, and like the high hat fills, also
terminating on the fourth beat; in every verse, that is, except the first appearance of this phrase in the final
verse, where it's obviously flubbed.
At the end of only the second bridge Paul opts for jumping down an octave in the bass part to “lowest” E.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is just two measures long, and though it seems relatively inconsequential when you hear it at the
beginning, you later realize that this is an anticipation of the title phrase in the verse, minus the vocals. It's
uncanny how this characterizing shot of syncopation is first dealt to you right off the bat.
Verse
The verse is an unusual 18 measures long, though it breaks down as a typical 4-times-4 measures (in a pattern of
AABA') followed by a petit reprise of the last two measures of the fourth phrase. All four phrases are
harmonically closed, both starting and ending on the I chord.
When we look closely at the harmony, we discover that every phrase has a downward, four-note
chromatic scale fragment buried in an inner voice of the accompaniment; the piano part at first, and later, the
backing “oooh la la-la” vocals:
inner voice:
chords:
harmonic analysis
inner voice:
chords:
harmonic analysis:
A:
----------------------- 2X ---------------------|E
|D#
|D-nat
|C#
|
|A
|B
|D
|A
I
V-of-V
IV
I
|G
|A7
V-of-IV
|F#
|F-nat
|D
IV
|
|d
iv
Page 40
|E
|
|A
I
|
inner voice:
chords:
harmonic analysis
|E
|D#
|A
|B
V-of-V
I
----------- 2X -------1& 2 & 3 4 1 2 3 4
|D
C#
|C# D D# E |
|D
A
|IV
I
|
Note the use above of the iv borrowed from the parallel minor, a chord we first discussed when looking at “She
Loves You.” This is the same chord progression, by the way, that opens “Eight Days a Week” though the crossrelation between the second and third chords is greatly softened in this instance by the fact that the D# is followed
by the D natural in the same voice.
The third phrase (“We have lost the time”) is built on a different chord progression, but we still have a
hidden chromatic scale, transposed this time to fit the new chords.
Although I said that the fourth phrase (“And I will lose my mind”) is essentially the same as phrases 1 and 2,
there is actually a significant variation in the harmonic rhythm worth noting. Instead of the last two chords each
filling a measure each as they do in phrases 1 and 2, the last chord makes an early, syncopated appearance in
between beat 2 and 3 of the measure before the one in which it would seem more squarely to belong.
If you have any doubt regarding the intentional use of the chromatic scale as a unifying factor in this song, I
direct you to these two syncopated measures (“if you won't see me” “you won't see me”) in which the
accompanying voices sing the same four-note scale fragment, this time in the mirror image, upward direction!
They even repeat it in measures 17 - 18 for emphasis. Checkout George's “Something” for a surprisingly similar
example of this.
You know there's a rehearsal of “Two of Us” in which Paul tells George that “I'll give you a wink when she
goes four in the bar.” I can't help feeling that the end of this verse in “You Won't See Me” is metaphorically the
same gesture.
Bridge
The bridge is a true “middle eight” that is harmonically open at both ends, thank goodness, after all the close-toclaustrophobic harmonically closed verses:
|F#
|b
ii
|F-nat
|G# dim. 7 |D
vii4/3
|D#
|B
V-of-V
||-
|D-nat
|E
|-
|E
|A
|
|
I
||V7
4
|
|
3
In this section we find a downward chromatic scale of six notes, running from F# down through C#, actually
ending on the downbeat of the following verse. Not only is the harmonic rhythm conspicuously slower here than
in the verses, but we also find a very subtle ultra-slow syncopation in the way that the chord changes in the first
phrase appear in measures 1, 2 and 4, rather than 1, 3 and 4. Note how much more obvious and equally less
interesting is the latter alternative.
I'm labeling the middle chord in the first phrase as a G# diminished 7th chord in its 4/3 inversion (i.e. D in
the bass), even though the G# itself doesn't appear until the tune supplies it in the following measure. The V chord
that ends the bridge decorated in a manner reminiscent of classical music by both a 4-3 suspension in the
arrangement, and a slow turn around the chord's 7th in the backing vocals.
Page 41
Outro
The outro consists of the verse section performed without lead vocal. The fadeout is rapid, reaching complete
silence by what would otherwise be the sixth measure of this section.
Some Final Thoughts
Faithful readers of this series will be familiar with my ironic postulate that John and Paul never appear so sharply
characterized as individuals as when they adopt a common theme. This time it's “You Won't See Me” versus “No
Reply.”
The two songs present protagonists who either predict they will shortly lose their mind or have already
nearly died because the object of their respective affections repeatedly avoids seeing them. As if that weren't
enough of a correspondance, we find a prominent place given in each tableau to the telephone as a circumstantial
prop. But look at how they diverge:
What is the girl doing to upset him?
• PAUL: Evading contact (line's engaged, want to hide)
• JOHN: Lies and betrayal, with bonus points because unnamed others are complicit in the crime (they said you
were not home, with another man in my place). Additional bonus points because he knows that she knows
he's caught her (I know that you saw me)
How long has this been going for?
• PAUL: Repeatedly, though unspecified (time after time)
• JOHN: He can fluently enumerate the specific occasions (this happened once before, saw you walk in your
door)
What type of relationship has this been even on the best of days?
• PAUL: Not necessarily requited (if I knew what I was missing)
• JOHN: He's been thrown over (again, another man in my place)
Any hope for a better future?
• PAUL: Mixed emotions: acknowledging both total loss (since I lost you) yet trying to coax another chance by
making her feel guiltily responsible for his suffering (I will lose my mind if you won't see me)
• JOHN: As grim as the situation seems, and in spite of his acute distress, the hope of reconciliation is
expressed in the wishful subjunctive voice (if I were you I'd realize)
It's difficult to draw out such comparisons without appearing to making a value judgment. So I urge you, keep an
open mind. Both approaches here are equally valid regardless of what you personally prefer. But they sure are
different.
“I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality.”
060600#9.1
Page 42
It Won't Be Long
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“It Won't Be Long” is a raving album opener, rich in detail and elliptical in form. On face value, the song is built
out of three distinct, two-line phrases, each of which reappears at least once:
•
•
•
“X” is the couplet that begins with the song's title phrase.
“Y” is the couplet that presents different words each time.
“Z” is the couplet that starts off with “Since you left me ...”
What's particularly interesting is how the normal, easy-to-recognize distinction between verse/bridge/refrain is
rather blurred here by the repeat pattern as well as the particular content of each phrase. In my original look at this
song, way back, I fretted at some length over how to parse the following mosaic:
X
Y
X
Z
Y
X
Z
Y
X
I think you can eventually reduce the form to the double-bridge model with a single intervening verse but in order
to do so you need to parse the second half of the verse section as mini-refrain that also happens to be used as the
song's intro; compare this with “You're Going To Lose That Girl.” Even then, you'll notice that the song curiously
does not double up the verse section first time around, and that the verse itself is one measure short of a balanced
eight measures.
The mini-refrain and bridge open with a pickup. By contrast, the verse tune comes in after the downbeat.
The difficulty comes in trying to cluster these phrases into the sort of verse/bridge/refrain divisions you come to
expect in this genre. Some of the following questions and options come to mind:
•
•
is Z a bridge? Or perhaps, (ignoring the first, Y-only verse) is it joined to Y as the first half of a compound
(ZY) verse unit ? Under this last option, X does indeed fit the role of refrain.
is X a refrain? Or perhaps, (ignoring its first appearance as an intro) is it joined to Y as the second half of a
compound (YX) verse unit ? Under this last option, Z does indeed fit the role of bridge.
Or perhaps, there are no compound verse units, and the structure is meant to be parsed by us at the level already
diagrammed above. Under this last option, Y (with it's ever changing lyrics) is the natural choice for verse, and I'd
feel compelled to say that the rest of the form is a highly unusual hybrid in that we have both a refrain (X) and a
bridge (Z).
Melody and Harmony
The tune covers more than an octave in range, is generally jumpy, and has a lot of downward gestures that
eventually get balanced out by the upward flourish and high point with which the bridge comes to an end.
The opening lick is strangely reminiscent of Beethoven's 5th in its hammering insistence, and ends
unusually with the downward leap of a perfect 4th; sing it aloud and notice what doing so physically pulls out of
you. You find another example of this, by the way, in the contemporaneous “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” (both
Page 43
the hammering and the downward leap) on the phrase “... me be your man.” Granted, in our case the leap is made
from scale degree 2 down to 6, while in the other case it's made from 3 to 7. Still, I insist, the parallel is
extraordinary. The rhythmic pattern, minus the melodic pattern, is again found in the abandoned contemporaneous
version of “One After 9”
The harmonic diet is on the rich side, with familiar choices such as I, IV, V, and vi supplemented by a couple
secondary dominants, the flat-VI, and another couple touches of purely chromatic harmony.
Melody challengingly intersects with harmony every time the I chord (E) in the verse changes to flat-VI (C),
forcing the tune into a bit of a "C# - B - C natural" kink; e.g. as on the words “... night the tears.” Try singing that
figure without the aid of the underlying chords!
Arrangement
The backing track is for the standard combo, though the lead guitar notably delivers its signature riff in the
baritone range. Ringo helps articulate form with his chewy drum fills on most of the section boundaries, and his
muting of the cymbal sizzle factor at the start of each bridge. John double tracks the lead vocal, starting off
unaccompanied at the start of song with a delivery whose visceral impact just about knocks you out of your seat.
The backing vocals are a combination of antiphonal and chordal in the verse/refrain, but provide a descending
chromatic line against the lead during the bridge.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro presents the refrain-like second half of the verse section. It's eight measures long with a phrasing pattern
of 2 + 2 + 4 (AA'A''), and an harmonic shape that converges on I, starting away from it on vi:
E:
|c#
vi
|-
|c#
vi
|A
|E
I
Fx
IV
|E
#ii dim.7 I
|-
|
|-
|
The use of the vi chord as a pseudo dominant is almost a signature device of the The Beatles in this period; look at
the very the next song on this album (“All I've Got to Do”) and note how they use the same chord progression, not
to mention the same key!
The special chord in the second half of measure six needs no Roman numeral since it's the result of
chromatic voice leading between the IV and I chord on either side of it. The chord sounds liked a diminished 7th
chord of the "sharpened II" (in this case, that's a dim. 7 build on the unlikely note "F double sharp) placed on top
of the static bass line note of A:
S:
A:
T:
B:
C#
A
E
A
->
->
->
->
A#
Fx
-
->
->
->
->
B
B
G#
E
Note how the outer two voices sustain their pitches going into the novel chord, while the inner two voices elect
for chromatic movement through the progression. The overall effect is similar to the physical feeling of having
your already-twisted arm tightened yet another half, painful turn. The intensification effect is enhanced by the fact
that this chord marks the solitary moment in this phrase where the harmonic rhythm quickens.
Page 44
One last "#ii diminished" related factoid. The same chord shows up in the following list of conspicuously
unrelated, much later songs: “When I'm Sixty-four,” “Blue Jay Way,” “The End” and “Her Majesty.”
The “Day Tripper”-like guitar riff used in measures seven and eight reappears in what will turn out to be the
first half of the verse section, and helps unify the song overall. Savor that bent F double sharp -> G#, but also
contemplate the skill of the player in getting it consistent in each repeat; unless of course, it was recorded once as
an “edit piece” and then overdubbed like a macro each time; yeah, as if!
The antiphonal “yeah – yeah” vocals are really something; difficult to perform but fun to listen to even in
mono. They are given a not-so-gentle syncopated feeling by the fact that John's voice, which is mixed forward
from the others, sings his “yeahs” on the off beat. Kids: do try this with your friends at home with your friends to
see what I mean.
Verse
The full verse length, including the mini-refrain, is fifteen measures because its first non-refrain half is an unsual
seven measures long. Its phrasing pattern is actually "AA" but there's a funky elision effect where what should be
the last measure of the first phrase overlaps with the first measure of the repeat. The closest John-like other
example of the same trick I can think of is in “Any Time At All.”
The section has an harmonically closed shape but relies on the flat-VI chord as a surrogate dominant:
|E
E:
I
|E
I
|C
flat-VI
|E
I
|
|C
flat-VI
|E
I
|-
|
It's called the "flat VI" since its root is a half-tone lower than what it would be for the vi chord that naturally
appears in the Major key. Think of it as the VI chord borrowed from the parallel minor key. I myself am tempted
to dub it "the Buddy Holly chord" because of the iconic familiarity of its appearance in the bridge of “Peggy Sue.”
John himself reuses the chord in the bridge of his roughly contemporaneous “I Call Your Name.”
Bridge
This section reverts to a square, eight-bar length and is harmonically wide open at its end, contrasting nicely the
close harmonic shape of the Verse and mini-refrain.
chords:
middle voice:
Bassline:
E
analysis:
I
G#
D#
|E
|B-aug
|b
|C#7
G-nat
F#
F-nat
D-nat
C#
V-of-II IV
V
A
|B
D#
E
V-of-V
|F#
|B
|
V
The harmonically open effect is amplified by the use of V-of-V, presented as a ninth-chord, no less.
The descending, chromatic bass line is another device used by the Boys all over the map; “It's Only
Love” and “Dear Prudence” are two widely spaced examples that come to mind. Try to hear the middle voice
which descends in parallel with bass at the interval of a third as well as the upper voice which focuses on the same
note, B, throughout the phrase. This winds up creating an unusual augmented chord in measure two and a minor
chord in measure three to which I wouldn't assign Roman numerals. As with the special chord in the mini-refrain,
I'd describe the harmony here as being essentially a move from E (I) to C# (V-of-II) in which the two intervening
chords are incidental structures created by the melodic motion which connects the first and last chords. Check out
“Real Love,” of all songs, for a similar usage of the augmented triad.
Page 45
In the raving context of the rest of the song, the subdued, falsetto vocal backing combined with the change in
drumming texture in this section provides an effective, contrasting oasis-like moment of relief.
Outro
The brief outro is setup by the final verse which cranks the already intense mood up another notch with a late
breaking vocal variation during the refrain (John flips over the F# sharp of the title riff and the backers wildly
mimic his gesture), combined with a cliche “grand pause” of the sort John would eventually parody in “... Warm
Gun.”
In this single instance, the A Major chord does not morph to the funky diminished chord, and the final
cadence continues in a much subdued tempo, elaborated by a Barbershop Harmony cliche stream of chromatically
descending dominant 7th chords (that need no Roman numerals):
|c#
vi
|A
|E
IV
G7 F#7 F-nat7|E
|
|
The final chord, itself is freely dissonant, including “the works,” in a manner similar to the ending of “No Reply.”
Some Final Thoughts
Refer to the “Kissing Cousins” finale in “All My Loving” for consideration of yet another pair of songs that
reveals the paradox emergent when you compare or contrast Lennon and McCartney with each other at any
detailed level.
“I knew I could rely on you.”070400#10.1
Page 46
Good Day Sunshine
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse/Break – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Refrain – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We're going to sneak a bit further ahead in the chronology this time from where we've been mostly hanging out to
look at the song that opens what quaintly used to be called the “B side” of the Revolver Long Playing (LP) record
album.
Granted, “Good Day Sunshine” contains no exotic instruments, tape loops, or drug references, but
nonetheless, this song in its own quiet, feel-good, nostalgic and folksy way amply demonstrates the sort of
willingness to experiment, both with musical syntax, combinations of styles, and recording techniques, which is
often glibly said to characterize the so-called Late Middle Period.
I was rather surprised to discover here that what I'd been thinking of for years as a fancy change of meter in
the refrain section actually isn't there for the most part! With the exception of the outro, the meter is a solid 4/4
throughout, and what feels like a change of meter is actually a s-l-o-w syncopation. “Oh ?”, you say. Check it out
below.
The form is essentially that of a folk ballad, with strictly alternating refrains and verses. The intro, outro, and
semi-instrumental middle verse lend an explicitly “pop” cross current. The ballad format encourages the different
lyrics we find in each verse. The refrain commences right on the downbeat. The verse starts with a pickup.
The fact that at the very time this song was being recorded at Abbey Road in June 1966 a comparably
sun-drenched song titled “Daydream” by the Loving Spoonful was topping the charts in America strikes me as a
remarkable coincidence, perhaps, worthy of enquiry.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic material fills slightly more than an octave's space, but is aligned below the scale of the home key; i.e.
topping out perilously on step 7 (G#), and bottoming out on step 6 (F#) nine notes below.The verse's initial couple
steps upward are more than amply balanced out by downward gestures that follow as the consequence of upward
jumps. The refrain's downward jabs are counterbalanced by the upward pressure (F# -> G#) of its overall contour.
Only four chords are used throughout, B/E/A/D, but they carry considerable spice because they are all Major
chords positioned around the “pure” cycle of 5ths. In other words, two of the four are “altered” chords that don't
occur naturally within the home key. You might say this harmonic pattern is a major source of the nostalgic effect
of the song.
Arrangement
The backing track prominently features piano, drums, and even hand claps but there is little in the way of guitars.
Paul single tracks the lead vocal in the verses, and is harmonized with by John and George for the refrains.
Among the various overdubs are relatively well developed whole second tracks for both drums and piano. This is
an excellent example of where you can get a clear sense of how the Beatles would layer an arrangement by
comparing the separated stereo tracks.
Page 47
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro consists of four full measures of a plain E chord (actually just an open fifth instead of the complete
chord). This intro, tapped out in a mechanical four-to-the-bar, provides contrast with what follows, but also seems
like a hint from the composer not to be lulled into metrical complacency. If you're interested in trying to count
through the syncopated refrain, you'll find that the intro is quite helpful in getting yourself firmly in the 4/4
groove before the turbulence starts. Literally get up and march around the room, counting out loud, if it helps!
The track starts off entirely without percussion, but we quickly have the staggered entrance of drums,
followed a few beats later by a cymbal roll, mixed in respectively from left to right.
Refrain
The refrain is six measures in length with a phrasing pattern of AAA' and an harmonic shape unusually opened at
both ends, though still convergent upon the home key. The six measure length is deceptively simple once you get
it parsed out in "straight" 4/4. The first two measures like so:
Beats:
Accents:
|1
2
>
Words:
Chords:
Good
B
A:
3
>
4
|1
Day
2
>
3
Sun
4|
shine
(daa-de-da-de)
F#
V-of-(V-of-V)
V-of-V
The next two measures are a repeat of the above followed by this:
Beats:
Accents:
|1
>
Words:
Good
Chords:
2
3
>
Day
4
|1
2
>
Sun
3
4|
shine
I take a...
E7
V
We essentially have eight beats in each phrase divided into a pattern of 3 + 3 + 2. This is a type of syncopation
you're actually rather familiar with, but you've probably seen it in much faster tempos. For example, a lot of jazz
riffs played in even eighth- or sixteenth-notes are accented in this 3/3/2 manner. Closer to home, you have “Here
Comes the Sun” and the intro to “Because.”
The meter isn't the only thing that almost eludes our grasp in this refrain; the key is also equivocal at this
point, and is not settled until the verse begins. Until proven otherwise, we would assume from the opening, that
the key of the song is going to be B rather than A as it later turns out. The chord progression from V-of-V back to
its own V rather than forward to the V of the home key is musical kind of “approach avoidance.”
Verse
In contrast to the refrain, the verse is comparatively straightforward. Note both the contrast provided by the return
to an unequivocal 4/4 beat and the clear establishment of the home key of A major, as well as the beautiful
economy provided by a recycling of all (and with the exception of the A chord, no more than) the chords used in
the intro/refrain.
Page 48
The verse is a fully squared off eight measures long, with a phrasing pattern of AA, and a closed
harmonic shape:
A:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|A
F#7
|B7
|E7
|A
|
I
V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V
V
I
The first verse is followed by another six measure refrain. The consistent use of the "rat-ta-ta-tat" triplet figure in
the snare drum to punctuate the last two beats of measures 2 and 4 of each refrain starting only from here to the
end of the song is a choice detail; note again the use of overdubbed “stereo drumming.” This sort of repeat of a
background figure starting only in the second verse or refrain is a Beatles trademark going all the way back to
those “Do Dah Doos” in “Do You Want to Know A Secret.”
Verse/Break
Moving on, we get next a second eight measure verse. In an unusual move, the second four measures of this verse
are in the key of D and are presented as a solo for piano. In other songs we certainly have seen guitar solos in this
same architectural position, but in this case, having both the modulation and the brief, half-length solo in the same
place are out of the ordinary.
The key switch to D is done as a classic pivot. The A chord in measure four is first heard as I in A major, but
retrospectively is understood as a punning V of D Major. Similarly, the shift back to A Major makes a pun on the
D Major chord:
|A
A:
I
F#7
|B7
V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V
|E7
|A
V
|
I
D:V
|D
A:
D:
B7
|E7
|A7
|D
B
V-of-V
IV
I
V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V
V
I
The cross-relation briefly exposed here (the only place in the entire song) by the sequence of D Major and B
Major chords demonstrates the less-is-more wisdom of restraint.
This section is followed by another refrain and a third eight-measure verse, musically identical to the first
with the exception of hand claps now added to the mix on beats 2 and 4 of each measure; fussy and fastidious.
Outro
The third verse is followed by a final pair of refrains and an outro, making for a longer than usual coda. In these
two immediate repetitions of the refrain we actually do get a break in the 4/4 meter for the first time; a
tremendous illustration of the secret art of knowing when to avoid a foolish consistency. The break in the meter
occurs in measure six (refer back above); i.e., the second measure of the sustained E chord is only three beats!
But the real frosting on the cake is what the outro, proper. Instead of something more obvious like a third
repeat of the refrain going into the fade-out, we are treated to the harmony taking an enigmatic half-step upward
(to an F7 chord), and the vocal arrangement suddenly being refracted into a series of cascading echoes.
Oldies afficianados will recognize this effect of modulating up a step at the end as a fairly widely used cliche
of golden aged rock and roll. The Beatles however make limited use of it, all three examples in the canon
interestingly provided by Macca; in addition to “Good Day Sunshine”, we also have “And I Love Her” and
“Penny Lane.”
Page 49
Some Final Thoughts
I'd be hard pressed to account for every item in the L&M songbook as being one side of a yin/yang parallel effort
of John and Paul to solve similar compositional challenges. By the same token, for the third time in a row, we've
got a pair of songs intruigingly worthy of comparison and contrast.
Check out the finale to the next note, on “She Said She Said.” One additional point of contrast with
“Good Day Sunshine” is the way Paul's song turns out to fit the 4/4 meter as a point of technicality. John's
approach to metrical disruption operates under no such scruple.
And moving from the ridiculous to the sublime, what do you make of that funny bit of muttering from Ringo
in the final verse where he mimic's Paul on the words “she feels good”; yet another clue or just a bit of
troublemaking?
“You two have never had a quarrel in your life.” 073000#11.1
Page 50
She Said She Said
Key:
Meter:
Form:
B flat Mixolydian Major
4/4 but disrupeted in the Bridge
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Although the most conspicuous feature of “She Said She Said” is the metrical high jinks of the bridge, this song
also provides us with object lessons about two other general compositional topics: how to experiment without
things falling apart, and the special characteristics of modal harmony.
Experimentation! Among other things, this song teaches us yet another of the composer's trade secrets:
whenever you are pushing one parameter of your musical grammar to the max, hold at least some if not all of the
other parameters steady lest your meaning become obscured by sensory overload, or your composition come apart
as though from centrifugal force. This principle potentially operates on many different levels to the extent that the
“parameters” involved may include as diverse elements as form, rhythm, texture, harmony, even lyrics.
In our current song, I believe this principle is illustrated on the high level by the choice of form, and on a
more detailed level in the way the arrangement pits rhythm and meter against each other. The issue of rhythm and
meter will be covered as we go through the music itself, but I want to discuss the formal issue here.
In spite of the fact that “She Said She Said” flaunts inscrutably psychedelic lyrics, heavy limiting applied to
virtually every instrument as well as the voice track, and of course, that wobbly meter, it also sports a positively
buttoned down, classic form; i.e. the two-bridge model with a single verse intervening. While this may seem
obvious, it's a point worthy of emphasis: no matter how experimental they were in other aspects of composition,
The Beatles with very rare exception, clung to such classic forms in their songs; it is as though they needed these
forms as a bedrock on which to anchor their experiments lest they fall apart.
The usage of asymmetric, acyclic (albeit clearly articulated) forms are rare enough in their output that their
identification and examination as a group would itself make an interesting study. Start with “Happiness is a Warm
Gun” and “You Never Give Me Your Money” and see how many more you can find!
Going even further, I'm tempted to argue that it is no coincidence that the even fewer cases where they
abandoned articulated form entirely, (e.g., “Revolution 9”, “What's the New Mary Jane”) have turned out to be
among their least popular work over the long run.
All this is noot intended as a criticism; I mention it to acknowledge that for all their glibly touted breaking of
barriers, the Boys were really neo-classicists at heart.
The lyrics create the relatively common form of ABCC; i.e. new lyrics for the first three verses, with the
third's set of lyrics repeated the fourth and final time around.
All the sections begin with the tune right on the downbeat.
Melody and Harmony
The tune is hypnotically anchored within the tight range of a fifth, from B-flat up to F. The only relief from this
constriction is in the downward direction for the culmination of the verse section. The hard melodic ceiling, far
from inducing boredom, uncannily suggests the not entirely unpleasant sensation you derive from repetitiously
stoned conversation at a noisy party where you can barely hear the sound of your own voice.
Modal Harmony! The harmonic vocabulary of “She Said She Said” is purely from the Mixolydian mode; this
mode being the scale with the Major bottom half, and a whole step instead of a half-step at the very top -- think of
it as the white note scale starting on G.
Page 51
The key of the song is ostensibly B-flat but the key signature features an A-flat instead of an A-natural. This
means that the key signature, scale, and chord selection of Mixolydian B-flat is identical to that of E-flat Major.
It's worth noting that this phenomenon is somewhat analogous to the relative
Major/Minor relationship. However, in this particular case, the scalar coincidence leads in turn to several
distinctive harmonic characteristics:
The naturally occurring "v" chord in the Mixolydian mode is minor and does not make for an effective V-I
cadence. As a result ...
The burden for establishing the key in this mode falls on the sub-dominant IV chord and the pseudodominant flat-VII chord; in our modal B-flat key, these are the E-flat and A-flat chords respectively. Although
these chords can be used individually in apposition to the tonic I chord, they are often used together, as in the
ubiquitous “Hey Jude” progression:
B-flat
B-flat: I
A-flat
flat-VII
IV
E-flat
I
B-flat
By the way, I've been often tempted to label that A-flat chord a "IV-of-IV" when used in this context. I was
gratified to recently learn that Beatles musicologist Walt Everett coined the term “double plagal” to refer to this.
The common pitch content between the tonic and the key of the IV chord makes it very easy in
Mixolydian mode to effect a pivot modulation to that key. In fact, this key of the IV is actually capable of being
established more firmly than the tonic (I) itself because of the following paradox: the I chord makes a stronger Vof-IV cadence with IV than does the naturally occurring minor v chord with the I.
Finally, I would re-emphasize the “modal purity” of our current song. There are many other Beatles songs
with a strong Mixolydian flavor to them which nonetheless contain a fair amount of the regular Major mode
added to the mixture; for examples take a look a “A Hard Day's Night” where the "pure" Mixolydian spell is first
broken in the fourth line of the verse (“I find the things that you do ...”) by the appearance of a V chord. Here in
“She Said She Said” the only detail that comes even close to breaking out of the modal mold is the bent blue 3rd
in the vocal and lead guitar riff that ends each verse.
Leaving modality aside, the harmony of this song is also distinguished by its frugality. There are only four
different chords used throughout, one of which doesn't even make an appearance until the climax of the bridge (on
the word “boy”) but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Arrangement
The backing track arrangement is relatively homogenized for the Beatles, with a kind of heavy limiting applied to
everything including the drums that makes the track sound as if recorded surrealistically too close up. Almost
subliminally far in the background of this soupy mix you find the organ, barely noticeable but for that fleeting
tickling sensation you get on the high end of your ears. The vocal arrangement is for John, alone, double tracked
throughout; often in parallel thirds for interior phrases, but generally in unison for the opening and closing phrases
of each section.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is only three measures played out on the B-flat "I" chord of the home key. It introduces with elegant
efficiency both the mocking-bird lead guitar riffing and the fancy-footwork drumming that so heavily contribute
to the overall flavor of the song.
Page 52
Verse
The verse section is 10 measures long, built out of an 8 measure verse plus a petit instrumental reprise of the last 2
measures. The phrases are all short and make a pattern of ABB'C. The harmonic shape is closed at both ends:
------------- 3X -------------- --------------- 2X ----------|B-flat
A-flat
|E-flat
|B-flat
A-flat
B-flat|
B-flat: I flat- IV
I
flat- IV
I
VII
VII
|E-flat
Measures 7 and 8 (on the words “making me feel like my trousers are torn” as they are found a rough and rare
home demo of the song ) feature strong syncopation, and are given an immediate instrumental reprise. The
syncopation is all the stronger for coming after three identical repeats of an unsyncopated, almost stodgy
harmonic rhythm. Notice, in fact, how the fancy drumwork in the second half of the measures containing only the
E-flat chord helps counteract this stodginess and effectively pushes the music forward; a Ringo signature going all
the way back to “I Saw Her Standing There.” The bass line, on a more subtle level, is also used to push things
along here.
Other tasty details:
•
•
•
An additional source of rhythmic turbulence is to be found in measures 3 and 5 where we have slow triplets (3
notes against two beats) in the voice part; the same trick as in the bridge of “We Can Work it Out.”
The drum part in the two measure reprise following the verse neatly reinforces the syncopations without fancy
figuration; a good example of avoiding foolish consistency.
The lead guitar part antiphonally imitates the voice part in measures 3, 5, and the two measure reprise.
Bridge
If the gory details are too daunting at first sight, here's a high-level view of this bridge:
•
•
The f minor chord is introduced for the first time in the song at what is possibly the moment of climax, and is
used to help make a pivot modulation to E-flat, the key of the IV.
The meter may be erratic but it's not without its own pattern. This little chart indicates the succession of
measures and the number of beats in each:
She said "you don't understand what I said". I
"No, no, no, you're wrong. When I was a boy,
Everything was right.
Everything was right."
said
[4+4]
[3+3+3]
[6+3]
[6+3]
Our great illustration of the principle of keeping some musical parameters steady when maxing out on others is
two-fold: rather than “fight” the changing meter (at risk of obscuring it), both the harmonic rhythm and the
drumming are slavishly at the meter's service. The chords change on every measure boundary, and the drumming
(and the bass as well) forgo fancy syncopation for strictly even eighth-note marking of the beat.
One detail you might quibble with me on are the measures shown as being six beats instead of two measures,
each with three beats. I've chosen to go with six beats because of where the chord changes are, and because I hear
the those six beats accented by the voice part as though they are broken into 4+2, not 3+3; i.e., I hear the words
accented as “everyTHING”, not “EVERYthing.”
Page 53
Without further ado, here are those gory details! Without music paper, this will be a bit awkward to map out,
but let's go for it. This is the notational convention used below:
•
•
•
•
•
•
Each group of lines enclosed within dashed lines below represents one measure of music.
The number in the left margin indicates the number of beats in the measure.
The beats in the measure are marked out in the top line of the group.
The lyrics are laid out across the measure in the second line of the group.
The chords are labeled in the third line of the group.
The “Roman Numer” for the chords are labeled in the bottom line of the group.
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
4
4
She
said
"you don't underB-flat
A-flat
B-flat:
I
flat-VII
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
4
4
stand what I said".
I
said
B-flat
B-flat:
I
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
3
"No, no,
no
you're
A-flat
B-flat:
flat-VII
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
3
wrong.
When I
was
a
B-flat
B-flat:
I
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
3
boy
f
B-flat:
v
E-flat: ii ** point of pivot
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
4
5
6
6
everything
was
B-flat
E-flat: V
Page 54
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
3
right.
E-flat
E-flat: I
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
4
5
6
6
everything
was
B-flat
E-flat: V
---------------------------------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------------------------------1
2
3
3
right.
E-flat
E-flat: I
B-flat: IV ** point of pivot back
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Outro
Two details worthy of attention in the outro:
•
•
The canonic imitation in the split voice parts is a novel development of the idea originally presented by the
lead guitar in the verse.
The sudden release of all syncopation is a final, rhythmic coup de grace, coming as it does at the end of two
full minutes during which we're constantly bombarded by either syncopation, or a fickle meter. The tempo
remains the same, but those evenly-pounded-out eighth notes in the fade out give me a strong feeling of
acceleration; as though driving into a free skid on ice.
Some Final Thoughts
Anyone else out there struck by the underlying, albeit unlikely, similarities between “She Said She Said” and
“Good Day Sunshine?” Consider it: each has metric changes, an unusually restricted harmonic vocabulary, and
cascading vocals in the coda. With all that we read about the “friendly” competition between John and Paul, it
makes me wonder if they would possibly set themselves an abstract musical problem statement or recipe, then go
off and develop their own personalized solutions to it. Granted, this might be a totally fantastical notion, but
nonetheless, the two songs compared in this instance are about as quintessentially typical of each songwriter as
any you could find!
“Oh do I? You're the first one who ever said it.” 080600#12.1
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You Never Give Me Your Money
Key: a minor/C Major/A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Part X -> Part Y -> Part Z (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Taking a cue from the emphasis in my last note (re: “She Said She Said”) on the undeniable primacy of classic
song forms within the Beatles songbook, let's look this time at “You Never Give Me Your Money” at the other
end of the formal spectrum; along with “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” being one of the extremely rare examples in
the canon where the Beatles opt for "teleological medley" in place of any more traditional periodic/cyclical form.
“You Never Give Me Your Money” is built from three different sections that are nominally compatible, but
virtually unrelated to each other. As with all but the final section of “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, you find that
while each of the sections here suggests the potential for complete development into a song that can stand on its
own, each is presented for now in a fragmentary manner where they rely heavily on the immediate repetition of a
single idea to establish any sense of formal autonomy.
On the one hand that makes it easy for the listener to grasp the articulation of the larger form, but it begs the
question of how any feeling of unity is brought to bear on such independent diversity. We'll examine each section
in turn and come back later to this question.
Each of the three parts has its own rhyme scheme, though none of them is quite large enough, formally, to get
into literal repeats of whole sections of words. By the same token, the latter halves of parts Y and Z both feature
immediate, multiple repetition of the same line.
All three parts lyrically start off after the downbeat, providing a foil for the children's counting rhyme of the
song's outro which very much starts right on it.
Melody and Harmony
The relative autonomy of what we'll respectively call the X, Y, and Z sections of the song is reflected in both the
melodic and harmonic raw materials and design.
Melodically:
•
•
•
Part X clearly has an A minor triad for its backbone, underlying what on the surface look like two downward
gestures, the second of which is balanced by a final upward jump.
The first half of Part Y almost mechanically follows a sequence of “third-down and step-up” units down a full
octave. The second half commences with less mechanical, but still more downward, motion that is balanced
out at the end by the high placed appoggiatura implied in the choral vocals.
Part Z is clearly the jumpiest of the three sections in the melody department.
Harmonically, each section is distinguished by a different home key (a minor, C Major, and A Major,
respectively), plus the following unique characteristics:
•
•
Part X runs through the diatonic circle of 5ths.
The first half of Part Y is rich in secondary dominants. The second half iterates on the double plagal cadence.
Page 56
•
Part Z conspicuously uses a larger amount of chromatic harmony than either X or Y, including a flourishing
fanfare of diminished seventh chords, as well as the multiple cross-relation inducing progression of V-of-V to
flat III.
Arrangement
The arrangement also underscores the XYZ high-level design both in terms of a different ensemble sound for each
section, as well as a pronounced tendency to selectively retouch and remix at the detailed level; the latter being a
signature of the Beatles work in all of the later albums:
•
•
•
Part X opens with solo piano and lead guitar judiciously applied for emphasis; note the unusually sloppy way
in which resonance of the guitar is allowed to hang over the continuation of the piano part. The first verse has
Paul doing single track lead vocal, adding an overdub at the unison in the same location as the guitar points of
emphasis. The second verse adds bass and light drum work with Paul now singing in 2 or 3 part harmony with
himself, and a bit of extra fuzzy reverb applied to the very end of the vocal.
The different ensemble for the first half of Part Y, dominated by heavy drumming, boogie woogie tack piano,
and Paul's lead vocal single tracked is already evident in the pickup measure to this section. The second half
of Part Y features (synthesized?) chimes, lighter drum work, and choral vocals for what sounds like the group
of Paul, John, and George.
Part Z restores heaviness to all parts including piano, rhythm guitar, bass, piano, drums and a double-tracked
lead guitar, and double-tracked lead vocal. The final section provides another opportunity for 3-part
harmonizing vocals, with Moog-synthesized sounds-of-nature effects that commence in the outro and are
allowed to bridge the gap to the following track, "Sun King."
Section By Section Walkthrough
Part X: You Never Give Me Your Money
This section is built out of three repetitions of the same eight measure phrase; first an unusually long instrumental
introduction (it's unusual to give away the entire verse section like this in an instrumental intro), followed by two
verses of song. The harmony of this eight-measure phrase is a full, albeit diatonic, circle of fifths:
a:
|a7 |d9 ->8
iv
VII
i
|G7
III
|C4 ->3
VI
ii
F
V
|b dim.
E
|a
|-
|
I
This progression creates an ambivalent impression of being at once both placid and forward moving. The
placidity comes from the slow and (except for measure 6) even harmonic rhythm. The movement derives from the
the "transitive verb"-like quality of chord progressions that move in fifths. The dynamic quality is heightened on
the one hand by the appearance of every chord in root position, but softened at the same time by the fact that the
chords all appear “au naturel.” In other words, the effect could be either further softened by use of some chords in
inversions, or further heightened by turning some of the chords into "V-of" chords; try out the alternative of using
a D Major chord in measure 2 and a C dominant seventh chord in measure 4.
This phrase also contains a liberal measure of functional dissonance which also helps push it forward; many
of the chords contain 7ths or other appoggiaturas on the down beats.
Rhythmically, this phrase makes early use of the syncopated accent on eighth note that falls between the
second and third beat of the measure. This is a sufficiently garden-variety device for music of this period and
genre, but it's worth singling out here because, as will see, its recurrent appearance in several otherwise unrelated
sections of this song becomes a subtle source of alliterative unity. In part X, this syncopation appears in the
melody in measures 2 and 8, and it also shows up in the harmonic rhythm in measure 6.
Page 57
The 24 measures of section X ends with a simple pivot modulation to the key of C, leading directly into
section Y. This is done by moving to a G Major chord in the final measure of the section.
Part Y: Out of College Money Spent
This new section is cleanly set-off from the preceding by a new texture as well as a change of key. The tempo is
the same as before, but the quickening of the harmonic rhythm to two chords per measure, plus the boogie woogie
background beat make it all seem faster. Also note how this section also has the
distinction of itself dividing into two contrasting subsections similar to what you have in "Hey Jude."
The first subsection (call it 'YA' - "Out of college money spent ...") is built out of two repeats of this four bar
phrase:
|C
C:
I
E
|a
V-of-vi
C7
|F
vi V-of-IV
G
IV V
|C
|-
|
I
There's no full circle of fifths this time, but it's still heavy on the verb-like root progressions of a fifth. If anything,
the harmony is harder driving in this phrase because of the frequent use of secondary dominants.
The second subsection (call it 'YB' – “But oh that magic feeling ...”) brings a return of the “twixt 2 & 3”
syncopation and a harmonic switch from C Major to C Mixolydian. The section is built out of an unusual five
repeats of a three measure phrase, the harmony of which is none other than our old friend, the modal double
plagal cadence (speaking of “Hey Jude.”)
|B-flat |F |C | C: flat VII IV I (IV-of-IV?)
The sudden return to a harmonic rhythm of one chord change per measure creates a strong initial sensation of
putting on the brakes. However this feeling is modified to one of gradually rising expectations by the prime
number of repeats of a phrase whose length is also asymmetrical.
As an aside, I actually hear an alliterative connection between this phrase and the reappearance of the
same chord progression in, of all places, “Polythene Pam.” Total coincidence? At any rate, this segues right into
section Z.
Part Z: One Sweet Dream
Like section X, this section begins with an extended instrumental introduction that is partially built out of the
material that will appear in the upcoming verse. Like section Y, this section also subdivides into two contrasting
subsections.
The first subsection (call it 'ZA') contains an eight measure introduction followed by an unusual seven and a
half measure verse.
The introduction is one of the most interesting phrases in the entire song. The first four measures are in a
chromatically inflected C major; the use of the D Major and E-flat chords being slightly unusual and uncannily
foreshadowing the same chords being used again at the end of “The End”:
|C
C:
I
|D
|E-flat
V-of-V
flat-
G |
V
III
But it's measures four through eight in which the harmonic stops are pulled way out. The architectural function of
this phrase is simple enough: to modulate back to A. However, the gambit employed to do this is a truly
extraordinary choice for the genre. These four measures are built on a cycle of minor thirds in which both the bass
line and the upper melody outline a sequence of diminished seventh chords. This device is something that you'll
Page 58
find all over the place in a piece like “Rhapsody in Blue”, though Gershwin himself could be said to be ripping it
off from the likes of Liszt. I believe its use here is unique in the work of The Beatles; what prompted Macca to
think of it is beyond me.
Diminished seventh chords have several interesting properties, discussion of which is way outside the
scope of these articles. For now, the most salient thing to note is how they symmetrically divide an octave on the
one hand, yet do this by hitting notes which are not part of the scale of the octave being subdivided. This creates
two perceptible harmonic effects:
1. a clangorous series of chromatic cross relations, and
2. a temporary, free-fall sense of not quite being in any specific key.
Check it out!
C#
E
BbGUpper voice:
Bb-B-B#-- C#
E-
Bb|G|
|Eb-
|E|
|C-
Bass line
G
C#-
G-
C#-
E-
|Bb|
|Gb-
A
C
|C#|
|A-
|
|
|
Eb
Gb-G-G#-- A
At any rate, the above passage leads right into a short verse of seven and a half measures which subdivides into
one phrase of six measures, (the first four of which are a direct transposition of the introduction), followed by a
fragmentary repeat which breaks down after only one and a half measures, and leads directly into the next section:
A:
|A
I
|B
V-of-V
|C
E
flat- V
III
|A
I
|d
iv
|-
** = half measure
|A
|B**
C
I
V-of- flatV
III
Note how the sustaining of the minor iv chord in measures 5 and 6 suddenly puts the breaks on just when
momentum is gathering; the 2&3 syncopation also makes a dramatic re-appearance in these two measures. To be
more accurate, from the point of view of the lyrics, this phrase actually continues into the first two measures of
the next section creating a nice formalistic elision.
The final subsection (call it 'ZB') is musically built out of the following two-measure phrase, repeated 14
times into the fade out. Macca rules vocally in the first 4 iterations, with a children's counting rhyme introduced,
seemingly non-sequitur like, for the rest of them:
|C
Bass line:
chords
C
G
B
flat-III
A
flat-VII
|A
|
I
The first four repeats of this phrase accompany the final lyrics of the verse started in the previous section. The
remaining ten repeats first accompany the enigmatic “One two three four five six seven” chorus, and finally fade
out with the implication of a jam session that might go on forever; if you've heard the early-mix outtake of this
referenced below you'll know what I mean about forever.
The by-now-familiar syncopated rhythm shows up in both measures of this phrase, though in yet another
classic illustration of “avoidance of foolish consistency”, the harmonic rhythm underscores the syncopation only
in the first measure. And then, we have “down with the lights, up with the synthesized crickets, and bring on the
‘Sun King.’”
It's worth your tracking down an unedited, early mix of this song missing all of the vocal overdubs (other than
Paul's single track lead) and some of the instrumental retouching, as well as documenting what really happened in
Page 59
the studio during and after the fadeout of the official version. This uncropped outtake shows the initial 4 iterations
of section ZB followed by an instrumental jam session of 20(!) iterations of it, further followed by an apparently
spontaneous launch into “At the Hop” which goes on for close to another minute stopping eventually with a
complete ending.
Additionally, there is the rough mix of this song from the July 30, 1969 first piecing together of the
complete medley. The unofficial releases available of this have terrible sound quality, but it's worth hearing to
discover an ending of the song in which the counting rhyme starts off during the last of Macca's first four
iterations of ZB, with a fadeout that is complete by the end of the eighth next iteration, and a solitary sustained
organ note in place of the sound effects.
Some Final Thoughts
So how does all of this hang together? Granted, there is the monetary leitmotif running through the lyrics of all
three sections, though I've always interpreted the "money" of the X section more metaphorically, as descriptive on
a relationship in which neither side is ever genuine when the chips are down. On strictly musical grounds, in the
context of a genre in which you expect to see some patterned alternation of verses and breaks, the form of this
song is a seeming jumble, a medley at best:
X
Y
Z
|------------------- --------------------- --------------------------------|
X-intro -> X1 -> X2
YA1 -> YA2/YB1 to YB5
ZA-intro -> ZA1/ZB1 to 4,5 to 14
But obviously, we're dealing with more than a mish-mosh. The form may not be "standard" but there are at least
two unifying elements at work (in addition to the recurrent syncopation discussed earlier):
1. The harmonic plan for the three sections is a straightforward arch. In fact, in this light, the chord progression
of section ZB appears to be a summing up of the harmonic plan in a nutshell:
X
a minor
Y
Z
C Major
A Major
2. The song presents its own alternative notion of repetition in place of a more standard form. Even though none
of the sections of this song make a “return” performance once the music has moved on to another section,
there are several sections that consist of a short phrase repeated immediately several times. It's unusual but I
believe it works.
On a higher level, I'd argue that the this lack of an internal “reprise” within this song itself is what makes the
reprise of section 'X' inside of “Carry That Weight” so satisfying, along with the more subtle inter-song
resonance with “Polythene Pam” and “The End.”
“Lord John McCartney, he's the millionaire Irish peer, filthy rich of course.”
Page 60
082300#13.1
Hey Jude
Key:
Meter:
Form:
F Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Jamming phase (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Hey Jude” is such a monumental favorite, I'm almost dissuaded from touching it because of the pressure to say
something profound. I'll go for it nonetheless, even if I do get everything wrong, because it's such a good
illustration of two compositional lessons – how to fill a large canvas with simple means, and how to use diverse
elements such as harmony, bass line, and orchestration to articulate form and contrast. There's also the subtle
matter of the way that time in this song is divided into classically proportional durations, but more on all of this to
come.
The Long Form
Much has been made of the unusual length of this song (7:07), particularly for a single, but it's the means by
which this length is sustained (not the length per se) that's of interest.
There are many other songs by contemporaneous artists which break the 3-to-4 minute length barrier, though
the examples which come immediately to mind use a variety of techniques, none of which is used in “Hey Jude”:
an extended improvisational break in the middle (“Light My Fire”), the stringing together of several shorter
songs, medley-style (“Macarthur Park”), or simply a long series of verse/refrain couples (“Sad Eyed Lady of the
Lowlands”).
The Beatles opt here instead for an unusual binary form that combines a fully developed, hymn-like song
together with an extended, mantra-like jam on a simple chord progression. It will become clear from a detailed
examination of “Hey Jude” just how neatly the two halves complement each other, and from what simple musical
materials they are constructed.
The song-like half of the track is cast in the standard two-bridge model with one verse intervening, albeit
without an intro. The lyrics of each section are different, even for the two bridges; most unusual! Even the final
verse, which comes close to reiterating the words of the first section significantly substitutes “under your skin” for
“into your heart.” The melody of all sections here begins with a pickup before the down beat. In the case of the
bridges that pickup anticipates the downbeat by close to a full measure.
The jam-like half of the song presents no less than nineteen repetitions of the same phrase, slowly fading out
to eventual silence in the middle of the final repeat. The main “lyrics” are scat sung to the syllable “na-na” and
start right on the downbeat of the phrase. Superimposed against that background we get half-sung/half-screamed
interjectory phrases from Paul.
The Classical Style
A number of factors lend a four-square, almost classical flavor to the song half:
•
The harmony is purely diatonic F Major; the only chromatic exception being the relatively tame use of the F7
chord (V-of-IV) to shift into the bridge section.
Page 61
•
•
•
•
In the verse, all the chords are presented in root position, and the harmonic rhythm is a stodgy single chord
change per measure; the only exception being the repeat of the C chord (V) in measures 2 and 3, thereby
creating a very slow, almost subliminal syncopation.
The melody pervasively makes use of appoggiaturas and “escape” notes.
The bridge features a Bach-like walking bass line which, by the way, is a key source of the perceived contrast
between the bridge section and its surrounding verses; the bass line of the verse, after all, simply follows the
roots of the chord changes.
The piano part's right hand features an oscillating chordal style.
We'll discover below that both verse and bridge sections both subtle means with which to counter what would be
an otherwise unrelieved squared-off feeling.
The Alternative Versions
The Anthology included one early take of the song from July 29, 1969, choosing to fade it out in mid-jam. A
couple other outtakes from the following day's sessions, that were filmed for partial inclusion in a TV show, have
been unofficially available as well.
The technical common denominator of all these alternates is the lack of orchestra in the jam session, and
an extremely diminished (in some cases, non-existent) role for George. Interpretively, all of these alternates
present the song with much less “solemnity,” and with quite a bit more hard-rocking edge and horsing-around
sense of humor than the official version.
Melody and Harmony
The verse tune has nice multiple arches, and very casually-yet-artfully includes both unique high and low points.
The bridge tune is more simply downward in gesture. The jam session tune is a nicely lopsided arch, skewed
toward its upper end. The song-like half uses the garden variety chords of I, ii, IV, and V. The jam-like half opts
for the so-called double plagal cadence.
Arrangement
When we turn to the arrangement, we find not so much a source of contrast, as we do one of formal articulation.
In the song-like half, in particular, we have an excellent, fairly late example of the progressive layering technique
that appears as a Beatles trademark almost from the beginning. A simple, section-by-section narrative reveals both
how the texture is increasingly thickened over the first three sections, and how the final two verses continue to
present deft touches of variation on what has come before:
Verse 1 -
Piano solo with Macca vocal, single tracked.
Verse 2 -
Add acoustic rhythm guitar, and tambourine on the offbeat. Also add backing vocals singing "Ahhhh"
in the second half of the verse.
Bridge 1 - Add drums and tapping cymbals. Also add bass, in conspicuous walking style, no less.
Verse 3 -
Second half has backing vocals in parallel thirds with lead. Note the stray backing vocal with the
terrific anticipation of the phrase "so let it out and let it in" from the next bridge.
Bridge 2 - As in Bridge 1. Neither adding to or varying the arrangement of the second bridge sets a good
example of "avoidance of foolish consistency". I think it also underscores the relationship of the two
bridges to each other, as well as their contrasting role with respect to the verses.
Page 62
Verse 4 -
Note Macca's melodic ornamentation of the initial "Hey Jude" phrase, and how the parallel thirds of
the backing vocal follows all the way through this verse. There's also the final vocal flourish (“better,
better, ...”) which leads to the jam section; it actually sounds triple tracked - two Maccas singing the
flourish itself, and a third singing “make it, Jude.” Macca's performance of that flourish, by the way,
is quite a tour de force. It's an appoggiatura'd arpeggio covering just over two octaves from E below
middle C all the way up to high F, eleven notes above middle C – real soprano territory – and he does
it without having to fully overblow his voice into falsetto. Though he was sufficiently insecure about
his performance to have double tracked it here, you can get a more pristine, single tracked audition of
this feat on the Take 9 rehearsal version, found on a variety of popular under the counter rarities. The
urban legend about an "undeleted expletive" on the finished recording at time stamp 2:59 has been
documented by no less than Lewisohn, though I've seen the veracity of it debated. Whatever is really
been said there, it's a strange bit of accidentally-on-purpose sloppiness left in the transcript of a
recording in which everything else seems so carefully controlled.
The arrangement and the recording of the jam section also contain some interesting strategic details. Most
notably, in addition to all the instruments used in the first half (with the exception of the bass guitar, according to
Lewisohn), the repeated ground bass line of the jam is underscored by sustained doubling of a small orchestra of
36 players; the session documentation lists a full variety of strings, woodwinds, and brass, but what you hear
mostly on the finished recording are bowed strings and trumpets. In general, this technique lends an overall feel of
weightiness and measured motion to the music, curiously in contrast to the otherwise bustling, rocking foreground
texture of the piano, drums, and screaming Macca.
Contrary to popular belief, the ad-lib choral singing of “na-na-na” was done by the same session
musicians who played the orchestral overdub. Unlike “All You Need Is Love” (with which it is perhaps
sometimes confused), the chorus here is not made up of the Beatles “closest hundred friends.””
The doubling of the bass line is progressively layered over the course of several repetitions of the mantralike phrase:
Repeat 1 - Bass fiddles in unison with the ground bass.
Repeat 4 - Add mid-range strings (cellos/violas ?) and trumpets two octaves above the ground bass.
Repeat 8 - Add violins at 4 octaves above ground bass, though they sound like they sustain a simple F natural
rather than following the melody of the bassline.
The curious thing about the recording of this jam is the extremely long fade-out that begins as early as the tenth
repetition of the mantra-like phrase, at a point where there are still a full two minutes of music left to come.
This gambit, combined with the sensation created by the sustained-note doubling of the bassline, creates
an astonishingly transcendental effect. I stumble for metaphors to describe it, but the sorts of things which come
to mind are "the music of the spheres", "the long caravan which passes slowly by", or perhaps, a painting in which
the perspective is so deep that the vanishing point of singularity seems to approach the infinite. (Get this guy out
of here, would ya', please!)
Section By Section Walkthrough
Verse
The verse is a standard eight measures long, and is built out of four phrases that are through-composed; i.e. they
add up to one long mega-phrase that contains no internal repeat structure. The verses sections that are followed by
a bridge have one measure rhetorically added:
Page 63
|F
F:
I
|C
V
|-
|F
|
|Bb
IV
I
|F
I
|C
V
|F
I
-7
(V-of-IV)
|
The harmonic shape is closed, though the final chord is subtly turned into a V-of-IV which leads us directly into
the bridge.
Bridge
The bridge is an unusual 11 and a half measures long, in spite of what appears on the surface to be its AA parallel
phrasing:
chords
|Bb
bassline|Bb
A
IV
|Bb
IV
|g
|G
ii
|C
|E
F
|F
C
|g
ii
V
|C
V
|F
I
|-7
|F
I
|-7
|
|C7
V
|
|
(V-of-IV)
|-
|
The first phrase is rhetorically extended to five measures so that its connection to the second phrase mimics the
lead-in from the verse to the start of the bridge.
The second phrase starts off in parallel to the first one, but it shortens the measure with the F7 chord in it by
half, and tacks on a short, two-measure “na-na” phrase that leads back around to the following verse, and provides
a foreshadowing, associative link with the jam section.
The harmonic shape of this section is open at both ends. Some pedants would insist of spelling the Eb on top
of the F7 chord in measure 9 as D# because of its melodic resolution upward to E natural in the C chord.
The Jamming Phrase
The second half of the song is built on no less than eighteen and a half repetitions of the following four measure
phrase whose harmonic shape is closed:
|F
I
|E-flat
flat-VII
|B-flat
IV
|F
|
I
Not only does the repetitive nature of this section create an obvious contrast with the symmetrical form of the first
half, but there are two other, more subtle sources of contrast.
The use of the flat-VII chord here gives the jam session a decidedly modal, Mixolydian flavor which contrasts
with the almost simplistically “straigh”, diatonic Major mode of the first half.
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The “na-na-na” vocal melody of this jam, with its emphasis on the F-natural at its apogee, creates a freely
dissonant 9th against the E flat chord; it's a small effect, yet so pungent that I dare say it's one of the signature
characteristics of this track. If you look back at the first half of the song, you'll note that in contrast, all of the
plentiful melodic dissonance to be found there is carefully, consistently resolved.
Some Final Thoughts
The Time
If you chart out the durations of the major sections of HJ, you find that, as a rule, they divide up the time into notquite symmetrical, golden-mean proportions, with the jam turning out to be the longer of the two major sections:
minutes:0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
|-------- song ---------|--------- jam section ---------|
|-- fade out ---|
I would dare to suggest that on top of everything else we've discussed, this proportional division of time is yet
another source of the satisfaction, relaxation, and feeling of having encountered something somehow “classic” or
“epic” one experiences in this song.
So, What's It All About ?
I've never been quite sure, myself. The fact that the song was written by Paul to Julian Lennon during the breakup
of John and Julian's mom, Cynthia, adds a new dimension to your appreciation of it but, as I've observed with
respect to the fact of John's having written “Julia” in honor of his own mother, the affect that each song has upon
you would be hardly diminished if for some reason you were to remain oblivious to the biographical background
of either. So my question stands.
The jam section taken alone would seem to point in the thematic direction of “spiritual enlightenment”,
obviously something of a preoccupation of some of the Beatles during the era in which this song was composed.
But the older I get, the more convinced I am that the main message here is to be found in the first half –
the “imperative” to now pursue one's destined love the minute either you have found her, or she has found you.
Yes, I do believe that once you internalize that much, the transcendent, blissful joy of the second half falls right
into place.
“Control yourself or you'll spurt.”
082700#14.1
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I Should Have Known Better
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Verse – Bridge – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
You would think that “I Should Have Known Better” is a relatively straightforward Beatles song, especially in
comparison with either of the two we most recently looked at together, “... Jude” and “...Money.” If you look
closely enough at this one, though, you find a number of ways in which The Boys simply refuse to just play it
straight.
For starters, the form is an unusual, even strange, variation on the more standard two-bridge model, the novel
features being the appearance of three verse sections in a row between the bridges (the middle one of which is an
instrumental), and the segue of the second bridge directly into the outro without a verse section intervening. In
addition, we run into, for the first time in this series, a situation where the two verses that precede a bridge section
are subtly modified in order to effect a smoother formal transition. While this procedure is definitely not the
default of the genre, neither is it all exceptional. Browsing through the Beatles canon, we find the following other
examples, and the list here excludes cases in which a verse variant is used for purposes other than smoothing the
bridge transition (such as only to smooth the transition to the outro, or simply for the heck of it):
-
There's A Place
Not A Second Time
You're Going To Lose That Girl
Within You Without You
Good Morning Good Morning
A Day In The Life
I Am The Walrus
The list is clearly dominated by John, and in spite of a couple relatively early examples, the big crush appears
around the SP album. Four of the verses have lyrics with an overall repeat scheme of ABCB. In other words, the
verses before each bridge share the same lyrics. The text of this song pervasively incorporates trademark Beatles
wordplay on phonemes (“hey-hey-hey,” “woah-woah,” “So-oh,” and “tooooh -ooh-ooh-ooh, oh”) and immediate
repeating of short trite phrases (“and I do,” “can't you see,” and “give me more.”)
Melody and Harmony
The Verse melody covers the narrow range of a 6th, mostly noodling on the top 4 notes, but still asserts an
ascending gesture overall. The most distinctive thing about this melody is the manner in which the unusually long
sustained note at the beginning on the open vowel, “I,” is immediately followed up by a rhythmically active,
syllabic setting for the rest of the way. In two out of the three verses, the long vowel sound is exploited toward the
end of the section, as in “and I do” and “can't you see.” I wonder if the exception to this, “give me more,” is
merely random or an intentional avoidance of foolish consistency.
The Bridge's melodic line over the course of its four phrases creates a lovely arch shape, with the obvious
climax on that upward falsetto flip in the third phrase. The fairly large amount of melodic ground covered by this
(a 10th!) bridge is in contrast to the more restricted pitch range of the verses. This bridge melody is quite
distinctive in its own right from the way in which each of its four lines end with an open vowel, most of which are
Page 66
set melismatically (i.e. with the vowel sung over a succession of pitches). The chords used are relatively small in
number are all garden variety. The key scheme features a short-lived modulation to the relative minor for the
bridges.
Arrangement
The backing arrangement, dominated by acoustic guitar, electric lead, light drumming, a melodic, almost hyperactive bass which is mixed relatively far back, and, of course that bluesy harmonica, is rather homogenized
throughout. John gets the lead vocal honors, double tracked most of the way through except for an exceptional
break in the second bridge.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
A number of musical elements which ultimate characterize the entire song are immediately presented in the short
and simple four-measure introduction:
G:
----- 4X -------|G D
|
I
V
The alternating I-V chord pattern is to continues beyond the intro through no less than five measures of the verse
and comes back again for another two measures at the end of that section. The bluesy harmonica is right there on
the downbeat with an 'E-F-E' melodic pattern that creates a series of piquant dissonances against the recurring D
chord in the accompaniment; the 'E' on the downbeat making a nice 9th, and the F-natural neighbor tone making a
class-A cross-relation against the F-sharp of the chord beneath.
It's also interesting to follow the intermittent use of this harmonica throughout the song. You walk away from
a casual listen thinking it's always there but, do trace it carefully and note how, with the exception of the guitar
solo section, it is actually used rather sparingly, its primary function being to introduce each verse in turn;
illustrating yet another basic compositional principle: in matters of sharp spice, a little goes a long way.
Verse
A most unusual feature of “I Should Have Known Better”is that the verses come in two variants; those that are
followed directly by another verse (as are the first, third, and fourth) are characterized by a ten-measure length
and a "closed" harmonic shape; i.e., entirely in G Major, both beginning and ending essentially on the I chord:
|G
G:
D
I
|G
D
V
|G
I
D
V
|G
V
I
|e
-
D
I
|G
V
D
|
V
I
|
vi6
vi
3
|C
IV
|D
V
|G
I
D
V
|G
D
I
Page 67
|
V
From the phrasing of the words, as well as the melodic structure, you see that the ten measures are meant to be
parsed as 6 (actually 4 + 2) + 4. Those seemingly extra middle two measures (“that I would love everything that
you do”) with their repeat of the melody from the preceding two measures create a rhetorical, free verse feeling.
The slowing of the harmonic rhythm in measures seven and eight adds nice ballast, just as the return of the IV oscillating harmony in measures nine and ten adds symmetry.
The closed harmonic shape is reinforced by the melody, which hovers around a relatively restricted choice of
pitches.
Coloristically, the melodic emphasis on the note 'e' not only extends the presence of the D9 sonority already
heard in the intro, but also creates a pervasive added-sixth chord on G.
Measure six features the rare occurrence in this genre of a chord in non-root position; the e chord is sustained
through the entire measure, with a bass line which descends from G down to E, placing the chord at the beginning
of the measure in the so-called “first” or “6-3” inversion. And, of course, there's no harmonica here, except in
measures nine and ten, where it introduces the next verse.
The guitar solo is also built on this primary verse form. The solo, by the way, being a repetition of the original
melody with just the slightest hint of embellishment, is a good example of what has become a dying breed. The
solo ends with a surprise touch: the melodic leading tone of f# near the end of the solo, instead of being resolved
up to g, is followed by an added-sixth G chord with an e on the top. Note how this solo section is the only one in
which the harmonica continues its ostinato pattern all the way through a verse, creating some strikingly dissonant
tone clusters against the melody of the guitar; in particular, against that added-sixth chord at the end.
Verse’
A Verse’ variant is used for those verses (i.e. the second and the fifth) which lead directly into a bridge section,
and is characterized by an eight measure length and an open harmonic shape; i.e., starting in G major but leading
to the key (actually ending on the V chord) of the relative minor key of e:
|G
I
D
|G
I
D
V
|G
D
V
|G
V
I
|e
-
D
I
|C
vi6
|G
V
D
|
V
I
|B
vi
IV
e:
3
|
VI
V
This variation is notably identical to the primary verse right up through measure 7.
Bridge
The bridge is an unusually long and well-developed sixteen-measure section of four different phrases, starting in
the key of e minor and eventually modulating back to the home key of G Major via a pivot on the C chord in the
ninth measure:
|e
e: i
|C
VI
|C |D
e: VI
G: IV V
|G
III
|B
V
e
|G
|e
C
I
vi
|-
|G
III
|G7
|
V-of-VI
|D
|G
D
|G
D
V
I
V
I
V
i
IV
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|
The arrangement introduces the electric guitar in the bridge for the purpose of underscoring the first beat of every
measure with a single strummed chord. Note that this effect actually begins on the last measure of the previous
verse, somewhat smoothing over the “seam” between the second verse and the bridge.
The harmony subtly teases you when it dips down to the e chord in measure twelve, just when you think
you've fully turned the corner back toward G. The harmonica, true to form, returns in measures fifteen and sixteen
to herald the arrival of the next verse.
The only difference between the two bridges is the sudden shift in the second one, for the first and only time
in the entire song, to a single track recording of John's voice. As an example of the sort of attention paid to fine
detail, note how the double tracking is restored just for an instant in order to reinforce the falsetto flip.
This section is perhaps the high point of the song because of the single tracking; it still has the power to stop
you in your tracks. Based on rough outtakes of other Lennon songs from this period (e.g. “A Hard Day's Night” or
“I'm A Loser”), I'm tempted to argue that John was more usually double tracked, not because he didn't sound
secure enough without it, but, quite the opposite, because in single track mode, he almost sounds too intense. If
you doubt the capability of this sound to awaken little spikes of whatnot in its listeners, I recommend you take a
peek at the performance of “I Should Have Known Better” in the baggage car scene of the A Hard Day's Night
film. Keep a lookout for exactly where in the song that Patti Whatsername covers her eyes of blue with her long
blonde hair because it (John's single track singing) is all too much.
Outro
The second bridge is followed by an outro which fades out with the same musical pattern and arrangement of the
intro, this time, with the voice added.
Some Final Thoughts
Underlying all the other structural and harmonic details discussed above, there is a pervasive use in this song of
syncopated accents on the last eighth note of the measure; if you count along very quickly in tempo, you'll find
this accent on the offbeat of "four-AND." This subtle element not only helps unify the song, but also underlies the
extent to which you might say that this song "swings" or conveys a passionate subtext.
I don't want to spoil the party for those who like to go digging for such details on their own, but I promise you
that this syncopation is to be found all over the song, and it is always nicely foiled by the steady unsyncopated
rhythm of the backing track. Just a few examples to get you jazzed for further study: the harmonica part starting in
the second measure of the intro, the first entrance of the voice part on the word “I”, the end of each phrase of the
verse (e.g. on the words “you” and “do” in verse one), and of course my favorite, the very top of the falsetto flip.
Oh well, I went into this one expecting to find something close to a standard formula, and boy, was I
surprised. But then again, I suppose I should have known better. (Ooops, time for me to cover my eyes of blue.)
“Funny ... 'cos they usually reckon dogs more than people in England, don't they? – You'd expect something a little more palatial.”
092400#15.1
Page 69
Thank You Girl
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain – Verse/Refrain – Bridge/Refrain – Intro – Verse/Refrain – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Thank You Girl” is yet another deceptively simple song of the early period. It's a quick one (2:05) and a lowly
single B-side no less, but one that reveals a variety of surprising twists applied to the old formulas. Beyond the
formal and harmonic sorts of details we usually explore, the arrangement here is also something to be savored; in
particular, I trust our peek at the vocal parts will, alone, be worth the price of admission.
At first blush, it appears like we're dealing with one of the very standard forms: two verses, a bridge, and a
final verse, the whole thing enclosed by both intro and full-ending outro. But note the following intriguing
peculiarities:
•
•
•
The intro is repeated before the final verse.
The four-bar phrase "And all I've got to etc." is repeated throughout the song as a refrain; it follows the
bridge as well as providing the final phrase of each verse.
The outro is a neatly crafted extension of material from the intro, and features that three-time repetition of
the same phrase which is so much a trademark of the Beatles.
The lyrics of the three verses create an ABA pattern. The intro, verse, and bridge all start off right on the
downbeat. The mini-refrain portion of the verse has the smallest of pickups before the bar. Aside from the title
phrase per se, the song has notably very little syncopation.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic shape off all three sections (verse, refrain, and bridge) is predominantly downward, though they each
contain at least some amount of counterbalancing upward motion. There is a lot of mileage gotten here out of only
three chords. The song is in D major, and more than 90% of the music is built on the I-IV-V chords of D, G, and
A. Only two other chords are used, and these make their first and only appearance in the bridge; i.e., the vi and ii
chords of b and e.
Arrangement
The backing features harmonica, an unadorned root-note bass line and simple rhythm guitar(s) parts. The
drumming is mostly in even eighth notes, though Ringo's at least given a chance to break loose in the outro. With
the exception of the outro, and those harmonica parts, which were recorded separately, the arrangement is
sufficiently straightforward to be played and sung entirely in real time without overdubs, giving us a rare chance
to hear in a studio context what they must have sounded like live. John and Paul collaborate on the vocals though,
strictly speaking, you might say John leads.
The Capitol release of this recording on the Second Album features additional harmonica dubs and a
shamelessly excessive amount of reverb not found on the Past Masters CD release, whose unvarnished sound
quality comes across in contrast more like chamber music than a wall of sound, and is to be strongly
Page 70
recommended to those not familiar with it; almost hard to believe it's the same take which underlies the Capitol
version.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is only four measures long but is quite rich in detail. Schematically it looks like this:
|Harmonica -------chords: |A
|G
D: V
IV
|Voices
|A
V
-----------|G
IV
|Verse
|D
I
First off, there's a slight ambiguity as to what key we're in at the outset. By the time you reach measure 5, the
music finally lets you know that “this is 'D,'” but until then, there is the suspenseful possibility that we just might
be in the key of A, and that the opening chords are I and flat VII. To put all this another way, this phrase has a
convergent shape, moving homewards having started in the outfield.
Turning to the arrangement, we find that by the time the verse begins, there have already been three changes
of texture in very short order. The first two measures feature harmonica plus heavy tom-tom drumming which
stresses every beat in the measure. The next two measures introduce John and Paul's voices in Everly Brothers'
style parallel thirds while the drumming shifts over to the lighter snare and cymbals-tapping work which is used
throughout most of the rest of the song. Thirdly, the start of the verse provides contrast with the entire intro in that
the chords of the verse are presented in an unembellished oom-pah style, whereas the chords in the intro are all
embellished by neighboring tones on the offbeats like so:
F#-FE-EC#
A
F#-F-|
E-EE-E|D-DD-D|B
|G
E-EC#
A
Two other details:
•
•
The successive harmonica and vocals parts in this intro fit together into a single descending scale of E-DC#-B-A.
There is a vivid kiss-like sensation embedded in the introductory vocal parts; not how the simple
phonemes “oh-mmm-you” are elided to sensual effect; try it yourself and see what it does to you.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and built out of a virtual repetition of the following four measure phrase:
|D
D:
I
G
IV
|D
I
G
IV
|D
I
A
V
|D
D
G
IV
|
Note that in the second phrase, the D chord of the fourth bar is sustained for the entire measure instead of moving
to G in the second half of the measure. If you listen carefully, you'll note that this slight detail was enough to trip
up the rhythm guitarist on the first verse. Paul plays the notes D and A on beats 1 and 3 respectively while John
(?) plays a G chord on the rhythm guitar. This mistake is not repeated in either of the other verses, though why
they didn't stop for this in the first instance remains a riddle considering, as we learn from the outtakes readily
available to us these days, that they generally did stop for errors of a similar nature.
Page 71
The overall harmonic shape of the verse is rather closed, almost statically bound to the tonic; in fact, that G
chord in the second half of measure four is quite necessary to leave the first phrase just sufficiently open to allow
for a repeat of the phrase in measures five through eight.
Compared to the intro, the verse seems a tad faster and more driving; in large measure, this is due to the up
shift of the harmonic rhythm here to two chords per measure from the one-per-measure of the intro. At any rate,
do let's move on to the vocal parts.
When you look at the vocal arrangements of the early period you find the Boys favoring the device of
peppering a song that is sung primarily in unison with either occasional notes here and there which suddenly shift
into two part harmony (e.g. “Misery”) or even whole phrases of two-part counterpoint. “Thank You Girl” has
ample examples of both methods of contrast.
After those vocal parallel thirds of the intro, the first half of the verse is given to us in unison; ever notice how
when John and Paul sing together like this, the result is a sort of third voice that sounds like unlike either of them?
Even better though is the quintessentially Beatles-esque harmonization of the second phrase; no, it's definitely not
something out of the Everly Brothers! Instead of bonehead parallel thirds what we get here is an almost seemingly
arbitrary and yet delightfully pungent, dissonant jumble of fourths and fifths mixed among the few, more
consonant sixths. But you know, my dear reader, that this strange counterpoint is not at all without motivation –
listen carefully and note how the lower line sung by John is none other than the self-same melody sung by him
and Paul in the first phrase; check 'em out:
Paul:
|F#
John: |A
D E G |F#
A B D |A
D E G |F#
D
A B D |A
C#B |A
F# E D |D
Refrain
This is another short section of only four measures whose harmonic shape is wide open with an emphatic focus on
a dominant V chord which goes begging for resolution:
D:
|G
IV
|A
V
|G
IV
|A
V
|
I also tend to subliminally associate this section with the intro; we not only have the slowing of the harmonic
rhythm back to one chord per measure, but there is also the oscillation between the IV and V chords; granted
they're in reverse order this time.
In spite of the slowed harmonic rhythm in this phrase, there is a subtle feeling of propulsion created by the
gentle syncopation of those “Thank you”s in the vocal part.
The vocal part is quite “Misery”-like: all in unison except for that open sixth which blossoms forth for an
instant on the word “do”; not accidentally at the melodic apogee of the phrase. Interestingly, there is more two
part harmony added at the end of all the other repeats of this refrain. Now this added bit of
harmony not only has on first hearing, that same twangy and dissonant flavor we discussed above in
connection to the verse, but on closer examination, is similarly motivated as above; i.e., the new upper part sung
by Paul in all refrains except the first one is pitted against John's singing of the identical part they both sung in
unison this first time around:
Paul:
|E D
D
|F# E
E
|
John:
|E D
D
|C# B
A
|
Bridge
This is an eight-measure section built out of two phrases:
Page 72
D:
|b
vi
|D
I
|A
V
|-
||e
ii
|A
V
|D
I
|-
|
Harmonically, we are given some well needed, albeit short-lived relief from our strict diet of only three chords.
Melodically, the use of scalar material in the melody provides a unifying association with the refrain. Although
this bridge section makes a half-hearted attempt at harmonic excursion away from the tonic by starting off on the
vi chord, the shape of this section overall is unusually closed for a bridge. As a result, the repeat of the openended refrain at this juncture works quite well in the way it sets up the rest of the song.
As in the refrain, the vocal parts are primarily in unison except for the brief, punctuated repeat of the phrase
“way that you do” in parallel thirds.
Outro
The outro consists of three similar phrases, the first of which is six measures long, while the remaining two are
four measures each. The first phrase repeats the music of the intro virtually verbatim and then tacks on two
measure which are harmonically identical to the beginning of the verse section, though in place of the voices we
now are given fancy flourishes on the drums. The second phrase repeats what were the last four measures of the
previous phrase. The third and final phrase begins as though going for yet another verbatim repeat of what
preceded but the last two measures now neatly provide the full ending with the same sort of neighbor tone
embellishment of the harmony as seen in the opening measures of the intro.
From the outtakes of this song it not only seems possible that a fade-out ending was originally considered, but
that in the several stand-alone takes of the coda, we see the Boys fiddling with the details of the bass line, the
voicing of the rhythm guitar chords, and making sure that Ringo's elaborate fills stay within the framework of the
backbeat right down to the wire.
The abrupt editing in of this outro goes down smoothly on casual listening, but once you know that it's there,
you're hard pressed to ignore its sudden increase of reverb and even a very slight speeding up of the tempo.
Some Final Thoughts
Independent of the technical music theory details, I'd suggest that one of the most forward-pointing details in this
song is to be found in a fragment of the lyrics; the lines about how “you've been good to me, you made me glad
when I was blue.” Against the backdrop of the other songs of theirs from this early period, in which romantic
effusion is more than likely to be prompted by the physical attractions of youthful beauty and technical prowess
on the dance floor or in the loving department, here the “girl” is singled out for her having provided emotional
support. In that sense the song looks ahead to the likes of “Help!” and beyond.
“Boys, you don't know what this means to me.”
101700#16.2
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Any Time At All
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Bridge – Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Any Time At All” is yet another one of those Beatles songs that tends to get eclipsed by the more popular hits of
its period, that is still quite a pleasure to discover at whatever stage of your interest in the group's music you
eventually encounter it. It's also a fine example of a song whose form and content on the surface seems so
straightforward and familiar, yet once you get past the surface glitz, and the simpler pleasures, you find a wealth
of more adventurous options to be explored.
I embarked on this series of articles fully expecting in short order to stumble occasionally (if not quite
repeatedly) into examples of formulaic Beatles songwriting. But thus far, every one I've chosen reveals its own
variations, once we look at it carefully enough. I am beginning to suspect that by the time we get through the
entire repertoire, we'll still not have come across too many songs in total can be said to be playing it strictly by the
so-called rules.
In “Any Time At All” the form is conspicuously not a variation of the more familiar one- or two-bridge
models we've seen over and over again, and is noteworthy on three counts:
•
•
•
•
A frequently recurring refrain section dominates the song. This folk ballad-like design, while a common
enough device in other pop and folk music and, is not often found in the early work of the Boys.
The song contains only two verses. I assume that the doubled-up length of the verses themselves, the
number of repeats of the refrain, and the peculiar placement of the bridge so close to the end of the track
all argue against inclusion of a late-breaking third verse.
The bridge itself introduces new, unique material (though the melodic material does link back to the
appoggiatura stuff earlier), rather than recycling material from the refrain or the verse as is more common.
The two verses contain no lyrics that are repeated. Their rhyme scheme using the 3rd and 6th line of each
verse is novel.
In context of the refrain's starting with a long pickup and the verse's starting after the downbeat I think it's an
effective (and not entirely coincidental) twist that the instrumental section starts right on the downbeat. Note how
much flatter the whole song sounds if the break section simply opts for the same rhythmic gesture of either the
verse or refrain.
It's a heavily syncopated little number. John sets the tone with his downbeat melissma on the word “all” at the
start of the refrain. This answered in spades by the backing arrangement at the downbeat of the following
measure. Here we find the more gut wrenching of the two flavors of syncopation that can occur on "4-AND;" i.e.
the one that's not followed by an explicit demarcation of the downbeat that follows. Compare this with the similar
“When I Get Home.” And contrast it to our recently studied “I Should Have Known Better” and “You Can't Do
That” for examples where the downbeat following syncopation on four-AND is marked out.
Melody and Harmony
The tune is somewhat pentatonic and arch-shaped. It is even more conspicuously shot through with appoggiaturas,
enough so to bear comparison with “We Can Work It Out.” The harmony uses a small number of chords and
Page 74
hangs closely around the home key. Beatles trademarks show up here in the prominence given to both the vi -> I
cadence (check out “All I've Got to Do” among others), and the chromatically descending bass line cliche.
Arrangement
The backing track is for a combo of guitars, drums, and piano. The is relatively thin, homogenized, and the
recording (at least insofar as we are currently stuck with nothing better than the mono version on CD) is
unfortunately noisy.
John's double-tracked lead vocal rules unassisted except for Paul's hocket-like provision of the second line of
the refrain in place of John. The latter creates a novel textural effect and at the same time spares John from having
to reach for a high 'A' that is out of his vocal comfort range.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Refrain
The track begins with a startling drum thwack on the second beat of the measure, though where this thwack fits
into the meter isn't quite clear to the senses until you hear at least the next repeat of this refrain in context.
The refrain is a standard eight measure length and has a closed harmonic shape. While the choice of
chords is nothing unusual, take note of the unusually varied harmonic rhythm, the several hard syncopations, and
the use of the vi-I progression at the outset; the latter an extreme favorite of Lennon/McCartney.
D:
|b
vi
|D
I
|A
V
|-
|b
vi
|G
IV
A
V
|D
I
|-
|
The tune is quite full of appoggiaturas; such juicy leaning tones may be heard on each occurrence of the word
“all” in this refrain, as well as on the word “any” in measure 4, and the occurrence of “call” and “I'll”. The use of
several bluesy f-naturals in the tune, which make for cross relations with the f-sharps of the underlying chords,
only serves to enhance the effectiveness of the appoggiaturas. The tune is constructed out of several short
interjectory phrases with enough room between each of them for a series of antiphonal, commentary-like
obbligato figures in the guitar and bass parts. These phrases themselves are noteworthy. The first one is a sort of
mirror image of the first phrase of the tune. The second one does a 4->3 leaning-tone turn around the note C# over
the A chord in measure 4. The last one, (G-F#-E-D--F#) at the very end of the refrain, is not only also leaningtone oriented, but is also a melodic motif which reappears both at the end of the verse (still shyly in the
background), and later has the privilege of reappearing at the climax of the bridge.
Ringo appears to break the syncopation pattern in the second refrain by marking the downbeat instead of
avoiding it. My gut tells me this was inattention to detail, not intentional avoidance of foolish consistency.
Verse
The verse is an unusual fourteen measures long and, in spite of its apparently lopsided 6 + 8 phrasing pattern, is
built out of two repetitions of the same phrase:
chords:
bassline:
D:
|D
C#
iii
D
I
|D
D
I
|f#
B
vi
|b
Bb
iv
|g
A
I
|D
C#
V
|A
|
|f#
C#
iii
|b
B
vi
|g
Bb
iv
|D
A
I
|A
C#
V
|D
D
I
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|-
|
We have here an almost entirely chromatic walking bass line, which adds a not unpleasant undertow to the chord
progression. Note especially how our example here of “the minor iv chord in a major key” is nicely motivated by
the movement of the bass. When the above phrase is repeated, the first measure of the second iteration is elided to
the last measure of the first one. Hmmm, the last time we saw this special effect in these articles was in the verse
section of “It Won't Be Long”, which now that I think of it also has a chromatic walking bass line; no coincidence
that the same composer might be involved, eh?
Bridge
The bridge is an unusual ten measures long:
------------top line: |G
F#
chord:
|A b
bassline: |E
F#
V4/3 vi4/3
|G
IV
2x -------------|E
|
|A
|
|G
|
V4/2
|A
V
|G
IV
|A
V
|D
I
|-
|
Though we eventually find an effective release at the end of the bridge, there is a high level of harmonic tension
which accrues over most of its duration, due to the repeated approach-avoidance maneuvering with the V chord.
The build toward a climax is ably abetted by the use of those slow triplets in the lead part, so clearly a John
Lennon trademark in so many songs. And as mentioned earlier, the familiar little phrase from the accompaniment
to the verse, reveals another side to its character, so to speak, in the passionate context in which it now reappears.
The harmonic construction of the first two-measure phrase is based on the contrary motion of the outer voices,
which factor place the otherwise garden variety 7th chords of that phrase appear in unusual inversions.
Outro
The outro is a petit reprise of the last part of the final refrain with a finishing flourish of guitar chords that sounds
strangely “flown in” from elsewhere in terms of its tone quality.
Some Final Thoughts
I suppose you might say that this is a very typical “John song” of the period. Aside from whatever there is in the
phatic subtext of both the words or music that would lead you to make such a statement, there is also the sheer
number of compositional devices and tricks used in this song, which could rightly be, described as some of his
songwriting trademarks.
What truly raises the repeated use of such techniques over the course of a career from mere mannerisms to the
level of true elements of personal style, is the historical context of continual maturation and evolution in the music
of the Beatles. For example, the walking tenor-line in “Dear Prudence” is, technically speaking, the same old trick
as it is here, but look at the difference between the two songs! The same goes for the slow triplets in “We Can
Work it Out” or “Don't Let Me Down”. But let's not get started on this sort of list right here – it's the sort of topic
worthy of a sidebar article or more in its own write.
In terms of verbal theme “Any Time At All” turns out provide an uncanny mirror image of what we saw in
“Thank You Girl”. In both songs, there is someone who offers him or herself up completely and unconditionally
to support another should such help be wanted or needed. The only real difference between them is in the singer's
point of view; here he is the offerer, and there he's the receiver. The common denominator of the two songs rather
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casually provides food for thought about just how it is that mutual love sometimes begins. John seems to imply
that when you offer emotional support to another who may have never explicitly solicited it from you that this
may yet turn out to be a prime movement.
Read the lyrics of both songs carefully: in neither case is it necessarily true that the two people involved are
aware of any mutual interest prior to the offer of support. This raises the profound question of whether love may
indeed ignite based on this kind of sympathetic interest of a 3rd party in absence of any pre-existing acquaintance
or attraction.
Mind you, I stood up for you. I mean I wouldn't have it.”
103000#17.1
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You've Got To Hide Your Love Away
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G (Mixolydian) Major
3/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse/Solo (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
From the upbeat self confidence of “Thank You Girl” and “Any Time At All” we move this time to the other end
of the emotional spectrum with “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away,” a song that further exemplifies some of
John's signature style traits as much as it breaks some new ground for its time.
The form is a cross between the two-bridge pop song and the verse/refrain alternating folk ballad, with a
central unit of two verses plus a refrain repeated twice, preceded by a scanty intro and followed, quite unusually,
by an instrumental verse that wraps the whole thing up. The verse pairs are internally differentiated between a
primary version and a slightly modified variant that leads more smoothly into the refrain.
I find it intriguing that many people hear the influence of Dylan in this song. Beyond John's vocal style and
the lyrics, I wonder if part of this reaction is based on the use of this form; think of how many of Zimmy's own
ballads save the harmonica solo for after the final verse!
And this is our first encounter with a ternary time signature. I'm parsing this as an up tempo 3/4 both for
simplicity and because John himself counts it out that way on the outtake of the song included on Anthology 2.
But one could just as easily transcribe it as a moderate 6/8 with two of my 3/4 measures to one of the 6/8
measures.
Perhaps the following will come as no surprise to those resident teenagers out there who make a religion out
of knowing such details, but a search through the Beatles songbook reveals John to be the most partial of the four
toward songs written with at least an entire section in a ternary meter. Of course, songs in such time signatures
comprise only a small fraction of the total canon, but I thought it was interesting to note to whom the lion's share
of these belonged:
John
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
This Boy
Baby's in Black
Yes It Is
You've Got To Hide Your Love Away (our song du jour!)
Norwegian Wood
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (verse)
Being For the Benefit of Mister Kite (instrumental break)
Happiness is a Warm Gun (Parts 2 and 3)
Yer Blues
I Want You (She's so heavy)
Dig a Pony
Paul
1. She's Leaving Home
2. Oh! Darling
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George
1. Long, Long, Long
2. I Me Mine
Given George's small “market share” of the official canon, it's significant that in this category, he comes in tied
with Paul.
The four sung verses all contain different lyrics which adds to the ballad (versus pop) side of the equation.
All the sections rhythmically start right on the downbeat, a gesture that resonates with the depressed affect of the
song's mood, in the sense that it somehow takes more energy to come in before or after the beat. The refrain and
final phrase of the primary verse section both feature unusual phrase lengths of six measures.
Melody and Harmony
The broad melodic range and large leaps of the refrain contrast dramatically with what might be called the
claustrophobic narrowness of the verse. The refrain opens with the jump of an octave downward and covers an
overall range of 11 notes. The primary verse contains no larger interval than a minor 3rd and covers a range of
only 5 notes; the secondary verse, a range of 7 notes.
The short downbeat melissmas, as found for example on the word “on” in the phrase “can't go on,” are a
veritable Lennon/Beatles trademark. Compare this example with “Any Time At All” and “Eight Days A Week”.
It's tempting to attribute what I describe as John's penchant for harmonic frugality as more a reflection of a limited
vocabulary than a conscious element of style. But while the latter may be a slight exaggeration, the former would
be grossly unfair; granted, much of his output (both early and late) is heavily blues based or influenced, but at the
very least, during the Sgt. Pepper and White Album period, we have several examples, such as “Strawberry Fields
Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” which are quite imaginative in chord choices and progression. But at any rate,
with our current selection, we have yet another song built exclusively out of four chords; in order of appearance,
you have G, D, C, and F. The key is G major, so grammatically, in addition to the standard I, V, and IV, we also
have the modal sounding "flat VII" chord.
The use of such a limited harmonic palette contributes to the extremely closed tonal shape of the song. There
are no excursions or modulations away from the home key. Luckily, as a matter of avoiding a stultifying sense of
stasis, each of the two phrases of the verse section respectively opens up to either the IV or V chord which at least
help motivate the refrain, and similarly, the two phrases in the refrain section each end on V that neatly leads back
around into the next verse.
In contrast to the modal purity of “She Said She Said,” I describe the harmonic style of “You've Got To Hide
Your Love Away” as "almost modal" because of the use here of the Major V chord together with the flat VII. In
“She Said She Said,” we saw how the modal spell is kept unbroken by using the minor v chord.
One spicy by-product of this almost purely modal style is the repeated cross-relation exposed by the
juxtaposition of the F sharps in the D chord with the F naturals in the F chord. This could have been easily
avoided by substituting the C Major IV chord for flat-VII in every place it is preceded by V, but try it out as an
alternative and note how very much more ordinary (albeit bluesy) it sounds compared to what John decides to go
with.
The Rise of the flat-VII Chord
The flat-VII chord turns out to be a Beatles favorite over the long run, and though you can find a small but
constant scattering of examples of it in the earlier albums, it seems to get a major boost in popularity on the Help!
album.
Look back, you'll be amazed to note that flat-VII appears for the first time on the Please Please Me album in
“P.S. I Love You” and the cover, “Taste of Honey.” With The Beatles has “Don't Bother Me” (hey, George!) and
“All My Loving.” A Hard Day’s Night has the title track, “When I Get Home,” and “I'll Be Back.”
On the Help! album, you find that in addition to the title track, the next four Len/Mac songs on side one all
contain this special chord; i.e. “The Night Before”, our current song, “Another Girl”, and “You're Going to Lose
Page 79
that Etc.” Does this perhaps give you the feeling that the composer(s) were having a field day playing with a new
harmonic “toy” so to speak ?
An exhaustive exploration of where the Beatles got the flat-VII chord from and the different ways in which
they used it would require searching through one or both of the following:
•
•
Any song covered by the Beatles that has the chord.
Any song from the pre-Beatle era pop song repertoire correlated with music the Beatles would have been
familiar with even if they didn't include it in their repertoire.
This is way more than I can deal with at the moment but I'll leave it here as another good sample thesis topic. Any
takers?
Arrangement
The arrangement of this song is notable on two grounds: the almost exclusive use of acoustic instruments (sorry,
Mark L., but this boy-o hears an electric Hoffner), and the first(!) use of a hired studio musician to supply a part
played on “exotic” instruments; i.e. alto and tenor flutes. At risk of belaboring the obvious, this latter tactic
became a major clue to the new direction of the boys for many albums to come.
The backing track is predominated by acoustic rhythm guitars, bass guitar, soft brush work on drums plus
additional sparse percussion, and John's single tracked vocal. By the same token there are the typical orchestrated
details:
Verse 1
Verse' 1
Refrain 1
Verse 2
Verse' 2
Refrain 2
Verse 3
No additional percussion.
Add tambourine on the downbeat of even-numbered measures.
Continue with the tambourine and adds maracas playing three-in-the-bar.
Keep the tambourine this time.
Same as before.
Ditto.
Keep all percussion and add pair of flutes doubling each other at the octave.
The outtake on Anthology 2 is enjoyable but reveals little more about the composition and recording. To be sure,
you get to hear an alternate vocal with slightly different scanning of the lyrics, plus the final verse minus the flute
overdubs. But I'll wager these are overshadowed for most listeners by the characteristic snippet of “Paul broke a
glass” teasing studio chatter that precedes the music.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is just two measures of the I chord, which establish the home key, meter, and backing texture.
Verse
The primary verse is an unusual 18 measures long. It has a phrasing pattern of ABAB' (4+4+4+6) in which B' is a
rhetorically extended version of the original B phrase:
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|G
G:
|D
V
|F
flat-VII
|G
I
|
|C
IV
|-
|F
flat-VII
|C
IV
|
|G
I
|D
V
|F
flat-VII
|G
I
|
|F
flat-VII
|C
IV
I
|C
IV
|-
|D
V
|-
|
The harmonic shape of each couplet is open, first to IV and then to V. The harmonic rhythm is one chord change
per measure except for the final phrase where it creates a slow/fast/slow-again pattern.
Verse
The only difference between the secondary verse form and its primary counterpart is the addition of two measures
at the end to further extend the final V chord, this time over a descending line in the bass. The latter adds a sense
of both closure to the verse pair and one of inevitability with respect to the upcoming bridge. Verse' then weighs
in at 20 measures long with its ABAB' pattern stretched out to 4+4+4+8. The latter more closely matches my
experience of this section than parsing it as though it were five phrases of four measures each.
Refrain
The refrain is 12 measures long with a phrasing pattern of AA (6+6):
------------------------------- 2X -------------------------------|G
||C
||D
||
I
IV
V
4 -> 3 -> 2 -> 3
Again, the harmonic shape is completely open. And the slower harmonic rhythm creates a free-verse leisurely
feeling that nicely resonates with the final phrase of the verses. That turn around the F# of the D chord in the final
two measures is a relatively garden-variety harmonic effect that for some reason you do not find often in the
Beatles songbook.
Final Verse (Outro)
The final verse is an instrumental based on the primary verse with the last measures modified to provide an
harmonically closed ending; one created by a double plagal cadence, no less:
|C
IV
|-
|F
flat-VII
|C
IV
|G
I
|-
|
Even the usage of a plain old transverse flute would have seemed unusual at this stage of their career. The usage
of the over-sized alto and tenor flutes, the likes of which are considered pretty exotic even within the realm of the
concert or studio ensemble, is rather extraordinary. Those lower-pitched flutes have actually been around since at
least the turn of the 20th century. The alto flute, for example, makes a conspicuous appearances in Stravinsky's
Page 81
“Rite of Spring” and works by Debussy and Ravel. In our own times, it is popular on TV and movie soundtracks
(e.g. the “Mission Impossible” theme) but still remains a specialty item used for the purpose of creating special
atmosphere. The solo itself is an improvisation closely modeled on the tune, though the way it's ended off on the
5th degree of the scale is distinctively unusual.
Some Final Thoughts
Though you know I generally don't get too involved with the words, being pretty much a meat-and-potato chordsand-form sort of fellow, I can't quite ignore what seem to me to be the strange aspects of this song's lyrics. We
tend to take for granted our biographical knowledge about how that young rebel who was suspended by
Headmaster Pobjoy for throwing a blackboard out of a classroom window actually was someone with an insecure,
and vulnerable soft core. For every song like “You Can't Do That”, there is also one like “Misery.” Whenever you
find him talking about striking back, if you just wait a minute, you'll also hear him focused only on the heartache
that motivates it. But I do believe that “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away” is unique even in this context.
Here we find our hero immobilized to the point where vengeance is the least thing on his mind because it hurts so
badly that he can't even stand to be around other people; an even greater emotional crash than “I'll Cry Instead,”
for example. In spite of this, we are privy to his state -- as though we could read his mind or his private journal –
and it is from this unusual sense of intimacy that I believe the song derives much of its impact. It's interesting to
note how such a similar song in tone as “Yes It Is” was recorded in the same week!
But there is a delightful, almost Dylanesque ellipticality to these lyrics as well. The phrase “if she's gone” is
intriguingly ambiguous. What does the “if” mean here? Is the hero merely rehearsing in advance his fear of the
possibility of her leaving in the future, or does it more likely convey the real-time immediacy of his just now
being hit with the news of her leaving, and he's and talking out loud trying to digest what it means.
Similarly, the line “how could she say to me love will find a way” is very difficult; it's the sort of comment
you expect someone to make when s/he's trying to keep a relationship going no matter what, against all odds and
obstacles, not when one is ramping down or breaking off. But then again, maybe our hero is himself perplexed
and hurt by this very difficulty. For when love somehow cannot find a way, when such a thing is just not possible,
is there ever any middle ground left to which such a relationship can move?
“You'd have wound up a Senior Citizen of Boston. As it is, you took the wrong turn and what happened, you're a lonely old man from
Liverpool.”
112300#18.1
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I'll Be Back
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major/minor
4/4
Intro – Verse – Bridge 1 – Verse – Bridge 2 – Verse – Bridge 1 – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The poignant bitter sweetness of “I'll Be Back” stems in large part from its obvious yet equally effective gambit of
shifting constantly back and forth between the Major and minor modes of 'A.' There'll be more to say about this
before the end but as usual, you find much more than just this one gambit in a detailed walkthrough of the song.
The form is deceptively familiar but, as we've often seen with other songs, it reveals an uncommon design
upon closer look. Most unusual here is the total of three bridge sections, the middle one of which is musically
different from the outer two, even though it bears some resemblance to the them.
The intro, at first blush, would seem almost negligible in its scant two-measure length, but is crucial for the
way its being in A Major sets the surprise-trap for the verse, which follows beginning in a minor. I find it rather
sublime to contemplate how what you come to later recognize as the central personality trait of this song is
presented so neatly encapsulated right off at the start.
The outro, of course, recapitulates this same notion. For a change, the standard device of a looped figure
repeating into a fadeout actually is of “programmatic” significance to the extent that it helps us visualize our hero
heading off into the metaphorical sunset with the most exquisitely ambivalent feelings in his heart.
We also have here yet another one of our examples of an avoidance of foolish consistency – the final verse is
truncated to half of its normal length. It's a good example of formalistic fine-tuning. While it wouldn't be the end
of the world to leave this last verse just like the others, when you consider the cumulative duration of the song
caused by the preceding three verses plus three bridges, it's probably a good thing the Boys decided to not keep
us. Play it out in your head with a full final verse and see for yourself if you start getting a tad antsy or not.
The lyrics of the four verses make a pattern of ABBA', with the middle two identical, and the final one being
an abridged variation of the first one.
Rhythmically, the largest number of phrases begin with a pickup before the downbeat. The erudite musical
term for one of these is an 'anacrusis' - drop that one casually at your next party.To wit:
Verse:
“you know”
"”cause I”
“this time”
Bridge:
“I love you so-o”
“I want to go”
The few exceptions to this rule where a phrase begins right on the downbeat stick out all the more so in contrast:
Verse:
“You could find”
“You, if”
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Bridge:
“I thought”
The way the almost strict alternation of “You” and “I” at the beginning of each section is yet another one of the
simpler pleasures one eventually uncovers in this song as a result of obsessive listening. At any rate, I would
suggest that all these lyrical pickups within the song bear some associative relationship to the guitar pickup in the
intro.
Melody and Harmony
The melody sticks throughout within a surprisingly restricted range but is also marked by frequent appoggiaturas.
The verses feature the c-natural/c-sharp switch over. The bridges feature dramatically sustained long notes
alternating with patches that are more rapidly syllabic. The verses harmonically feature a downward chord stream
based on the natural minor scale. All of the bridge sections exploit the contrasting choices available from the
parallel Major scale.
Arrangement
The arrangement is dominated by the percussive sound of acoustic rhythm guitars, lightly accompanied by
maraca-like drumming. The primary source of textural relief is found in the vocals. Parallel thirds in the verses
alternate with solo, albeit doubletracked, John in the bridges. The acoustic strumming is predominantly foursquare
yet you find a small snippet of their much-beloved slow triplets in the majority of the verse sections in the
measure that has the F Major chord.
Anthology Outtakes
Takes 2 and 3 of “I’ll Be Back” are one of the highlights of Anthology 1. Take 2 is surprisingly arranged in a 3/4
waltz tempo, features at least one electric rhythm guitar plus a lot of cymbals on the backing track, has not intro,
and breaks down in the middle of the second bridge (“too hard to sing”). Take 3 is in 4/4 and the arrangement
sounds closer to the finished product though they hadn't yet lost the electric rhythm guitar. This is a relatively
complete take though there is still no outro, and in place of what eventually be the final verse, they loop the
ending of the third bridge into a fadeout. You can hear John's solo, single tracked voice, always so thrilling, in the
bridge sections of both takes.
Lewisohn remarks on the speed with which they appear in this session to quickly abandon the original plan to
do this song in 3/4 and work it up alternatively in 4/4. I wonder though if maybe the song was planned to be in 4/4
from the beginning and that take 2 was a last minute alternate tryout in 3/4. Only the complete session tape will
tell for sure. My hunch here is prompted by the fact that the 4/4 version of take 3 sounds suspiciously too polished
up compared to the previous 3/4 take. Keep in mind that the length of the entire 6/1/64 recording session for this
song was only 3 hours and encompassed 16 takes. If they didn't already have the 4/4 arrangement well in the bag
at the start of the session I'm skeptical how they could have worked it up on the spot and still have had time for all
the rest of the takes in less than 3 hours.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is two measures long with a two-beat pickup from the guitar hook and it immediately exposes the
Major/minor gambit with the start of the first verse:
Page 84
A:
3&4&|
|A
I
|-
a ...
i
That little four-note hook (f#-b-e-c#) is used in happy repetition throughout, and its melodic content and rhythmic
syncopation become a mantra-like leitmotiv for the song. In its first appearance here at the start, the hook
provides us with an example of the more gut-wrenching variety of syncopation on "4-AND;" i.e. the one where
the following downbeat is specifically NOT clearly marked. Interestingly, the downbeat IS marked everywhere
else the hook appears.
Verse
The verses consist of two repetitions of the same six-measure phrase. More precisely it is a four-measure phrase
with two trailing measures of "space":
soprano:|C
alto: |A
bass: |A
chords:
a:
i
|a
soprano:|(C#)
alto: |(A)
bass: |A
chords:
|A
I
C D |E E
D
B
|C
A B |C C
B
G
|A
|G
|F
|G
|F
flat-VII
flat-VI
6 --> 5
4 --> 3
|-
C|C
B
A B
C#|
A|A
G# F# G# A |
|E
|
|E
V
6 ->5 ->4->5
4 ->3 ->2->3
|
|
|-
|
|-
|
|-
|
In spite of the strong pull of the descending bass line, the harmonic shape of the verse is decidedly closed,
beginning and ending squarely in A. Curiously, the alternation between minor and Major has no effect on one's
perception of this closed-off feeling. The virtually unchanging harmonic rhythm of one chord per-measure only
reinforces this further, in spite of the syncopation in the voice parts.
The tune creates a short chain of 6->5 and 4->3 suspensions against the bass line. It is in this spirit that I
notate only a single chord in measures 2 and 4 rather than an actual root chord change. Yes, I understand how the
suspension creates what is, de-facto, a C Major chord (in second inversion) in the first half of measure 2, but the
sustaining of the baseline through the measure robs you of any sense of root movement between the two halves of
the measure.
The "4-AND" syncopation of the guitar hook is carried through to the vocals in measure 4, where they
anticipate the music's shift to the Major mode an eighth note ahead of the downbeat of measure.
The vocal arrangement of the verses uses rather simple parallel thirds sung by John and Paul throughout (the
liner notes to the album imply that George is in there as well, but I don't hear him) yet there are some
characteristic details worthy of note. First off, there is a timbral paradox in that overall, one hears John's voice
predominating in the melody, yet when you listen carefully, you note that John is on the bottom part, and that it's
actually Paul on top; this phenomenon is to be found all over the place throughout their repertoire. The other
savory detail is the repeated use of that sensuous little trill (pedantically speaking, a “mordent”) in the third
measure of each phrase; also a longstanding trademark of theirs.
Page 85
Bridge-1 – “I love you so .../I want to go ...”
This bridge opens up the harmonic architecture of the song by suggesting an excursion, however short lived, to
the key of f# minor (which happens to be the relative minor of A). Of course, we never actually settle down firmly
within the new key, heading immediately back to the V chord of A. The varied harmonic rhythm of this bridge is
another source of contrast with the surrounding verses; we even find a syncopation in the chord changes of the
last two measures.
The most unusual thing about this bridge is that measure 5 is only a half-measure and this really adds a unique
kick to the way one feels the phrasing of this section; by analogy, think of taking some poetry in strict meter and
purposely making one of the lines two syllables short. In a pop song universe where phrases are typically 4, 6 or 8
measures in length, this one of 6.5 measures really grabs your attention:
|f# |f#
i
|b
iv
|-
|E
A:vi
half-measure
*
|D
E
|D
V
IV
V
E
|
IV
V
The tune here features three appoggiaturas in close order all using the same two notes, C# and B, but in each case,
the harmonic context is different; in measure 3 (9->8) in the half-measure 5 (6->5), measure 6 (7->6->5).
Bridge-2 - "I thought that you would realize ..."
The second bridge starts off somewhat differently from the first one, but the two sections are ultimately first
cousins in that the 2.5 measure ending of the first bridge is repeated here verbatim. The harmonic shape of this
bridge is even more open at first than the other bridge section. Though we never settle in any key away from A, I
feel the first five or six measures of this section as being on the prowl as far as key is concerned:
|b
A:
ii
|-
|c#
iii
|-
|f#
vi
|B
|b6
V-of-V
|E ... etc.
5
ii V
*
D in the bass
Running from the downbeat of measure 1 through the downbeat of measure 3, we have a real Lennonesque
descending chromatic line in an inner voice (b->b-flat->a->g#); clearly the man really liked this device.
There's also an exotically tangy cross relation of the d# in the B Major chord (measure 6) with the d-natural of
the b minor 6/5 chord in the following measure.
We find still more juicy appoggiaturas. The E->D, 4->3 example at the beginning of the section is one of the
most climactic moments in the entire song. Similarly, we have another C#->B, 9->8 example in measure 6.
Outro
The final verse is extended a seventh measure with the A Major chord sustained, after which the outro, proper,
commences. The outro features the Major/minor gambit in a short loop of two measures for
each mode. The complete fade out sets in sooner than you realize, though with the strong implication that the
alternation itself may go on indefinitely.
Page 86
Some Final Thoughts
Subtext surges externally. After a dozen or more concentrated listenings to this song, I honestly couldn't help
making the free association to a song by Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828), which uses the same minor/Major gambit
albeit in a more limited fashion than IBB; it's the first number from his song cycle “Winterreise”, entitled in
curious anticipation of the final track on the White Album, “Gute Nacht.”
I offer you some excerpts from the lyrics of this song (translated from the German) and wonder if you'll gasp
the way I did to discover what bittersweet topic was on Schubert's mind:
“Why should I remain longer, until I am driven out? ... I will not disturb you in your dreams, 'twere pity to spoil
your rest. You shall not hear my footsteps, softly, softly I close the door. As I go out I will write ‘Goodnight’ to
you on the gate so that you may see my thoughts were of you.”
If you like this one, I can't hold back from sharing with you an even more unlikely lyrical correspondence
between another Len/Mac song and some older music. This time, we're dealing with an oft-quoted line from “I'm
a Loser” (“Although I laugh and I act like a clown ...”) and the title of a “virelai” (a distant forerunner of the 2minute pop song) written by Johannes Ockeghem (you won't see his name in Billboard) of the 15th century: “Ma
bouche rit et ma pensee pleure.”
Now, just hold on a second (“you promised”), I'm not suggesting that anyone has plagiarised a bloody thing
here; I wouldn't even dare to suggest that either of these pieces of music were songs of our Own Sweet Boys'
acquaintance. All I am trying to suggest is the extent to which certain themes of heartache appear to perpetually
fascinate, not to mention inevitably become relevant to composers of music as well as us plain folk. To put it
another way, you might say that great minds run in the same direction.
“We've got only half an hour till the final runthrough. He can't walk out on us.”
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121000#19.1
Birthday
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – long connector – Bridge – Verse (instrumental) – short connector – Bridge – Verse –
Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
In its White Album context of so many varied moods and styles, “Birthday” stands out as a representative example
of the sort of plain old blistering Rock that The Beatles were still capable of in the heart of their so-called Late
Period. On the surface, one of the first things you notice is that this is one of the very few Len/Mac songs that is
even partly in strict 12-bar blues form, though once you probe more deeply, you quickly discover that this is no
mere rote revivalist knock-off.
R&B Revisited
It's really quite a thought provoking paradox: judging from the pre-historic repertoire of their Quarrymen era (see
Note 197), you'd think the only thing they knew how to play, or perhaps wanted to play, were The Blues. Later as
The Beatles, both at the Beeb and on their first several EMI albums, their choices for cover songs were again
frequently in the 12-bar mode; “Boys”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”, and just about anything by Chuck
Berry and Larry Williams, to name a few. And yet, when you do a sort through the cannon of official releases
looking for originals, which are at least partially built on a strict blues, form you come up amazingly short. Prior
to the White Album, I could only find four examples: the verses of “Can't Buy Me Love”, “You Can't Do That”,
“The Word”, and the middle eight of “She's A Woman”.
This relative dearth of twelve bar originals (pun fully intended) continues through the White Album and
beyond, even though the conventional wisdom says that the last couple of albums demonstrate a conscious return
to their early roots. In spite of the number of hard rock songs on those albums, you still find very few blues
numbers: only “Birthday”, “Yer Blues”, and “For You Blue.” Granted, there are many songs in the cannon that
are very blues-like, (examples abound throughout, all the way from “I Saw Her Standing There” to “Ballad of
John and Yoko” and “Come Together”), but if you grade them strictly, they fail to make the cut.
As an attempt to explain this paradox I would propose that as nascent artists, The Beatles not just admired
their Blues predecessors but, in a burst of post-adolescent enthusiasm even sought to emulate and sometimes
imitate them; e.g., listen to the Quarrymen do Elvis' “That's When Your Heartache Begins”. But as they matured
they likely found that, in spite of all early interest, the strict blues form was not an idiom they felt all that
comfortable with in terms of self-image and expression. Interestingly, they never quite forgot or expunged the
technique from their vocabulary, but it did remain for them something to be used sparingly, for special effect and
exotic tang.
When you consider this elite group of the Beatles' blues songs, it's tempting to describe their style as “Neo R
& B” to the extent that they manifest more of a self-conscious updated stylization of an old form and not just a
nostalgic evocation of it. In spite of the presence in these songs of the 12-bar formula, in terms of arrangement,
lyrics, and the choice of keys and chord progressions used in the non-blues sections, they are musically very
different from the classic role models which inspired them.
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Form
We have something here that is very close to the standard two-bridge model, though it is somewhat camouflaged
by the long instrumental opener, and the unusual connector sections that introduce each appearance of the bridge.
Another formalistic technique which considerably unifies the song is the consistent use of antiphony in all
appearances of both verse and bridge sections, as we'll see. But for the long connector, the lyrics of the formal
sections build a close-to-perfect palindrome pattern of ABC/instrumental/CA. The lead vocal enters well after the
downbeat throughout the song. The only vocals that enter on a downbeat are the backing females in the bridges.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic content is delivered in short, repetitious, chant-like fragments. The figure used in the sung verses is
notable for its emphasis on the blue 3rd and 7th scale degrees. For contrast, the instrument verse in the middle
sticks more closely to the plain Major mode. The bridge sections provide an abrupt modulation to the unusual key
of flat-III (C Major). Nonetheless, a relatively small number of chords is used, overall; the blues trio of I-IV-V of
the home key (A, D, E) and the tonic/dominant IV of the bridge key (C, G).
Arrangement
The drumming and other special percussion effects on this song (such as maracas, tambourine, and handclaps) are
worthy of special notice. Ringo turns in an effective performance of his trademark technique of punctuating long
stretches of evenly accented eight notes with complex thirty-second note snare drum fills in all the right places;
typically, though not limited to the boundary lines between sections. If you make the effort on your own to map
out how the rest of the percussion effects are worked into the piece, you'll find the texture of each section of the
song has been carefully and neatly planned out. The point being that even in a song like “Birthday” which we
know was worked up very quickly, and where a certain informal, “come as you are” feeling permeates right to the
core of the piece, still, nothing is left to chance. This of course is a hot button for those who like to rag on Paul for
being such a control freak, but, it's this attention to detail that elevates a good rock song to the level of a gem. In
the vocal department you find multiple overdubs of Paul's voice mixed out to separate stereo channels.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The instrumental intro is twelve measures long and turns out to be a formal anticipation of the entire verse. We
lead off right from the start with the an antiphonal style that carries through to almost every section of the song. In
this introductory verse, you have the bass doubled by lead guitar in the odd numbered measures alternating with
parrot-like repetition by just the bass alone in the even numbered measures. Ringo's crackling and metrically
ambiguous opening drum fill starts “on 3.”
Verse
- This section is a standard 12-bar blues frame with all the chords appearing as dominant sevenths. If you want to
get picky, it's worth pointing out that the sustaining of the V chord in measure 10 (as opposed to the more typical
move to IV) is mildly unusual though not unheard of:
|A7 |A:
|-
|-
|
I
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|D7 |IV
|A7
I
|-
|
|E7 |V
|A7
I
|-
|
The baseline riff syncopatedly outlines the chords and is heard doubled by the lead guitar two octaves higher; e.g.,
|aa-c#e-gF#--e|a ...
This section appears four times in the song, and though the second and fourth repetitions with their virtually
identical arrangement and lyrics are indeed quite verse-like, the first and third appearances of this section are
entirely instrumental and serve the purpose of introduction and "break" section, respectively. Antiphony to the
blues baseline riff is provided by the lead vocal in the verses. In the break it is provided by a heavily processed
tack piano part.
Long Connector – “Yes we're going to a party party ...”
This section is built out of two eight-measure phrases each of which is hypnotically repetitive, the end result of
which is a buildup of tension that makes you want to beg your partner to tie you down if you don't get some relief
very soon.
The first eight measure phrase features drums only with Macca shrieking a count-off of the measure numbers
that is muffled so far in the background that it's barely audible except with earphones. The second eight measures
beats away on the V chord (E) with the vocals coming in as a slight surprise starting in the third measure.
It's tempting to ascribe the shrieking in the first phrase as just another obscure “clue” of sorts, though the little
details in the way the numbers are recited over the beat definitely add to the building tension. Note for example
how there is a straight-line climax which crests on "7" but is followed by an "8" that can't even wait for that
number measure to begin. Similarly, during the second phrase, we have both a general crescendo as well as a
quickening of the handwork in the drums. But even more effective than the buildup per se is the way that when
the climax arrives, it's a “deceptive” one; that V chord resolves not to I (A) but rather to the chord of flat-III (C);
do keep your ears attuned to the way that bass line snakes its way from the sustained E down toward C during the
second half of the last measure.
Bridge – “I would like you to dance – Birthday”
The choice of C Major as the key for this bridge is not so far out as it would appear on the surface; C being the
relative Major of the parallel minor of A, and it's a key relationship employed in many other songs; e.g., “You're
Going To Lose That Girl.” In “Birthday”, it's quite a surprise nonetheless, coming as the deceptive resolution of
that prolonged V chord of the preceding section. As surprises go, it's actually quite a pleasurable one at that; one
which adds a bit of tonal depth perspective to the music; as though a door had opened to reveal another universe
that you suspected, but were never quite certain, was there.
This section has musical ties both to the verse in terms of its use of antiphony (between Macca and the
female backers) and to the preceding long connector in terms of its repetitiveness. The baseline in this section also
harkens back somewhat to the riff used in the verse:
|-------- 3X ------|
chords: |C
|G
|C
|G
|E
|bassline:|C-E-F-F#-|G-F-E-D-|C-E-F-F#|G-G#-A-A#|B
|E
C:
I
V
I
V
A: flat-VII V6/4
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|
|
V
The bass line makes its rearward approach to the note B by a clever “keep going” extension of the upward
chromatic motion already in progress as part of the first half of the riff.
The arrival on the E Major chord in its second inversion feels especially euphoric and heady because we've just
barely recovered our bearings from the surprise modulation to C; the passionately inarticulate noise of Macca
screaming “dance” in rhythmic pattern totally at odds with the beat enhances the rush of it. For a brief instant,
there's a vertigo sensation of not being sure of just where you stand key-wise from the promontory of this chord,
but before you are allowed to get too unhinged over it, the bass line jumps down to place the chord in its root
position, in which its function as V of the original home key becomes clear. In retrospect, it all seems like nothing
to get hung about, but in the warm moment of arrival you were moved.
The appearance of the female backing voices is another small source of surprise here; after this, how could
Paul have claimed to be upset two years later about Spector's adding the chorus to “Across the Universe”?
According to Lewisohn, it was an impromptu decision to recruit Yoko and Patti for their participation here; makes
one wonder what the heck Linda was up to that evening.
Short Connector
There is a profound lesson to be learned about the dramatics of music when you contemplate how this shorter
connecting section serves a functionally identical purpose to the earlier longer one even though it is musically so
different from that first one in almost every way. In terms of structural utility, both connectors serve the purpose
of modulating from the key of A to the key of C. But look at the obvious differences between them, nonetheless:
•
•
•
This one is only four measures long compared to the earlier one of sixteen.
Here we have a return to the orchestration of the opening verse with just guitars playing plain octaves
punctuated by sparse drum work, whereas earlier, we had quite a bit of drums and even vocals.
Even the specific strategy for making the modulation is different; here, the natural minor mode of A (with
its C and G naturals – no sharps!) which is used for the guitar parts makes for a smooth and gentle
transition, while earlier, the entire mood was one of climax and surprise.
In the end, it's a simple law of physics and the art of avoiding anticlimax that demands these differences. To put it
rather crudely and simultaneously lift a phrase, which Maureen Cleave used to describe John (not Paul), even “a
young man, famous, loaded, and waiting for something” can't reset that quickly. And besides, a repetition of the
long connector would frankly start to chafe, whereas this quieter short one (it's the only place in the entire song
where the drums stop for a few beats) provides some welcome respite.
Outro
The rest of the song follows the gesture of that second connector and provides more in the way of matched
bookend ballast and balance than it does any further excitement, and leverages the end of the final verse to bind
things off with a complete ending. Any sudden disruption that might otherwise be caused by this ending is
mollified nicely by two details:
•
•
The decelerating effect of the syncopations on "four-AND" in the last few measures of the song. They
don't appear anywhere else before this.
The broken octaves on the piano which seem to psychedelically ricochet even as they fade. The net effect
reminds me of the way your body is jostled when you stop the car too quickly.
Some Final Thoughts
In the final result, it's quite astounding to read in Lewisohn that this song
was essentially composed by Paul, arranged, recorded and mixed in just one extended session of eleven and a half
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hours starting in the late afternoon of September 18, 1968 and running through the wee hours of the next morning.
It's a vivid demonstration of how to live in this moment; this one.
Of course, to keep it in perspective, this song is no magnum opus; for one thing, the elements of both words
and music here are quite simple, and the equally simple device of happy repetition is used effectively to expedite
the cranking out of the piece. In this respect “Birthday” makes for an interesting comparison with other real standup quickies of theirs, such as “Little Child,” “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “I'm Down,” and “The Ballad of John and
Yoko.”
But none of this diminishes in any way the incredible prowess demonstrated in this act of spontaneous
effusion. Rather it is in this very spontaneity per se that I believe that the genius of Macca, circa '68 is to be
encountered.
From the style of my analysis you might get the mistaken impression that I somehow imagine him walking
into the studio after many hours of erudite forethought with the song all worked out in his head and a point to
prove, Mozart-like. Actually, I rather expect it to have all been quite the opposite. In this energetically vital and
innovative song, I hear a composer so well primed and up to speed, so “ready to do the show right now” that the
music springs right out of him without a struggle of any kind, as though it were all so casual, second nature, and
obviously meant to be.
“It's my birthday too – yeah”121700#20.1
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Love Me Do
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge (solo) – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
To those who argue that the early original songs of The Beatles are just the same old stuff of which the Top 40
was made in the early 60s, I present this quirky first official release of theirs. Granted, by itself, “Love Me Do” is
hardly the blockbuster of which legendary careers are made. In contrast, those silly lists of “The 500 Most Golden
Oldies of All Time” promoted by certain radio stations are peppered through with songs by groups whose claim to
fame rests on the strength of just one single; I expect general agreement from you all that “Love Me Do” wouldn't
have done that for our Boys.
In fact, it's tempting at first blush to dismiss this one as too simple and even unappealing. After all, we have
what must be very nearly the skimpiest Lennon/McCartney lyric ever, a gawky post-skiffle beat which threatens
to break into a polka in a couple of places, and a vocal duet that would appear to be ripped off from the Everly
Brothers. But just beneath the surface, you find not only that certain bristling intensity in their voices, but also a
great deal of idiosyncratic originality in the compositional details. One might even call it stylistically prophetic,
especially in regards to the phrasing, the vocal harmonies, and the modal melody.
The most intriguing aspect to this intuitive innovation of the early Beatles is the question of how much of it
was motivated by intentional originality and how much a by-product of less-than-entirely-adept emulation of their
derivative influences. It's a quite serious question, the answer to which, in spite of the seeming pejorative value
judgment in my choice of words, has nothing to do with the relative merit of the final product itself; but I leave
this question for now in the hands of the aestheticians.
The form used here is none other than the standard two-bridge model with a single verse intervening. The
positioning of the instrumental solo within a repeat of the bridge rather than a verse is unusual and likely accounts
for the absence of there being a pair of verses in the middle. Contrast this with other Beatles songs of the same
period that more typically place a solo in one of two intervening verse; e.g. “I Saw Her Standing There,” or even
“How Do You Do It.” The verse lyrics are unvarying through four repeats, ditto for the bridge through two. This
is possibly an all time Beatles record. All sections begin exactly on the downbeat, yet another factor in the
somewhat clunky overall impression made by the song.
Melody and Harmony
“Love Me Do” is ostensibly in the key of G Major though it contains a strong Mixolydian modal inflection from
the heavy use of both F-naturals in the tune and in its reliance on the I-IV-I to establish a feeling of tonal center.
The non-modal Major V chord with an F# is used only in the bridge. Another different sort of modal inflection in
this song comes from the liberal melodic use of bluesy bent-notes on B-flat over the G major chord (with its Bnaturals) in the accompaniment.
The verse tune covers the range of an octave and its overall contour is a downward sweep in spite of the
rhetorically repeated upward phrase that it starts off with. The bridge tune also has a downward shape and is
interesting placed in range below where the low end of the verse range ends off.
Page 93
Arrangement
It doesn't get much closer to a completely natural recording of the Beatles than this. The lead harmonica part is
just about the only detail here that you might not have expected. The rest of it, a backing of rhythm guitar, bass,
drums, with Paul and John singing their duet in close harmony, would emerge in short order as an unmistakable
trademarkable sound.
The 6/62 demo recording of the song with Pete Best, released on Anthology 1 reveals that the reportedly latebreaking decision to modify the arrangement to include John on harmonica had already been made, and that this
arrangement would remain essentially unchanged through the two officially released recordings of it the
following September. The demo also reveals Pete Best as an incredibly unsteady and tasteless drummer, with his
changing the backbeat for each of the bridges, and his apparent slowing of the tempo for the verses following
them; but that's a separate issue.
A question begged by this demo is what part there was on the backing track for John before his switch to
harmonica; a second rhythm guitar part? Hard to imagine, no matter how likely.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is a balanced eight measure phrase and utilizes just the two chords of G and C:
G:
------- 3X -----|G |C
|G
|I
IV
I
|
We're treated right at the outset to another soon-to-become signature device of John's: the slow triplet rhythm, as
it is found here in the harmonica part, measure 3. Furthermore, we find in this harmonica solo a very early
example of the use of a hook-phrase used throughout an entire song: the little descending motif of "F-E-D-G",
with its bluesy emphasis on the seventh note of the scale (F) and the heavy use of flutter-tonguing on the repeats,
so suggestive of a sob or a cry. There's also the melodic emphasis in this little riff on the note "D." as it appears
superimposed over the C chord, lending an overall jazzy C9 flavor the song.
As we'll soon see, this introductory hook is made ubiquitous in the song by the incorporation of this intro
within the final portion of the verse section; or shall I say that the final part of the verse is set-up as the hook by
virtue of its having already appeared in the intro? Just a matter of semantics, I suppose.
Verse
The verse is an unusual thirteen measures long and is broken into the sub-phrases which pretty much follow the
scanning of the lyrics, creating an unusual pattern of AAAB (2+2+2+7):
G:
1
2
3
4
1
2
3
4
----------------------- 3X ------------------|Love,
love me |do.
You |
|know
I
love|you.
I'll|
|always be |true
So |
|G
|C
|
I
IV
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1
|ple|C
IV
2
3
e-
4
e-
1
|e |-
|Resume harmonica hook ...
|do
|...
|G
|C
|G
I
IV
I
2
3
|C
IV
4
1
|-ease
|
2
3
4
Love me |
|
|
For clarity of graphic presentation I've simplified the rhythmic scanning of the words above by eliminating the
effect of the syncopated performance of them. This sort of free meter in the scanning of the words (no iambic
pentameter for These Boys) is a noteworthy, not infrequent feature of their later songs, especially those written by
John. Its appearance here in such an early, and otherwise not so ambitious, piece of work is astonishing.
The music continues on with just the same two chords from the intro. Note how the break of the regular
harmonic rhythm in measures 7 - 9 (on the elongation of the word “please”) enhances the impact of the irregular
phrasing. The vocal harmony of this verse contains two specific seminal details which would soon become telltale
characteristics of “that Beatles sound”; one being the use of open fifths instead of the more typical thirds or sixths,
as in the phrase “Love, love me do”:
G
F
/
Paul:
D
D
D
/
John:
G
C
G
Note in the above example the special coloration, a melding of the two voices, that arises from this sort of
harmony. I'm fairly certain that it's John on the bottom (though there's that interview clip with Paul discussing the
infamous Quarrymen-period acetate of “That'll Be the Day” in which he sings the bottom part of this same
fragment), though with Paul in a busking partial falsetto on the top they're hard to distinguish from each other.
The other vocal detail is the sustaining of the same note in the upper part against the scale-wise movement in
the lower, as on the drawing out of the word “please”; Paul's bending of the note so reminiscent of the harmonica
part. Check out “Please Please Me” for another dramatic example of this technique.
Paul:
G
G
G
John:
E
D
C E
G
One final point of interest here is in the careful working out of the arrangement no matter how spare and simple it
is. Note the unity amidst variation that is achieved by following the harmonica solo of the intro with a verse that
first features a vocal duet and then concludes with solo voice and the opening harmonica hook figure as backing.
And a detail within a detail: note how at the end of the verse when Paul sings “love me do” solo, he's actually
jumping the octave down from his earlier part to the range where John was singing in the duet. According to the
interview with Paul in Lewisohn's preface, this was an artifact of a last minute change in the studio to the
arrangement; John was supposed to sing it but it was impossible for him to get the harp in his mouth quickly
enough to also play the hook on time. Regardless of the motivation, it's a nice serendipitous touch.
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Bridge
The harmonic shape of the verse section is closed, both starting and ending on I. The bridge begins with an
harmonically open gesture, finally introducing the third of the three chords used in the song on its downbeat as
part of the bluesy V-IV-I chord progression. For all its simplicity, it is still rather dramatic in that, not only haven't
we seen this V chord ('D.') yet, but we haven't seen the pitch F# at all in the melody either; the verse staying
exclusively with those bluesy/modal F naturals. Of course, just to keep the game interesting, the vocal melody in
this bridge alternates continually between the F# and F natural.
The first appearance of the bridge is eight measures long, and features the only new words to be found in the
song outside of the first verse. In contrast to the verse, the phrasing of 4 + 4 is quite square, almost too much so; at
a distance of almost thirty years, I still find the “bim BOM” rhythm on beats 2 and 3 of the eighth measure
disconcertingly teetering toward the lame:
-------------- 2X -------------|D ||C
|G
|
G:
V
IV
I
The arrangement of this bridge is just as careful as that of the verse. Here we have Paul singing solo while
doubled by the harmonic alternating with Paul and John singing in octaves. Note how, just as in the verse, Paul
makes another octave jump (upward this time) between his solo and duet parts; just coincidence or true
choreography?
The second appearance of the bridge is an instrumental section of twelve measures, the first eight of which are
an adaptation of the previous bridge with John playing a harmonica part in place of Paul's vocal.
Tacked onto this first phrase are four additional measures of harmonica riffing over mostly just the G chord
with an oom-pah bass line. In a manner analogous to the ending of the first bridge, this four measure extension
concludes with another (dare I say) even more lame “Booomp” on the third beat of the last measure; the solo note
of D in the bass, punctuated by a crash of the cymbal here serves in place of the V chord which begs for the next
verse.
Outro
The outro, in typical fashion provides a final reinforcement of the hook phrase, with its repetition of the intro/endof-verse section ad infinitum into the fade-out.
Some Final Thoughts
An Overflow of Comparisons
We've come to the end of this song but not yet the end of the article. I've got three sorts of brief comparative
analyses up my sleeve for a grande finale.
“Love Me Do” versus “How Do You Do It”
Just how does our current offering stack up against the Mitch Murray cover that George Martin would've had
them perform for their first single instead? Some interesting contrasts:
•
Both songs are in the same key of G and have almost identical forms.
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•
•
•
•
•
“How Do You Do It” uses "more" chords though nothing more exotic than the so-called Brill Building
selection; in addition to I-IV-V, there's vi, ii, and and V-of-V. Compared to the raunchy modality of
“Love Me Do”, it's quite diatonically Major sounding.
“How Do You Do It” does have a catchy touch of syncopation in its hook phrase, but note how the
phrasing is unrelievedly four-square throughout.
“How Do You Do It” positions its instrumental solo in a more traditional verse section, and furthermore
features solo guitar in place of harmonica.
You have some of the same sorts of duet/solo alternation in the arrangement of both songs, though “How
Do You Do It” features straight-line parallel thirds.
Though less countrified than “Love Me Do”, “How Do You Do It” is still closer to pop than hard rock or
blues.
Point-for-point, “How Do You Do It” clearly wins out as a less risky, more conservative choice in terms that may
explain both the lackluster albeit well mannered performance given it by the Boys as well as their ultimate
rejection of it by them. Besides, they hadn't written this one anyway; “aaaaah, let Gerry have it.”
“Love Me Do” versus the other L/M originals on the Please Please Me Album
Again, there are some interesting point-for-point contrasts. No surprise, but some of the same signature devices of
the nascent Beatles sound that we found in “Love Me Do” are also found in these other songs:
•
•
•
•
Tight vocal duets with rich, unusual harmony in “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Please Please Me”,
“There's A Place”, and “Misery”
Uneven phrasing in “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, “P.S. I Love You”, and "Ask Me Why"
Slow triplets in “Ask Me Why”, and “There's A Place”
The harmonica, again, in “Please Please Me”
Similarly no surprise, but these other songs have several telltale Beatles signatures not to be found in “Love Me
Do”:
•
•
•
•
Unusual chord choices in “I Saw Her Standing There”, “Please Please Me”, “P.S. I Love You”, and “Do
You Want to Know a Secret”, and “Ask Me Why”
Strong rock flavor (including some fancy drum fills) in “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Please Please
Me”
Backing vocals in “Please Please Me”, and “Do You Want to Know a Secret”; three-part vocal harmony
(I think) in “P.S. I Love You”, and “Ask Me Why”
Slow, vocal intros in “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, and “Misery”
“Love Me Do”, this time quite surprisingly, is unique overall, because of the modal inflection of its harmony. By
the way, you might note how, in spite of their well known R&B background both as Quarrymen and as Beatles at
the Beeb, this early set of eight originals overall is rather more pop-than-rock oriented, the promise of, say, “I Saw
Her Standing There” and “Please Please Me” notwithstanding.
The two officially released versions of “Love Me Do” compared:
A lot has been made of the fact that the official version released on the Please Please Me album contains a studio
drummer (one Andy White) with the unfortunate Ringo relegated to the lowly position of hitting the tambourine
on the off beats. I'd venture to say that as a commercial recording, the Andy White version is the one performed
with greater polish and confidence, and recorded with better presence and clarity. Yet, for a unique early snapshot
of the Boys at work, the Ringo-drumming version (thankfully now generally available on Past Masters, I) is
definitely the one to be preferred because of power with which it speaks to both your ears and heart.
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With your ears, you can more easily hear the handclaps in the bridge of this version, though without the
tambourine, the overall texture sounds a tad thin. More importantly, from the quiver in his voice, you can tell just
how nervous Paul is at this first “for real” recording session; the dotted notes in his bass line sounding tentative
and uncertain; the same for Ringo's drumming. But best and most precious of all is what your heart responds to in
this version of the song, if only you'll open it widely enough. There's a lot of
“self” invested in those long, drawn-out phrases; you can keenly feel them putting their “all” on the line. And
if you've ever been so lucky in life, it ought to resonate in you with some past experience of your own.
Let's say, a situation in which your words weren't all you wanted to say, but you were brave enough anyway
to commit it to print and give it to the world? Where you knew, in your heart, that someday all your hopes and
wishes would come true, even if everyone told you “a guitar's all right, but you'll never earn a living by it” – or
words to that effect ? Where you had to prove it to yourself, somehow, some way, somewhere that you could
make the future really
happen for yourself?
That's what “Love Me Do” meant to our own sweet Boys. It may not have been the best song they ever wrote,
but it was the Prime Step for them; it was their first shot at immortality. And such a humble offering...but what a
seed of passion contained therein, don't you think?
“You never know, you might be lucky this time.” 122690#21.1
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Please Please Me
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Please Please Me” was only their second single, but it was already a quantum leap in compositional terms over
their first one, “Love Me Do”. In addition to the tight vocal harmonies seen earlier, we have here a couple of
tricky chord choices, crackling drum fills, continuous variation in the deployment of the backing vocals, and as
they say in the “biz”, much, much more.
Compared with the extant tapes of the Quarrymen, the Star Club, the Decca audition, or even the couple of
preceding EMI sessions, “Please Please Me” gives us an energized performance and an arrangement more
complicated than anything these Boys had attempted heretofore. This would seem to suggest that the firm and
creative influence of George Martin began to be felt even at this early date.
This song is also emotionally quite gripping, not only because of its apparently incessant drive, but even more
so for the very human way in which the hero appears to waver in the amount of self-control he can muster –
starting out urgently insistent yet trying to appear controlled; talking through clenched teeth in a forced-polite
voice, even while his facade is continually cracking to reveal the true heat and impatience behind it. On one level,
it's a fairly obvious seduction scenario, yet you find yourself quite hypnotized if not overwhelmed by the force
and subtlety with which the meaning of the words are played-off against the message of the music.
The form is the compact single bridge model we've seen before in “No Reply” and “Day Tripper” where the
especially raving intensity of mood argues in favor of keeping things brief.
The use of a complete ending is noteworthy. In context of the rest of the top 40 of this period, circa 1963,
where, failing recourse to a statistical analysis of the matter, we seem to at least remember everything as having a
fade out at the end, the relatively large number of early Lennon and McCartney songs with complete endings (12
out of those same canonical early 21 singled out below) would seem to be bucking a trend; then again, perhaps
“setting a trend” would be more correct under the circumstances; after all, for a while, it was their profession.
The lyrics of the three verse sections create an ABA pattern. The verses rhythmically start after the downbeat.
The bridge starts right on the downbeat.
The 9/11/62 rare version of the song released on Anthology 1 does not at all match Lewisohn's Recording
Session commentary for this date. Granted, this outtake is a rough performance in all departments, has Andy
White on drums(?), and lacks both the several harmonica overdubs and the interjecting backing vocals of the
bridge. But it is far from “dreary” or “too slow.” I suspect the latter adjectives were actually in reference to the
unfortunately lost demo version done the previous June.
Stating Point of View
The lyrics of “Please Please Me”, when compared with the other contemporaneous songs of Lennon and
McCartney, seem rather unique in terms of point of view and expositional context. The canonical bundle of their
original songs which were officially released up through the end of '63 (i.e., the 21 single and album cuts running
from “Love Me Do” through “Not a Second Time”) makes for an interesting study from this perspective; a
thorough job is way out of scope with this current article but even the bare statistics are revealing.
All 21 songs are about the romantic relationship between a boy and a girl from the perspective of the boy;
granted, so far no surprise. 17 of the songs are written in direct address to the girl, and these range from the
vulnerable pleading of “Love Me Do” to the mushy puppy love of “Do You Want to Know a Secret”, to the glib
Page 99
giddiness of “I Wanna Be Your Man.” The harsher confrontations that would suddenly become a staple trademark
starting on the A Hard Day's Night album with such classics as “Tell Me Why” and “You Can't Do That” are
represented in this sampling only by the relatively milder “Not a Second Time.” Only two of the songs are
soliloquies in which the girl is spoken of in the third person; you have the encomium of “I Saw Her Standing
There” versus the angst-ridden confessional of “Misery.” Two of the songs stick out as unique; “She Loves You”,
which features core-talk advice from the singer to his friend regarding the friend's girl, and our current choice,
“Please Please Me”.
In “Please Please Me”, we have what is in essence a direct address, but one that is framed as kiss-and-tell
reportage of something that happened The Night Before; as though most of the lyrics should be written in quotes.
Of course, it's a small, even moot, distinction because your ultimate experience of the song is on the level of
overhearing the boy urging the girl directly and in real time; like a so-called frame-tale short story in which by the
second page you've totally forgotten that there ever was any frame established at the beginning because the action
itself is so absorbing.
Melody and Harmony
Compared to the tangy modality of “Love Me Do”, the melodic material here is purely diatonic E Major. The
verse tune is relatively jumpy and has a broad arch shape. The bridge is also arch shaped with a first half
dominated by stepwise motion and a jumpy second half that begins with the dramatic upward leap of an octave.
The harmony, in contrast, while still heavily reliant on I-IV-V, also uses ii, VI, and the presents us with a couple
of surprises in the form of the non-indigenous flat-III and flat-VI, which add just a hint of bluesy minor-mode
inflection.
Arrangement
The backing track features the basic Beatles combo with added harmonica. John carries the single tracked lead
vocal. The backing vocals are primarily antiphonal with a touch of backwash at the start of the bridge.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The introductory phrase of only four measures played over the unchanging E Major (I) chord is deceptively
simple. Here, as we've seen in so many other songs, the intro, for all its brevity, plays a key expository role.
First off, we have the ever popular hook phrase trumpeted out by the harmonica and guitar in unison. In
many songs, such hook phrases foreshadow material that will appear in either the melody of the coming verses or
as a mockingbird-like obbligato figure in the background. In PPM the hook is used both ways.
Secondly, we have the unusual pick-up start on the fourth beat. What you'll look back on later as the
unrelenting forward drive of this song is thus to be found here right at the very start in the iambic “da-DUM”
gesture of those first two notes; even that little drum fill, which bridges the gap between the end of the intro and
the beginning of the verse reinforces this gesture.
Lastly, take note for now of that pleasant dotted quarter note snap in the second measure of our hook
phrase; the better to appreciate how the phrase is modified for its appearance in the melody of the verse.
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Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and is built out of four phrases of even musical length:
|E
E:
|-
I
|E
I
|-
|A
IV
|f#
ii
|E
I
|A
IV
B
V
|A
IV
E
|A
IV
E
|
I
G GA AB BB |
flat-III IV V
|-
|
|c#
vi
|A
IV
|
|E
I
|A
IV
I
B
V
|
As you work your way through the four phrases in turn, you quickly discover a clever overall dramatic shape to
the verse. The first two phrases hang together like a couplet, and the remaining two phrases seem to meld into a
refrain-like eight-measure unit.
The first two phrases are obviously related to each other, though there is a subtlety in the transition between
the two of them which is the first clue to our hero's wavering self-control. The last measure of the first phrase, on
the one hand, seems to suggest a sudden extra push forward with its syncopated, momentary speed-up of the
harmonic rhythm; note the three Major chords moving step-wise in a row and changing on the offbeat, the first of
which - G Major - isn't even a legitimate member of the key we're in, adding a bluesy cross relation to the texture
- G natural against a background of G sharps. For an instant, we seem to be hurtling just a tad out of control. And
yet, with the start of the second phrase, we're right back where we started out before. Order has been restored; as
though our hero, carried away by his own sweet excitement quickly catches himself and backs off, the better to
resume his former polite and measured, albeit insistent, tack.
Although the second phrase is virtually identical to the first, the difference between them in their final
measures is of structural significance. The open ending of the first one on V smoothly motivates the start of the
second one. By contrast, the closed harmonic ending of the second phrase on the I chord includes that unusual
guitar riff in measure eight, the combination of which sets off this opening couplet from what follows.
The third phrase is one of both musical excursus and build toward a climax by virtue of the introduction of
new chords, the progression away from the I yet not necessarily reaching a clear resting point, and of course, the
employment in every measure of the hard syncopation on the half-beat between 2 and 3; this last perturbation
being ironic to the extent that this very phrase is the only one in the entire song in which the harmonic rhythm
holds steady for as long as four measures. The climax, per se, is to be found in the reaching of the melodic apex
(high A) of the entire verse in measure 12.
You would surmise at this point that our hero has crossed the start-line and opened his attack for better or
worse, but immediately following, we experience yet another retreat of sorts in the way the fourth phrase resolves
the accumulated tension of the preceding one with its return to a musical texture and vocabulary that is very close
to that of the first two phrases: no more syncopations, a resumption of plain I-IV-V, and an exchange of the
“come ons” for the “please pleases”; all this, reinforced by the return of the hook phrase at the very end.
Incidentally, note how the placement of the hook above the I-IV-V progression in this context gives it a different
feel from the one it has when it is accompanied by just the I chord as in the intro or the first half of the verse.
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Details, Duckie
All this agitation and the thrashing between polite insistence and a less patient coaxing is only further enhanced
by the manifest details of the verse's arrangement. The adaptation of the opening hook phrase as it appears in the
melody of the first two phrases conveys determined insistence on at least two levels. First off, in the second
measure, the snapped rhythm heard in the intro is here replaced by a continuation of the “marcato”, almost
hammer-like quarter notes of the first two measures. Enhancing this is the way that Paul sustains the single tone
of E above John's singing of the actual melody. Quite nicely, the snapped rhythm isn't entirely dispensed with
here, but is rather moved all the way to the extended ending of the hook phrase in measure three, where it too
adds to the mood of insistence.
The forward-propelling syncopations of the third phrase are put into bold italics by the antiphonal deployment
of the backing voices of Paul and George; soon to become yet another Beatles signature device. Unusual here is
the way in which the fragments sung by the lead and the backers fit seamlessly together in one melodic line; an
effect of great antiquity in classical music, the technical term for which is “hocket.”
Gentler though undeniable pushes forward are to be found as well in the drum fills which bridge measures
4/5, 7/8, and the springing guitar riff of measure 8 itself. And on the side of vacillation, the harmonic rhythm over
the course of these sixteen measure is more varied, changeable, and uneven than virtually any other example
we've looked at in this series thus far.
Aside from some new lyrics, the entire verse is repeated virtually verbatim with one minor change made at the
end to smoothly effect the transition into the bridge. In the last measure here, the harmony holds still on I, the
hook phrase is truncated by half, and for a single instant (the only one of its kind in the entire song), all voices and
guitars are tacit in favor of a series of solo drum fills. It's a subtle gesture which binds off what has preceded and,
at the same time, leads ahead to what follows.
Bridge
Even though this bridge is built out of the same old three basic chords, the lyrics of the song take a decided turn at
this point for the openly confrontational in this section, and the music, too, provides plenty of contrast with what
has preceded.
First off, there is the unusual ten-measure length that is broken up into two three phrase making for a pattern
of 4+3+3, AA'B:
|A |B
IV V
|E
I
|-
|A |B
IV V
|E
I
|
|E
|A
IV
|A
IV
B
V
I
|
B
V
|
Note how all three phrases start away from the tonic and quickly close in on it. The first phrase here is
distinguished by its novel use of the backing voices; at first, just harmonized “ahhhs” behind John's solo, followed
by the surprising “in my heart” rejoinder of measure 4.
The second phrase starts out parallel to the first one but opts for a climactic gesture in the third measure, and
dispensing with what otherwise would have been the balancing fourth measure, moves directly into the third
phrase with its quickened harmonic rhythm, open harmonic shape, and the reprise of the fanfare-like hook phrase,
which draw you back to the final verse with the same music used earlier to lead from the first verse to the second
one.
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Strangely George does not play the exact text of the hook phrase at this point but rather a variation of it. This
fact is exposed in a variety of alternate recordings of the song, such as those from the Beeb (or even the Anthology
outtake), in which they usually omitted the harmonica fill at that point leaving George in the clear.
What is perhaps the most climactic moment of the entire song takes place in the third measure of this second
bridge phrase; where the melody suddenly jumps an octave to high B (no coincidence, the single highest melodic
peak in the song) on the phrase “to reason with you.” Ironically, the chords for the beginning of all three bridge
phrases are identical, yet, the E chord, which in the first phrase provides a focal point of repose, here in the second
phrase, by virtue of the melodic high-point, serves as a jumping off point for the third phrase with its open ending
on V; context is everything. The musical climax of this section is in direct synchrony with that of the lyrics, yet,
with the transition right into the final verse, we back off yet again from what otherwise might have seemed a point
of no return.
Outro
The final verse is a full reprise of the first one, and the familiar device of ending with a triple repeat of the last
sub-phrase is neatly worked in here as a natural outgrowth of the fourth phrase of the verse. Although none of the
thematic material in this outro is anything new by this point of the song, the boys do bring out a couple of
surprises they've clearly been saving till the end. The first one is the pseudo-contrapuntal texture wherein the
“please please me” and hook phrases seem to swirl and cascade around us. But most attention grabbing of all is
choice of chords for the final phrase, each one of which is sharply punctuated by a fill of four even sixteenth notes
on the snare drum:
|E
I
G
|C
B
V-of-flat-VI flat-VI V
|E
I
|-
|
The use of the G and C chords is not nearly so far out as might seem at first sight; especially if you think of them
in context of being borrowed, as it were, from the parallel minor key; besides, we were even sort of "warned" to
half-expect something like this given the early appearance of the G chord by itself in the verse; kind of like how
the murder weapon in a mystery appears as a casual prop in the first scene. Still, the bluesy hint of the minor
mode plus the implicit cross-relations of the G and C naturals against predominant sharps of the E Major key
makes an extremely bracing effect. For laughs, try this last phrase with the more "correct" diatonic chords of G#
Major and c# minor and see how hopelessly square it sounds by contrast.
Some Final Thoughts
In the final result, this song is a worthy textbook example of where a fade out ending would be, not just wishywashy, but suggestive of a different unraveling of our hero's outing; one filled with intimations of endless
begging. Instead, the audacious ending we are given provides the quite appropriate denouement for the passionate
plot of the song up to this point. It is as though our hero, careful not to shoot his whole wad too soon lest all else
fails, has held back something, (not without some difficulty, I dare say), with which to bring things ultimately to a
head with an abrupt, pro-active bang, so to speak; hence, the full ending from which, this time, there can be no
retreat.
“You've just made your first number one.”
123100#22.1
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Strawberry Fields Forever, A Day in the Life,
and I Am the Walrus
An Introduction to Notes on John's "Triple Crown"
In honor of the twentieth anniversary of John Lennon's tragic, untimely death, I'm re-posting a revision of this
article originally published ten years ago on the same date. I'd like to explore three of his greatest songs as a group
because they so well characterize a songwriting sub-genre which is one of John's unique innovations and which
remains a special part of his legacy.
Among the several new musical directions explored by The Beatles from mid-career onward, none was more
astonishing at the time, nor is still so compelling today, as their emerging preoccupation with the existential joy,
wonder, and sorrowful angst of self-discovery, childhood memory, and post-adolescent adjustment to the realities
of the human condition. Paul and George also worked with these themes, but I would argue that this is an area in
which John was both the most daringly original and successful of the three.
My own admittedly clumsy one-sentence characterization in the previous paragraph aside, the texts of John's
songs on these heavy themes are most beautiful in their intruiging, ineffably elliptical poetry, and musically, they
are written and arranged in a style unimaginably far removed from the guitars-and-drums young-love songs of
just a few years earlier. Granted, they're not everyone's favorites, but there is no escaping their great originality.
There are arguably more than just three songs that fall into this category, but the ones I've chosen for this
article are perhaps the most ambitiously successful and perennially popular of the bunch. And though there is
some thematic and musical overlap among them, each of these three illuminate different facets of John's
achievement. Eventually, I will treat each of the songs in turn to a detailed, individualized analysis. For now, I'd
like to start with an examination of some global aspects of the Beatles' mid-career growth as a group, the better to
place in perspective John's personal contribution. Later on, following a bit of a digression to consider other cases
in music history where popular and classical genres have crossed over each other, we'll come back to compare and
contrast these three specific songs with each other.
A Special Season
The year which runs from November 1966 to the same time in 1967 is a particularly special nodal point in the
musical development of The Beatles. It is a period which begins with the first studio take of “Strawberry Fields
Forever” on 11/24/66, ends on 11/24/67 with the UK release of the “Hello, Goodbye/I Am The Walrus” single,
and is roughly bisected by the release on 6/1/67 of the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album which
concludes with “A Day In The Life”.
A number of themes and techniques which appear with gathering momentum on the
Rubber Soul and Revolver albums (as well as on the several singles of that era) can be seen to converge and
blossom fully forth during this musical season of '66/'67. In hindsight, one notes the social commentary of songs
like “Nowhere Man”, “Paperback Writer”, “Taxman”, and “Eleanor Rigby”; and the re-learning of how to cope
with this world after seeing drug-induced visions of other universes in “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow
Never Knows.”
The extreme sharpness of this convergence can be seen in the topical agenda of the Sgt Pepper tracklist in
which there is a relative dearth of love songs and a conversely large number of tracks which deal with the social
and experiential. Yet at the same time, this hot-house intensity turns out to be one which could not be sustained
for long or even successfully developed much further. On the other side of this nodal point, one finds both an
over-ripening temporary decline characterized by the critical flop (relatively speaking) of Magical Mystery Tour
and an almost neatly symmetrical divergence into still new directions, some of which seem to be driven by a selfconscious desire to get back to prime roots.
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For the most part, the increasing number of straight-out rock songs, love ballads, and nostalgic evocations of
earlier pop styles on the last several Beatles albums would appear as a retreat from the heady experimentation of
Sgt Pepper era; John, at a later date would actually look back on it with some disdain and regret. Nonetheless,
several elements from '66/'67 actually can actually be seen to survive into '68 - '70, albeit with some
transformation. In particular, John's social/experiential interests are seen to mature into a genuine concern about
the state of the world order; a concern at first suffused with sometimes bitter sarcasm, and yet one which would
persist with increasing fervor and clarity of vision in his solo work after the group disbanded.
Curious Precedents
In addition to the extremely serious subtext of the lyrics, our three songs here also manifest a compositional
complexity and a borrowing from several non-pop/rock musical styles including both classical and avant garde.
The curious thing is that the history of Western music is replete with such crossovers between so-called popular
and more seriously “artsy” genres, though over the long run, these have been typified by the stylized co-opting of
a native pop form or style by the classical side of the house.
Way the heck back in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, for example, it was customary, even expected for a
composer to weave or embed a popular folk tune into one or more parts of a choral Mass. Similarly, much of the
thematic and motivic esssence of 18th century Classical and 19th century Romantic music has demonstrable roots
in European folk and popular music; in fact, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, you even find a
movement of “Nationalistic” composers such as Dvorak, Grieg, and Bartok on the one hand doing this selfconsciously in order to give world-class exposure to their respective treasured ethnic heritages, and “Futuristic”
composers such as Mahler and Ives (how strange to see those two in the same bed) conjuring up the vulgarity of a
music hall ambience for special shock effect in the manner of a Duchamp “readymade.”
In the area of dance music, there are even more concrete examples of this phenomenon. The most obvious
ones here might be the Minuet of the Baroque dance suite and classical symphony, or the Grande Valse of the
19th century, both of which were direct evolutions of what had been, just one generation earlier, party music by
which to boogie. The crucial point here though (and one which will link us back up with the Beatles) is that even
at the time that these earlier crossovers took place, the change in the perception of these forms or styles by their
audiences was immediately transformed; i.e., nobody in Bach's lifetime would have gotten up to dance during the
last movement of the Brandenburg First Concerto, nor in Chopin's time to swirl around the salon in time to the
“Minute Waltz”.
The interesting thing about these classical-cum-serious dance forms is that at least some obvious phatic
essence of the time, place, and vitality of the dance rhythm itself still exists in the music, no matter how rarified
the serious transposition by the composer. To stay with our two examples, you can imagine the powdered wigs
and brocaded jackets when you hear those Bach minuets, or the flowing ball gowns and the heavily crystalled
chandeliers upon listening to Chopin, but even so, there is something so compellingly deeper than that in the
substance of the music that to get up and dance would seem somehow a trivialization of the music.
Viewed in this light, it almost seems like berating the obvious to point out how our three Beatles songs under
consideration here, in spite of their (strictly speaking) quite danceable rhythm tracks, don't feel quite right to be
danced to either. Rather, they seem to be more appropriately intended to be listened to; carefully, thoughtfully,
repeatedly.
What makes the phenomenon of the Beatles' so unique in spite of the historical parallel is that in the past, a
crossover composer from the classical side would likely be doing so in full pre-meditation to prove a point, make
history, or align himself with a larger movement. With the Beatles, we are dealing instead with some lucky
fellows who had both the talent and all manner of wherewithal to just go off and do there own thing (man)
unencumbered by up-front grandiose notions of where they were headed. Their overall development can be
viewed as a scenario in which successive rounds of ecclectic stylistic elements and techniques were to be
superimposed on top of a relatively unvarying rock substrate; the ultimate effect being not so much a crossing
over from pop to “serious”, as blurring of the distinction between the two.
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The Beatles in General, John in Particular
To the extent that all three of the primary songwriting Beatles wrote some songs in the social/experiential mode, it
is especially interesting to contrast John's personal approach and outlook with that of the others. What I can
predict will emerge, hopefully without arbitrary "bashing" of the other two, is John's especial strength in this area.
A parenthetical note: although Ringo's handful of songs deserves some mention in an absolutely complete
treatment of the works of The Beatles, I think we can safely conclude with no slight intended toward the lad, that
Ringo qua composer did not participate directly in the heady self-exploration which preoccupied the other three,
and as a result, his output does not figure here.)
By now, we've all become so used to thinking of the Boys as separate artists with individual styles. Even at
the time it was happening, we knew this from the White Album onward, and with greater hindsight, we now even
trace it easily back to the earliest of days and albums. It almost requires some conscious effort to step back from
the details in order to recognize the obvious yet uncanny parallels among the three of them in terms of macrotrends, themes, and techniques. Ironically though, even this exercise only serves in the end to highlight their
differences.
On the verbal side, Paul's more serious, non-love songs seem to tend toward the journalistic, contemplative
portraits of “Eleanor Rigby” and “The Fool On The Hill.” He speaks in the subjective tone of introspection with
relative infrequency, and when he does so, he's typically optimistic about the future, as in such examples as
“Fixing A Hole”, “Getting Better”, and “Hey Jude”; significantly, in the latter two songs, improvement is clearly
attributed to the presence of a significant other.
George has a different but just as clear lyric pattern, tending to speak in the first person either exhortingly as
in “Within You Without You” and “The Inner Light” or complainingly as in “It's All Too Much” and “Only A
Northern Song.” For George, improvement of some kind is possible if you are willing or capable of some sort of
spiritual awakening.
John, true to form going as far back as “Help!” and “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away” takes the
significant emotional and artistic risk of speaking most consistently in the first person with an open willingness to
expose his vulnerability to pain and confusion. Our three songs here are notable in their total lack of love interest,
advice, or explicit editorial point of view.
On the musical side, Paul is probably the leader in the area of bringing guest instrumental soloists into the
Beatles' sessions whether it's the string ensembles in “Yesterday”, “Eleanor Rigby”, and “She's Leaving Home”,
or the French horn in “For No One”, or the Bach trumpet in “Penny Lane” just to mention a few examples among
many. Paul's other main avenue of compositional experimentation is in the masquerade-like stylized evocation
and spoof of exotic and antique musical idioms.
George's most obviously significant and reasonably successful experiment is in the integration into the
pop/rock idiom of classical Indian instrumentation, melodic style and phrasing. Note however that some will find
fault in the extent to which this integration is a straightforward incorporation the foreign musical elements not
fully digested. “Blue Jay Way” for example remains a curiosity in the way the Indian-like drone harmony and
arabesque melodic motives are retained even in the absence of specifically Indian instrumentation or
"transcendental" subject in the lyrics.
John's musically experimental legacy is primarily in the MacLuhan-esque exploitation for its own sake of the
indigenous quirks of the recording medium. Paul and George too were involved in all manner of tinkering in the
studio with flanging, vari-speed, tape loops and whatnot, but I believe John is the one who made the really big
gestures in this department. Our three songs, in fact, may be among the best examples of this though the roots of it
go back as far as “Yellow Submarine” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” And of course, it is John, after all, who in
spite of all later retreat to good old rock 'n' roll would persist with offerings like “Revolution 9” and “What's The
New Mary Jane.”
As a relatively intuitive composer, John also made consistently effective use throughout his career of uneven
phrase lengths, cross-cut switches between different meters, and unusual harmonic twists; the latter especially
ironic in light of his conspicuous harmonic frugality in the early days. Paul is also consistently imaginative in the
novel use of modal harmony and unusual modulations (take a look, for example at as early as song as “Things We
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Said Today”), but I don't think you find anything in Paul's work that flirts with tonal ambiguity in the extreme
way that something like "I Am The Walrus" does.
The Ties That Bind
We'll find that in almost every measurable category, “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am The Walrus” are
closer cousins to each other than “A Day In The Life” is to either of them, but I still think they all make a nicely
complementary threesome.
On the lyrical level, all three are certainly examples par-excellence of what I have dubbed the
social/experiential genre. “A Day In The Life” leans slightly more in the direction of social comment, while the
other two (especially “I Am The Walrus”) are much more inscrutable and Zen-like. There's much more that can
be said on this point, but it's getting high time that we finally faced the music itself.
All three are songs intended to be listened to in recording rather than in live performance. You could make
concert adaptations of each of them if you cared to, but something of their essence would get lost in the
translation. And yet, paradoxically, the fact that there is a Beatles-esque rhythm track of the familiar drums, bass,
guitar, and/or piano at the root of all three songs is not be under-emphasized; nor should we ignore the fact these
songs all have clear, even traditional, song forms at their backbones. As I pointed out in an earlier article on “She
Said She Said”, it is only in John's later experiments such as “Revolution #9” that these formalistic values are
abandoned, and for the most part, this retention here of the classic form in the midst of an otherwise extremely
experimental milieu is of significance. The paradox can be vividly savored by listening to the commonly available
outtakes of each of these three songs which prove just how much of the essence of the finished product does and
does not survive the elimination of all the special effects.
But getting back to the recording techniques, each one of these songs in some obvious way or another does
things with sound that you simply cannot do at all (or easily so, at any rate) in real time without recourse to
extensive editing and other post-processing of pre-recorded sources. In “Strawberry Fields Forever”, there is the
joining of two takes differing in mood and ensemble, each of which had already been subjected to heavy postprocessing to begin with, plus the reverse fade which includes a very strange doppler-like sound effect. “A Day In
The Life” commences with a cross-fade from the preceding "Sgt Pepper" reprise track, and features a seemingly
very large orchestra which appears intermittently out of nowhere. A couple of additional details include the
vestigial echoes of Mal Evans' counting from 1 to 24, the alarm clock, and the orchestration and extended fade of
the final chord. “I Am The Walrus” would appear to be the most heavily layered of the three, containing
signficant, complex parts for orchestra, chorus, radio program, and other sound effects all on top of a basic
rhythm track and vocal which themselves have been heavily flanged.
The employment of the orchestra is not only a common denominator of the three songs, but in each instance,
the exact role of this auxiliary ensemble in the plot and arrangement of the song is quite far removed from the
lush, wallpaper of sound you might find on the backing tracks elsewhere; e.g., the Phil Spector scores which
appear on the “Let It Be” album. In “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the orchestra appears suddenly in the second
half of the song in a heavy yet exceedingly jumpy pseudo-classical texture which works at cross-currents with the
more flowing beat established in the take which comprises the first half of the finished song. In “A Day In The
Life”, it is used quite sparingly to great effect at the end of the two verse sections in a sweeping crescendo up a
scale of indeterminate pitches. Very cleverly, it is also used to help effect the transition from the end of the bridge
back to the return of the verse, and this additional appearance keeps the use of it in those crescendi from sounding
too contrived and isolated. In “I Am The Walrus”, the orchestra (and choral) part is a complex overlay on the
basic rhythm track in which exaggerated gestures are employed to almost comically highlight or underscore
various details in imagery of the words and music.
On a more subtle level, each of these three songs contains examples of harmony or phrasing that is
adventurous to an extreme not often seen in the music of The Beatles, in spite of their career-long penchant for
novel chord choices. Very briefly for now, “Strawberry Fields Forever” makes repeated use of both uneven phrase
lengths, a brief switch into ternary meter, and chord progressions sufficiently unusual to make the tonality of the
song periodically ambiguous; all these devices provide an evocative backdrop for the message of the words. “A
Day In The Life”, though much more straightforward, still presents an ambiguous alternation between the related
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keys of G Major and both the Major and minor modes of e; i.e., the verses are in G, but both the bridge and the
ending of the song are in E. Even in the verses, the very first line of the song (“I read the news today, oh boy”)
starts off in neutral-to-optimistic G Major but quickly wilts away to the more wistful e minor; again, a subtle
underscoring of the words. “I Am The Walrus” is the least tonally stable of the three. Most of the song is
ostensibly in the key of A Major, but the introduction starts off on B, and there is so much step-wise movement in
most of the chord progressions that a clear sense of key is never really well established. The ending, with its
infinitely step-wise descending chord progression and a top voice which is step-wise ascending has always
conjured up in my mind visions of an limitlessly expanding universe, or perhaps, “consciousness” is more
appropriate.
I'd Love To Turn You On
Finally (!) I'll admit that I've always had a “thing” for these three songs; beyond a point, even I won't try to hide it
behind a smokescreen of bourgeois musicological cliches; well, not entirely. I can still remember where and when
I heard each of them for the first time; “Strawberry Fields Forever”, driving my parents car to school during my
first semester of college; “A Day In The Life” at a reverential gathering of special friends one relaxed Friday
evening after spring semester final exams for a first listen to the Sgt Pepper album; and “I Am The Walrus”, the
following fall semester, again on the way to school, this time for a harmony 103 class after which I tried with
limited success to convey my muckle-mouthed excitement over this new music to the professor. These old-fart
reminiscences in their particulars aside, the point is that these songs were equal parts catalyst and accompaniment
for deep cultural and societal changes when they first appeared; the fact that this was coincident with a rite-ofpassage-like time in my personal life increased their resonance for me by what seemed a thousand-fold.
Ultimately, what's most amazing is that this music continues to fascinate me (maybe “us”?) on levels far
beyond those of mere nostalgia for Youth. Not everything from that period which turned me on at the time has
fared so well, you know; some things retain only nostalgic interest now, and others even come back to embarrass
me into acknowledging the sophomoric and fickle nature of my passion at that tender and impressionable age.
In the meanwhile, in spite of whatever supposed wisdom and maturity I may have earned over the intervening
more-than-thirty years, John's three songs continue to teach, encourage, and challenge me. Perhaps what I'm
trying to say in tribute to John about the scope and power of not just these three songs but about his artistic legacy
as a whole is most succinctly put by the following quote from a most unlikely source (Waugh's Brideshead
Revisited, p. 79): “The zest, the generous affections, the illusions, the despair, all the traditional attributes of
Youth ... come and go with us through life; again and again in riper years we experience, under a new stimulus,
what we thought had been finally left behind, the authentic impulse to action, the renewal of power and its
concentration on a new object; again and again a new truth is revealed to us in whose light all our previous
knowledge must be rearranged. These things are a part of life itself.”
“Pools of sorrow, waves of joy Are drifting through my opened mind Possessing and caressing me.”
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120890#23
Things We Said Today
Key:
Meter:
Form:
a minor/Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Things We Said Today” is one of the earliest and best-ever examples of the innovative harmony stunts which
The Beatles were capable of, being uninhibited as they were by any schoolbook knowledge of the so-called rules.
On the lyrical side here, there's a correspondingly precocious ambiguity over the exact scenario in which the song,
on the surface just a plain old love ballad, takes place.
The one thing that does seem fairly clear is that it's about the imperturbable constancy of true love in the face
of logistical challenge, or perhaps more precisely, the fear of challenge. As you might expect, one of the most
exciting discoveries to be made in an analysis of such a song is the way in which the details of the music assist the
words in the evocation of an otherwise difficult to verbalize complex of emotions.
Our friend Macca, in an interview clip from the Put It There video, suggests that he chose to revive this song
for the '89/'90 tour because it “says something nice, ... it's a simple song, ... easy to play.” What do you think? Is it
that he doesn't give himself enough credit, or perhaps, are we hearing just a small note of false modesty?
The form is the standard two-bridge model with a single verse intervening. In context it achieves a delicate
balance between the rambling and the forthright. The inclusion of two bridges is in the interest of conjuring a
somewhat relaxed mood. But the omission of an instrumental solo section, which would have probably appeared
either in place of the third verse or as an additional verse section preceding the second bridge, keeps the
proceedings from becoming too relaxed. After all, we need to keep focused with some urgency on the fact that the
protagonist has a lot that he must say right now lest this moment pass.
The lyrics of the four verses contain a refrain-like final couplet based on the title phrase, and they create a
pattern of ABCC. The AB verses feature a characteristic “I/we” swap, and they, along with the two bridges,
rhythmically begin right on the downbeat. The CC verses are each more tightly integrated with the bridges that
precede them so that they rhythmically begin well ahead of the downbeat, with the phrase “and that's enough;” the
downbeat falling in this case on the final syllable.
Melody and Harmony
The song is primarily in the modal-sounding “natural” minor key of A; you'll note how in the verse sections, the
minor v7 (e min7) chord with no G# is used in place of the more tonally functional Major one (with the G#, of
course.) In contrast, the start of the bridge sections features a shift to the parallel Major key of A, a trick
reminiscent of what we saw in “I'll Be Back.”
The liberal inclusion of the relatively foreign note of B flat throughout the song adds even more spice to both
the melody and harmony. Melodically, this B flat in the context of A minor is suggestive of the exotic Phrygian
mode; think of it as the white note scale starting on E. Try the following little exercise if you doubt what I mean
about the piquant effect created by this mode: first play the melodic fragment of A-B-A over a sustained A minor
chord and then alternate it with A-B flat-A over that same chord. Although this phrase never appears explicitly in
the top-voice melody of “Things We Said Today”, its alternating presence is definitely there throughout the song,
hidden in the inner voices of the chord changes.
On the harmonic side, a B flat chord is used in both the verse and bridge as part of a gambit in which what has
started off as an aggressive excursion away from the home key is abruptly aborted with a return to that very same
firm, secure home base. The B flat chord in any mode of A is the unusual "flat-II" or “Neapolitan” chord (so-
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called because of its overly frequent use in 17th century opera of said venue), and what makes its use especially
far out in a Beatles song is the fact that they resolve it directly to the I chord rather than via the V chord as is more
customary in classical usage. Note how the Boys were so pleased with themselves over this that they recycled the
exact same magic trick in “You're Going To Lose That Girl.”
A Scarcity Of Songs In Minor Keys
As a sort of sidebar digression, it is worth noting how “Things We Said Today” is one of the very few early
Beatles songs to be so fully grounded in the minor mode. Through July '64, they had recorded 51 songs for
official release (15 covers, 1 by Harrison, the remainder by L&M), the great majority of which are clearly in
Major keys.
While there is a sizeable group of songs which arguably contain some greater or less degree of minor
flavoring, when you get strict about it (“you'll have to be strict, Paul ...”), you find only 7 songs that are
distinctively and pervasively minor:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
the cover, “Taste of Honey,” our surprise entry
George's “Don't Bother Me”
“Not A Second Time”
“And I Love Her”
our own sweet “Things We Said Today”
“When I Get Home”
“I'll Be Back”
A truly uncanny consistency is the fact the last 5 songs in the list above all make conspicuous use of the trick of
switching back and forth between Major/minor phrase or section endings. As I've asked before in other contexts,
is this style or mannerism?
The songs that contain only hints of the minor mode are also interesting. I'd say there are at least dozen or
more of them in our sample study, but you might find more or less of them yourself depending on how picky or
sensitive you are to this sort of thing. These hints are actually the result of a couple of different compositional
techniques used frequently by the Beatles. For now, just some bullet descriptions with a few examples for further
study:
•
•
•
Heavy use of bluesy cross-relations in a minor vocal part against Major chords in the accompaniment;
e.g., “Can't Buy Me Love”, “You Can't Do That”, and “Money.”
Emphasis on the I-vi progression; e.g., “It Won't Be Long”, “All I've Got to Do”, and “From Me To
You”.
Use of the flat sixth degree of the scale either melodically (e.g., “Do You Want To Know A Secret”) or as
part of the minor iv chord (e.g., “She Loves You”, and “I Call Your Name”).
Beyond a point it becomes difficult to draw the clear line between what I'm labeling as pervasively minor songs
and those in the “just a hint of the minor mode” category. For example, you might say that “Not A Second Time”
and “All I've Got To Do” more properly belong in the same class since they both are based on the I and vi chords.
But the critical distinction for me between these two songs rests on the ordering of the I and vi chords.
“Not A Second Time” is characterized by I moving to vi. “All I've Got To Do” is the other way around; it
moves from vi to I. To my ears the chord that is the "destination" or "target" has a tendency to assert itself. Hard
to know for sure if this is a valid distinction rather than a rationalized inconsistency.
Arrangement
The vocal arrangement of “Things We Said Today” is neatly organized around the novelty of using only Paul
throughout. The first verse is primarily single tracked with two exceptions: the third phrase (as in every verse) has
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Paul harmonizing in parallel thirds with himself, and the second half of the last phrase of this verse (on the words
“things we said today”) suddenly shifts to double tracking. The remaining verses and both bridge sections are
consistently double-tracked in unison with a few similar exceptions as above: the third phrase of each verse uses
the same parallel thirds as in the first verse (each voice of which is single tracked), and the second half of the last
phrase (again, on the title phrase) has Paul harmonizing with himself in rather early-Beatles-sounding open 4ths.
Just as a teaser, this same harmonization appears still one place else, at the end of the second phrase of the final
verse; yet again, we encounter the aesthetic of avoiding rote consistency.
By the way, this track is at least one example where the real stereo mix which may be found on the American
vinyl pressing, Something New, provides more easily discernable detail than the mono CD version of A Hard
Day’s Night. In stereo, the overdubbed second vocal is separated very far to the right.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
We have just a brief two measures in which the backing texture of the verse is established. The even strumming
and stroking of acoustic guitar and drums sets a predominantly tranquil mood, yet two details belie it, keeping you
braced for possibly tenser times ahead.
First off, the opening sixteenth-note rhythmic fanfare (di-di-DUM) calls you to attention with a bigger,
more ominous bang than you'd think you might need given the supposedly gentle nature of the song to come.
Secondly, in the syncopated electric guitar part, the chords are stressed on the half beat in between beats 3
and 4 of the measure.
On the official recording of this song, the a minor chord is the only one used in this intro, whereas on the Beeb
recording of July '64, you hear them changing to e minor 7 on the offbeat.
Verse
The verse is a standard sixteen measures long, and contains four phrases of even length. Three of these phrases
(the first, second, and fourth) are musically very similar. Harmonically too, they are quite static featuring in every
measure either the lone a minor chord, or with a change to e minor 7 on the offbeat. While you'd expect to find a
strict pattern as to which measures sustain the chord versus changing it, a close look reveals some internal
inconsistencies throughout the official version, as well as between the official and the Beeb version cited above.
It is, of course, in the third phrase of this section (“Some day when we're dreaming ...”) that the mood
noticeably darkens, largely as a result of a momentary tonal ambiguity. It's clear right at the beginning of this
phrase that the music is suddenly headed away from the home key, but the future course is kept uncertain. By the
time we reach the B flat chord in the last measure, it is uncertain to our ears whether we might soon stabilize in
the new key of F, or perhaps keep moving along the circle of fifths to the even more remote E flat chord. And yet,
at this moment of most extreme tension, the B flat chord resolves surprisingly-yet-comfortingly back into the
home key. I notate it below as though a modulation to F is the “correct” answer, but I think my prose description
above is more faithful to one's internal experience:
m.9
|C
a: III
F: V
|C9/7
|F
I
|B flat
flat-II
IV
|a
i
Details such as the broad arpeggios in the electric guitar on the downbeat of each measure and the free-form way
in which the words are scanned over the underlying rhythm in slow triplets and syncopation, not to mention the
harmonized pseudo-duet also help set off this third phrase from the other three.
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Verse Variations
The first verse is the only one that is followed immediately by another verse and as a result, it includes a onemeasure “reprise” of the intro including the little rhythmic fanfare. Similarly, the final verse connects directly into
the outro which also is just a reprise of the material heard at the outset. Verses two and three connect to bridge
sections and feature a surprise ending on A Major instead of the minor chord you'd otherwise expect. It's worth
noting how in these verses which adjoin the bridges, the noisier texture of the bridge-proper (see below) begins
right in the final measure of the verse itself.
Bridge
The bridge sections provide sudden contrast in virtually every category: the harmony shifts entirely and
optimistically to the Major mode, the percussion gets much noisier including the addition a tambourine, and the
bass line features a different rhythmic and melodic pattern. More to the point, the gambit of harmonic excursion
and sudden return which we saw in the verses is now even further developed.
These bridges are each eight measures long and contain two phrases of even length. There is melodic
parallelism between the two phrases which is made bitter sweetly ironic by a difference in their harmony. The
melody too is difficultly chromatic and adds to the emotional intensity of the section; in addition to the usual
chords, I've chosen to notate below what I consider to be the structural backbone of this melody:
melody:
A:
|C#
|A
I
|C#
|A
I
|D
IV
|D
|D#
|B
V of V
|E7
|D natural
|
V7
|D
|D
IV
|D#
|B
V of V
|D natural
||C nat.
|B flat
||a
flat-II
i
|
Harmonically, the first phrase is functional in a relatively traditional way, although you'd sooner expect the D# in
top voice of measure 3 to resolve upward to E rather than downward, as it does to D. And though the D fits quite
logically on top of the E7 chord upon which it finds itself, the melodic descent conveys some small sense of
emotional deflation, especially as it follows the first three measures of rising, happy-Major-mode expectations.
It's in the second phrase, where this same melodic backbone is suspended over an extremely unexpected
substitution of the B flat chord for the E7 that the sun chillingly goes in for a brief moment; especially when this
half-stepwise descent continues in a second surprise move to the A minor chord for the start of the following
verse. As with the verse above, labeling the B flat chord a flat-II maybe doesn't even fairly match your experience
of the phrase. Perhaps, it's more like an unhinging sensation of harmonic free-fall, which is brought to a merciful
end by the sudden return to the home key.
Outro
As is common in songs of this period, the outro presents yet another reprise of the introductory material repeated
into a fadeout. It would almost be an anti-climax except for the ingeniously unifying stroke of adding in the
tambourine part from the bridge section. In spite of the fact that the steady reliability of the A minor backing riff
extends as far as you can see to the horizon, this ending also suggests that little pangs of anxiety will also remain a
permanent part of the tour.
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Some Final Thoughts
Future Fear
Without the clues from the music itself, you might mistake this song for one of a time-honored and slightly
hackneyed genre: sentimental words of parting between lovers overhead at a railway platform or baggage
carousel. But I think it's a tad more complicated.
For one thing, the notion of a parting is mentioned only once, and even then, in hypothetical terms only. Even
the rest of the lyrics, which on the surface can easily be read as sweet, simple, besotted gratitude for a love that is
requited can easily be re-interpreted as containing more than just a suggestion of head-shaking skepticism and
concern about the viability of love's lasting till the end of time; especially if one is so far away. This is what I
mean about how the hot flashes of uncertainty in the music help elucidate the text.
But the ultimately “nice” message of the song is to be found in the repeating line which ends each verse, in
which all fear is revealed to be an illusion. The transcendence of the background accompaniment and the ease
with which the steady carrier frequency of the A minor key may be accessed again in spite of momentary freefalls and loss of contact vividly underscore the meaning of the words: that in spite of the potential-yet-inevitable
strains upon it, be they tangible impediments or the one of times passing, love can and will persist, oftentimes
though it has little more to sustain it than the memory of things we said today.
“He'll look good alongside Susan.”
0105001#24.1
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While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Key:
a minor/Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style
Two very different versions exist of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. One, the official release on the White
Album, is loud, heavy, wailing, and arranged in successively recorded thick layers of sound. The other version,
take 1, available for years in bootleg and finally released officially on Anthology 3, is very much the opposite in
tone; introspectively quiet and quite simply arranged, essentially for solo voice and acoustic guitar, with just a
hint of harmonium toward the end. And yet, one might say that the expressive core of “While My Guitar Gently
Weeps” is to be found more deeply embedded in the musical elements which are in common between the two
versions than it is to be found among the details of their contrasting arrangements, no matter how interesting it
may be to explore and compare their details.
Within the melody, chord progressions, and formal phrasing of the song we discover a thoroughly sad lament
in which there is ironic tension on at least two levels: first, the contrast between the ploddingly slow tempo and
continually restless progression of chords; second, the predominance of downward-moving gestures which
conjure a mood of pessimism, despite the intermittent appearance of upward gestures that you would half-expect
to lighten things up a bit.
While the emphasis in this article will be on the so-called common musical elements, we will also take a close
look, along the way, at the difference between the two versions.
In between these two extremes, by the way, was yet another arrangement which has not been released
officially or otherwise. From Lewisohn's commentary it sounds rather similar to the official version would appear
to have been scrapped as a matter of its having become overdeveloped with too many overdubs and manipulations
of tape speed.
Crying, Waiting, Hoping ... For A New Blue Moon
It may be fashionable sport these days to pick on the supposed Quiet One for being rather noisily complaining in
his song lyrics, but it's a game with some basis in fact; whether the topic be lost love, the materialistic blindness of
society, or even late-arriving friends, the Beatle George would always let us know his opinion of others.
Even so, there is an unmistakable shift toward happier songs from him, or at least ones with a more positive
world outlook, starting from around the time of the White Album. With the exception “Only A Northern Song”
and “I Me Mine”, there is a clear trend, starting on the third side of The Beatles with “Long, Long, Long”, that
carries on through the remainder of the Beatles canon with such upbeat tunes as “Old Brown Shoe,” “Something,”
“Here Comes The Sun,” and “For You Blue.” The biographical and spiritual parallels to this musical
transformation of George during the last phase of his tenure with the Beatles are fascinating but unfortunately also
outside the scope of this already long article.
Amazingly, before the appearance of “Long, Long, Long”, there was virtually nothing among George's
songwriting credits that might be called cheery, optimistic, or fanciful. Even when the topic is one of
transcendental enlightenment, as in “Within You, Without You”, the underlying tone is one of peroration rather
than encouragement.
Seen in this light, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” sits on a cusp between two eras. It is more or less the last
of a chain of songs similar in tone and attitude. Perhaps closest in spirit is “Think For Yourself”, though the
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rancor of that earlier song from Rubber Soul, which would appear to be personally directed at an individual, is
replaced here in the later song by sad regret that is targeted more diffusely and ambiguously.
Form
The form of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is deceptively familiar, representing on one hand the two bridge
model with two verses intervening, one of which is an instrumental. On the other hand, the double verse we've
come to expect at the beginning of Beatles songs is conspicuous here by virtue of its absence.
This latter move is likely warranted by the slow tempo, the unusual length of the intro and outro, and the
internal structure of the verse section itself, as we'll see shortly when we pull it apart below.
Aside from the refrain-like frequent reprise of the title phrase, the lyrics of every section are more or less
different. The use here of different lyrics in each bridge, instead of the more familiar verbatim repeat, is
particularly unusual. Even the final verse, which starts off with the same line as the first verse, presents some
new/different material before it is done.
The odd lines of the verse rhythmically commence with a pickup to the downbeat. The even lines of the verse
as well as all the lines of the bridge begin on the 2nd beat following the downbeat; the latter effect becoming a
subtle signature of the piece.
There are a couple of differences between the official version and the outtake worth noting at the macro level.
The outtake features all new words in the final verse whereas the official version presents a clever variation of the
first verse in this spot. Also, the outtake is in the key of g minor while the official version is in a. Both of these
keys force George to sing the bridge section in a breathy, partly falsetto tenor, an effect that he must have liked
very much because he chose to go with the higher of the two keys for the official version. In spite of any strain on
his voice, it's actually an effect he's sought after throughout his career; songs running all the way from “Don't
Bother Me” to “Heading For The Light” all keep him singing for long sections in a range that is several notes
above middle C.
Melody and Harmony
This is yet another one of those Beatles songs in which alternation of parallel minor and Major modes is used as a
structural element. Compare with “I'll Be Back” or “Fool On The Hill.”
The melodic content is shapely and far ranging. The verse stays within the natural minor mode while the
bridge shifts to the diatonic parallel Major mode. Many, but far from all, of the chords from both minor and Major
modes of the home key are used. No more exotic chords appear though the slowly descending bass line against a
static chord in the odd lines of the verse, and the hint of a modulation to c# in the bridge bear some interest.
The use of harmony is a key element in the song's evocation of a mood that is paradoxically slow and
measured, restless and fretful.
A somber, languid processional is suggested, on the one hand, by slow harmonic rhythm and moderate tempo;
nowhere in the song do the chords change more frequently than once a measure, and in a number of places, the
rate of change is even less frequent.
On the other hand, this static, plodding tendency is more than amply balanced out by the way in which the
chord progressions themselves always seem to be going somewhere, yet never truly find rest for long. From the
home key of A minor there are excursions toward the relative Major key of C, the parallel Major key of A, and
even the comparatively remote key of c# minor, yet none of these keys are strongly established, with the music
always moving on (“like a bird that flew”) almost as soon as it has touched down.
Arrangement
The arrangement is a pretty thick, heavily layered affair typical of the period in which it was produced, yet
demonstrates overall careful organization, some of which must have been superimposed later rather than sooner in
the process. We'll track it section by section.
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By the way, how they ever kept Eric Clapton's guest appearance on lead guitar any kind of secret is beyond
me by the way. Ask yourself when it was you first suspected it, no less had it confirmed.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The introduction is an unusually long one of eight measures in which the entire first half of the verse is presented
instrumentally. This length sets an expansive tone for the song at the outset and the ending of this phrase on V
nicely motivates the verse that follows. Note that the intro to the outtake, though also eight measures long, does
not use the the exact same chord progression; instead of ending on V, the VII chord of measure 6 is simply
resolved to the "i" chord which fills both measures 7 and 8.
The arrangement of the Intro is attention grabbing, starting right off with the seemingly stray “hey up!”, but
also containing two details of greater substance, neither of which curiously lasts much beyond the intro itself. We
have a simple yet effective precis of what will emerge as the melody of the verse played percussively on the
piano, and syncopated cymbal slashes on the syncopated offbeat between 2 and 3, which sound as though
recorded backward though they likely were just deftly damped by hand. Strangely, the piano never reappears with
equivalent prominence in the remainder of the song, and the cymbal slashes continue, but only through the first
eight measures of the first verse before the percussion switches over to a different texture for the rest of the song.
Of course Clapton makes his own dramatic entrance in the measure 7 of this intro with an obbligato-like riff,
the likes of which not only repeat leitmotif-like throughout the song, but the melodic style of which, heavy on
arpeggio outlines, appoggiaturas, neighbor tones, and evenly played eighth notes, serves as the basis of his
incredible solo in the middle section.
There are two other instrumental details that are employed throughout the song and become emblematic
elements of its sonority: the very heavy bass that often sounds as though more than one string has been plucked,
and the Wilbury-like use of a steely-sounding acoustic guitar in an otherwise exceedingly electric, hard rock
texture.
Verse
All the verses in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” are a square sixteen measures built from four phrases of even
length. Internally, the form of this verse is more precisely that of a double couplet; i.e., AB-AB':
|a
bass line: A
a:
i
|G
|-
|F
F-natural
VI
F#
|a
i
|G
VII
|D
IV
|E
V
|
|a
i
|-
|-
|F
VI
|
|a
i
|G
V-of-III
|C
III
|E
V
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A
I
|
I believe it is this repeat-like structure within the verse itself is what discourages the use of two full verses in a
row. In the case of the guitar solo verse, note by the way, how the structure of Clapton's solo blurs the distinct
articulation of the double couplet.
The couplet structure is articulated by both words and music. Lyrically we have the pattern in every verse of
an alternation between lines which begin with “while” and “still”. Musically too, there's clear parallelism between
phrases 1/3 and 2/4.
The first and third phrases prominently feature a descending bass line whose downward gesture permeates the
song by virtue of its constant repetition. This is nicely balanced out by the symmetrical arch shape of the vocal
melody.
The partially chromatic bass line moves against an A minor chord which is sustained for three measures
above it. From a guitar player's perspective, this makes for what look like different chords in every measure, but
analytically it's all one harmonic “event” and the novel sonorities of measures 2 and 3 are byproducts of the
contrapuntal motion of the bass. Similarly, the chord in measures 4 and 8 may appear on paper as though it's a D
minor chord that quickly changes to F Major, but the more proper analysis is to call it F Major with a melodic
appoggiatura of D->C on the downbeat; “proper” to the extent that the analysis matches one's experience of the
music.
Both couplets in this verse are harmonically open ended on the V chord, yet there is a subtle difference
created by the simple use of a different chord in the penultimate measure of each couplet (i.e., measures 7 and 15
respectively). In the first couplet, the approach to the E chord at the end by way of G and D chords is one of what
you might describe as continual motion. In the second couplet, the resolution of the G chord to C (instead of D)
creates a articulative break in the motion because the dominant-tonic relationship of the G and C chords creates a
definite albeit short-lived sense of having arrived somewhere new.
But we're not yet finished with harmonic motion in this verse even though we're already at measure 15; there
are still two small surprises to come in short order. When the E chord appears in measure 16 you think to yourself,
“oh well, so much for a modulation to C, it's straight back to the home key of A minor now.” Yet when the bridge
begins, we're given not A minor, but rather the parallel Major key of A. It's not so much a big surprise per se, but
it is sufficient to add to that sense of restlessness; “hey George, either sit still, or let's really go somewhere,
harmonically, for a change!”
The first eight measures of the first verse feature George singing by himself but double-tracked. The second
eight measures present a different vocal arrangement, one that persists for most of the rest of the song: in the third
phrase, George sings the melody part while Paul sings in harmony with him in parallel thirds unusually placed
above the melody. The fourth refrain-like phrase reverts to just George. Although George does have the melody in
that third phrase and Paul sounds as though mixed less prominently than George, I can't help but wonder if Paul
might have been trying to horn-in or upstage poor old Hari in his own song by singing the upper part.
In the backing part, we find Clapton interjecting his brief comments in the final two measures of each couplet.
Starting in the second couplet of this verse (m.9, ff.) the cymbal slashes are abandoned in favor of bass and snare
drum work plus a “dum-ditty-dum” sort of quiet tapping on what sounds like a wood block, mixed far to the left.
This second verse is built on the same musical structure as the first one. The primary difference aside from the
new words is in the way the vocal duet introduced in phrase three of the first verse is now repeated in both phrase
1 and 3 of this one.
Bridge
Harmonically, the bridge further adds to the paradoxical mood of expansiveness with its sixteen-measure length,
and the restlessness with its chord progression. Structurally, it is a verbatim repetition of the following eight
measure phrase:
|A
A:
I
|c#
iii
c#:
|f#
I
|c#
iii
iv
|b
ii
I
|-
|E
V
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|-
|
Just like the ending of the verse, no sooner have we arrived with some sense of decisiveness in A Major then we
appear to be off yet again; this time apparently for the comparatively remote environs of c sharp minor. But the
establishment of this key, as with both C Major and A Major before it, is not only short-lived, but also weakly
established via its IV chord instead of with a stronger I-V-I cadence.
As with any good bridge section, this one provides both sharp contrast to the surrounding verses as well
as further development of the essential thematic mood of the song. Overall, this bridge provides some well needed
upward gestures as well as an opening up of the melodic and harmonic space. In keeping with the rest of the song
though, this initial feeling of new energy is quickly dissipated by section's end with a sad descending which is
reminiscent of that of the verse.
Melodically, the bridge starts off with a dramatic swing upward. The melody of the verse had been
constrained to the small melodic range of A to E (actually, E and G just below the A also make brief embellishing
appearances though they are not a key part of the action). The first part of the bridge extends the range all the way
up to G#, though in keeping with the inevitably sad nature of the piece, the melodic range of the second half of
the bridge tends back downward to where it overlaps with that of the verse.
In parallel to the melody, there is a lifting of the harmonic root motion at the beginning of each bridge
phrase that suggests a momentary flash of optimism but it quickly fades in the stepwise-downward motion of the
c#->b chords which follow, and the eventual faltering of the harmonic rhythm in the remainder of the phrase,
suggestive of a loss of energy as well as hope.
Note how the official version tries to counterbalance this suggestion of lost vigor at the end of each phrase
by a scale-wise pumping up based on the V chord that makes the music drive forward into the next phrase. By
contrast and with greater pathos, the outtake version leaves this wilting gesture more simply exposed.
The arrangement of the bridge features George singing double-tracked by himself again, without the help
of Paul. The drumming in this section is slightly different yet again from what preceded it.
Just as with the successive verses, the second bridge is musically identical to the first one but for the use
of different lyrics and minor tweaks to the backing track. Also note the subtle addition in this section of a clanging
sound on the offbeat in the percussion; what could it possibly be, finger cymbals miked very closely?
Note how cleverly the relationship between the “why” and “how” of the two bridges seems to parallel the
“while” and “still” of the verses.
Guitar Solo Verse
Even without the all the flanging and bent notes, this would still be one gem of a guitar solo. I'll resist the
temptation to supply a complete transcription of it for now but will at least sketch it out.
Above all, it is an extraordinarily melodic, even vocal sounding solo in which the 16 measures are treated not
as a couplet, but rather are broken up into two slow, deep and contrasting phrases of eight measures each. The
solo achieves some unity with the rest of the song by virtue of Clapton's starting off with a retracing of the
melodic outline of George's sung melody, as well as the fact the style of guitar figuration used in the solo had
already been consistently presented in obbligato licks starting as early as the introduction.
While the vocal melody of the verse presented a full arch shape in the space of only eight measures, Clapton
spreads the arch of his solo out over most of the full sixteen measures of the section. He works his way up a full
octave in measures 1 - 8, suspensefully sustains the high note in measures 9 & 10, ambles slowly back down the
octave in measures 10 - 14, and then, with breathtaking surprise in the final two measures, passes delicately below
the low end of the octave and very quickly finishes up with a flourish that takes him all the way back up the
octave to end on his earlier high note as the second bridge begins.
The high A of this guitar solo is not only the single highest melodic note of the entire song, but on some
subliminal level it provides ultimate resolution of the high g# left hanging in the bridge section. Even more
significantly, the ending of this solo is very much the climax of the song because it is the single moment in the
song where a positive, upward gesture has the last word and appears to stick; at least for a moment. Whatever
follows this section more or less provides ballast and an emotional unwinding from this high point.
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Outro
The last verse presents still more fiddling with the words and arrangement. Though the official version essentially
repeats the lyrics of the first verse, the third line is unusually truncated. In the vocal part, Paul's accompaniment of
George at a third above is now extended even to include the fourth phrase.
In keeping with both the spirit and scale of the song to this point, we are given an unusually long outro
consisting of almost two full iterations of the verse section; close to 32 measures of instrumental music into a
fadeout that is accompanied by moaning, both vocal and Claptonesque.
In equally consistent contrast, the outtake makes a small musical change in the final verse so that its final two
measures make a neat I-V-I cadence into a comparatively brief eight-measure outro with a complete ending that is
followed on the original studio tape by a candid snippet of George asking to have it played back. This outtake was
unfortunately tampered with, originally for the Sessions project, to have a fadeout ending based on the I and flatVII chords. It's this latter version that appears on Anthology 3, but the original is worth seeking.
Incidentally, for those who like to follow this sort of detail, there is what sounds to me like a glitch near the
very end of the official version. In the last repetition of the verse section (at which point we're pretty well into the
fadeout) it appears as though Paul and the rest of the group are out of step, chord-wise in both measures 7 and 15.
To give all concerned the benefit of the doubt, it's hard to tell if it's a mistake outright, or more a matter of Paul's
suddenly trying out a new improvisatory trick with the bass line based on his assumption that the finished track
would be fully faded out by this point.
Some Final Thoughts
Having paid insufficient attention to the words, I've been walking around for years thinking that this song is
obviously about a love that George has lost or given up because he has grown apart from her on some spiritual,
intellectual level; as if it were his version of John's “And Your Bird Can Sing”, or even perhaps a Harrisonian
adaptation of Dylan's “Don't Think Twice It's NOT (sic!) Alright.” But then I finally noticed the enigmatic use of
the word “all” and for the first time realized that this song has as much in common with “Within You Without
You” as it does with “Think For Yourself.”
Alas, poor George cries for us all, but more's the pity that his insight here is one that enervates him to a
walking-in-circles inability to act rather than infusing him with the energy to do something about it. It's rather
comforting to know that in retrospect, it would be only a relatively short time after “While My Guitar Gently
Weeps” that this same Mr. Harrison would be capable of finding some joyful inspiration for “Here Comes The
Sun” in the clear light of the backyard belonging to the same Mr. Clapton.
Returning to our two different arrangements, you might say that, to the extent that tears come to reflect a
broad spectrum of moods, both versions are on some level a legitimate rendering of the words to our song. For
some, the official version may seem a bit maudlin, while for others, the outtake will be lacking in production
values. In the final result, whichever you prefer is likely to be a matter of your own sweet taste.
“Here's this kid trying to give me his utterly valueless opinion when I know for a fact ...” 011401#25.1
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I Saw Her Standing There
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style
In contrast with the post-skiffle beat of songs like “Love Me Do” and “Misery,” or even “From Me To You” and
“Thank You Girl,” “I Saw Her Standing There” is one of the Boys' first fast, hard rockers. It was probably the
most blazingly original song they had yet written at the time of its recording. Appropriately and auspiciously, they
chose to crown it with the leadoff spot on their first album.
More importantly for our purposes here, the words, music, and arrangement of this song are replete with the
touches and techniques that in retrospect define the early sound of the group, making it a prime choice for our
detailed study.
Words
The lyrics of the four verses create a formal pattern of ABCA. The lyrics of the two bridges are a typical rote
repeat of each other.
The first three verses and bridge section narrate a deceptively simple boy-meets-girl tale in the first person to
which the pulsating music lends a definitely hot connotation, in spite of the lack of any explicit passion in the
words. Many other songs exist that describe this discovering of one's special love across a crowded room or at a
dance, but “I Saw Her Standing There” is a very far cry indeed from the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein's “Some
Enchanted Evening” or Bernstein's “Maria”; as absurd as this association of titles sounds at first, you cannot deny
the uncanny parallels among their respective scenarios.
We also have early examples here of a type of wordplay that would be looked back upon as a Beatles
trademark; i.e., the successive use of “How”, “She”, and “I” at the beginning of the third line of each verse, and
the alternation between “when” and “since” at the beginning of the final line of each verse. This device was
sufficiently clever to trip up the composers themselves, primarily John. Not only are several of the outtakes
riddled by word collisions, but a couple of such mishaps actually managed to creep into the official version; listen
to "when/since" at the end of the third verse, or John's hesitation with “since” in the last verse.
Form
The form is a fully cranked out two bridge model with two verses intervening, the latter of which is for guitar
solo, thus making for comparatively long running time of 2:52.
Every section of the song starts off rhythmically with a pickup before the downbeat. This starts as early as the
introductory bass note that falls between the word “four” and the first measure. It all goes to enhance a general
feeling of urgency already projected by other aspects of the music.
Please Don't Be Long
The song evokes such a pleasurably exuberant mood that I don't believe anyone these days ever finds it to drag or
to be too long in its full form; if anything, the outstretched symmetry is one of its best features. Interestingly
though, if you bother to study the long line of live versions of the song performed for broadcast or in concert,
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you'll discover that at some point, they felt compelled to shorten it up by ~25 seconds, down to around two and
half minutes, by dropping the second bridge right out of the arrangement.
There do not seem to be any written or recorded clues that shed any light on the motivation for this change,
but one might surmise that the shorter version on tour conformed more closely to the mass-media model of the
“two minute” hit song. Or perhaps, to the extent that the Boys themselves were starting to think of “I Saw Her
Standing There” as one of their oldies, the shorter version allowed them to get it over with more quickly and onto
the newer stuff which they would have found more interesting. Compare this, for example, to the extremely
truncated version of “Twist and Shout” with which they opened the set list on the tour of early '65.
With one notable exception, all extant recordings of the song up through a 6/17/63 appearance on the Beeb
were the long arrangement. Starting the following month (again, in a performance from the Beeb), they began to
play the short version exclusively for the remainder of the song's lifecycle.
One specific performance of the short version seems as if it is out of sequence, because it is also surprisingly
the earliest preserved performance of the song to come after the recording of the official version; a Saturday Club
date at the Beeb on March 16, 1963, aired a full week before the album actually hit the store shelves, as we can
confirm from listening to Brian Matthews' chat with the Boys between songs. It remains a mystery to me that they
would have been experimenting with this alternate version so soon after the album track had been cut. For one
thing, there is no evidence from the February session tapes that a short version was ever considered for the OV
itself. Secondly, it seems strange how after this March date, they resumed with the playing of the longer version
until later the same spring.
On some level, the longer version must have continued to be thought of as the “real” arrangement. At least,
that's how I interpret the fact that it's the way that Macca played it on his '89/'90 tour.
From our various Beatlegs we learn that the recording history of “The One After 909” went through a similar
series of modifications. As both Quarrymen and as Beatles of the Get Back era, they played it in a long form with
two bridges. However, as early Beatles they performed it in a shorter form by omitting the second bridge -- not
only the identical change as we find here in “I Saw Her Standing There”, but uncannily during the same time
period; remember, that the early Beatles session for “909” was (should be no surprise!) in March '63.
Refer to a two-part study of mine published in volume 1 of The 910 (1991) for a more detailed analysis of
close to two dozen live recordings of “I Saw Her Standing There” along with all the studio outtakes of the song
available unofficially at the time.
Melody and Harmony
The tune covers a broad range and consists of an interesting mix of stepwise motion with dramatic long jumps.
The song is, and always has been, played in the key of E Major; Paul still did it this way on his '89 tour. It
must have been a particularly playable key for them in terms of vocal range and chord choices, because they used
it so frequently in their early string of original compositions. A non-exhaustive list of examples includes “Please
Please Me”, “Do You Want To Know A Secret”, “There's A Place”, “It Won't Be Long”, and “All My Loving.”
Talk about being “tuned to a natural E!”
Though not strictly a blues song, there is nonetheless, a strong bluesy flavor here created by the almost
exclusive reliance on the I-IV-V chords, the slow harmonic rhythm with its infrequent chord changes, and the
many blue notes in the vocal line that pit melodic notes from the minor mode against the Major chords in the
accompaniment; i.e., the tune has a relatively large number of G and D naturals in it for a song in the key of four
sharps. Only one truly unusual chord is used in the song, C Major, and it appears with strategic effectiveness right
at the climax of each verse where the voices go into their falsetto “wooh”.
Arrangement
Throughout, there's a delightful tension embedded in the song from the way that the slowness of the chord
changes contrasts with the hard driving activity of the rhythm track and the frequent long jumps in the voice parts.
There are several more specific trademark sources of excitement in the arrangement to which the entire group
contributes:
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Paul's boogie-woogie bass line outlines the chords in a perpetual motion of eighth notes.
Ringo's elaborately syncopated drum fills typically appear in the space between phrases or sections.
The backing work on rhythm and lead guitars works in fine synergy with the bass and drum parts. George's
little obbligato riffs which fill the space between phrases sound a little more tentative than necessary, but you'd
miss them if they weren't there. When you work your way through the many later concert and broadcast versions
of this song, you find that over time, George does in fact come out of his shell a bit, and plays these fills with
greater confidence and elaboration.
The appearance of a full-length improvisatory guitar solo is notable to the extent that instrumental solos of
any kind are relatively uncommon on the early singles and albums; the few that do appear tend more toward lighthanded embellishment of the main tune (viz. “Love Me Do” or “From Me To You”). Granted, there are those who
will argue that George's performance here sounds a tad too stiff and pre-arranged to have been made up in real
time, but the point is, it's intended to sound as though improvised.
The tight vocal harmonies of Paul and John, which we will look at below in detail, feature a type of
counterpoint that is conspicuously unlike the simpler parallel thirds or sixths of acts like the Everly Brothers.
Even the falsetto used here seems so bracingly different from what was to be heard from other contemporaneous
groups who made a habit of it, such as The Beach Boys or The Four Seasons. If you can sight-read John's parts
from my notation below, I recommend you try singing them along with the record for a good time.
The handclaps and the screaming used for background punctuation are unessential yet nevertheless
characteristic.
As always, however, it is only in a thorough walkthrough of the entire song that all the details can be fully
appreciated.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is a simple four measures of vamping on the tonic chord of E, but the count-in, the eighth note pickup in
the bass, and the generally rhythmic texture of the accompaniment all help to set, from the very outset, the
energetic tone of what is to follow.
Verse
The verse is in a standard structure of sixteen measures with four phrases of equal length:
E:
m.1
|E
I
9
|E
I
|-
|A
IV
|**
|E
I
|A
IV
5
-
|-
|a
iv6/3
|B
V
||E
I
|-
|B
V
|E
I
|-
||
[** bass players will want to note that Paul often but not always
makes sure that E chord in measure 10 is supported by G# in the
bass that allows the bass line to melodically move stepwise to
the A of the following measure.
He also always sustains a C
in the bass line of measure 12 though the rhythm guitar plays
an a minor triad above it.]
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As often happens, the harmony plays an important role in the articulation of the dramatic shape of such a verse:
the first phrase expositorily establishes the key, the second phrase reinforces this sense of key with its open
ending on V, the third builds towards a climax with its ending on the C chord, and the fourth phrase finally
resolves all accumulated tension with its straightforward re-establishment of the home key.
The chord in measure 12 sounds very much like the C Major, flat-VI chord, but closer listening proves it to be
an a minor chord placed in its first (aka 6/3) inversion by the C natural in the bass line. Harmonically it's an
example of “the minor iv chord appearing in a major key.” The movement of the bass line for the second chord is
an unusual ploy and, along with the falsetto “wooh” in the vocal of that measure, heightens the impact of the C#
versus C-natural cross-relation between the chords. It's a delightfully groin-tightening and ambiguous momentary
spike of intensity; leaving it up to us listeners to decide whether the protagonist's tension is one of
approach/avoidance or more simply the joy of confident anticipation.
The vocal parts also help to bring the dramatic structure of the music into relief. Paul sings the first eight
measures solo and is joined by John for the remainder of the verse in a bit of two part harmony that is most
unusual and tangy. In the counterpoint transcribed below, note the number of open fourths and fifths, some of
which follow in parallel (measure 11), and the large number of G naturals in either voice which make for "class 1"
cross-relations with the G sharps in the E major harmony below:
Paul
John
m.9
|B
|G#
E
C#
D# |E
F#
G | F# E
|
E
E| E
D
G#
A
B
C#| B
| C
C
C| B
G** |F#
|B
A
|B
G | E
G | E
How could I dance with an-oth-er, whoo, when I saw her stand-ing there
[** After many listenings, I'm still not 100% certain whether
John intends to be singing G or G# in measure 13; it sounds
different from one repetition of the phrase to the next.
Sometimes, I even suspect he's intentionally shooting for
the blue note that lies in between the two, but other times,
I worry he was just waffling a bit.]
Paul's octave jump upward in measure 12 is an extraordinary effect, and note how its motivation is anticipated by
the earlier leap downward of almost the same magnitude at the beginning of the second phrase (measure 5, on the
words “the way she looked”).
The song contains five iterations of this verse section and other than the words, there is very little variation
among them. The most significant difference is in the guitar solo section where interestingly, the chord
progression is altered in two places; i.e., measure 3 sustains the E chord instead of moving to A, and in measure
12, the A chord from the previous measure is sustained instead of moving to the unusual a minor chord. I don't
think this is random at all; if you try to imagine the solo played over the chord progression from the other verses,
you'll find that the two places that were changed here sound somehow stilted or over-emphasized without the
underscoring rhythmic emphasis of the words and vocal parts.
A smaller variation worth noting is the way that at the end of the two verses which each precede a bridge
section, the bass line in the final measure contains downward scale which nicely leads us straight into the next
section.
Bridge
In spite of their drama, the verse sections have an harmonic shape which is closed overall and bound to the home
key. The manner in which this bridge section seems to be centered around the IV chord provides both a refreshing
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change of outlook as well as a platform from which to set up the return to the home key when the next verse
comes around.
As with two of its close cousins, “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”, we have another bridge here with
phrases of unequal length here. The section is ten measures long, and my ears scan it into three phrases; i.e., two +
two + six:
heart went
|A
|IV
boom
As I
crossed that room
|A
|IV
And I
held
|A
IV
in
her
|-
hand
V
mine
|B
--
-|-
--
--
|A
-|-
IV
The totally static harmony of the first six measures, and the triple repetition of the same melodic phrase builds a
suspenseful sense of expectation which is fulfilled by the elongated continuation of the third phrase.
You're so used to hearing it as written that it's hard to imagine it being any other way, but if you can snap
out of that mind-set for just a moment, you'll notice that it would have been more obvious (read: less original and
effective) to restrain the bridge to the more standard length of eight measures and simply end on the V chord.
What we have instead, creates an almost paradoxical effect – the decision to resolve the V chord deceptively to IV
for two full measures on the way to its real destination of I is a delaying tactic that, on the one hand, reduces some
of the tension built up to that point of the bridge. However, four other factors create an even stronger cross-current
of *increasing* tension at the same time:
•
•
•
•
the lengthening of the phrase by two measures,
the jump to the falsetto high notes with its concomitant crescendo,
the gutsy support work from the rhythm section,
and Paul's dramatic, syncopated lead-in to the following verse w”Well, we ...”
The key contribution of the vocal parts to the strong impact of this bridge is not to be underestimated. In contrast
with the verse, we have John and Paul singing together throughout this bridge, with John employing a favorite
device of theirs; sustaining during measures 1 - 6, the single note of 'A' against Paul singing the actual melody
part above him. However, the real master stroke of this section is in the use of falsetto within the final four
measures. The following is what the composite vocal parts of measure 5 - 10 look like:
m.5
E|G
A|A
F#
A
She held
her
|E
|A
hand
B -------------- C#-----------E |F#-------|---------|E--------|---- A
A |B
|
|
|
in mine ----------------------------
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G| E
|
Well we danced
If you listen very carefully though, you'll discover that the top line is not sung by one person alone, but is the
byproduct of John's jumping over Paul by an octave in measure 7. The following blow-by-blow narrative of is
perhaps less clear than it would appear to you if I had music paper on which to transcribe it, but this is the best I
can do with words alone: Paul actually sustains the F# at the beginning of measure 7 all the way through measure
8, and then moves down to E natural for measures 9 and the beginning of 10, before picking up the melody again
for the beginning of the following verse. John, who has been singing just A natural beneath him the whole time
moves up in parallel fifths with Paul to B at the beginning of measure 7 and in the second beat of the measure
jumps a dizzying octave to the high B, and it is he who sustains that impossible high note all the way through to
the C# in measure 9. The ultimate clue for this is that on some of the outtakes, the high C# is sustained long
enough that it overlaps with Paul's starting the next verse. Check it out!
Stepping back from the details, it's worth noting how, on a structural level, the use here of both falsetto and an
octave jump add unity to the overall composition by their subconscious association with the earlier appearances of
both techniques.
Outro
The triple repetition of the final phrase of the last verse is relatively conventional for the genre we're dealing with.
The first two repetitions are identical both melodically and harmonically, and are built on a simple I-V-I chord
progression.
The final repetition, while melodically the same as the previous two, provides a small harmonic modification;
i.e., a IV chord gets interpolated between the V and the final I chord. This is the same trick we saw at the end of
the bridge, and its reappearance here helps put the brakes on for the conclusion of the piece, as well as providing
yet another subtle touch of unification.
For you harmony freaks that like to keep track of every little Beatles trademark, we also have a classically
free-dissonant chord at the very end; E Major with at least F# and possible C# as well tacked on for spice.
Some Final Thoughts
I've made a habit in these Notes of spending a moment or two at the end in consideration of what hidden
meanings might be embedded in the lyrics. But I'll tell you, if you need me to sort this one out for you, then you're
really in trouble.
For a rare change, we have no romantic or emotional complications; no angst, no pangs, not even the slightest
amount of self-doubt; this time, (to paraphrase Richard Price's The Wanderers) it's more like some “hip ditty bop
noise” to remind us in perpetuity of the “nowness and coolness of being seventeen and hip;” of falling for the first
time in what you think just might be Real Love.
Granted, there is more often than not, an eventually bitter and disappointing side to this experience, but I
believe that the song isn't so much whitewashing over this truth, as much as emphasizing that the sweeter part of it
is worth taking with you for the rest of your life.
Surely, you do know what I mean?
“When was the last time you gave a girl a pink-edged daisy? When did you last embarrass a sheila wid your cool appraising stare?”
012001#26.2
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All My Loving
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Refrain – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style
Many people, Lewisohn among them, have described “All My Loving” as Paul's “best, most complex piece of
songwriting yet” as of the time of its official recording in July '63. In spite of all praise however, the song seems
to have forever been eclipsed in popularity by the other really big hits of the first American wave of Beatlemania,
such as “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”; not even “All My Loving”'s appearance as leadoff
number on the first Ed Sullivan show could prevent it from happening.
Perhaps this loss of status is attributable to “All My Loving”'s relative lack of drama or startling originality
when compared to those other songs. Perhaps it's only the matter of never having been issued as a single.
Either way, it's a shame to have happened, because there's quite a lot to be admired in the song. A close look
at its compositional details reveals it to be very much a typical song of the second album, With The Beatles.
Especially as concerns form and harmonic vocabulary, “All My Loving” represents a notable advance in
sophistication and technique over the first couple of singles and the original cuts on the "Please Please Me"
album.
Form
The form is relatively compact, and the number of verse repetitions plus the complete ending make it seem
deceptively familiar, but it really doesn't fall neatly into either the single/double bridge model of which we've seen
so much, or the strict verse/refrain pattern of the folk ballad. In actuality, the appearance a refrain section here is
quite noteworthy, especially in conjunction with the short bridge section for solo guitar.
Also special is the way in which the song opens in the midst of the action without an intro, or even a
downbeat from which the singer can grab his opening cue note; somewhere on the studio tape I'll bet someone
plays the note 'A' for Paul just before they start. Clearly, the Boys liked this trick sufficiently to reuse it from time
to time; just browsing among the two dozen-odd songs we've looked at in this series, there's “She Loves You”, “It
Won't Be Long”, “Any Time At All”, “No Reply”, and “You're Going To Lose That Girl”. In “All My Loving”
(as in “No Reply”), the abruptness of the effect is enhanced by the first chord not being the tonic (i.e. I) chord of
the home key.
The lyrics of the three verse sections create an ABA pattern, with all three of them containing an identical
mini-refrain for the second half. The refrains have identical lyrics which, along with the words of the outro, are
based around the title phrase.
All of the sections begin with a pickup before the downbeat, nicely supporting the sense of eager urgency
manifest in the rest of the song's fabric.
Hooks, Bridges, and Refrains
We need to agree upon the definition of some terms in order to share a vocabulary with which we can track the
development and variation of song forms in the Beatles canon.
At risk of oversimplification, I'll postulate that virtually every song has a “hook” phrase or riff, and suggest
the following correlation between the location of this hook in a given pop/rock song and the likelihood of whether
a bridge (or break) versus a refrain (or chorus) section to be found within it:
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If the hook is found in the verse section (typically in the first or last phrase of the verse), then the middle
section of the song is a bridge, by which I mean to describe a section whose primary purpose is to provide
contrast or respite from the music of the verse section, typically implemented in part by harmonic movement
away from or back towards the home key.
Otherwise, the hook will be found in a refrain section, and even though such refrains are typically to be found
in the same formal location as the bridges referred to above, they differ in feel from bridges in that they are much
the focal point of the song, the fulfillment of the verses, rather than a momentary interlude away from them. As
such, refrains tend to showcase a catchy tune and are built from harmony, which helps establish a sense of key.
Without exception, the entire first crop of L&M originals up through the Please Please Me album fits into the
#1 bridge category; in general, I believe a statistical study of the Beatles' output would reveal a long term trend in
this direction. But what's most curious to note for the purpose of our current study is the sudden burst of interest
in the #2 refrain style as evidenced from the songs of mid-late '63; in addition to our “All My Loving”, you also
have “She Loves You”, “It Won't Be Long”, “Little Child”, and “I Wanna Be Your Man”.
Parenthetically, it's amusing to note how the songs of Dylan, given his folk roots, manifest the reverse trend.
It has been pointed out that he had never written a song with a true bridge section until his Highway 61 Revisited
album, where you find the song “Ballad of a Thin Man;” speaking of uncanny Dylan/Beatles cross-references.
But you'll remind me, won't you, that our current song doesn't quite fit into either of my categories because it
has both the refrain and bridge. Indeed, I could (and probably should) have proposed the above categorization
scheme in the context of analyzing a more strictly category #2 type song, such as almost any one of the others
listed at the end of the previous paragraph.
For the momentary sake of a placing “All My Loving” in one of two pigeonholes, let me suggest that in spirit,
it belongs in the #2 category, and I'll accept the burden of explaining below the motivation for its hybrid inclusion
of the bridge section.
Melody and Harmony
The melody is characterized by step-wise motion that covers a full octave in range.
In contrast with the earlier songs we've studied thus far, this one utilizes an unusually large number of
different chords; we have the appearance of five out of the possible total seven chords diatonically available in the
home key, plus a couple of other more adventurous ones as well. The two unusual chords are D Major (the flat
VII) and an exotic augmented chord that is used in the bridge to smoothly mediate between c# minor and E
Major.
Beyond the large harmonic vocabulary per se, the rate at which the chords change borders on the hyperactive.
There is a different chord in virtually every measure of the piece, and in no case is any chord sustained for more
than two measures in a row; contrast this back with what we saw last time in “I Saw Her Standing There”.
Arrangement
Though “All My Loving” has virtually none of that Beatles-trademark sort of syncopation or uneven phrase
lengths, it does still convey an infectiously unperturbed and self-confident vitality through the incessant fast
motor triplets in the rhythm guitar part, as well as through its rapid harmonic rhythm.
The bass line suggests a perpetual motion of its own, albeit a much slower one than found in the triplets of the
guitar parts. You can't always make out the specific notes in the bass, but the use of a downward walking scale
covering the nine notes all the way from F# down to low E more than an octave below is quite stunning, and to
our delight, it recurs every verse, in measures 1 -3 and 9 - 11.
Though it's not a particularly fussy vocal arrangement, they did take the trouble to double track Paul in the
first two verses while saving a vocal duet in parallel thirds (for Paul, singing with himself again) in the final verse.
As a further variation, we're given the nice contrast of Paul appearing single tracked in the refrain with George
and John sustaining a backing harmony behind him on the phoneme “oooh”.
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Section By Section Walkthrough
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and is divided into two musically parallel eight-measure phrases, the former of
which is left harmonically open with its ending on the V chord, while the latter one is closed with its ending on
the tonic:
1
5
|f# |B
E:
|E
|c#
V
I
vi
IV
|f# |B
ii V
|E
I
|c#
vi
|A
IV
ii
|A
|f#
|D
ii
9
|B
flat VII V
13
|B
V
|E
I
|-
Each of the couplets boasts a lovely melodic arch in which the peak is asymmetrically placed (measures 3 and
11), making for an early climax and a leisurely winding down.
The general pause in measure 16 is the only place in the song where total silence reigns for at least a single
heartbeat. It provides both some welcome respite from the otherwise non-stop motion of the song, as well as a
tactical resetting of the stage the start of the next verse.
In place of what you might expect as the more traditional harmonic circle of fifths, the first phrase presents a
chain of downward third-wise chord changes running from measures 3 - 8.
The D Major chord in measure 7 demonstrates an unusual application of the so-called "flat VII" chord.
Typically, we've seen such chords behave either as pseudo dominants (as in the I-VII-I progression at the
beginning of “We Can Work It Out”, or as a sort of "IV-of-IV", as seen in the second-half jam section of “Hey
Jude.”) Here in “All My Loving”, this flat VII behaves like a connecting chord between the ii and V chords, the
motivation for which appears to the ear as a result of the arpeggio outline of the root movement in the bass and
the upward chromatic movement of an inner line from C#->D->D# over the course of measures 6 - 8. Though this
use of the flat VII is definitely less widely found than the other two I listed, it is far from unprecedented,
especially in the songs of the Beatles; you'd almost never make the free association without a hint because the two
contexts are so different, but (now, dig this) the same flat VII gambit used here in “All My Loving” appears all
over again as one of the signature devices of no less familiar a song than “Help!”
Refrain
This section is eight measures long and built out of two parallel iterations of the following 4-measure phrase:
|c#
vi
|C augmented
?? root ??
|E
I
|-
Note how the melodic material of this section is craftily taken in bits and pieces from that of the verse.
The most novel detail of the song is to be found in that augmented chord of the second measure. In the
context of a song whose mood and vocabulary are otherwise so imperturbable, this slightly dissonant chord of
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obscure harmonic origin provides an effective, yet endlessly subtle touch of anxiety that belies the hero's apparent
self-assuredness.
In theoretical terms, such an augmented chord is said to not have a root at all, but is rather the incidental
byproduct of melodic motion by an inner voice of the harmonic texture; in this case, from C# -> C natural -> B;
what my jazz-trained friend calls a “line cliche.” The fact that it is sustained for a full measure, essentially just as
long as any other chord in the song, is what particularly draws your attention to it.
Not all augmented chords are necessarily as rootless as this one. For contrast, see the one at the end of the
bridge of “From Me To You”, which is arguably an inflection of the V chord; a G#5.
In spite of my proposed rules above regarding the paradigmatic tendency for refrain sections to clearly
establish the home key, this one does it in only elliptical terms by relying on the weak vi-I progression; i.e.,
“weak” in comparison to the more traditional textbook cadences of V-I or IV-I perhaps, but a strong favorite of
the Boys starting with “Misery” and going through “From Me To You”, not to mention (again) “It Won't Be
Long”, “All I've Got To Do”, and “Not A Second Time.” I told you “All My Loving” is rather archetypically
second-album in style, didn't I?
Bridge
In contrast to both verse and refrain sections, this little bridge is ironically the most diatonically stable and
harmonically slow moving spot in the entire song, though it's worth noting that it too begins with a chord that is
not I:
|A
IV
|-
|E
I
|-
f#
ii
|B
|E
V
I
|-
Although there are no new chords used in this section, the specific choice of chord progression is new material
strictly speaking. What Tony Barrow described as George's "intriguing" solo is in a style that is clearly not
improvised. The latter is no slam on George, but rather a designation of the content of his solo as a “permanently
composed” part of the arrangement. In other words, you expect to hear it the same way every time, and would
likely be thrown or otherwise disappointed a tad to listen to some alternate version where it's different; and I dare
you to find such a one, too!
Alright now, so why did they need a bridge as well as a refrain here? Just to sharpen the question, consider
that if it was to showcase the guitar solo, they just as easily could have done that, as is so common in other songs,
by placing the solo over a musical repeat of either the refrain or the verse; so why the need for original material?
My own pet theory is that there is something about the specific content of the refrain and its relationship to
the verse section that creates a small compositional problem, which this bridge comes along to fix. I can imagine
it having been composed very late in the game only after they had been playing the song without it for a while,
feeling inarticulately uncomfortable about something just not being right. I also base this theory on an intuitive
feeling that it's hard to imagine the song with only the bridge and no refrain. Play this option through your head
and see what I mean – without the refrain, there's an insufficient presence of hook in the song, and though the
bridge by itself provides some contrast to the verses, it's too short as is, and if you double its length, then I think
its contrast with the verse is no longer sufficient.
But now run the opposite experiment – play the song out as is but omit the bridge. My reaction is that the
refrain does not sufficiently fulfill the functional requirements of true refrain-hood as outlined in my earlier
proposal; while it certainly throws a big hook at us, it does not provide a strong sense of harmonic confirmation,
nor does it provide much contrast of melody or texture, or harmonic pace from that of the verses.
The bridge for all its modest proportions provides everything that the refrain is lacking. The harmony neatly
converges on the home key with simple chord choices, the vocal part is given a rest, and perhaps most subtle-yetcritical, the slowing of the harmonic rhythm, however slightly, provides some well-needed breathing space.
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I think the final point helps explain why new material is needed here; i.e., the guitar solo section would not be
as effective if it had been placed over a repetition of either the refrain or verse because both those other sections
are harmonically more active.
Outro
This coda is actually an extension of the second refrain and it squeezes a standard triple repeat of the final phrase
of the lyrics into its eight measures which are built from a repeat of the following 4-measure phrase:
|c# |vi
|E
I
|-
Note the use again of the vi-I progression, and how, in the interest of what I often describe as an avoidance of
foolish, rote consistency, the augmented gambit between vi and I is not used. Also note how the single use of
vocal falsetto is saved here for the very end, as a small treat.
Some Final Thoughts
Kissing Cousins
Though I've kept saying throughout this article that “All My Loving” is very much a typical song of the With The
Beatles album in general, you probably noticed by now that “It Won't Be Long” in particular keeps showing up
again and again. In fact, “All My Loving” and “It Won’t Be Long” share an uncanny number of features and
details:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
the home key of E Major (granted, there are many others from this period)
lyrics that deal with the theme of “absence and return”
a vocal opening “in medias res”
prominent use of the vi->I progression
an augmented chord that is motivated by chromatic linear motion
the use of a refrain and a bridge
even a little solo for bass or low strings of the lead guitar
In an earlier pair of Notes on “She Said She Said” and “Good Day Sunshine” I noted a similar laundry list of
uncanny parallels between those two songs, suggesting perhaps that the friendly competition between John and
Paul may have manifested itself at times in their electing to write separate songs starting from a set of common,
abstract constraints. Okay, so maybe it wasn't literally a contest, but I imagine them often trading ideas and
comparing notes to the extent that this sort of compositional cross-pollination would have been inevitable. Did
you ever share private idiosyncratic phrases with a friend to the extreme where eventually, neither of you could
remember which one of you coined the phrase in the first place?
But moving beyond speculation, may I suggest in the case of “It Won’t Be Long” and “All My Loving”, that
it is specifically when the common denominators between two songs are so numerous that, ironically, the
temperamental differences between them (and perhaps their individual composers) become most apparent. Take
for example here, the way the lyrics of these two songs deal with the theme of lovers separated yet anticipating
the immediate future:
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In “It Won’t Be Long”, John speaks of a painful separation he has endured when she left him, and he now in
the present looks forward to a joyful reunion with her, while filled with what sounds like repentance for having
caused her to leave in the first place.
In contrast, “All My Loving” is written entirely in the present and future tenses; if you can pardon my
blasphemy, you might say it's a love that has no past. Here, it is he who will be doing the leaving and we have no
reason to suspect there is anything more than a personal responsibility to be somewhere else that motivates the
separation; no hurt, no blame. He earnestly promises to be faithful and muses aloud about having to adjust his
love life to the realm of fantasy for the duration, but beyond this, any hint of what he's really feeling inside is left
to the imagination and the musical subtext, tinged as it is with that small hint of anxiety.
It's difficult to navigate such a contrast without taking sides or appearing to be making a judgment. Both
songs are musically, artistically valid. Maintaining a personal preference for one over the other doesn't necessarily
mean the other isn't worthwhile or that it isn't an appropriate favorite choice for someone else. The very least you
can say is that both artists, over the long run, as long as they were being sincere and doing their best work, were
amazingly consistent and true to their respective visions. In fact, if you want to find a real soul mate for “All My
Loving”, perhaps look to “Things We Said Today.”
“It's homework time for all you college puddings. I want this lot all answered tonight.” 012701#27.1
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From Me To You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (solo) – Bridge – Verse– Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style
Besides a catchy tune and deceptively complex arrangement, “From Me To You” has a difficult-to-pigeon-hole
musical style; after all, is it rock or pop, blues or skiffle?
Maybe it's just unmistakably Early Beatles, and with that, I'm only being whimsical in part. “From Me To
You” was their third single, recorded during the charmed period between the recording and the release of the
Please Please Me album. Those tight vocal harmonies with their flashes of passionate falsetto, the drum fills, the
harmonica hook phrase, the personal pronouns, and so many other details were becoming both Trend setting and a
bit formulaic by that point, and who could really blame them, given the roll they were so obviously on?
We've already seen in our earlier studies of the likes of “Love Me Do”, “Thank You Girl,” “Please Please
Me,” and “I Saw Her Standing There” most, if not all, of the specific techniques that come into play in “From Me
To You”. If unique coverage of such techniques per se were our main interest in this series, we could just as well
have skipped this one.
But, if anything, the fact that the songs in this first crop of their originals are still so different from each other
in mood and manner, in spite of the relatively restricted compositional vocabulary with which they were written
makes them all the more extraordinary. The image comes to mind of master chefs, capable of producing an
astonishing variety of dishes from a small, fixed list of ingredients.
So come 'head; this one's “got (almost) everything that you want!”
Form
The short eight-measure verse creates an overall time scale of modest proportions even though the form is
paradoxically quite sprawling, with two bridges, two verses intervening, and both intro and outro.
The irony of the short length versus long form will seem sharper if you recall that in form, “From Me To
You” is identical to “I Saw Her Standing There”.
The lyrics of the four fully sung verses create a pattern of ABAA. The second half of the verse lyrics are a
mini-refrain repeated each time, even in the solo verse. Lyrics of both bridges are identical as usual.
Rhythmically all sections start off with a pickup before the downbeat.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic content is more chromatic than usual, a combination of the bluesy E-flats in the verses, the
modulation effecting B-flats at the start of the bridges, and the D# atop the augmented chord at the very end of the
bridges. The verse tune is somewhat jumpy and covers the range of a full octave. The bridge tune covers a slightly
smaller range and is primarily stepwise.
The prominence given to the I-vi chord progression in “From Me To You” is something fairly widespread
among the early L&M originals. Similarly, the gratuitous dominant seventh on F in measure 5 of the verse
(“gratuitous” to the extent that it doesn't actually function as a dominant seventh but merely comes along for the
spice it adds), and the augmented triad in the bridge are also fairly typical L & M chord tricks. There are,
however, a few more novel details elsewhere in the harmony.
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The song is among the very first of their officially released originals to feature a modulation to an alternate
key during the bridge section. In spite of its brevity, the excursus to F Major we'll see below creates an expansive
sense of harmonic space that belies the compressed time scale of the song.
Also unique is the clever surprise ending on the vi chord.
Arrangement
Several characteristic ingredients in the arrangement would eventually become almost cliche trademarks.
The vocal part features a duet virtually throughout. Granted, the many flashes of 2-part harmony are separated
by long stretches of the same line sung in unison by Paul and John, but there is no vocal solo part here.
Those flashes of vocal harmony, make frequent use of open fifths and falsetto singing.
Drum fills are carefully deployed at special, structural or dramatic points in the song, not at liberty.
An overdubbed harmonica is used to introduce the hook phrase.
And what sounds like it might be a simple oom-pah bass part actually features a snapped rhythm of dotted
quarters and eighth notes in alternation.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The short, four-measure intro presents, right at the outset, two repetitions of the hook phrase of this song. Just as
we saw in “Please Please Me,” the instrumental version of this hook turns out to be subtly different in rhythmic
pattern from the one used in the verses even though the pitch content of both versions is identical.
Note the complete reliance in this intro on just the I and vi chords. Also note the scoring for harmonica and
scat-singing voices, and the way the drum fill seems to both articulate the border between the intro and following
verse section, as well as effecting a neat transition between the two.
Verse
As already mentioned, the verse is only eight measures long and its harmonic shape is closed off by virtue of
remaining closely within the home key and ending more or less on the I chord. Although the melody itself is not
particularly arch-like in outline, the harmony in this instance lends some dramatic arch shape to the verse. Use of
that F7, with its E flats that are foreign to the key, helps add an effective bluesy bit of tension right at the midpoint, while the slight increase in the harmonic rhythm toward the end of the phrase helps wind it down again:
|C
C:
I
|a
vi
|C
I
|G
G
F7
IV
|a
vi
|C
I
G
G
|C
a|
I
vi
The diagram above is of the first verse. The use of the vi chord in the second half of the last measure keeps the
harmony open just enough to allow the music to continue at this point with verse #2. See for yourself just how
lame that transition would sound if you eliminate the vi chord. The fact that this detail is missing in Take 2 of the
song (there, they stay with the C chord for the entire measure) indicates clearly just how careful they were in the
studio to revise at the last minute even relatively small details for the better.
Speaking of outtakes, the incomplete Take 1 of this song comes to a sudden, ragged halt for no clear reason,
and the resulting three way discussion between John, Paul, and the control room in which they accuse each other
in turn of having called for the timeout is one of those particularly charming and candid snapshots we're lucky to
have of their life in the studio at this time.
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At the end of the second verse the change to the 'a' minor chord in measure 8 is eliminated and in its place, the
C chord has a dominant 7th added to it in the second half of the measure. This sustaining of the C root provides an
added sense of closure at that point and the addition of the 7th to it more effectively sets up the coming bridge.
The hook phrase as it appears in the first part of this verse is presented with quite a bit more bouncy
syncopation in comparison to its rather more foursquare appearance in the intro. The melody of the song in
general, is shot through with gentle syncopations which play off effectively against the even, skiffle-like shuffle
of the instrumental accompaniment.
The little snippets of vocal harmony include an open fifth in the first case (“... that you want”) and a
surprising and suddenly passionate burst of falsetto from John in the second (“... I can do”). I believe it is John
who sings the lead part here with Paul singing harmony. This results in Paul singing above John in the first phrase
and then crossing over him to sing below in the second phrase; a variation on a similar trick seen earlier in both
“Love Me Do” and “I Saw Her Standing There”.
While we're on the topic of vocal parts, chalk up in verse 2 yet another of those infamous word collisions
between John and Paul on the phrase “Just/so call on me ...” It only goes to show that nobody who was there at
the time was thinking in terms of people going over this stuff as carefully as some now do, so many years after the
fact. Either that, or perhaps this “mistake” was on purpose; i.e., a very early clue.
Bridge
The bridge is also eight measures long but it harmonically branches out nicely in contrast to the verse:
F:
|g |C7
ii V
|F
I
|C:
IV
D7
|-
|G
V-of-V
|#5(aug)
|
V
We have what is called a pivot modulation to the key of F. The common chord between the home key of C and
this new key is the C Major chord at the end of the previous verse. One hears that chord at the time it's first played
as the I of the home key. But once the bridge begins, the ear retrospectively reinterprets it as though it were the V
of the key of F. Such common chords are not strictly required in order to effect a change of key, but their
utilization makes such shifts smoother, and less abrupt. It's somehow analogous to the variety of means by which
you might change the topic of conversation.
This bridge provides quite a bit of contrast to the verse sections. Right off the bat the melody suddenly
becomes much less syncopated. And in live versions, the drumming, especially the cymbal bashing, may be noted
to suddenly become quite muted at this point.
But the greater source of contrast is the way this section builds toward an ultimate climax as opposed to the
arch-like, closed shape of the verse. Particularly in the last two measures we have a pile-up of intensification
based on several musical factors – the augmented inflection of the V chord by literally stretching the D in the
melody to a D#, the cross rhythm of slow triplets in the rhythm guitar (must be John, right?), the patented Ringo
drum frills, and of course, that crowd pleasing falsetto moan for two-part harmony on the word (ahem) “whooo.”
For the sake of variation (and avoidance of foolish consistency), they add in the second bridge a novel touch
of two-part harmony at the very beginning of the section. Note how, true to form, Paul's backing part yet again
starts off beneath John's lead, only to jump over it a few notes into the phrase.
Instrumental Solo Verse
You might call this section a “semi-solo,” a simple, standard trick of the trade the Boys would re-use in “A Hard
Days Night.” The musical framework is identical to all the other verses, yet what starts out as an instrumental solo
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merely based on the same old chord progression, degenerates in the second half, to a refrain-like verbatim repeat
of that part of the verse.
There are two other cute little twists in the front half. First is the way that the instrumental first half of the
section presents the hook figure in its alternate incarnation from the intro. This momentary retreat into the realm
of the more square makes the syncopated second half of the section sound all the more bouncy when it returns.
Second, is the responsive, mockingbird-like interjection of the singers here which almost subliminally broadcasts
the title of the song at you.
This section did not yet exist as of that early Take 2 mentioned above, and based on the impression made by
that otherwise pleasing performance, I assume that they belatedly added this because the song felt a tad too short
without it.
Outro
This outro section is developed as a springboard-like outgrowth of the end of the final verse. The last two words
of that verse are repeated the canonical three times, making for a creative variation on the more routine procedure
where the entire last line gets reiterated; as in, for example, “I Saw Her Standing There”. Far from being an
arbitrary change, the repetition here of only “to you” bears effective emphasis.
The rhetoric of the lyrics is ably abetted by the antiphonal accompaniment, which includes a descending bass
line, which in turn, is nicely reinforced by heavy syncopation and vigorous drum fills. As that bass line moves
from C -> A -> A-flat, it incidentally creates yet another augmented chord, one that is more suspenseful and
harmonically ambiguous than the one seen earlier in the bridge.
This second augmented chord, spelled from bottom up, A-flat/C/E, could move in one of two directions.
Either the A-flat can resolve downward, making for a move to C Major, or else, the A-flat can behave as though it
were a G#, resolving upward, making for a move to 'a' minor.
What we get is quite enigmatically ingenious: the very next chord following the augmented one turns out,
indeed, to be C Major, the I chord of our home key, yet the music immediately proceeds with one final statement
of the hook phrase before terminating abruptly on the 'a' minor chord. The musical logic of bringing down the
curtain on the hook phrase is so subtly persuasive, that you barely note the ironic fact that the song has ended offcenter from the home key; actually on the chord of the home key's relative minor.
Note by the way how, for virtually for the only time in the song, the voices are silent in this little coda; in
contrast, even the intro at least included scat singing as part of the instrumental texture.
Some Final Thoughts
Personal Pronouns
Nowhere is the uniqueness of this song in spite of its recycled ingredients more evident than in the meaning of its
lyrics.
Paul with rather unwonted candor, in the interview which appears as a preface to Lewisohn's Recording
Sessions, allows that they had gotten themselves into a bit of a rut in the early songs with their repeated wordplay
on personal pronouns, but he adds that this started out being motivated by a desire to “play to the market.” He
mentions our song by name in this context, but even so, I think it would be unfair to under-rate it as a mere
exploitational pandering to what Brian Matthews on BBC radio might call “the little darlin's.”
In “From Me To You”, a particular immediacy is achieved by the use of direct address. How else could this
group of four fabulous gentlemen manage, in the midst of a crowded concert hall or across the incorporeal
airwaves, to establish such a direct connection to their audience ? If you think not, try for comparison the very
different feel that this song takes on when the lyrics are just slightly changed as they were in order to use it as the
title jingle for their series of BBC radio holiday specials. “From Us To You”, for my money, is much more
impersonal because the change of “me” to the plural “us” subconsciously leads one to hear the “you” which
follows in the plural as well.
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I bring this whole thing up because in the context of a plethora of songs about you & I, this one is still rare, if
not entirely unique in the way that its message so simply and starkly describes what the lover longs to give to the
beloved without condition or expectation of anything in return.
The other pronoun-bound songs that come to mind are otherwise embroidered with details which, though they
add context and color, also skew the focus and complicate the message. We find such things as the drama of
pursuit (“Please Please Me”) or blind faith in its successful outcome ( “I'll Get You”); a polite request (“I Want to
Hold Your Hand”) or a raw pleading (“Love Me Do”) that love be requited; an expression of gratitude for love
received (“Thank You Girl”) or a prayer that it be not harmed by absence or separation (“P.S. I Love You,” “All
My Loving,” et al.) The list goes on. As usual, I haven't done my homework as exhaustively as I should, but I
hope the point is made.
“From Me To You” is all the more potent because its expression of love that is ready and willing to be given
is so completely unencumbered and unobscured. We're not even told in this instance what it is within or about the
other person that motivates such love, but the combination of words and music leaves no room for doubt that it
most certainly must exist.
“Get him whatever it is they drink, a cokearama?”
020301#28.1
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Beatlemania (1962 – 1964)
At the end of 1962 the Beatles released their first single Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You. It was followed
shortly in January 1963 by their second one Please Please Me / Ask Me Why. Then, in April From Me
To You / Thank You Girl appeared. The same month saw their first album: Please Please Me. It was
followed in August by the single She Loves You / I'll Get You. Next in November the public could buy
both the single I Want To Hold Your Hand / This Boy and the album With The Beatles. It started the
Beatlemania, that reigned high in 1964. That year the group released the single Can't Buy Me Love /
You Can't Do That in February, followed in June by the EP Long Tall Sally with the original I Call Your
Name and three cover songs. One month later, in July, already the single A Hard Day's Night / Things
We Said Today and the album A Hard Day's Night were available to the public. In November of the
same year the single I Feel Fine / She's A Woman and the album Beatles For Sale were released. All in
all this output totals to eight singles, one EP and four albums.
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Misery
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse– Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Misery” is one of a group of songs from the Please Please Me album sadly fated for obscurity in America, where
most people had no familiarity with it until Capitol released the Early Beatles album in spring '65, a full two years
after it was recorded. And by that point the drift of popular attention to the group was understandably tilted
toward the really new material.
This obscurity is particularly unfortunate to the extent that the song's overall sound, characterized by a
shuffling, “washboard” beat and spare, pseudo-acoustic instrumental texture, represents a genuine if somewhat
under-appreciated facet of the group's early style.
The melody is in short phrases, punctuated by rhythm guitar obbligato figures, and the rhetorical interjections
of the song's title in the lyrics.
The form is the standard two-bridge model with one verse intervening. The relatively short duration of the
finished song could have easily accommodated an additional instrumental-solo verse before the second bridge, but
my theory is that the closed shape of those verse sections, especially built as they are from such a limited set of
chords, would have been a claustrophobic mistake that they wisely avoided.
The lyrics of the four verses form a familiar pattern of ABCC.
Three of the four verses and the refrains all begin rhythmically on the downbeat. The lone exception is the
second verse (“I've lost her now”), which begins with a pickup.
Melody and Harmony
The first half of the verse tune sports a jumpy pentatonic lick before the other notes of the scale make their
appearance in the second half. The bridge tune is based unusually on the step-wise descent of an entire octave.
Only four chords are used. In order of appearance you have F, G, C, and 'a'; i.e., IV, V, I, and vi, respectively.
The vi chord is used in this song as though it were a full-fledged sub-dominant (in the way it sets up the V chord)
or even as a surrogate dominant (in the way it sometimes is inserted *between* the I chord on either side). Only at
the beginning of the bridge is it used in its more typecast role as the relative minor, or submediant.
Arrangement
The voice parts are predominantly sung in unison but there are surprise blossomings into two-part harmony,
typically saved for phrase endings.
Paul uses the same sort of dotted quarter and eighth notes in the bass part that we saw in “From Me To You”.
This also cleverly carries forward into the bass line the same snapped rhythm that pervades the main melody of
the song, as well as it rescues the bass line from would be otherwise have been a dull, unrelieved four in the bar.
The piano edit pieces in the intro and bridge are a relatively small touch, but one of no small historic interest;
aside from the fracas regarding Andy White's guest drumming stint on the original version of “Love Me Do”, this
is likely the very first appearance of a guest performer on a Beatles track in order to provide something the Boys
could not do for themselves. Granted, it's a far cry from the likes of the string quartets and solo brass instruments
that would come later, but it's the same concept nevertheless.
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Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is only four measures long (discounting the opening piano arpeggio), but it has the full essence of the
rest of the song embedded within in it:
"Adagio" -------------->"A Tempo"
|F |G
|C
|a
G
C: IV V
I
vi
V
Starting off with a dramatically slow intro may have been a fairly common technique among the rest of pop/rock
music, but L&M very rarely used it at all. Aside from the contemporaneous “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” I
can't even think of another example off the top of my head; something worth keeping an ear out for in the rest of
our studies.
The choice of opening chord progression makes this yet another Beatles song that opens away from the home
key, yet quickly converges upon it.
In the space of just these few measures were are quickly introduced to several devices that ultimately
characterize and permeate the rest of the song; e.g., the unison singing which unfolds into harmony, the decorative
use of the piano, and the I-vi-V chord progression.
Mark for later reference the little chromatic move in the bass line during the transition from measure 1 to 2 (F
-> F# -> G).
Verse
The verse is a brief and harmonically static eight measures:
|C
I
|F
IV
|C
I
|F
IV
-
|G
V
|C
I
|a
iv
Note how the embellishment of the F chord with “neighbor” tones of D-C-D in the guitar part lends a jazzy,
added-sixth sound to the accompaniment.
In spite of the few chords used, a subtle syncopation in the harmonic rhythm is created by sustaining the same
chord (i.e., F, the IV) over the two measures that straddle the mid-verse divide between measures 4 & 5.
As we saw with “From Me To You”, wherever a verse if followed by yet another verse section, the final
measure shifts to the vi chord instead of sustaining the I chord all the way through, as happens in verses which are
followed by a bridge. I've told you there are formulaic aspects to this sort of composition.
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Bridge
We have another eight-measure section, one that provides the traditional contrast to the preceding verses:
|a |vi
|C
I
|-
a
|vi
|G
V
|-
The harmonic rhythm is slower than the verse, and the steep scale-wise descent in the melody here is in contrast
to the jumping here and about seen earlier. Some consistency with the verse is maintained in the way we still have
short, declarative phrases in dotted rhythm, punctuated by the accompaniment; here the piano, instead of the
guitar, provides the mimicking obbligato.
The bass line contains two uncanny details that closely unify it with what is going on elsewhere: the lead-in to
the bridge begins with the same sort of chromatic lick seen in the intro (G -> G# -> A), and the lead-out of the
bridge to the next verse is made up of a descending scale (G - through C), reminiscent of the vocal part.
The 'a' minor chord in the first measure of this section sounds at first as though it might be a part of a
modulation to that key but it's really too short-lived to count.
Unofficial releases of outtakes 1 through 6 of this song are an apt example of both a prime kind of material
not included within the scope of the Anthology and candid portrait of them operating under the stress of a series
of sloppy mistakes following what otherwise sounds like a pretty clean first take. Take 6 contains typical Ringo
drum fills in measures 4 and 8 of the bridges. Though nicely performed and not entirely inappropriate, my guess
is that he was asked to eliminate them from the final version in order to keep unbroken the hypnotic mood of the
shuffling rhythm.
Outro
This outro is built from several repeats of the last two measures of the verse into a quick fadeout.
The vocal parts burst forth in some “oohs” which are more anguished than passionate for a change, as well as
some “lah-lahs.” These come across as impromptu, though we find in take 1 the virtually the identical set of them
as in the final version.
It is John who takes the lead in these vocal effects, and his move is all the more effective because it is the first
time in the entire song that we hear a solo voice.
Some Final Thoughts
This is one of the rare, early L&M originals in which the girl is spoken of entirely in the third person. Ironically, it
appears back to back on the Please Please Album with another one of these rare examples, the very upbeat “I Saw
Her Standing There”. The uninterrupted flowing beat of “Misery” provides some forward-looking optimism in
counterpoint to the otherwise downbeat lyrics. In the context of the album lineup, I believe that this subtle hint in
“Misery” of a sun concealed behind the overcast mitigates what might have otherwise been too stark of a manicdepressive contrast between those first two tracks.
“Quite right, invites to gambling dens full of easy money and fast women, chicken sandwiches, and cornets of caviar, disgusting!”
030401#29.1
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P.S. I Love You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major (with Aeolian inflections)
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse– Outro (complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The form is virtually identical to that of “Misery”, with two bridges separated by only one verse. Even though “P.
S. I Love You” uses a much richer set of chords than “Misery”, its verse section is still quite bound to the home
key, and for that matter, so is its bridge. Therefore, the same avoidance of harmonic claustrophobia would seem
equally applicable to both songs, in terms of dispensing with an extra verse section before the second bridge.
An unusual and creative formal touch here is the way that the intro turns out to be a subtle variation of the
bridge.
The lyrics of the four verses create a relatively clunky pattern of ABAB; compare with “In Spite of All the
Danger,” of all things.
Rhythmic attack is virtually always right on the downbeat in this song. The little grace note ahead of the bar
in the first syllable of the word “remember” stands out in contrast.
Melody and Harmony
The intro tune here has a melodic kink around the 7th degree of the scale (C#) similar to what we saw in the verse
of “She Loves You.” The beginning of the verse traverses an entire octave, scale-wise and with a couple of juicy
appoggiaturas, only to balance it out at the end with an upward leap of the same octave.
The group of chords used in this song is much more exotic than what we've seen in the other very early period
songs we've looked at. In addition to the standard fare of what is diatonically available within the home key, we
have the chords of the flat-VI (B flat) and flat-VII (C Major), both of which may be said, in theoretical terms, to
be borrowed from the parallel minor key of 'd'. The very use of these chords lends an exotic mixed-mode feeling
to the song.
The strangest chord of all in the song is the dominant 7th chord on C#, employed in the intro as a surrogate
'V'. The naturally occurring chord on C# in the key of D is a diminished seventh chord and that VII chord works
nicely as a substitute V because it is the sonic equivalent of the V7 chord with the root note missing. In modifying
the C# diminished chord into a dominant 7th, the Boys throw us a curve ball in that you'd sooner expect the latter
chord to resolve to the key of F#. Against all textbook rules and logic, they rely on the stepwise movement of all
voices (C# -> D, E# -> F#, G# ->A, and B -> A) to make it work. Still, coming right at the beginning as it does,
it's an attention grabber.
In addition to the chord choices, we find that several of the chord progressions in this song are unusual. We're
used to finding in the typical early Beatles song such as “I Saw Her Standing There”, the pervasive influence of IVI-V sorts of chord progressions which convey a strong sense of directed kinetic motion that is the musical
equivalent of Hemingway's much celebrated use of transitive verbs. Here, in “P. S. I Love You”, we find two
different types of unusual chord progressions.
The first unusual type of progression is called a “chord stream”, characterized by sliding, stepwise root
movement from chord to chord. In the verse section, we find I->ii->I, and flat-VI->flat-VII->I as examples. This
is a technique is most closely associated with either early 20th century Impressionism or Jazz and it happens to
break one of the standard old-fashioned rules against using parallel octaves and fifths between chords.
Aesthetically, it suggests a languid sensuality.
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The second unusual type of progression is called a “deceptive cadence”, characterized by the V (dominant)
being followed by something other than the I chord. In the verse section, yet again, we find examples of the V
being resolved in one case to the plain vi chord, and later on to the flat-VI. Aesthetically, it suggests a last minute
retreat from coming to closure; a musical approach/avoidance.
Arrangement
The look and feel here is decidedly not that of rock-n-roll. It's rather more like lounge-pop or Latin dance music,
in large part due to the tempo, beat, and choice of percussion instrumentation.
The vocal arrangement presents Paul in the solo spotlight with a particular style of backing vocal from John
and George. Though the backing part persists virtually all the way through, there is more interesting detail to it
than initially meets the eye.
Note, for example, how in all verses except the last one, the backers sing behind isolated words only, making
for a musically italic/bold effect. In the last verse, yet again to avoid foolish consistency, this effect is dropped in
favor of them singing all the way through with Paul.
Similarly in the second bridge, we have the successive interjections by solo voices in between the phrases for
the sake of some colorful variety.
The following piece of trivia is usually eclipsed by the “Love Me Do” story, but it should be noted that it is
Andy White (again) on the drums in this song; poor Ringo plays only the maracas.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
Even though the words of the bridge are repeated in this intro, the resemblance between the intro and the bridge is
cleverly disguised by the addition here of the C#7 chord, and the fact that in the bridge, we're used to hearing an
additional vocal part that harmonizes a third above the melody:
-------------- 3X -------------|G C#
|D
|D
A
D: IV
VII 7
I
#5
#3
|D
V
|
I
By the way, this is yet another convergent start away from the home key. The singers come right in on the first
beat, without a cue.
Verse
The verse is not only an unusual ten measures long, but is made up of four phrases of several different lengths:
"Treasure these few words ...." "Keep all my love ..."
<------ phrase #1, 3 measures --------><- phrase #2, 2 measures ->
|D
I
|e
ii
|D
I
|A
V
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|b
vi
|
"P.S I love you ...."
"You, you, you ...."
<--- phrase #3, 2.5 measures ---><--- phrase #4, 2.5 measures --->
|A
V
|B-flat
flat VI
|-
- - C
flat VII
|D
|-
|
I
Articulation of the phrasing is nicely aided by the harmony with its multiple deceptive resolutions of V, first to vi,
then to flat vi, then finally to I, but even then, only via the flat VII!
The melodic arch of the first three phrases has a bottom-heavy asymmetry that is balanced out by the dramatic
swing upward of an octave in the final phrase. Note the repeatedly expressive use of appoggiaturas; i.e., on the
words “together”, “forever”, “P.S”, and the middle “you” of the final phrase.
Bridge
The contrast of this bridge to its surrounding verses is manifest in its simple chord choices and regularized shape.
We're on a strict harmonic diet here of I-IV-V, and the eight measure section is articulated into two phrases of
four measures each:
-------------- 3X -------------|G
|D
|D
A
IV
I
V
|D
I
|
Outro
In typical fashion, this outro grows out of the final measures of the final verse and presents the formulaic triplerepeat of the little hook phrase in a relatively straightforward manner.
Some Final Thoughts
“P. S. I Love You” is ultimately an ironic blend of both backward and forward looking influences. On the one
hand, the relatively soppy lyrics and the pop arrangement are reminiscent of their cover repertoire from the Decca
audition period. By the same token, there's a technical sophistication here, especially in the harmony and uneven
phrasing, which looks well beyond many of the other apparently more original songs from the early EMI days.
Aside from the sophistication of any specific technical device used here per se, the most creative touch of
all is in the way that the successive deceptive cadences in the verse provide an exquisitely realistic shyness and
emotional “playing footsie” that otherwise belies the readymade paper-cut valentine of the words.
“Quite right, invites to gambling dens full of easy money and fast women, chicken sandwiches, and cornets of caviar, disgusting!”
031101#30.1
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There's A Place
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse (variant) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The music of this song is paradoxically quite tense in spite of the self-assured message of the words, and this
likely motivates the choice of a relatively short form.
There are two different hook phrases here that uncannily reflect the two sides of the tense/self-assured
paradox mentioned above. The first is the wailing instrumental motif (D#-----E-D#-C#) presented by the
harmonica right at the beginning. The other is the affirmative figure (B - D# - E) which resurfaces in a number of
places as the melodic setting for the title phrase of the lyrics.
Also on the reassurance side of the equation is the dramatic dotted figure in the bass and rhythm guitar
(boom-b'-boom, ) which reiterates in the background of most of the song and is largely responsible for giving the
song its characteristic bounce. Notably, this leitmotif is *not* found consistently in the early outtakes and its later
addition is a good example of how The Boys learned how to revise their work in real time for the better.
The form is unusually small with just a single bridge.
The lyrics of the three verses create a pattern of ABA. The verses begin rhythmically with a pickup to the
downbeat. The bridge, by contrast, attacks after the downbeat.
The modification of the second verse to effect a smoother transition into the bridge is an unusual formal
touch, though by no means unique; see “I Should Have Known Better” for another example.
We also have those familiar slow triplets in a number of places: the second half of the verse (“and there's no
time”) and almost, but not quite, in the bridge. The outtakes prove that they originally planned to present the
opening hook this way too, but proved to be some combination of difficult and undesirable.
Melody and Harmony
The verse tune is characterized by short, declarative phrases that are punctuated by rests of a couple beats each.
The bridge tune features a distinctive call-and-answer pattern.
The hard-hitting, unique sonority of the E Major 7th chord is one of the essential characteristics of the song
and, on the surface, is the prime motivator of musical tension.
On a more subtle harmonic level, the song also projects a groping, insecure sense of tonal footing. It's clearly
in E Major on the one hand, yet as we'll see below, both the verse and bridge sections have their share of
frustrated V chords and fitful modulations.
Arrangement
In many respects, this is a “typical” Beatles arrangement of the period with several of the familiar ingredients:
harmonica hook, pungent two-part vocal harmonies, drum fills, and melodic bass part.
The guitar parts are sparser than usual, leaving some chords implied by melody, bass line and context, instead
of being made explicit by full-voiced strumming.
As usual, the vocal parts are more intricately worked out than first meets the eye. Paul takes the lead for most
of the verse sections with John singing in harmony below him. At the end of the first and third verses, Paul
suddenly drops out leaving John briefly exposed by himself on lead, and at the end of the middle variant verse,
Page 144
John sings lead with a vocalese backing by Paul and George. The bridge section alternates between solo John and
John and Paul in unison.
Also, don't miss out on those trill-like ornaments John sensually tacks onto the end of his phrases in the verse.
By the way, that opening B natural bass pickup “on 'four'” sure does remind me of “Please Please Me”.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro has an odd length of five measures by virtue of the unusually elongated vocal pickup phrase at the end
of it:
|E7 |A
E:
I
IV
|E7
I
|A
"There,--there's a place ..."
1 2 3 4 12 3
4 1
|
|
IV
V
The intense mood of the song is immediately established by that dissonant major seventh chord right on the first
downbeat, nicely enhanced by the bent note ('D.'#) in the second iteration of the harmonica phrase.
Verse
The verse has an unusual total length of 15 measures. It's actually built out of regular sorts of four-measure
phrases until near the end where the odd length is created, as in the intro, by the stretched out pickup to the next
phrase:
m.1
|E
I
|A
IV
9
|g# |A
iii
|E
I
|E7
IV
|A
IV
|A
I
5
E
I
13
f#
IV
c#: vi
|c#
vi
|B
V
|-
"I ---4
B
V
c#
3 4 1 2 3
||-
iv
i
think of
1
you..."
Note how the first eight measures have a classical open shape, ending on the V chord. Yet, the remainder of the
section, instead of routinely closing it back up, proceeds to tonally meander.
In greater detail: the home key is established in the first phrase via the relatively weak Plagal cadence of I-IV.
The next phrase opens up widely with those two full measures on the V chord, yet this juicy dominant is left
dangling unresolved as the music veers fitfully toward g# minor at the beginning of the final phrase. This
excursion is itself short-lived and the verse ultimately settles down in what would appear to be a modulation to the
key of the relative minor, c#. But after all this, the next verse reverts directly right back to the home key.
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I hear the entirety of measure 8 as the V chord, though if you listen carefully, Paul plays the notes G#->A->B
during the slow triplet in that measure as though he were trying to do something like the "iii-IV-V" chord cliche
we saw in “Please Please Me”, measure 4.
The single most compositionally clever detail in the entire song is the way that the wailing harmonica hook
phrase is worked into John's backing vocal part in measures 9 - 12. Part of the magical effect in those measures is
the way that Paul and John's vocal parts climax twice on a tasty fourth that is resolves with their respective parts
moving in contrary motion:
Paul:
G#
->
A
John:
D#
E-D#->
C#
And note, finally, how the harmonica hook reappears on cue in measure 13.
Verse Variant
The first eight measures of this section are identical to those of the first verse. The music then continues with the
following straightforward four measure phrase that reiterates the earlier open ending on V:
"Like I love only you ..."
|A ||B
||
IV
V
True to form and purpose, note how when we move onto the bridge, this V chord is frustrated, yet again, by
another deceptive cadence to vi!
Bridge
The bridge is an unusual 10 measures long, though basically built out of two identical repetitions of the same
four-measure phrase. The asymmetrical length is created (just as in the intro and first verse) by the reappearance
of the by now familiar elongated vocal pickup for the next verse section:
--------------- 2X ------------|c# |F#
|E
|G#
c#
|B
|
c#: i
V
i
E:V
B: ii
V
IV -> ?
(modulation abandoned)
The sometimes-restless sense of tonal direction seen in the verse is further developed here to the extreme that each
successive chord keeps us guessing as to where we're ultimately headed.
Though we start off in the relative minor key of c#, the section continues at first as though a pivot modulation
to the key of V (B Major) were in the offing. Even the awkward appearance of the E chord in the third measure
could work as part of this modulation, being heard as the IV of the new key, but only if the B chord itself would
follow it; try it out yourself, see how nicely it works – c# -> F# -> E -> B.
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It is the sudden appearance of the G# Major chord which abruptly cuts off that modulation in-progress, and
briskly pulls the music right back to the key of c#. Part of me is tempted to chalk this seeming inelegance up to
inexperience on their parts, though I cannot escape the thought that the groping, casting-about feeling conjured by
it is germane to the spirit of the song.
Outro
The final verse is identical to the first one though one measure shorter in duration. Directly, in the second half of
measure 14, we move into an outro in which both the vocal and instrumental hooks are presented antiphonally in
strict alternation into a fadeout ending; a vivid, concrete presentation of what I've alluded to as the underlying
paradox of the song.
Some Final Thoughts
We have here yet another of those songs in which John apparently soft and insecure emotional core would seem
to musically belie his tough, or at least more self-assured lyrics. This listener, for one, would feel much better
convinced by what's professed here as an unshakable belief in this special place, if the story had been set in
straightforward, simple chord progressions and even phrases; on this level, even a dire ditty like “Misery”'s got a
more relaxed phatic subtext.
The song is also typically and prophetically John-like for its off-center point of view. The expressed facility to
escape inside of himself in order to commune with object of his love is strange enough for starters. But even more
provoking is the way in which the anxiety factor of the music combined with the escapism of the lyrics suggests
that, in spite of the second person pronoun phrasing of those same lyrics, the protagonist is not so much talking to
his love, as he is ruminating to himself at a distance from her, and in solitude.
“Leave him alone, Lennon, or I'll tell them all the truth about you.” 031101#31.1
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Do You Want To Know A Secret
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The intro is slow, the verse long, and the bridge short. The form is compact, the less popular single bridge model,
and the overall duration of the song brief, as well; a likely consequence of the large amount of repetitious rhetoric
built into the verse section.
No exaggeration, the lyrics here, which are identical through all three verses, may nose out even “Love Me
Do” for skimpiness, though the use of different material in both the intro and the bridge makes up some of the
deficit.
The song fairly overflows with a number of leitmotifs all built out of chromatic scale fragments of 3 or 4
notes; the rising lead guitar riff at the end of the intro, a descending portion of the verse melody (on the “woah”
that precedes the word “closer”), and in the recurrent little descending chord stream that appears in the second
half of almost all the odd-numbered measures of the verse.
Singing in the intro begins after the downbeat. In the verses, it is introduced with a long guitar pickup before
the beat, an effect that is carried through the rest of the verse melody. For contrast, the bridge attacks the sung
material right on the beat.
Melody and Harmony
The tune contains mostly scale-wise movement punctuated by a dramatic falsetto leap upward near the end of the
verse before ending it off with a descending chromatic scale fragment
The song is quite securely in E Major in spite of a firm modulation to the axis of A Major/f# minor during the
bridge. Allusions to the parallel minor key of e in both intro and verse provide a touch of pathos as well as
harmonic variety.
The single most unusual chord in the song is the "flat II", found here in both the intro and the verse; we've
seen this one before in “Things We Said Today” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl.”
Arrangement
The song leaves a lasting impression of having been enwrapped in a haze of gentle reverberation even though it
was not literally nor entirely recorded that way.
George gets the first of his few chances to take the lead vocal in a LennonMcCartney tune. The composers
themselves show up vocally in the form of an old-fashioned “doo-wop”-like backing starting in the second verse.
One rare outtake has them singing the backing vocal even in the first verse, the latter being a clear violation of
what would emerge as a Beatles layering trademark; which is why they probably dropped that for the official
recording.
Like the piano in-lays of “Misery”, the overdubbed tapping of drum sticks in the bridge is a musically small
touch that is historically notable because of the trend in recording/arranging practice it signals.
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Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is not merely adagio, but entirely ad libitum; my delineation below of where the 4/4 measure boundaries
are is purely a guess:
|e
e: i
|a
iv
e
|G
i
III
|F
B
|
flat II V
The shift from e minor to E Major which occurs between intro and first verse is exceedingly smooth because of
the "parallel" relationship between the two keys, but if you recall the first time you ever heard this song, it still has
the power to surprise.
Though emotionally and compositionally simplistic on one level, that minorto -Major transition still
effectively conveys the angst-cum-epiphanisticjoy “we” all go through in the unique moment of timidly
expressing a burgeoning fondness.
Verse
This verse has an unusual length of 14 measures and is designed as a couplet of two uneven phrases that share a
common beginning:
"Listen ..."
------------- 2 x ------------m.1
|E
g# g |f# B7
|E
g# g |f# F
|
E: I
ii V
I
ii
flat II
"Closer ..."
----------------- 2 x ----------------m.7
|E g#
g
|f#
B7
|A
I
ii
V
IV
m.13
|c#
vi
|f#
ii
B
V
|B
V
|
|
The first phrase is six measures and would seem to run harmonically in circles if it were not for its surprise ending
in which we find yet another application of the chromatic chord stream cliche. Note how the F chord is unusually
Page 149
placed on top of the note C in the bass; as though Paul were uncomfortable with a certain awkwardness about the
chord progression and trying to paper it over a bit.
The second phrase is eight measures and though it too starts off running in the same tight circle, its harmonic
rhythm broadens out into a deceptive cadence on vi before cycling back again to V.
The melody of this verse is just as repetitious as the chord changes, and the falsetto flip in the last measure
finally and satisfyingly opens up the previously constricted pitch range.
The chord stream of g# minor -> g minor -> f# is more coloristic than functional; the ear comprehends the
structural harmonic progression as though from E in the first measure to f# in the second. The other chord stream
in measure 6 - 7 is actually more structurally significant than the previous one in that one hears the F Major chord
as a surrogate Dominant with respect to the E (I) chord which opens the second phrase. Note how the melodic use
of C natural at this juncture creates an allusion to the minor mode of e.
The rhythm is in a shuffling beat throughout until the final four measures where it's suddenly interrupted by
syncopation (m. 11 - 12), which then moderates to a pulsating bass drum beat before settling back to the shuffle.
George's pronunciation of the word “ear” (especially in the first and third verses) offers us what 'Simon
Marshal' would someday describe as “the old adenoidal glottal stop for our benefit”.
Bridge
This is one of the shortest bridges we've ever seen; only six measures long, and built, just like the verse, out of
two phrases unequal in length yet sharing the same opening content:
------------- 2 x ------------|A f#
|c#
b
|f#
|B
f#: III
i
v
iv
i
E : IV
E:ii
|
V
The harmonic transition into this section from the V chord on B, which ends the previous verse, is somewhat
abrupt though by no means rude; the pivot for the modulation is not obvious to the ear, but at least it is a common
chord to both keys involved.
The pivot back to the home key is much smoother. It's a rather superb example of just how so-called pivot
modulations work for those who have trouble grasping the concept: note how when the f# chord is followed by
the B Major one, the ear retroactively reinterprets it as the ii chord of the original home key of E.
In the arrangement, the do-dahs are given a break in deference to George's solo vocal. And Paul, having
played up to this point a nicely elaborate bass line, gets a little carried away in this section and winds up making a
mistake on the first c# chord, by playing a B natural which clashes with the chord above it.
Outro
The deceptive cadence near the end of the verse is leveraged and recycled for the inevitable three-repeat coda.
The song fades very rapidly and the outtake with the doo-dahs in the first verse reveals that at least one studio
performance of the song, if not the official version, actually ended, barely a few seconds after our fade, with a
complete ending on an added-sixth chord.
That added sixth so nicely summarizes the song that it's especially unfortunate they chose to mask it out.
Looking back over the full length of the piece, one notes how much the sonority of the added-sixth resonates
within it; e.g., the repeated appoggiatura of C#->B on the words “listen” and “secret” in the verse, and the large
number of deceptive cadences in which you so strongly anticipate the next chord to be E, yet it turns out to be
(surprise!) c# instead. To the extent that this added-sixth has the incidental sound of the I (E) and vi (c#)
superimposed upon each other, it makes for an effective harmonic double-entendre.
Paul makes yet another mistake in the bass line of this section, analogous to the one in the bridge.
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Some Final Thoughts
The aesthetic of sentimental shy puppy love and gauzy soft focus is not one to which the Boys were often drawn
over the long run; Sweet and Cuddly Moptops notwithstanding, it didn't suit them as a group. Even here, they
manage to rescue this one from drowning in its own cliches only by means of an abundance of interesting details
and a modicum of sincerity.
Ironically, it's the more subtle aesthetic of repetition here, which you would be tempted to denigrate offhand
as a matter of lazy craft, which provides one of the major sources of emotional realism and sincerity to the song.
I'd bet, for example, that anyone out there who relates to the pre-confessional anxiety of the intro will also vouch
for the corresponding post-declaration euphoria in which all they wanted, even needed, to do was repeat the same
words of love like a mantra, endlessly without stopping.
“I don't really know, but it sounded distinguished like, didn't it?”
032101#32.1
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Ask Me Why
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse (initial) – Verse (variant #1) – Bridge – Verse (variant #2) – Verse (initial) – Verse (variant
#2) – Bridge – Outro (verse variant #2 with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This is just about the fussiest, most complicated form we've yet seen. You can sort of parse it as a mutant version
of the two-bridge model, but what is most notable is how the verse material appears in three variations, each of
which is tailored to suit a different purpose.
The initial verse is typically expository in nature but has an harmonically open ending on V that is unsuitable
for leading into the bridge. As a result, variant #1, though very similar to the initial verse, is crucially amended to
link smoothly with the bridge that follows it.
Variant #2 is a much-abbreviated affair that merely alludes to the other verses rather than fully recapitulating
them, and it itself reappears three times in the song, always slightly different in content and formal context. It
creates the impression of being like a refrain, in part, because of the inclusion of the title phrase in its lyrics.
All the phrases and sections of the song start off in the middle of the preceding measure. Compare this for
example to “From Me To You” and “All My Loving”; also contrast it for example with “P. S. I Love You” and
“Do You Want To Know A Secret”.
The lyrics closely match the form. Lyrics of both "initial" verses are identical, as are the respective lyrics of
both verse variant#2, and bridge; the single appearance of verse variant #1 has unique lyrics.
Melody and Harmony
Most of the melodic material stays within an octave running from E to E, with the last phrase of each initial verse
section breaking the mold.
Key-wise, the song is solidly, almost completely in E Major though the verse contains a momentary leaning
toward the relative minor key of c#.
As with “P. S. I Love You”, we have a strong presence here of chord streams, though this time the chords are
jazzy parallel sevenths, not just plain triads.
The Major seventh chord on E (the I7) is one of those chords that has the coincidental sonority of two
different triads superimposed; in this case, the I and iii. To the extent that both the I and iii are used so heavily
throughout this song, I half suspect that the I7 was purposefully exploited here, analogous to the way in which
added-sixth chord on I was used in “Do You Want To Know A Secret” for its sounding like the I and vi
combined.
Note how this same I7, which was used to connote great tension in “There’s A Place”, feels so much more
relaxed here because it is use in the midst of a chord stream of other sevenths, rather than appearing starkly headon; indeed, context is all.
Arrangement
The two most conspicuous surface features of the arrangement are the pseudo-Latin dance beat and the
harmonized “woahs” sung in slow triplets.
The backing vocal part for Paul and George is repeatedly cut off in mid-phrase leaving John exposed
dramatically in the spotlight; in one such spot we hear his voice forced to cracking on the word “cry.”
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Just the smallest sound of silence is effectively used throughout the song as a leitmotif. Virtually everywhere
you find a phrase or section commencing with a pickup on beats 3 and 4 of a measure, there is a neat pause “on
'two'”, for the beat preceding. If you want to play this song nicely, you have to mind such details.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is very short but within barely two measures it manages to set the mildly syncopated beat of the song in
motion, establish the home key via a I-V-I progression, and set the stage for the entrance of the singers.
The harmonic rhythm of the first measure is unusual for a Beatles song, with the first chord (I) being
sustained for three beats, and the change to V occurring on beat four; this trick is carried on into the verse.
Verse (initial) – “I love you ...”
The initial verse is thirteen measures, built out of three phrases. The first two are even in length, but the final one
is elongated:
E:
E7
I
m.1
f#7|g#7
ii iii
[beats: 1,2,3, 4]
|f#7
B7 |E
ii
V
I
m.5
|g#7
iii
[beats: 1,2,3, 4]
|f#7
B7 |E
ii
V
I
m.9
|c#
vi
|-
|-
E7
I
f#7|
ii
|G#
V-of-vi
|A
IV
|F#9
V-of-V
|
|B
|
V
The dramatic thrust of this verse doesn't truly start building until near the end of the second phrase at which point
the melody mounts steadily towards an ultimate falsetto climax at the very end. In the first appearance of this
section, John melodically descends from the high g# in measure 12 to an f# in the final measure. When this
section is repeated later, he ascends all the way to high B; this admittedly small change both represents an
avoidance of foolish consistency and is an object lesson in how one should always hold back a little something
extra for the next event.
The harmony supports the climax in a number of ways: an eventually complete shift away from stepwise
chord streams toward root progressions with a stronger feeling of transitive movement, the inclusion of a flirtation
with the key of c#, a broadening of the harmonic rhythm, and the use of that intense 'V9' chord right before the
peak.
The ending on V smoothly motivates the continuation to the next verse. What's subtle is the way in which the
climax itself is the more potent because of this harmonically open ending; compare with variant#1 below.
Verse (variant#1) – “Now you're mine ...”
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This first variant is thirteen measures long again, and the game plan is identical to that of the initial verse until the
last three measures during which a number of important changes appear:
m.9
|c#
vi
|-
|a
iv
|E
I
|E aug.
V#5-of-IV
|
The ending of this verse is harmonically closed, and the climax is muted this time by virtue of a less flamboyant
melodic line and the way that the peak occurs one measure earlier than where it appeared in the initial verse.
Contrast how variant#1 sounds as though it ends in measure 12 with measure 13 functioning like a transitional
filler. In contrast, the climax in the initial verse runs right into the final measure of that section.
In measure 11, John's much favored minor iv chord (i.e., the one borrowed, as it were, from the parallel minor
key of e) is substituted for the naturally occurring Major IV chord we saw in the same measure of the initial verse.
Also note how the E chord, which always has the potential energy to serve as a "V of IV", is nudged into this
role here by the augmented alteration of the chord in the final measure of this verse.
Bridge – “I can't believe ...”
Typical bridge-like contrast is provided here by the use of simpler chords, a balanced eight-measure length (they
don't call 'em “middle eights” for nothing!), and a convergent harmonic shape for each of the two phrases, starting
away from the I, but moving toward it:
m.1
|A
IV
m.5
|A
IV
|B
V
|B
V
|E
I
|E aug.
V#5-of-IV
"mi-ser- y"
1 *2*
E7 f#7 |
|
rhythmic emphasis: 1 & 2
|E
|
B,
I
V
3
4
The rhythm guitar triplets in measures 1 and 5 provide rhythmic continuity with the verses even while the abrupt
syncopations in measure 7 and 8 enhance the sense of contrast.
Verse (variant#2) – “Ask me why ...”
This refrain-like precis of the other verses makes the first of its three appearances relatively late in the song, not
until after the first bridge. It's not only much shorter than the other verses, but offers a very different dramatic
gesture from them; in place of the earlier climaxing, we get a chance to power down a bit here. This change is
brought about by the relatively flat melodic shape used in this section as well as the reliance on weak chord
progressions, such as stepwise chord streams and the plagal IV-I cadence:
Page 154
E:
E7
I
m.1
f#7|g#7
ii iii
|A
IV
|g#7
iii
|A7
IV
|E
I
(next verse)
|,E7 f#7|
The fact that this section is closed harmonically makes for a slight and uncharacteristically inelegant move when
the next section (a repeat of the initial verse) begins.
When variant#2 returns for a second time, the last measure is modified to contain the E augmented chord.
This is a clever move in that it creates a smooth lead-in to the second bridge without them having to repeat the
entirety of variant#1, which at this stage of the song would have been a tactical mistake, making it start to drag.
Outro
The outro turns out to be yet another iteration of verse variant#2, modified and extended this time to
accommodate the triple repeat of the final lyrical fragment (“you-ou-ou”). The harmony gently fluctuates toward
final quiescence on an extremely unusual voicing of an enigmatic sounding I9/7 chord; with B as the lowest note
in the bass, and possibly all other notes of the chord present except for the root!
E:
E7
I
m.1
f#7|g#7
ii iii
|A
IV
m.5
|A7
|g#7
iii
|A7
IV
|E
I
|
??
|E
|A7
|E9
7
IV
I
IV
I
Some Final Thoughts
The quaint arrangement and corny backbeat of this song have a nostalgic power of sufficient magnitude to
seriously get in the way of an objective assessment of its craft. On some level, the legitimacy of such first
impressions is neither to be denied nor argued with.
Granted, this was a rather fledgling compositional effort of theirs. We know, for example, that they had it in
hand at least as early as the June '62 EMI audition for George Martin and as such, it's very easy to be
condescending about it. But I'd dare to suggest that our analysis above clearly demonstrates that the music here is
nowhere nearly as derivative as it may seem at first glance.
“Mind you, I stood up for you, I mean I wouldn't have it.”
032701#33.1
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I'll Get You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This is an extremely straightforward if not plain-and-simple song in terms of almost any compositional metric by
which you'd want to measure it. And still, it is full of trademark details which indelibly mark it as an early Beatles
song.
Both the higher-level form and the inner construction of the individual sections are quite standard, though the
manner in which the “Oh yeah!” motif of the intro is worked smoothly into the flow of the verse is a clever touch.
The form is the short, single bridge model.
The lyrics of the three verses create a pattern of ABA. The verses have an identical, refrain-like ending.
All sections commence rhythmically with a pickup ahead of the downbeat.
Harmony
The tune is centered within a D-to-D octave, though the verse endings open up additional space at the bottom, and
the bridge likewise opens up the high end. The song is firmly, unrelievedly, in the key of D Major and only about
a half-dozen chords are used throughout. In this light, the number of chords which appear with spicy
embellishment is notable; e.g. the added sixth chord on I (D), a Major seventh on IV (G), and a dominant 7/9
chord on the V-of-V (E).
Most unusual and forward-looking in terms of what would later emerge as a favorite item in the Beatles bag
of harmonic tricks is the use of a minor v chord in the verse section (measure 10), despite the Major mode of the
home key; thus adding a surprise modal/bluesy inflection to the music.
Arrangement
The arrangement has a rather nondescript backing track, yet paradoxically (or should we say, inconsistently)
sports a number of fussy details. Although the bass part is both active and prominently mixed forward, the rhythm
guitar and drums for the most part get to do no more than strum or stroke (as the case may be) in even eighth
notes. Furthermore, to my ears at any rate, there's no sign of a part for lead guitar; where indeed was George that
day?
The harmonica is used differently here from what we've become used to in other Beatles songs. On the one
hand, the harmonica does not get to play any memorable hook phrase, but it does appear unsparingly used
throughout, except for a brief rest during the bridge. To the extent that John too sings throughout, I've got to
assume that this harmonica part was overdubbed separately; or else, maybe that's what George was playing for
this session.
The sort of handclaps seen earlier in “Love Me Do” and “I Saw Her Standing There” appear here only in the
intro as a surrogate percussion part. Conversely, it is not until the end of the intro that the drums, with a solitary
little fill, make their entrance. John and Paul sing a duet literally throughout, so that variety is provided by the two
voices alternating frequently between singing in unison, at the octave, and in brief yet colorful splashes of 2-part
harmony.
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Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
In only four measures, this intro establishes the key and introduces the “oh yeah” hook phrase that recurs both at
end of each verse and in the outro. The same dotted rhythmic figure seen earlier in “There’s A Place” to convey
self-assurance is used here to similar effect. It appears right off in the bass part of this intro and is used frequently
in the melody of both verse and bridge sections.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and built out of four phrases equal in length:
m.1
|D
D:
|-
I
|G
IV
m.9
|D
|a
|D
I
v
I
|A
D
V
|b
|b
vi
I
G
IV
|G
vi
IV
|A
V
|A
|D
|A
V
I
V
The number of melodic appoggiaturas is pervasive, thematic, and a large part of the reason for all the embellished
chords mentioned above; it makes for an interesting comparison with the later “We Can Work It Out”. Examples
here include:
•
•
•
•
the use of B in the melody on top of the D chord in measures 2 and 11,
F# on top of the A chord in measures 4, 8, and 14,
E on top of the D chord in measures 5, and
G on top of the D chord in measure 9
Melodically, each eight-measure pairing of phrases presents its own symmetric arch. As a matter of good
dramatic practice, the higher melodic peak is saved for the second of the two arches.
Bridge
This bridge is a rather archetypal middle eight in which, instead of harmonic modulation, we simply converge
back toward the home key after starting the section away from it. Note in particular the drawn out build up toward
the V chord:
|G7 |IV
|D
I
|-
E9
|-
V-of-V
|A
7
V
|-
We have a wonderful demonstration here of the powerful effect that harmony can have on your perception of the
melody which it accompanies; hardly a phenomenon unique to the Beatles, but this just happens to be an
unusually good textbook example. To wit, the melody of this bridge contains the same three note descending
figure (f# -> e- > d) repeated three times, each time over a different chord (G, D, and E); and note, how different
in a rhetorical sense the melodic figure sounds with each change of chord. There is an obvious word collision
Page 157
between the singers in this section followed by what sounds like a very brief instant of confusion (perhaps one of
them thought to stop) before composure was regained. With examples like this, who needs outtakes?!
Outro
As with both verse and bridge, this outro is a fairly standard specimen of its genre; growing directly out of the end
of the final verse and repeating the last phrase three times. The harmonica is left still sounding after all else has
halted.
Some Final Thoughts
I don't know if I can use the following term without sounding more harsh than intended, but I'll dare say that “I’ll
Get You” was a bit of a “pot boiler”. It was originally released as the B-side to “She Loves You”, and both the
music and recording of “I’ll Get You” have definite earmarks of a rush job which they must have assumed
nobody would ever notice; I can just imagine someone in the studio wondering aloud to the effect of, “who listens
to the B-side of single, anyway?”
That's not to say that it's necessarily not a good song; merely that mapped against the steep growth trajectory
they had so quickly established for themselves by this point, “I’ll Get You”, if not entirely off the pace, surely
catches them in the act of treading water.
The impressive aspect of this, which should not be lost sight of, is that they had by this point established for
themselves not only a name but also a genuine musical style, more than just a bunch of hackneyed mannerisms.
And that on their occasional off day in which they really might not mind being more derivative than original for a
change, this song demonstrates that they already had their own unique set of ingredients from which to crib and
re-fashion.
“The office was on the phone, they think it'd be better if we pushed straight to Wolverhampton ... you've got a midnight matinee.”
032701#34.1
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The Cover Songs That Appear On The Please
Please Me Album
General Points Of Interest
Our study of the songs of the Beatles would not be complete without a modicum of attention paid to the covers; at
least a brief comparison of the Beatles versions to the originals, as well as a consideration of the cover repertoire
in its relationship to the emerging Lennon/McCartney compositional style.
The group maintained an astonishingly broad variety of cover songs in their stage repertoire while on their
way up, but when it came time to establish themselves as recording artists, it seems clear that they had, from the
very beginning, a strong preference to record their own material. Witness for example their pushing back as early
as September '62 on George Martin when he wanted them to do “How Do You Do It” for their first single instead
of “Love Me Do”.
Even more significantly, note how, in England, they carefully avoided releasing any cover on a single, even as
a B-side! Filling out EPs and LPs was one thing, but not for singles.
It is most common to rationalize the specific cover song choices on the Please Please Me album as having
been selected on the basis of their nicely showcasing the talents of the group and providing a way for them to pay
homage to the music which they themselves enjoyed and which most directly influenced them.
Beyond this common wisdom, I think our cursory notes on each song below tend to suggest a number of
additional ironies surrounding these cover songs:
1. They were at least partly chosen for the way in which they rounded out the group's repertoire or filled
gaps in what the they were interested in or compositionally capable of providing for themselves at this
stage of their career; i.e., these covers provided a type of material ready-made that they could/would not
yet write as a matter of lacking some combination of technique, imagination, or nerve. On the later
albums, (e.g. Beatles For Sale and Help!) perhaps the very appearance of any covers was quite frankly a
shortcut to filling out two sides of vinyl. At this early stage, it was a matter of fleshing out the act itself.
2. As much as the Beatles might be said to have been inspired or influenced by these specific cover songs, it
is curious to note the extent to which these songs do not manifest very many, if any at all, of what we
have come to see as the punchlist of early Beatles musical trademarks; the tricky chord progressions, the
pungent vocal harmonies, the clever word play etc.
3. Most surprising of all is the way in which, for some of these covers, the Beatles' version transcends the
original recording, not just by virtue of performance quality, but because of structural tweaks to the
arrangement and composition!
Anna
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Mini-refrain – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse - Mini-refrain (complete
ending)
Composer: Alexander
Influential Version: Arthur Alexander (1962)
The original version is in the key of C and is slightly less syncopated than that of the Beatles. The Beatles
arrangement closely follows the original with two telling differences: 1) it does not mimic the way that Alexander
adds a string section to the backing starting in the second verse. This sort of layering would later become a
Page 159
common technique for the Boys but they didn't take the hint this time. 2) They replace the fadeout ending of the
original with a complete one; already this had become a marked preference in their own material.
Among the six particular songs in this group, this one is among the most Beatles-like as a result of the loverelated anguish in the lyrics, the slightly free-form phrasing of the verse, and of course, John's intense single track
vocal. This is the only one of the six covers here to have been recorded by its composer.
Harmonically, note the emphasis on the I-vi progression starting right off in the intro, and the use of the minor
iv chord in the bridge. Both these devices are fairly widespread and I don't mean to imply that their frequent use
in the original songs of the Beatles is in any way directly related to this song; by the same token though, the
appearance of such harmonies in this song does help reinforce whatever Lennon/McCartney-like resonance it may
already have from other sources.
Chains
Key:
B-flat Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
Composers: Goffin/King
Influential Version: The Cookies (1962)
The original recording is in the higher key of 'D.' and is performed a bit slower than the Beatles version. As with
“Anna”, the two treatments are remarkably similar with the exception of a saxophone used in one and an
harmonica used in the other.
The verse of this song is in 12-bar blues form, and though its in a Major key, there are a number of minorsounding inflections in the melody making the music sound both more bluesy and exotic. As I've written
elsewhere (in an article on the Quarrymen in Illegal Beatles #17, as well as a Note on the song “Birthday”), it
seems that when it came to The Blues, that the Beatles preferred ordering takeout rather than take a chance with
cooking it up for themselves; this song, as well as “Boys” below are certainly examples of this phenomenon.
The fadeout of the original version loops on a rote repeat of the final phrase; the Beatles characteristically
stretch out one of those repeats, over a minor iv chord, no less.
Boys
Key:
E Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse (guitar solo) – Verse – Bridge – Outro (fadeout)
Composers: Dixon/Farrell
Influential Version: The Shirelles (1962)
The original version is in the higher key of G and includes a piano and sax in the arrangement. The Beatles
needed to change some of the words in order to make the gender pronouns come out right for a male lead singer,
though they went beyond this and also changed the scat-sung phonemes for the backing vocals. The Shirelles save
that backing vocal for the second verse but the Boys start it right off the bat – further evidence that they had not
yet learned the layering trick.
This song employs the 12-bar blues form throughout by use of a fairly old trick in which the backbeat and
arrangement are modified for the bridge in order to disguise the fact that the music (or at least the chord
progression and phrasing) is identical to that of the verses. The placement of the second bridge at the very end
with a third repeat of it into the fadeout is an additional formal novelty, though personally, I don't think it is
sufficient to prevent a certain monotony from setting in.
Page 160
Intentional or not, this song started what would develop into a long-lived tradition for Ringo to be relegated to
covers and/or novelty numbers for his carefully rationed solo vocal assignments. Up until Rubber Soul, the only
non-cover was “I Wanna Be Your Man”, and from then onward, even with his own few original compositions,
we'd hear him more often than not on the likes of “Yellow Submarine” and “Octopus's Garden.”
Baby It's You
Key:
G Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Verse (first half, piano solo) – Outro (fadeout)
Composers: M. David/Bachrach/Williams
Influential Version: The Shirelles (1961)
Again, the Shirelles play it in the higher key of B-flat (the same relative transposition as in “Boys”) and their
vocals are more breathy and soulful, though perhaps, compared to John, less intense. The original features an
organ instead of a piano for the instrumental solo. And you might say that the Boys more smoothly join the gap
between solo and second half of the middle verse.
This one is also rather Beatles-like for many of the same reasons enumerated above re: “Anna”, right down to
the heavy use of the I-vi chord progression. Other subtle touches which resonate with the Lennon/McCartney
style are the verse opening on IV instead of I, the minor chords which hang like a cloud over its middle section,
and the way its final phrase is rhetorically extended to an uneven length.
The form is very unusual, likely a consequence of the longish verse and slow tempo. There are only three
verses in the song, and in instead of a real bridge, the first half of the middle verse is done up as break-like
instrumental solo passage with the regular vocal part resuming in the second half. Although the form of
”From Me To You” is otherwise quite different, the instrumental break there is very similarly handled.
Taste of Honey
Key:
f# minor
Meter: 3/4 (verse) and 4/4 (bridge)
Form: Intro – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge (complete ending)
Composers: Marlow/Scott
Influential Version: Lenny Welch (1962)
The original is in the lower key of e and runs a bit faster. It also has a third verse (plus bridge) absent from the
Beatles version; perhaps their slower tempo argued in favor of dropping it. The arrangements are otherwise rather
similar, although the Beatles feature a scalar walking bass line and a complete ending whereas the original fades
out.
The music features a number of tricks: the slow intro and outro, the modally inflected minor key, and the
constant switching between ternary and binary meters from section to section; the latter would eventually make its
conspicuous appearance in several Beatles compositions, but not until much later.
This also happens to be a type of sticky sweet ballad of the sort to which Paul must have always been drawn
but did not write for himself until, say, “And I Love Her.” Interestingly, that particular song is not only heavily in
the minor mode, but also has one special detail in common with “A Taste of Honey” – both end surprisingly on a
Major chord.
Page 161
Twist And Shout
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge + Arpeggio buildup – Verse – Bridge – Arpeggio buildup (complete
ending)
Composers: Russell/Medley
Influential Version: The Isley Brothers (1962)
This is the cover in which the changes made by the Beatles result in the most radical change of character and
impact. The Isleys play this in the higher key of F and the rhythmic swing of their performance and their brassy
arrangement gives the song an entirely different feel from the Beatles' rendition; bluesy in an almost Latin way, as
opposed to hard rock.
What the Beatles do to the form of the song, though, is what really counts; even more so than John's
unprecedented vocal performance. The Isleys end the song with an extended jam on the verse which follows the
first arpeggio buildup. The Boys had the savy to not only repeat the bridge and buildup but to parlay the latter into
a slow-triplet-bound complete ending. This gives the overall thrust of the song a much greater sense of teliology,
of having arrived somewhere; the Isleys (itself not at all a bad version by any means) sounds in comparison more
like just static vamping.
Two other musical features, the use of only three chords (I-IV-V) throughout, and the antiphonal backing
vocals, are reminiscent of the Beatles' own style, even though they had not yet, at this stage, written original songs
with quite the same blistering beat in them as this one has. But that they surely would do, soon enough.
“Have you no natural resources of your own?”
090891#35
Page 162
All I've Got To Do
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse/Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song retains a strongly exotic flavor from the combination of several factors: the pentatonic mode of the
melody, the Major/minor byplay of the harmony, and the belly-dancer-like syncopation of the rhythm. We have
yet another example here where the bridge is repeated but separated by only a single verse section; this time, I
believe the reluctance to provide that additional verse is motivated by the slowness of the harmonic rhythm
throughout the song.
Two small but creative twists are applied to the otherwise straightforward short form: the strange opening
that's not quite a full intro, and the manner in which the final verse, arranged as it is with a wordlessly hummed
vocal, fades out in mid-section.
Melody
The melodic material of the song is almost entirely from the pentatonic scale; think of it as the all “black note”
scale starting on f#, but transposed here to the key of E. This spell is broken is for only a couple of d#'s in the
verse (see the harmonization of the title phrase below), one of which is a juicy appoggiatura.
Just as we recently observed in “I'll Get You”, the melody of this song contains a higher than average quotient
of appoggiaturas; this time let's leave the locating of them all as what used to quaintly be described as an exercise
for the reader.
Harmony
Most of the work here is done by three chords, I, IV, and vi (E, A, and c#), with a little help from their friends, ii
and V (f# and B). In addition to the naturally occurring Major IV chord, we also have near the end of the verse an
appearance of the borrowed minor iv chord, this one motivated by chromatic downward motion of an inner voice.
There is no small amount of ambiguity as to whether the song is in E Major or its relative minor key of c#; a
by-product of the way in which phrases of the verse start off on vi, and the virtual absence throughout the song of
firm V->I chord 'cadences' which would have more clearly established E as the home key.
This exploitation of the vi/I chords was something which Lennon and McCartney leaned on heavily during
this period; see for other examples, “From Me To You”, “She Loves You”, and “It Won't Be Long.”
The opening chord is one of those sonorities that defies a neat textbook analysis. Spelled from the bottom up,
it's E - C# - F - A; an augmented triad on C# suspended over an E in the bass. In practical terms, the note on the
bottom gives John the cue note for his vocal, and the augmented triad above it works as an aurally acceptable
albeit surprising surrogate IV-like antecedent to the c# chord which leads off the verse.
Arrangement
John's single-tracked solo vocal is sensually accompanied by a brief bit of counterpoint from Paul in the verse,
and by the chordal accompaniment of both Paul and George in the bridge.
Page 163
The vocal counterpoint of the verse starts off as plain parallel thirds, but then changes over to trademarkBeatles parallel 4ths by virtue of Paul briefly holding over one note (marked `*` in the transcription below) and
then following the pentatonic scale downward the rest of the way:
"All
I've got to
Paul
G# F#
John
E
D#
do
...."
E
F# |F#
E
*
C#
B |C# B G#
C#
D# |D#
C#
B
G#
F#|G# F# E
Paul plays double stops on his bass in the portion of the verse in which the c# and E chords alternate; the root
notes of each chord are on the bottom and a common note between them, g#, appears on top.
Syncopated emphasis on the eighth note between the second and third beats of the measure (on "two-AND")
is a subtle leitmotif of the song. It is delivered primarily in the form of damped high-hat cymbal slashes from
Ringo, but there are places, such as the second half of the bridge, where the bass and rhythm guitar maintain the
pattern even while Ringo has switched for the moment to more evenly played eighth-note tapping.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Verse
This verse is an asymmetrical eleven measures long. Its first phrase is a standard 4-measures but is followed by
two more phrases of uneven length; first the two-measure title phrase, and then an unusual 5-measure phrase that
is rhetorically elongated by the repetition of material in measures 7 - 8, on the words “call you on the phone, and
you'll be running home”. Note, by the way, how this point of expansiveness coincides with the location of where
the hard syncopation is given a brief rest:
E:
|c#
vi
|-
|E
I
|-
|
|c#
vi
|-
|f#
ii
|
|
|a
iv
|E
I
|-
|
The home key of E is established harmonically only by indirect means; the verse opens with a chord that is not the
I chord of the home key, and the V chord never appears until the end of the bridge.
Bridge
This bridge creates the early impression of intending to perhaps stray far and long from the home key, but by the
beginning of the second of its two 4-measure phrases, it clearly begins moving steadily back toward E. The B
chord in measure 8 is the only appearance in the song of the V chord:
|A
IV
|-
|A
IV
|E
I
c#
vi
|c#
vi
|-
|A
VI
|E
I
Page 164
|
B
V
|
There are two deft variations applied to the repeat of the bridge. Melodically, John modifies the phrase on the
words “I'll be here” so that it creates a new high point. And formalistically, the last sub-phrase is repeated, lending
a free-verse rhetorical feeling to the section rather similar to that felt in the second half of the verse.
Final Verse/Outro
In context of the rest of their original songs recorded to this point in time, the humming and early fade of this
section are both novel and unprecedented little experiments, particularly significant for the continued creative
trend which they presage.
A Final Thought
I'd also suggest that the hummed ending here is more than just a clever device for its own sake, but that it rather
effectively drives home the underlying self-satisfied subtext of the lyrics; to the extent that some things in life,
such as the comfortable equilibrium of a relationship between helpmates, defy completely adequate expression in
words.
“You can be replaced, you know, chicky baby.” 100191#36
Page 165
Don't Bother Me
Key:
Meter:
Form:
e minor (with Pentatonic & Dorian inflections)
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse/half solo – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This moody and exotic sounding number was, of course, the first solo- original composition George was to do
With The Beatles. As a premiere effort, it is technically quite polished, yet even more notable for its compositional
individualism, especially in light of what must have been the creative climate within The Beatles as a group at the
time of its composition, in the second half of '63. Even without any kind of direct peer-pressure from John and
Paul, you'd think, given the rapidly rising tide of Beatlemania, it would have been the easiest, or at least easier,
path for George to show up with something a lot less imaginative and rather more slavishly imitative of his older,
more experienced mates.
Instead, though you might be sorely tempted to want to pull him down on the bed with you by his shoulders
and beg him to lighten up (would ya' ?), you've got to admire him for being himself at all costs, and for coming up
with a song that turns out in retrospect to uncannily foreshadow musical techniques and tendencies with which he
would preoccupy himself for years to come; in particular, the minor key, the sensually modal melody, and the
inwardly focused and sad/angry theme of the lyrics.
Harmony
Although the song sounds overall as though in a minor key, there are a number of positively modal touches to be
found in the chord choices and progressions. In particular, the 'v' chord used here is a minor triad, unsuitable for
use as a strong Dominant in establishing the home key. Consequently, the burden of that function is shared in this
song between the VII chord (which in a Major key would have to be called 'flat VII' because it does not occur
naturally in Major keys, whereas it is actually quite at home here in the minor/modal domain), and the IV.
The appearance in this song of the Major IV chord in a minor sounding mode is a unique twist on a trick
we're used to see being played in reverse. Strictly speaking, this device is associated with the ancient “Dorian”
church mode; think of it as the all white-note scale starting on d – and note, how its 6th scale degree is a Major
sixth above the tonic note of the scale, whereas the other modes we're familiar with that have a minor bottom half,
such as the “natural minor” (aka “the Aeolian mode”), have a minor 6th degree.
Melody
The melody of this song is equally as pentatonic in pitch content as “All I've Got To Do”, but there is a crucial
difference between the two songs. “All I've Got To Do” uses the five notes of the pentatonic scale to conjure a
mode that is primarily Major in feel; our song here, “Don't Bother Me”, rearranges the same five notes to convey
a deeply minor mode.
In order to explain this, let's normalize the two song melodies by transposing them so that they both lie along
the black notes of the piano. In this case, the home key of “All I've Got To Do” may be said to be F# Major, and
the melody is for the most part built out of a Major scale that has some unusual gaps; i.e., with rare exceptions,
mentioned in our note last time, the tune of AIGTD is limited to a scale of F# - G# - A# - C# - D# - F#. Note
carefully, the distinctive modal inflection created by the absence of both a 4th and 7th degree in this scale. On the
other hand, the presence of A#, a Major third above the tonic note, is sufficient to establish the underlying feel of
a Major key.
Page 166
“Don't Bother Me”, when transposed to this world of the black notes, is in a home key that sounds very much
like d# minor, but which contains its own unique set of modal inflections. In contrast to AIGTD, our scale for
“Don't Bother Me” is spelled as D# - F# - G# - A# - C# - D#. This time it is the absence of a 2nd and and 6th
degrees in the scale which lend a characteristic pungency to the song's melody. And yet again, the presence of F#
in this scale, a minor third above the tonic note, is sufficient to establish the underlying feel of a minor key.
What's particularly interesting about “Don't Bother Me” is the way in which those missing scale degrees do
make their subtle, limited appearance. The second scale degree (E# - let's keep it all transposed to d# minor for
the moment), for example, is carefully saved for its powerfully unique melodic appearance at the very climax of
the bridge section; it also turns out to be the highest melodic note in the entire song. By the same token, the
harmonic trick of alternating throughout the song between a minor and Major chord on IV (A minor as alternated
with A Major) is made possible by manipulation of the 6th degree of the scale (in the transposed context of d#
minor, we're talking about B and B#) which is otherwise entirely absent from the tune.
And to hopefully head off my critics at the pass, I know that none of the Beatles could read or write musical
notation and were untrained in the rudiments of theory. I acknowledge with equal unequivocality that none of
them as composers would likely ever work the sorts of technical pirouettes we've been discussing into their songs
aforethought, even if they had been trained in music theory. But that in no way diminishes the manifest
sophistication of the finished product. If anything, the fact that they were capable of such intricacy on the
subconscious, intuitive level makes their achievements all the more impressive, in my humble opinion.
Arrangement
We get George's double tracked vocal the whole way through in this song, and there are no other backing voices.
If you have the chance to hear the single-track vocal on take 13 (which is the actual base track to which the
second vocal was overdubbed) you'll acquire a sense of the power that double tracking has to paper over a
multitude of notes sung slightly out of tune.
The rhythm track is characterized by heavily reverbed guitar parts and an almost ostentatious battery of
world-music percussion instruments; the latter being overdubbed by the other three Beatles along with George's
second vocal.
The solo guitar section is structured in a remarkably similar way to the one in “From Me To You”; an
example of yet another formulaic device of the genre, in which the instrumental solo part is a close paraphrase of
the original melody, and the vocal part is then resumed for the last phrase or two of the section as though it were a
refrain.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
I believe that the tempo of this song is actually twice the speed of what George slowly counts in at the beginning
of takes 11 - 13; if for no other reason than the section lengths will appear to be impossibly short in terms of
numbers-of-measures if we take George at his word, without any recalibration. In any event, the intro is four
measures long and is built out of material which cleverly anticipates the opening of the bridge section to come
much later, right down to that recognizable figure in the bass line:
chords:
bassline:
e:
D
VII
|D
F# |E
|D
|e
|-
|
E
i
Regardless of tempo and elaborate percussion noises, the song retains a measured, somewhat ponderous feel as a
result of the slow and even pace of the harmonic rhythm.
Page 167
The non-I opening with its reliance on the VII -> i progression to establish the initial sense of key is quite
elliptical; you might even be fooled into thinking for an instant that the song is going to be in the key of D Major
and that the e chord which follows is the ii, and not the i!
Verse
The verse is twelve measures long and built out of three phrases equal in length. Though the harmonies and
overall style are far removed from the strict blues style, the structure here is undeniably quite blues-like:
e:
|b
v
|a
iv
|G
III
|e
i
|
|b
v
|a
iv
|G
III
|-
|
|e
i
|A
IV
|e
i
|-
|
The first two phrases have a couplet-like parallelism to them, with the third phrase providing a refrain-like
capping off; the flourish of drums at the end of the second phrase, followed by a sudden grand pause for just an
instant further articulates this structure. Similarly, the fourth iteration of this section, with its guitar solo for the
first two phrases and return of the vocal part in the final phrase also serves to underscore the refrain effect.
All such formal articulation aside, this section is relatively static and closed up in shape. All three melodic
phrases are flatly declarative in the way they tersely finish saying their respective pieces well before the end of the
four measures of music allotted to them. The harmony is similarly static, giving virtually unrelieved emphasis to
the i chord of e minor. The ending of the second phrase on G for a change, and the way in which the downward
melodic motion of the third phrase balances out the upward gestures of the preceding two phrases are our only
dynamic formal gestures. At the very least, this claustrophobic and withdrawn feeling of the music here is very
much in keeping with the sense of the words.
The minor iv chord is used in context of the chord-stream-like progression of the first two phrases where it
fits in smoothly, and allows George to save that Dorian Major IV chord for expressive, surprise effect in the final
phrase.
Bridge
The bridge is sixteen measures long and is built out of four phrases even in length; perhaps it would be more
accurate to describe the final eight measures as one longer phrase; just as in the verse, the third phrase comes to
balance out the couplet parallelism of the first two phrases:
|D
VII
|-
|e
i
|-
||D
VII
|-
|e
i
|-
||
|b
v
|-
|a
iv
|-
|C
VI
|-
|e
i
|-
||
Several elements help create some sense of contrast between this section and the surrounding verses: the 4x4
phraseology, the opening up of the melodic space to allow for an effective climax on the high f# in measure 9, the
appearance of a couple of chords not yet heard in the song, and the sudden slowing down of the harmonic rhythm
Page 168
to one chord change every other measure. Although the tempo of the song is steady throughout, the return in the
following verse to chord changes in every measure creates a subtle illusion of acceleration.
In spite of all the above, the inwardly focused and static mood established in the verses is pretty well
sustained in this bridge; primarily a result of the continued relentless emphasis on the tonic chord of our home key
of e minor. The relative absence here of strongly functional chord progressions, which in most songs are the
principle agent by which a key is established, winds up defaulting a large part of that function to a phenomenon
that might be described as “establishing the key by repetitive insistence.” As a listener it makes you feel
paradoxically in no real doubt as to what key we're, but still you may feel vaguely dissatisfied; a feeling not at all
out of keeping with the song's own inner feelings.
The most sublime moment of pathos in the song is found in the arpeggiated melodic ascent to the high note of
f# in measure 9, followed as it is by a descent from the minor v chord to iv; note the parallel fifths created
between bass line and melody by this move.
Outro
The outro presents a typical sort of looping on the final sub-phrase of the verse which by no coincidence includes
the title within its lyrics. The harmony here oscillates between the i and IV chords. As a variation upon all
previous appearances in the song of this chord progression, the IV chord is now emphasized by a hard-accented
syncopation on the eighth note just before the downbeat where you expect it to appear; on "four-AND". It's a
matter of what I so often describe as an avoidance of foolish consistency, but even more so, its a touch of musical
agitation in keeping with and reflective of what has been described in the words of the song throughout.
Some Final Thoughts
At the time of its release “Don't Bother Me” was likely the most negative lyric in the Beatles' canon to-date. And
for all that it superficially would seem to pressage John's “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away”, there are some
key differences between the two songs which only serve to sharpen our view of George's individual profile and
outlook.
Whereas both fellows might seem to suffer with equal amounts of inconsolable sadness, it is George who
seems to rush in where John would fear (or is perhaps too crashed-out to want to) tread. In place of John's reticent
perplexity, George gives us many words and pronouncements; blaming himself, complaining about the unfairness
of his fate (“it's just not right”), and above all, certain there can never be another like her, crying/waiting/hoping
that there's a happy ending somewhere in store when she'll come back.
Intentional or not, I believe that the wordiness of the song enhances and accentuates its impact. It's one of
those cases where you can turn off the CD and read the text of the song quietly aloud to yourself from a book or
computer screen; even without the musical medium, the message still seems come right at you, straight from the
shoulder.
“Can I say something ? ... It's highly unlikely we'll be on. I mean the law of averages are against you and it seems that, etc. etc. ...”
101491#37
Page 169
Little Child
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Break – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The form of this song is a bit tricky. On strictly musical grounds, I believe one hears it in the way that I've parsed
it above, as one of the standard and familiar formal models. However, the repeat pattern of the lyrics would seem
to argue otherwise; that what I've labeled a “verse” is more of a “refrain” because the words are unvaried over
four repeats of the section. Similarly, that what I've labeled as a “bridge” is more properly a “verse” because it is
only in that section that the words are varied. This alternate pigeon-holing scheme though would yield an unusual
formal structure indeed:
Intro -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Verse -> Refrain -> Break -> Verse -> Refrain ->
Outro (fadeout)
Hence, I'll stay with my original analysis, though this formal ambiguity caused by the disposition of the lyrics is
noteworthy. We ran into a similar dilemma on “It Won't Be Long” way back in article #10 of the series and the
temporal proximity of these two songs makes me wonder if, on some level, John was consciously experimenting
at the time in this way. Another quite uncommon feature in the form of this song is the appearance of an honestto-goodness instrumental break, in strict 12-bar blues no less!
Harmony
The key is decidedly E Major and the mood ravingly upbeat. However, the harmonic diet here is more low-budget
than we've seen in a while, restricted to only four chords and very common ones at that. In order of appearance,
there are the I, IV, V, and V-of-V; that's the Major chords built on E, A, B, and F#, respectively. Note how the
lack of any minor, diminished, augmented or otherwise altered harmonies helps to project the uncomplicated
emotional tone of the song.
Unlike many of the other songs we've looked at, in which harmonic rhythm tends to follow a fairly regular
pattern (e.g. chord changes in every measure, or every other measure), the harmonic rhythm in this song is a bit
more flexibly varied to help articulate shape of the sections; the verses in particular.
Arrangement
There's a lot of overdubbing on this otherwise simple track to the extreme that even the original British mix of it
on With The Beatles has a Dave-Dexter-Jr.-like muddiness that becomes part of the experience of the song,
whether or not you particularly like it aesthetically. Unlike the case of “Thank You Girl” I'm afraid to think that
there's no clean/dry version of this one even in the vaults of EMI.
On the vocal parts, a double-tracked John is featured solo, with Paul joining him for little flashes of harmony.
Instrumental overdubs feature Paul on piano and John on harmonica pretty much the whole way through.
Page 170
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
Don't be fooled by those seemingly ad-lib and out-of-tempo harmonica chords at the beginning. They are
precisely in tempo making the intro weigh in at four measures long:
E:
|E
I
|A
IV
|E9
I
|-
|
Of course, your ear can't figure all this out until the accompaniment kicks with that piano glissando right before
the third chord, but it's just this sort of ambiguity than enhances the fun of the music. The spicy F# in the
harmonica played over the E chord in the third measure sounds a jazzy, freely dissonant note that is picked up on
again in the repeated appearance of Major 9th chords of the verses, and during a good part of the instrumental
break.
Verse
The refrain-like verse is only eight measures long and built out of two phrases equal in length:
E:
|E
I
|-
|-
A |E
IV I
||B
V
|A
IV
|F#9 |B
V-of-V V
||
The first four-measure phrase itself subdivides rhetorically into a ready-steady-go group of three short
”phrasettes” (to coin a term), quite reminiscent of the “move over once, move over twice ...” snippet in “One
After 909”, and it is harmonically closed in shape. The second phrase nicely balances this out by subdividing
more neatly right down the middle of its four measures, and by its harmonically open ending on the V chord.
The second verse is a slight musical variant of the first one of the sort we've seen before in songs like “Ask
Me Why”, “There's A Place”, and the slightly later “I Should Have Known Better.” Here, the structural purpose
of the change is to harmonically close up the ending of the second phrase:
E:
|E
I
|-
|-
A |E
IV I
||B
V
|A
IV
|F#9
B |E
V-of-V V
I
||
Bridge
The stylistic gesture of short phrases seen in the verses is perpetuated in this bridge as well, which is only six
measures long, yet contains three phrases equal in length:
|E
I
|B
V
||E
I
|-
||F# |B
V-of-V V
||
The usage in this section of a poetic triplet nicely contrasts with, and provides some helpful relief from, the
quatrains of the surrounding verses. Compared to a song like “I'll Get You”, there's a virtual absence in this song
of melodic appoggiaturas. However, in measure 5 of this bridge, above F# chord, there's a stunner of a d# in the
melody on the downbeat.
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Break
It's a rare early Beatles song indeed that has such a break section as this one, both completely instrumental and not
based on one of the preceding sections of the song.
The last two chords of this otherwise pure 12-bar blues passage are modified to include the IV -> V-of-V -> V
progression which by this point of the song strongly resonates with the end of the verse sections, and this tweak
helps to unify the break section with its surroundings.
John's wailing solo is quite nicely done and as a little bonus he even throws in some slow triplets right at the
climactic penultimate measure as though just to let us know for sure it's a “John song”; as if this fact were not
already clear as an azure sky or an unmuddied lake. My only complaint here is the uncharacteristic roughness
with which both the beginning and end of this overdub were edited in.
Outro
We have a very standard looping into the fadeout based on the final two measures of the verse with some clever
handling of the duet vocals as they alternate in pattern on the "oh yeahs".
Some Final Thoughts
This song is the fifth one in a row on the first side of With The Beatles in the key of E. Though a comparison of
the album's running order to a Baroque dance suite is perhaps a jesting overstatement, there is a certain amount of
classic sensibility reflected in the way those five Beatles originals are sequenced to provide a balanced and varied
alternation of mood and tempo.
That said, “Little Child” is probably the weakest of those five songs; following on the heels of “Don't Bother
Me” it's a case of “from the ridiculous to the sublime”, or shall we say it the other way around? On casual
acquaintance, it's easy to dislike “Little Child” for what are, by today's standards, its condescendingly wiseguy/sexist lyrics. Even a closer look at the music itself might make you think of it as a potboiling throwback to
the first album because of the small number of chords, the facile melody, and simple phrasing.
And yet, if you can get beyond your own hyper-serious reactions (hey, Alan, speak for yourself), I believe
you start hearing this song actually as one feel-good rocker of no small sincerity. In time, the words eventually
warm up to strike you as the quite realistic braggadocio of a cool dude on the make. And what you at first reacted
to as rudeness in that cool appraising stare of his is nothing other than his active compensatory factor, more or
less.
“I bet you're a great swimmer. My turn? Bingo!”102191#38
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Hold Me Tight
Key:
Meter:
Form:
F Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This one's a good example of the standard two-bridge-but-no-solo formal model, and it's in the unusual key choice
for the Beatles of F Major. And that's where the easy parts of it end. Granted, it has some mixed reputation among
even the serious fans, and none other than Paul Himself has been known to vaguely shrug it off as just a “work
song.” But, no matter, there is no escaping its technical sophistication. Consider the following three items for
starters, and keep in mind we're not even getting anywhere near the finer details yet:
•
•
•
Chromatic “line cliches” are hidden throughout the song within the inner voices of the chord changes,
sewn between the layers of fabric, as it were, to an extent that the device provides structure and
unification, not just decoration.
The rhythm track features the similarly widespread use of an ostinato figure in the bass and guitar parts;
i.e., the same arpeggiated riff transposed and repeated for many of the chord changes.
In between the end of the second verse and the beginning of the bridge there is a simultaneously melodic,
verbal, and metric elision in which the measure containing word “you” serves as a pivot.
I don't know if it's just a side-effect of the growing number of songs in the Beatles canon we've already covered in
this series, or if “Hold Me Tight” really is that stylistically resonant, but I am struck by the extent to which it freeassociates with other Lennon/McCartney songs. We observed widespread use of chromatic line cliches in “You
Won't See Me”, phrasing elisions in “It Won't Be Long” and “Any Time At All”, and an ostinato bass line in
“Day Tripper” and (eventually will when we get up to) “Lady Madonna.” However, I believe that the most
important resonance for “Hold Me Tight” is in its affinity with the emotional push-pull of “Please Please Me”.
Even though “Hold Me Tight” does not contain the same level of expository high drama as the latter song, it does
seem to describe a similar tableau of hot pursuit at the brink.
Harmony
The song is unrelievedly in the key of F Major. Though only seven different chords are used throughout, three of
them (almost half the budget) are altered, or borrowed ones, not occurring naturally in the home key. In order of
appearance these are V-of-V (G), minor iv (B flat minor), and flat III (A flat).
By now we've become quite used to seeing examples of the first two of these chords in Beatles songs.
But the last one, "flat III", is a bit more rare and dramatic in sound. In theoretical terms, it's actually not quite
as remote a neighbor to the home key as may appear at first glance. The textbooks describe it as the relative Major
to the parallel minor – imagine the home key being f minor instead of F Major and you'll see what I mean. In
context of the Beatles, we've seen this one used before in the bridge section of “You're Going To Lose That Girl”
and as part of a little chord stream in the verse section of “Please Please Me”. In any event, the special dramatic
flavor of this chord is manifested in the way that, when juxtaposed with the I chord, we hear an implied melodic
wavering between the Major/minor third degree of the scale; in our song which is in F Major, we're talking about
the notes A flat and A natural.
Arrangement
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The arrangement has an overall thick sound with husky sounding guitars, lots of cymbal sizzle, and hand claps.
Paul gets to sing the lead vocal solo, while John and George provide a backing part that features a tricky
passage of syncopated antiphony with the lead in the third phrase of the verses. The same sloppiness of execution
which brought take 22 of the song to a rapid halt may also be heard on the finished track for an instant during the
third verse.
The backing vocals sound discordant to the extent that they are placed very close to each other pitch-wise,
and for John especially, are high up in the voice range. This is actually a widespread trademark device of the
group and perhaps the reason why some react to it here with less than their usual enthusiasm is because the
combination of John with George in this context is just not as euphonious as it is with Paul.
And of course, there is the infamously repeated verbal collision every time the phrase “it feels so right
so/now” appears. Though there are several other such mistakes littered throughout the official recordings, I tend
to think of this as being not so much an error as what I can only surmise was an intentional albeit misguided
experiment.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is only two measures long yet it manages to quickly establish the key, expose the ostinato guitar figure,
and introduce what emerges over the course of the song as one of its hooks, the phrase "it feels so right." The
whole thing sounds deceptively similar to the way the end of the bridge sections lead back around into the verses
which follow them. However, a variation in the rhythmic emphasis of the backing track here makes for a subtle
difference.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and divides up into three phrases. The first two are a couplet of four measures
each, and the last eight measures combine to make one long phrase which nicely balances out the previous two:
|---------------------- 2X ----------------------|
line cliche: A
chords:|F
F: I
B flat
|B flat
IV
B natural
|G
V-of-V
C
|C
V
line cliche: F
chords:|F
F: I
E flat
|F7
V-of-IV
D
|B flat
IV
D flat
|b flat minor|
iv
chords:|F
F: I
|b flat min.|F
IV
I
|C
V
|
|
This section has a strongly dramatic arch-like feeling to it in the way it begins to intensify during the third phrase
toward a clear climax on the downbeat of the thirteenth measure (on the phrase “it's YOU”).
The setup of the climax is musically abetted by a number of factors. The first four measures of the long third
phrase are rhetorically insistent in the way they repeat the same two melodic notes several times (“so hold me
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tight, tonight ...”). This is further supported by the way in which the root harmonic rhythm suddenly slows from a
change every measure to every other measure and the syncopated antiphony of the backing vocal. The big
moment itself is enhanced by the appearance of the long-awaited melodic high note on the downbeat of measure
13, and the sudden cessation of the agitated syncopation of the previous measures.
Even the sequencing of upward versus downward line cliches plays a dramatic role. One might say, in the
same oversimplified language that allows us to describe the Major mode as “happy” and the minor as “sad”, that
upward line cliches connote such things as eager expectation, while the downward ones connote grimness or
impatience. In that sense, the use of the upward gesture in the first two phrases, followed by the downward one at
the beginning of the third phrase helps portray a dramatic development which has quite a bit of real-world
experiential resonance to it. The cheerful coaxing of the first half of this verse might be said to give way to
something a bit more desperate before it's over. I even hear this tension reinforced by the way the minor iv chord
is inserted so quickly after what would otherwise be a moment of release following the climax; try that phrase
with the more “natural” Major IV and see how different it feels.
Verse Variations
All the verses other than the first one contain an A flat chord (flat III) in their last measure; all the smoother to
lead toward the bridge and outro sections.
Yet another small example of foolish consistency avoided can be found in the way Paul throws in a little
vocal flip and stretches out the scanning of the words in the first phrase of the third verse.
Bridge
This bridge is an unusual seven measures in length and its subphrases are not easily or neatly to be parsed. There
is even some ambiguous possibility, created by the elision mentioned above, that this section is to be heard as
eight measures long if you include the last elided measure of the verse as part of the bridge.
line cliche: A
chords:|F
F: I
A flat
A
|A flat |F
flat III I
B flat
|B flat
IV
ii
B nat.
C
|g minor |G Major |C
V-of-V
V
As a variation on the straight up-or-down line cliches of the verse, we have in this section a more snake-like inner
line which lends an air of suspenseful indecision to the music. The slowing of the root harmonic rhythm toward
the end reinforces that sense of suspense. Note though how this mood is shaken off by section's ending with
another climax, this time assisted by an upward line cliche.
Other more typical sources of bridge-like contrast here are the change in texture (drumming without cymbals
and slowly-strummed guitar chords on the downbeats – see “I Should Have Known Better”), and the backing
voices being given a rest.
Outro
The outro is done as fake pass at a third repetition of the bridge that literally grinds to a stop, with the ritardando
starting a full three measures before the end. Given the sort of emotional program of pursuit sketched out earlier,
this sort of musical ending doesn't bode well for the fate of our hero.
Some Final Thoughts
In context of the rest of the Beatles' early output, this is clearly one of their hotter “touch” songs; more urgent than
the sweetly pleading “I Want To Hold Your Hand” but also less confrontational than “Please Please Me”.
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Ironically though, “Hold Me Tight” also reminds one at the same time of the more innocent precursor songs
of pursuit by other artists. In particular, I hear echoes in it of Carl Perkins' “Sure To Fall” which includes the line,
“so hold me tight, let tonight be the night, darling, don't ever let me go.”
In the final result, as we saw earlier in the case of “All My Loving” versus “It Won't Be Long”, whatever
parallels may be found between “Hold Me Tight” and “Please Please Me” also serve to underscore some of the
primal differences in style between Paul and John. Just as in “All My Loving”, the focus for Paul in “Hold Me
Tight” is temporally on the present and future of the relationship to the love object (no past!), and is emotionally
self-centered with no allowance for or representation of her feelings and actions. John, in contrast, always
includes both allusions to the past and her actions, even resorting as necessary to some clever measures to work
this into the lyrical narrative no matter how obliquely.
There's also a much simpler logistical difference between the respective endings of “Please Please Me” and
“Hold Me Tight”. Whereas the former would seem to end with the gauntlet thrown down and the situation beyond
the point of return, the latter would seem to leave us with the poor hero “on my knees, beggin' if you please.” But,
oops, that's a different song altogether, isn't it?
“Aye, but don't rush. None of your five bar gate jumps and over sort of stuff.” 112091#39
Page 176
I Wanna Be Your Man
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Break – Verse – Refrain – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is ravingly bluesy in a stylized but facile, simplistic way, representing a certain kind of triumph of style
per se over content. If you're charitably disposed, you'll say that the heavy attention paid to external mannerism
and evocation of mood more than adequately compensates for the otherwise minimalistic amount and quality of
material used throughout. In any event, the song would seem to demonstrate just how it is that a pop song can,
under some circumstances, be written on the fly in what I'd wager must have been less than a single afternoon. In
context of the other contemporaneous L&M originals of the period, this one is formalistically notable for its
bridge-like refrain, and the improvisatory instrumental break.
Harmony
Very few chords are used at all, with the verse section being a jam session on virtually just one chord. A few
additional chords appear in the refrain though they are all garden variety in nature.
Arrangement
Ringo, of course, gets to sing the lead vocal and he's accompanied by John and Paul in the refrain. The rest of the
texture is quite fluffed up, perhaps even overdone a bit, with double tracking, overdubbed Hammond organ, and a
lot of screaming.
We have the case here where non-official versions of the song, preserved as they are in unreleased recordings
of BBC radio broadcasts and live concerts, present a revised arrangement which omits the organ but is in all other
respects more effective. I'll single out such specific improvements as we come to them in our walkthrough below.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Verse
You can hardly call it an intro by itself, but the hot little guitar lick that precedes the opening downbeat helps
immediately set the wild and crazy mood of what is to come. Several live versions include four full measures of
introductory vamping on E before Ringo's vocal entry.
The overall section is seventeen measures long and divides up into two eight-measure couplets, plus one
additional measure to give a little breathing space for the long pickup into the refrain. This last measure is not
strictly required in the scheme of things, and its presence does indeed create a slightly awkward metrical
asymmetry. My guess is that they decided to include it as the lesser of two evils because if you try this section out
without that seventeenth measure, the title phrase which commences the refrain gets garbled in a scramble to
squeeze it into measure sixteen.
Only the I chord (E) is used in this section, though there is a brief hint of the V chord (B) in the second half of
measures 8 and 15; this chord change is much more clearly articulated in the live versions. The bluesy melody
with its emphasis on f# and the flat-seventh (d) lends some indirect harmonic embellishment of that lone E chord.
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Refrain
This refrain is eight measures long and built out of four little 2-measure phrases each of which declaims the title
phrase of the lyrics:
riff:
E:
f#-f-e|d#
|F#
|B
|E
V-of-V V
I
e-d#-d|c#
|C#
|f#
|B
V-of-ii ii
**
f#-f-e|d#
|E
|V
I
|
[** that f# minor chord just *might* be F# Major but I find
the recording too muddy to tell for sure.]
The shift in this section to a distinctly non-bluesy style with those cornball chromatic-scale guitar riffs is the
primary source of formal contrast.
On a more subtle level, the introduction in this section of a number of different chords with a concomitant
amount of harmonic rhythm also contrasts with the monotony of the verses. Though this refrain doesn't actually
stray at all from the home key, the large number of intensely functional chord changes (with root movements
lying along the circle of fifths) make it sound as though it's very much on the harmonic prowl.
Break
The break is twelve bars long and like the verse, it jams on just a single chord. The heavy blues style returns with
what seems like a high water mark amount of shouts and grunting. The guitar solo here consists of sound-bite-like
short “licks”. There is very little of the sort of melodic continuity or dramatic sense of direction seen in the solos
of either “I Saw Her Standing There” or even “Little Child.” The live versions turn this section very clearly into a
12-bar blues frame and feature more overall shape to the guitar solo.
Outro
The outro brings a return of the texture heard in the Break, only this time there is an adaptation of the vocal parts
of the refrain superimposed over the backing track.
A small flash of the IV chord (A) during the fadeout hints at the real blues jam session that might have gone
on in the studio after the faders had been lowered all the way; see the unreleased Take 7 of “She's A Woman” for
an example of what I'm thinking of.
The live versions of our song in fact replicate the 12-bar blues form seen in the Break and thus take the song
to an alternate complete ending.
Some Final Thoughts
Tony Barrow, whose liner notes on the first couple albums are surprisingly accurate most of the time in spite of
their unabashed PR-perspective, gets caught in, not one, but two lies regarding this song: #1 – saying the song was
written especially for Ringo rather than the Rolling Stones, and #2 – that it is John on the Hammond organ, not
(as Lewisohn reports) George Martin.
There are a number of well known Dylan-Beatles connections out there, but one of the more obscure and
unusual examples must be Zimmy's unreleased track from a late '65 session done with the proto-Band; a song
entitled “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, in the refrain of which he humorously sends up our own “I Wanna Be Your
Man”. The existence of such a parody forces me to acknowledge, almost against my will as it were, that our song
must have had, in spite of whatever its limitations, a sufficient presence as a ready-made pop-culture icon in order
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to draw such distinguished imitation, even if only in jest. But I guess that's what I meant to begin with, with my
own wisecrack about the triumph of style per se over content.
“I don't wanna be her's, ... I wanna be your's!”
112491#40
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Not A Second Time
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major/e minor
4/4
Verse (initial) – Verse (variant) – Refrain – Refrain (solo) – Verse (initial) – Verse (variant) – Refrain –
Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Though far from having been one of the big hits of its period, this one has its own share of small-to-medium sized
stylistic innovations; especially in terms of form and key definition.
The middle section of the song would appear to be much more of a refrain than a bridge according to the
couple of principles suggested for making such a distinction back in our Notes on “All My Loving.” After all, it
does feature the song's lyrical hook at the end and feels overall more like a fulfillment of the verses than a
contrasting interlude away from them. Nevertheless, it's still an unusual sort of refrain for its convergent harmonic
shape and the way in which it sounds like a continuing outgrowth of the verse instead of a discrete section on its
own. You also expect a refrain to be a bit more tunefully catchy if not downright jingle-like than this one is; think
of examples such as “She Loves You”, and “It Won't Be Long”, and of course, “All My Loving.”
The appearance of the instrumental solo in a section based on the refrain instead of the verse is another
unusual formal feature here. So is the fact that this solo-refrain immediately follows another refrain section. Less
unique but nonetheless noteworthy is the use of a variation of the original verse section for those verses which
immediately precede a refrain.
Harmony
The harmonic vocabulary is relatively straightforward. A total of six chords is used though they are all part of the
set that is diatonically available within the home key. Unusually, diminished chord on vii is used but the more
common IV chord is not.
The identity of the home key is less clear. Though ostensibly in G Major, there is quite a bit of emphasis
given to the relative minor key of e by virtue of heavy use of the I - vi chord progression in the verses and the way
in which the refrain veers toward the key of vi. This I/vi ambiguity had been used rather incidentally by the Boys
in such past songs as “From Me To You” and “All I've Got To Do.” Here though, seemingly for the first time, it
provides a programmatic touch of pathos that belies the plain meaning of the words.
The lyrics would seem on the surface to articulate a feeling of unbendable resolve not to be taken in or fooled
any more, yet the manner in which the resolute harmonies of G Major repeatedly give way in the refrain sections
to surprising turns toward the more mournful, disappointed key of e would indicate that the hero is not quite so
able to follow his own best advice. In Classical usage, such deceptive cadences to the relative minor are typically
done as a tease, after which, things are quickly put right. Our song, in contrast, allows this last minute change to
hold sway, making it feel all the more ominous.
Arrangement
Keyboards show up relatively frequently in the songs on the With The Beatles album, though the piano part is
especially prominent in a bottom heavy way on this track, with its solo part played in the unusual baritone range.
John appears vocally double-tracked throughout and it's a rare track indeed from this early Beatles period in
which literally no other backing voice parts are included.
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A resolute rhythmic figure (“bom - pause - b'bom - ching!”), one quite reminiscent of “There's A Place”,
pervades much of the song. By no coincidence, “There's A Place” turns out to be a yet another song in which a
tension between decision and doubt would seem to reign.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Initial Verse
The lack of an intro is partially compensated for by the way the drums come in at the beginning of the fifth
measure of the first verse, making the first half of the initial verse feel somewhat like an intro in retrospect. The
tune is heavily pentatonic though not exclusively so; reminiscent of what we saw in “All I've Got To Do”, right
down to the detail of the way in which the non-pentatonic 7th degree of the scale (f# in this song) is used as an
expressive 9-8 appoggiatura over the vi chord (e minor); refer to the fourth measure of the verse on the word
“why”. The verses all have an odd length of seven measures which parses into subphrases of 2 + 2 + 3 measures:
-----
G:
|G
I
2 ----|e
vi
|G
I
------ 2 ------ ----------- 3 --------|e
vi
|D
V
|G
I
|D
V
|
Verse Variant
The primary difference between the initial verse and this variation of it is in the change of the chord in measure
six from I (G Major) to ii (a minor). Even though both verses otherwise have the same length, sub-phrasing, and
open harmonic ending on V, this isolated chord change still does make for a subtle difference.
In the initial verse, the appearance of the I chord in measure 6 provides a palpable sense of closure, almost as
though the verse were really six measures long, with the V chord of the seventh measure being an appendix put
there specifically to motivate the following verse. This is especially true in the first appearance of the initial verse
where the vocal part ends in measure 6, leaving measure 7 fully exposed as a filler.
By contrast, the ii chord in measure 6 of the verse variant extends the open-ended feeling of the V chord that
precedes it in measure 5. As a result, one can feel a sense, building all the way through the last three measures of
this verse variant, of expectation that is ultimately fulfilled with the arrival of the refrain.
Refrain
As we alluded up top, this refrain is unusual many respects. For starters, it is ten measures in length and breaks
down into a number of rhetorically short phrases of varying lengths which lend a free-verse feel to the music that
is very typical of John Lennon even in this relatively early period:
You're giving me the same old line/I'm wondering why
You hurt me then/you're back again
No, no, no, not a second/time
(2 + 2)
(1 + 1)
(2 + 2)
Note, by the way, the powerful effect here which stems from the fact that the only one of the little phrases which
begins emphatically on a downbeat is the one beginning with “No”.
Harmonically, we find a vague restlessness in the chord progression of this section. For one thing, not all the
chords are articulated clearly by the fuzzy texture of the arrangement; e.g., is the chord in the third measure below
G Major with an added sixth of e in the melody, or an e minor chord in its so-called first inversion with the note G
in the bass line? And for another thing, the bass line snakes around (especially in the second half) in a way which
further blunts the sense of clear root chord movement:
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e
???
chord: |a
bass:
A
G:
ii
|b
B
iii
???
vi
|G
G
I
|e
E
vi
|a
A
|f# dim|b
A
B
ii
vii
iii
|f# dim|e
A
E
vii
|-
|
vi
In fact, I believe that the bass line movement in measures 5 - 8 is one of the critical elements in setting up the
sense of "deception" when the e minor chord appears in place of G Major in measure 9. Even if you don't
explicitly "listen" to the bass line during the song or read music, I still think that you expect the bass line to move
scale-wise to a chord on G, rather than take the plunge to e at that point.
Curiously, no V chord is used in this refrain. Instead we have the diminished chord on vii, which is not only a
very reasonable surrogate for the V of the Major key, but is also one of those chords which enharmonically can
also be substituted as the V of the relative minor. In other words, those diminished triads in measures 6 and 8
might be either the vii of G or e depending on how they're “spelled”, and it is this ambiguity which helps smooth
over the deceptive cadence and makes it the more believable when it happens.
Outro
The outro consists of an harmonic vamping on the I-vi progression with the vocal part being a medley being built
out of pentatonic fragments of what had been the tune of the verse sections. In terms of what I've described above
as “programatic significance”, this repeated alternation of I-vi into the fadeout would seem to just about sum up
the underlying mood of the song.
As a break from the straight double tracking heard in the rest of the song, there is a small spot during the
outro where John's second part is cascaded against the primary track. One can only guess whether this is an
accidental glitch or an intentional special effect. Perhaps it serendipitously started out as the former, and they
decided to keep it as the latter once they heard what it sounded like; just maybe.
Some Final Thoughts
The story of a love/hate relationship in which someone is trapped between their rational side which says “go”
while their weaker heart cries “stay anyway, or at least for now” is surely one of the standard pop-song plotlines
of all times. But whereas the songs by other artists which come to mind (e.g. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” or
“You Keep Me Hanging On” just to name a pair off the top of the head) seem to place the dialectic tension of the
situation right on center stage of the lyrics, it is quite striking to note the extent to which John would be capable of
trying to hide the waveringly weaker side of the story behind an apparently straight-faced and tough-minded
lyrical exterior as he does here.
Even more striking is the unexpected way in which this sort of ironical use of musical subtext shows up later
in his non love songs. You'll likely have to wait a couple of years or so for it at the rate at which I'm making
progress with the series, but some day when we get to a detailed Note on it, you may surprised to discover how
the same Major/minor musical card trick is tucked beneath the otherwise arch-blase and disaffected lyrics of no
less an epochal song than “A Day In The Life.” Same exact chords and keys, no more, and certainly no less.
“Eh, Mister, are you nursing a broken heart, then?”
120891#41
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The Cover Songs Appearing On The With The
Beatles Album
General Points Of Interest
Both the Please Please Me and With The Beatles albums contain six cover songs and eight originals. While there
are some parallels between the covers on both albums, there are equally interesting differences as well.
The parallels:
Both sets of covers contain examples of types of material that the group could or at least would not write for
themselves at this stage of their career. The connections between “Taste of Honey” versus “Till There Was You”
(soppy love ballads), “Boys” versus “Roll Over Beethoven” (jumping little records with every section a 12-bar
blues frame), “Anna” versus “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (heavy soulful ballads), and “Twist and Shout”
versus “Money” (raving screamers) are fairly obvious.
Given the decidedly male image of the group, both sets of covers contain a surprisingly strong showing of
material first popularized by so-called Girl Groups; three out of six on the first album, and two out of six on the
second.
Although The Boys would seem in some respects to rather slavishly copy the original versions of the songs in
both sets of covers, they almost always, by the same token, appear to include their own subtle stylistic touches.
This appears with increasing liberty on the second album, where for example three of the covers whose originals
feature a fadeout ending are given a complete one by the Beatles.
The differences:
Overall, the set of covers on With The Beatles is more heavily weighted toward driving R&B. Either that or
perhaps it is in sympathetic vibration, as it were, with the heavier set of originals on this album that one hears the
covers this way. Though a highly subjective call, I dare say that With The Beatles packs a harder punch as an
album than does Please Please Me partly because of the type of covers it contains.
Less subjective is the fact that the With The Beatles covers represent, in part, an older layer of the Beatles
repertoire than the ones on Please Please Me. Of the six covers on With The Beatles two (“Till There Was You”
and “Money”) go back at least as far as the Decca audition, and “Roll Over Beethoven” goes back even further.
According to Lewisohn, there was even a time when the proto-Beatles played “Roll Over Beethoven” with John
singing lead! The Please Please Me covers, in contrast, were mostly recent hits at the time the Beatles recorded
them; only “Baby It's You” predates the 1962 season which immediately preceded the recording of Please Please
Me.
Till There Was You
Key:
F Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (complete ending)
Composer: Willson
Influential Version: Peggy Lee (1961)
The Beatles acoustic arrangement with its Latin beat and bongos is certainly a far cry from the smoothly flowing
schmaltz of the original version heard in The Music Man Broadway show. Perhaps this bouncier treatment was
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inspired by Peggy Lee (unfortunately this is the one original cover version I did not have on hand for this article),
or perhaps, they took their own cue for it from the likes of “P.S. I Love You” and “Ask Me Why”.
A couple of details betray the Beatles own fingerprints; e.g. the flat VI chord (D flat Major) in the coda and
the final F Major chord with the added Major 7th are definitely not part of the original. Despite this, the musical
essence of this song, with its chromatic winding that pervades both vocal melody and bass line (and which
indirectly affects the choice and progression of chords) is something quite off the Beatles track.
No matter how much you think he deserves to be ragged on for playing it apparently from such rote practice,
George's acoustic solo work on this track is tastefully conceived and executed with great nuance. Granted, it's
simultaneously both impressive and depressing to hear the identical solo, note for note just about, on the Decca
tape.
Please Mister Postman
Key:
A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Refrain – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Refrain – Refrain (fadeout)
Composers: Dobbin/Garrett/Garman/Brianbert
Influential Version: The Marvelletes (1961)
Every section of this song is based on the same I -> vi -> IV -> V chord progression, one of the most popular
cliches of early Rock and Roll, yet one which for some reason the Beatles generally eschewed.
The monotony of the harmonic plan tends to blur somewhat the distinction between what is “refrain” and
“verse”, but it should be noted how the former utilizes dramatic antiphonal counterpoint between the backing and
lead vocals, while the latter features the lead up front with the backers softly “oooh-ing.”
One of the other covers here features similarly conspicuous antiphony (see “Devil In Her Heart”) and this sort
of device would eventually become a major trademark of the Beatles original work; think of the likes of “You
Can't Do That” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl.” In “Postman” the vocal antiphony starts, bang!, right in
the intro, and I for one can't avoid hearing a direct resonance between those opening shouts of “Wait!” and the
Boys own “Help!” John is double tracked while the Marvellete's lead is not. Otherwise the arrangement of both
versions is essentially the same, allowing of course for the large change of key required to accommodate the
different vocal ranges of the two groups.
Incidentally, you'll find that there is some confusion over the authorship of this song if you compare various
sources. Current CD pressings of With The Beatles credit the team listed above. However, the older LP copies of
the Second Album list just “Holland” and this is supported by the Parlophone company-memo originally defining
the running order for With The Beatles as reproduced in Lewisohn's Recording Sessions. Note though that
Lewisohn's Live book lists it as “Holland/Bateman/Gordy.” Does anybody out there know what I sense must be an
interesting story behind this?
Roll Over Beethoven
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain (3 times) – Bridge – Guitar Solo – Verse/Refrain (two times) – Refrain (complete
ending)
Composer: Berry
Influential Version: Chuck Berry (1956)
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As with many other, if not quite literally all, of Chuck Berry's songs, every section of this one is in the 12-bar
blues form – eight of them all in a row! I only call the fourth section a bridge (“Well if you feel it”) because of the
subtle change in the melody and backbeat.
There's a minor variation here on the standard blues formula in the way that the chord progression of the
last four measures of the 12-bar pattern is played as IV->V->I instead of V->IV->I. This is actually much easier to
hear on the Beatles version than the original, though I believe they both play it the same way.
Formalistically, each 12-bar section is internally sub-divided so that the first eight measures provide
verse-like exposition, and the final four measures deliver a refrain-like hook. Note how the text of the
hook/refrain itself is varied from section to section. Also, note the subtle way in which formal plan here contrasts
from of that of “Money” below.
The lyric is wordy to an extreme bordering on the “talkin' blues” style, and is quite wryly irreverent. Seen
in this perspective, Chuck's performance scans the words against the beat more freely than does George, in a way
that anticipates the style of Dylan in some respects.
The original features a drumming style that is less splashy than the Beatles cover while the Beatles double
track the lead vocal and add their hand-claps to the rhythm track. But these are small details and otherwise, the
Beatles just about rip the whole thing off from Chuck right down to the opening riff and “middle twelve” break.
You Really Got A Hold On Me
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Closing – Bridge/Re-Intro – Verse – Refrain – Closing –
Refrain – Outro (complete ending)
Composer: Robinson
Influential Version: (Smokey Robinson and) The Miracles (1962)
There's an unusually complex form at play in this song; note, that I define my terms used above as follows:
Verse: “I don't like you ...”
Refrain: “You really got a hold on me ...”
Closing: “I love you and all I want you do ...”
Bridge/Re-intro: instrumental followed by “Tighter!”
The vocal arrangement is equally complex with the relationship between the lead and backers frequently
alternating between trio, solo, and some antiphonal singing.
Harmonically, the song features an emphasis on the I- vi progression that is rather Beatles-like in an
coincidentally ironic way. Smokey does it in the higher key of C with (just like Chuck) a different scanning of the
words. The original arrangement also features saxes and notably, a fadeout ending. John has the good sense here
to sing it single tracked, but while his performance has an obvious intensely raw sincerity to it, Smokey's own
smoothness is rather hard to beat.
Devil In Her Heart
Key:
G Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Refrain/Verse (three times) – Refrain – Outro (complete ending)
Composer: Drapkin
Influential Version: The Donays (1962)
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The lyrics and arrangement of this song present an argument between the backers who warn the lead of his lover's
cruel dishonesty, and the lead who point-by-point protests their sad prophecies as false and refuses to be swayed
by their counsel; it's a regular little Greek Chorus Drama in miniature.
The form of the song though is surprisingly flat in spite of the dramatic scenario, with a mechanical
succession of Refrain and Verse pairs. Defining my terms again:
Refrain: “She's got a devil in her heart ...” – I'll still peg these sections as refrains in spite of the fact that the lyrics
which follow the hook line keep changing in each reiteration.
Verse: “He'll never hurt me or desert me ...”
Both formal sections of the song have a convergent harmonic shape, which is unusual. The refrains start off with
ii->V->I (shades of :Don't Let Me Down”) and the verses start off with the IV->iv->I (Major IV to minor iv)
cliche.
The transfer of this song from a female to male group obviously necessitated changing the words a bit as well
as a transposition of key (the Donay's did it in E.) The original has a large-ish sounding band behind it and a
fadeout ending. The Beatles include maracas, and not only make the ending a complete one, but adorn it with one
of their beloved Major ninth/seventh chords on I.
Money
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain (three times) – Break – Verse/Refrain – Refrain – One Last Refrain (complete
ending)
Composer: Bradford/Gordy
Influential Version: Barret Strong (1959)
This is yet another song in which (virtually) every section is in 12-bar blues form, but it bears an interesting
comparison with “Roll Over Beethoven”. Here, the 12-bar frame is divided so that only four measures are verselike exposition with the remaining eight devoted to a raving refrain. The proportions in ROB are a reversed eightto-four. And the difference is more than just a mathematical curiosity to the extent that the longer refrain section
in “Money” is as much a factor in making it a screamer of a song as is the performance of the lead singer. If
you're looking for other examples with which to test this theory, look back to the first album where you find the
verse of “Chains” which corresponds to the “Roll Over Beethoven” 8+4 pattern as well as “Boys” which matches
the 4+8 pattern of “Money.”
One additional parallel between “Money” and “Roll Over Beethoven” is the way they both have final sections
in which the hook-phrase takes over the lyrics completely. The Beatles cover presents the intro and solo as an
eight-measure compression of the 12-bar frame. The original keeps both those sections at the full twelve bar
count. Note however that the original has only two instead of three verse/refrain pairs before the break.
The vocal line of this is very bluesy with lots of juxtaposed Major/minor thirds and flat 7ths and the
arrangement yet again features a large amount of antiphonal singing. The Beatles throw a hard edged piano in the
mix and of course John's blistering vocal now single tracked. The use of the E Major key nicely supports Tony
Barrow's suggestion that you can flip the disk over for a second play from the beginning since the first track, “It
Won't Be Long”, is also in E.
The selection of this particularly raving number for the final track of the album and the modification of it to
include a big-finish complete ending sounds to me like they were striving hard to repeat the immense success of
“Twist And Shout” on the first album, and I'd dare say they come pretty darn close. If you want to get picky here,
perhaps you might deduct a few points either because the spin-off of the earlier “Twist And Shout” triumph is a
bit too obvious or because the message of the lyrics is kind of crass and rough, for all its tongue-in-cheek
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posturing, in a way which doesn't entirely become the image of the group at this point with their collarless suits
and little boots. If I don't watch it, though, I'm going to starting sound too much like Eppie.
“Have you no natural resources of your own?” 121791#42
Page 187
I Want To Hold Your Hand
Page 188
This Boy
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“This Boy”, with its tight three-part harmonies, jumping triplet rhythm, cliche chord progression, and climactic
bridge section for the vocal soloist, is a stylized update of the late 50's genre sometimes described as “the slow
wall climber.”
The form is short, partly because of the slow tempo, but more importantly because the intense nature of the
bridge argues against a repeat of that section.
Although the final verse or two of the typical Beatles song tends to repeat the lyrics from one of the earlier
verses, every verse of This One contains different words. The lyrics also feature “this/that” wordplay throughout.
Harmony
The chord progression "I->vi->ii->V" permeates the verse sections. It is remarkably similar to the "I-vi-IV-V"
cliche we saw in “Please Mister Postman”. However, the use of ii here places the last three chords along the circle
of fifths and on a very subtle level (try comparing the two of them, yourself) this gives the overall progression a
feeling of gentle inevitability that is missing when IV is used in its place.
The prevalence of appoggiaturas in the vocal parts makes almost every chord in the song into seventh or a
ninth chord, many of which are resolved though by the time they do so, it's often already the next chord. A good
example of this appears at the end of the verse on the word “again”. The top vocal part there pits a b -> a
appogiatura above the D chord, except that by the time the b resolves down to the a, the harmony has already
moved on to a b minor chord which now puts the same note 'a' which would have been a consonant note in
relation to the D chord into the unexpected position of being a 7th on top of the b chord. This particular style of
dissonance treatment conjures an aesthetic of romantic yearning, and in the realm of classical music is one of the
hallmarks of such mid-late 19th century composers such as Wagner, Brahms et al.
Though the bridge does not make a firm modulation, it does in fact drift away from the home key just far
enough to allow for a big build up on V and a pleasant sense of return at the end of it.
Arrangement
Along with “Yes It Is” and the much later “Because”, this is one of the Beatles most ambitious forays into
sustained three-part harmony. One of my favorite video clips of the group is from their February '64 concert at the
Coliseum in Washington DC at which, forced by a combination of the primitive audio equipment of those days
and the pandemonium of the crowd, they perform "This Boy" with the three of them huddled uncomfortably close
around a single microphone in order be able to hear themselves.
Unusual here is the manner in which the combination of the following factors creates the not-unpleasant
effect of obscuring the actual tune: the close placement of the three vocal parts in relation to each other, the
relative lack of melodic individuality among the three parts, and the assignment of John (who sings what is
ostensibly the main melody) to the bottom part. This also makes John's finally soaring clearly above the range of
the others in the bridge section seem all the more spectacular.
Page 189
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro opens with three unaccompanied guitar chords, the first of which actually marks the middle of a
measure, followed by an instrumental ensemble performance of our cliche chord progression. The section is an
asymmetrical five and a half measures long, as though the first three chords were merely an elongated pickup to a
four-measure-long intro-proper.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long. The backing part is built out of essentially four ostinato-like repeats of what
I've dubbed the cliche progression:
D:
|D
I
|b
vi
|e
ii
|A
V
|
Note though, that the vocal parts actually make up three phrases which are not only unequal in length, but start in
a different place within the four-bar frame. The first phrase (“That boy took my love away”) begins right on the
downbeat of measure 1. The second phrase (“Though he'll regret it...”) begins its long anacrusis in the midst of
measure 7. The third phrase (“But this boy...”) has a small pickup on the word “but”, however the emphasis on the
word “this” gives it the feeling of starting squarely on the downbeat of measure 11 and it ends early enough to
leave measures 15 and 16 as though they were between-verse filler. Note too how the backing rhythm is
momentarily silenced to good effect at the beginning of this last phrase.
The way that they manage to feature the D Major 7 in the vocal arrangement at the beginning of the first three
4-measure phrases even though the melodic context is different each time is quite ingenious. To the extent that
this motif reappears in the outro, you might say that its the hook of the piece.
The last four measures of the second verse, which happens to directly precede the bridge, are modified so that
instead of the usual chord progression we find the D Major 'I' chord sustained throughout, and actually modified
to D7 so that its potential secondary function as the V-of-IV is brought into play by the end of the phrase.
Bridge
The bridge is also sixteen measures long but is internally designed to contrast with the verse on a number of
levels, not the least important of which are its division into two neat phrases of equal length and the sudden
slowing of the harmonic rhythm to only one chord change every two measures:
D:
|G
IV
|-
|F#
|V-of-vi
|b
vi
|-
|D
|V-of-IV
|
|G
IV
|-
|E
|V-of-V
|A
V
|-
|-
|
|-
The slowing of the rate of harmonic change is made ironic by the increased sense of restlessness in the sequence
of chords. Note in this section the high quotient of chromatic harmony (i.e. chords not diatonically indigenous to
the home key, such as 'V-of ...' chords) in spite of the fact that we never actually leave the home key. In terms of
Page 190
word painting, I hear this gambit as illustrative of a lad who is desperately pulling out all the stops, using all the
tricks he has at his disposal, ultimately to prove a relatively simple point regarding the constancy of his love.
The other obvious contrast is in the vocal arrangement of this bridge, with double-tracked John stepping in
front of the backing chorus, as it were, for his big solo. Lewisohn tantalizes us with the disclosure that early takes
in the studio actually featured a guitar solo here instead!
As in the verses, the perpetual backing rhythm is briefly halted during the final two measures of this section to
great dramatic effect.
Right between the very last beat of the bridge and the final verse is an obvious, ugly splice. Granted, it doesn't
go “click”, but this is still further proof (as if you needed it) that not too many people involved at the time could
have been thinking that people would listen this closely this long after the fact.
Outro
The outro merely presents the opening hook phrase looped in alternation with a little counter melody played by
the lead guitar. The latter is the only place in the song where this much prominence is given to the lead guitar and
I wonder if this is partially a vestige of the bridge solo abandoned earlier.
A Final Thought
The lyrical concordance of the Beatles' songs titled “Things We Said Today” (edited by Campbell and Murphy)
has "This Boy" subtitled as “Ringo's Theme”, which is news to me. I'll take it on faith that this correctly reflects
how the song was published. But I will ask if anyone out there can answer whether the alternate title was supplied
before or after the making of A Hard Days Night. The fact that an instrumental version of “This Boy” is used in
the film as accompaniment to the long scene in which the sad and lonely one goes paradin' about town seems like
just too much of a coincidence to ignore. But on the other hand, I've got just the shadow of a doubt that perhaps
the movie scene was inspired by the song rather than the other way around ... just kidding.
“Well, that's lovely talk, that is. And another thing, why aren't you at school ?” 123091#44
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Can't Buy Me Love
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Refrain – Verse – Outro (complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We have here a very standard long form with two refrain-like bridges separated by two verse sections, one of
which contains a guitar solo. However the combination within the same song of a verse section so traditionally
bluesy with a refrain/intro/outro that is equally so non bluesy is far from routine and makes this number truly
ground-breaking in its own quiet way.
Harmony and Melody
The verse section uses only the standard three chords of the 12-bar blues form: I, IV and V (C, F, and G Major
respectively). Its melody strictly uses flat thirds and sevenths (notes E- and B-flat) and this makes for similarly
traditional-blues cross-relations with the E- and B-naturals of the chords below it.
By contrast, the intro/outro heavily uses the iii and vi chords (e and a minor), and its melody strictly employs
the diatonic third of E-natural, both of which connote something other than straight-up blues. Yet, the real kicker
comes in the refrain where these two modally different worlds of the verse and intro/outro are starkly contrasted
directly with each other in alternation.
Arrangement
The melodic line plays off a virtually continual stream of syncopation against the steady four-in-the-bar jazz beat
of the accompaniment. The sharp angularity of this is somewhat softened by the effect of Paul's solo vocal being
double-tracked from end to end.
George's guitar solo makes an uncanny first impression of genuinely smooth improvisation, but hearing the
series of broadcast and live performances of this song will convince you that it was, alas, practiced by rote before
hand.
The use of sizzling cymbals everywhere in the song except the intro and outro is a typical Beatles example of
texture used for purposes of formal articulation.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
We've seen quite a number of early Beatles songs with 'in medias res' of openings (e.g. “All My Loving” and “She
Loves You” among others) but this one is one of the most audacious, with the true identity of the home key not
becoming clear until close to the end of the intro.
The section is an unusual six measures long. Under more tritely ordinary circumstances it would actually be a
full eight measures (try tacking two measures of C Major onto the end of it before starting the verse – in fact this
is exactly what happens in the outro) but, again in somewhat of a trademark move of theirs, this intro is elided
with (or interrupted by) the beginning of the verse:
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Melody:
Chords:
C:
CEG|G
|e
|a
iii
|E
|e
|G
|a
|E
|d
iii
vi
CEG|G
|G
vi
|E
||(verse)
||C
ii
V
I
Paradoxically, the primary melodic notes outline the C Major home-key triad almost as slavishly as might a bugle
call, while in contrast, all the chords up until the G in measure 6 are all minor. Also note how the melodic logic of
the triadic outline lets you readily accept those jazzy but otherwise gratuitously dissonant 11th and 13th chords on
d and G respectively.
Verse
The verse sections are all strict 12-bar blues frames. The one slightly unusual detail is in the re-appearance of the I
chord being delayed until the final measure instead of coming back, as is more typical, in m. 11:
m. 1
|C
I
|-
|-
|-
|
m. 5
|F
IV
|-
|C
I
|-
|
|F
IV
|-
|C
I
|
m. 9
|G
V
In addition to the blue-note cross relations (e.g. the melodic E-flat against the E-natural of the C Major chord in
m. 1), there are several appoggiaturas which spice up the otherwise simply chords. Examples include 'D' on the
downbeat of m. 2 and 6, the G on the downbeat of m. 5 and 1.
The halting of the ensemble for an instant right after the downbeat of m. 10 (as in “I don't care too [BrrrUMP!] much for money”) is crisply executed, and a great example of the sometimes eloquent power of silence;
the better to listen to your heart beating.
Refrain
The refrain is very similar to the intro, but is a more square eight measures long, and parses neatly into four brief
2-measure phrases. The words make a poetic 'ab-ac' pattern that is echoed by the music itself:
Melody:
Chords:
C:
CEG|G
|e
|a
iii
|E
||C
|G
|e
iii
||D
||d
|E
|a
vi
||E-flat D|C
|vi
I
F
|G
|G
ii
CGE|
||(next verse)
||C
V
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I
The stark interjection of those bluesy E-flats in measure three amidst the cheerier E-naturals both earlier and later
in the section is perhaps the most distinctive detail of the entire song.
Guitar Solo
This is one of George's great early solos and I'd place it right up there with the one in “Till There Was You” in
terms of being understatedly just right for the context. I especially like the momentary lapse into a paraphrase of
the tune in measure 9.
In between the preceding verse and the beginning of this section is inserted an unnecessary additional
measure which serves to better highlight the commencement of the solo as well as to throw you off guard just a
bit. This is sort of a reverse variation of the elision gambit.
Outro
As mentioned above, this section is identical to the intro except that it includes the additional two measures of C
Major that were lopped off at the beginning by the start of the first verse.
Some Final Thoughts
The appearance of any amount of straight-blues in a Beatles original is noteworthy in and of itself. A recurring
theme in our studies has been John & Paul's predeliction for bluesy cover material, going back all the way to the
Quarrymen era, made ironic by the virtual dearth of such material in their canonical songbook; you'll find that the
number of 12 bar Beatles originals can be counted one less than the fingers of two hands.
In this light the timing of “Can’t Buy Me Love” shouldn't seem a total surprise, given both that its B-side,
“You Can't Do That”, coincidentally happens to also be largely 12-bar in form, and that the next recording
released in England would be the Long Tall Sally EP, a four-song collection three quarters of which is covers of
12-bar hits made famous by blues-meisters Richard, Williams, and Perkins.
What's much more significant though about “Can’t Buy Me Love”is how, in context of early '64, it points to
the future at least as much as “I Want To Hold Your Hand” sums up the past. “Can’t Buy Me Love” contains in
its music a fusion of loosely related styles, and in its lyrics, the transmutation from platitude to poetry of a certain
commonplace re: love and money; both of which innovations subtly prophecy particularly fertile trends of Beatles
experimentalism to come years hence.
As with many things in life and love, I've often found it rather awesome and uncanny to look back later and
discover just how early were sown the seeds of some great harvest.
“Sorry if we hurt your field, Mister.”
010592#45
Page 194
You Can't Do That
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Generally speaking, “You Can't Do That” foreshadows a heavier, harder-rocking sound for the group that would
infiltrate an increasingly large portion of their repertoire over the next couple or three albums. Call it the dawn of
the Later Early Period.
It also bears a close comparison to its companion A-side, “Can’t Buy Me Love”. Both have the same form
although the bridge of this one is closer to a true bridge than the refrain-like one we saw last time. Both songs also
display a split stylistic personality by utilizing relatively straight blues in the verse but not at all in the bridge. The
split in “You Can't Do That” runs even deeper to the extent that the verse itself is not the “pure” 12-bar blues
variety seen in “Can’t Buy Me Love”, but rather features other elements thrown into the mix.
Harmony and Melody
The G Major home key would seem like a clue to the new direction in this area, away from the erstwhile favorite
choice of E Major on the first two albums, as evidenced by the four songs in G on the A Hard Day's Night album;
in addition this one you have “I Should Have Known Better”, “I'll Cry Instead”, and of course, the title cut.
The melody of the song is quite jumpy throughout, both in terms of rhythmic syncopations and intervallic
leaps. The bluesy verse uses the flat seventh scale degree (F-natural) with a traditional consistency that makes for
some bracingly dissonant collisions with the F-sharp contained in the D Major chord (as in "I told you before"),
but both flavors of the third (scale) degree are used (B-flat and B-natural) and this lends a colorful bi-modal tang.
The single most dissonant moments in the song come from the clash of F-naturals (the flat seventh degree) in
the voice part against C Major chords in the accompaniment; viz. two places in every verse – on the word “you”
in the phrase “and leave you flat”, and at the very climax, on the word “Oh!” in the phrase “Oh!, you can't do
that.”
The bridge makes an harmonic break with the I-IV-V blues diet of the verses by introducing additional chords
and flirting briefly with a modulation toward the key of the relative minor, e. Unusually, both Major and minor
flavors of the B chord appear in this section.
Arrangement
An ostinato figure characterized by vacillation between the Major/minor melodic third appears as a unifying
device throughout much of the intro, outro, and verses; at least wherever the G Major chord is sustained for long.
The intimate direct-address of the lyrics is galvinizingly enhanced by the single-tracking of John's lead vocal,
in which, if you listen for it specifically you'll note, he uses an astonishing number of varied shadings of tone.
By the same token, the backing vocal part for Paul and George, with its subtext of “whatever John says goes
double for us!”, runs at cross-currents to the direct-address of the lead, even while it reflects and amplifies upon
the choppy angularity of the melody and the rhythm track. This is a stylistic trademark that would reappear later
in songs like “Help!” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl”. At this early date, the contrast of its effect in “You
Can’t Do That” with the softening/smoothing-over effect in “Can’t Buy Me Love”of Paul's being double-tracked
with no backing vocal part is instructive.
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A ruthless syncopation on the eighth note which precedes the downbeat provides a rhythmic hook for the
song. We characterized this particular choice of syncopation as “swingingly passionate” way back in the note on
“I Should Have Known Better” (which by ironic coincidence turns out to have been recorded the same day as
“You Can’t Do That”), and this rhythmic figure turns out to appear on other tracks of the A Hard Day’s Night
album as well.
In this song, the syncopations are all the more wrenching because of the way that the drums painstakingly
mark the spot where they take place. In the last phrase of each verse, right after the phrase “because I told you
before”, Ringo beats out in even eighth notes the beats of ‘and-four-AND- one.’ John sings the syncopated cry of
“Oh!” on what I marked as ‘AND'’ but Ringo's playing out the downbeat (i.e. 'one' ) of the next measure helps
clarify to your ear what has happened. Contrast this to the raving opening of “When I Get Home”, where the
downbeat that follows this same 'four-AND' syncopation (on the word “Woah-AHH!”) is left to the imagination.
Lewisohn reports the debut appearance on this track of what would become George's familiar 12-string guitar
sound of the period, as well as the inclusion of the unusual choice of cowbell and bongos in the rhythm section.
My ears also hear an electric piano (or perhaps organ) doubling the ostinato figure in the opening.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is for instruments only, providing four measures of just the 'I' chord with the ostinato figure as a
constant, and the entry of the bass and percussion delayed until the third measure. Both the suspense- building use
of a single chord which happens to continue well into the verse that follows, and the staggered entry of the
instruments anticipate the likes of “Ticket To Ride” and “Day Tripper.”
The 'four-AND' syncopation is pervasive right off the bat. Not only is it inherent in the ostinato figure, but it
is also picked up by the way the rest of the ensemble enters in measure 3 with a vacuum cleaner- like zooming
into the G chord from the F# below.
Verse
Harmonically, the verse is a classic twelve-bar blues frame, but the content and phrasing belies this a tad. The
melody is composed straight through with little or no obvious parallelism among the phrases. The one exception
here is in the way the first four measures subdivide into a little couplet (“I got something to say that might cause
you pain/If I catch you talking to that boy again”).
By virtue of the earlier mentioned jumpiness, there is also no overall arch or other clearly directed shape to
the tune. Consequently, the climax of this section (“because I told you before ...”) is ultimately motivated by
rhythm and chord progression, rather than melodic contour.
The notion of a layered arrangement is carried forward in the very typical way in which the backing vocals
first start in the second verse. In an outtake of one of their very early songs, “Do You Want To Know A Secret”,
the Beatles would make the understandably inexperienced mistake of starting such vocals right in the first verse,
but even at that stage, they were smart enough (or else had someone of greater wisdom who could advise them) to
alter their strategy for the official release.
A small change in harmonic floor-plan differentiates the verses which lead to other verses from those which
lead to a bridge. The former move to the V chord (D) in their last measure, while the latter sustain the old I chord.
Bridge
Just as we saw in “Can’t Buy Me Love”, the bridge here again breaks the strict mold of the blues. At the very
least, the melody in this section eschews all blue notes in favor of a strict diet of the Major third (B-natural) and
the Major seventh (F-sharp).
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More substantively, we have here an eight measure section that subdivides into two roughly parallel phrases
equal in length, the first of which is harmonically closed off while the second one ends wide open in order to set
up the following verse. Additionally, we have an intriguing fake modulation to the key of e minor:
|B
e: V
|e
i
|a
b
iv
G:ii iii
|G
VI
I
|B
e: V
|e
vi
|a
iv
G:ii
|b
iii
|
D
|
V
Though tentative and short-lived, the move toward e is immediate and impetuous. Not only does the section start
right off with the B Major chord, but that syncopated D# in the tune there is just about the longest sustained note
in the entire song. Despite this, the music turns tail just as quickly back to the home key by the somewhat
awkward, or at best anti-textbook, root progression of ii-iii-I; the “book” would prescribe the V (D) in place of the
iii.
This scrambling back to the home key so quickly after such a brief excursion connotes for me the image of
someone who in full rant, rambles off onto a tangent (“And while I'm at it, another thing, ...!”), only to catch
himself and get back forthwith to the immediate obsession of the moment.
In the spirit of bridge-ly contrast, the backing voices are also handled different in this section, now used for
italic-like emphasis instead of the antiphonal counterpoint heard in the verses. In some spots, it's difficult to tell
whether we're hearing John double-tracked here or just him and George or Paul singing together in unison.
Guitar Solo
The mood of general agitation, as well as the interjections of the backing vocalists, are continued straight into the
solo, where choppy chords and tremolo bent notes prevail over any attempt at an outspun melody. For just an
instant, around measure 9 of this section just as the chords change to V (D), it almost sounds as though the
fragmentary riffs might be ready to coalesce into some kind of longer line, but alas, it's not meant to be, and the
solo closes in the same disjointed mode in which it began.
A certain amount of screaming at the beginning of a solo section is a Beatles tradition going all the way back
to “I Saw Her Standing There”, but John's growling gesture at the beginning of this one goes beyond mere
convention, and can likely be felt in the pit of your stomach long after you might expect to have become used to it
from repeated listenings.
Outro
The outro is both abrupt and brief. It is entered immediately following the end of the last verse with none of the
more standard setup via a triple repeat of the last phrase. It consists of only two measures of the familiar ostinato
figure scored, in complete symmetry with the song's opening, without drums, although here at the end the bass
guitar is included. The lingering on the penultimate F# right at the end is a teasing surprise.
Some Final Thoughts
You'd half expect the less-than-upbeat theme and side-B status of this one to leave it stranded in the backwaters of
popularity, but it actually is both a great and favorite song of its period.
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It's tough, tense, and jumping out of its skin with an offbeat attitude and a matching list of colloquial phrases
rarely heard if ever, in a pop song of the time; e.g. “cause you pain” (?), “leave you flat” (??), “it's a sin” (???).
Our hero, after all, seems rather immaturely preoccupied with what some nameless others (“everybody”) must
think of his relative prowess in the lovemaking department. Either they're “gree-en” with envy at his success, or
else they “laugh in (his) face” when he fails.
There's no talk admission here of his feeling hurt by the actual loss of the girl's love, no mention of any preexisting feelings; for all we know, the other guy may truly be just a platonic friend and the whole thing just some
over-reaction borne of terrific insecurity. Erich (“The Art of Loving”) Fromm would not have been impressed.
But even while it may not be pretty or noble, I think that for anyone who has ever experienced the feelings
described here, even if only during a small young lapse into pimply hyperbole, this song rings unnervingly true,
and there-in likely lies its popularity. What a shame they cut it from the film!
“Well, you've got to admit you've upset a lot of people.”
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I Call Your Name
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse (variant) – Bridge – Verse (variant) – Verse (variant) for guitar solo – Bridge –
Verse (variant) – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The style of this one is not easily pigeon-holed; somewhat bluesy in flavor, but not at all in form; more like pop,
or even jazz, than the predominantly harder rock songs which chronologically surround it.
The form is full, including two bridges that are separated by two verse sections, one of which is an
instrumental. A slight variant of the initial verse is used for all verse sections except the first one. The length of
each verse is quite short and this makes the first pair of them sound almost as though they comprise one longer
couplet-like section. Similarly, the remaining verses, all built on the variant, sound a bit unnaturally truncated.
During the solo section, the backbeat is modified even while the tempo is kept constant. When the original
beat returns after this break, it too sounds like a change yet again! This is possibly the first time we've seen this
trick in a Beatles song, though in the future it would become one of John's own trademarks; viz. “We Can Work It
Out”, “Girl”, and many later songs such as “Good Morning Good Morning”, “Yer Blues” and “Happiness Is A
Warm Gun”.
Harmony
The song is in the key of E Major with the exception of the intro section which contains blue hints of the parallel
minor of e. Though only seven different chords are used throughout, three of them (almost half the budget) are
altered or borrowed ones, not occurring naturally in the home key. In order of
appearance these are:
•
•
•
The V-of-V-of-V (C# Major); something I don't believe we've seen before now in a Beatles song.
The V-of-V (F# Major); which on the contrary, we've seem time and time again in our studies.
The flat-VI (C Major); sometimes jokingly referred to as the “Peggy Sue” chord, we've seen it before in
“PS I Love You”, "It Won't Be Long", and the much later “Birthday.”
Although the harmonic rhythm is quite relaxed throughout most of “I Call Your Name”, with chords tending to
change only once every other measure, the frequent use of the three non-diatonic chords listed above create a
sense of continual, restless motion even in absence of a clear modulation of key. By the way, we observed an
analogous harmonic scenario to this one in “Hold Me Tight” although the implementation details there were very
different.
Melody
The tune has an underlying pentatonic flavor; note the E->G#->B-C# hook phrase (on the words "but you're not
there." Overall, it's not as strictly pentatonic as, say, “All I've Got To Do”, since the 7th scale degree (D#) is used
liberally within the tune. By the same token though, the other non-pentatonic scale degree (i.e. the 4th – A) is
carefully avoided.
Arrangement
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The change to a jazzy ska beat in the guitar solo is the result of several factors: Ringo's shift from even eighth
notes to a more limping dotted rhythm, Paul's shift from bass line work that is primarily root-note oriented to a
stepwise walking pattern, and of course, George's solo itself. John's double-tracked solo is the only vocal part.
Inexplicably, the synching of the overdub is much looser than usual. This is especially noticeable in the second
half of the song following the guitar solo; check out “but just the same” in the last verse.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro provides four measures of instrumental lead-in to the first verse. It is unusual both for its harmonic start
away from the home key, as well as the deceptive way in which the nature of the opening guitar lick (with its G
and D naturals) misleads you into thinking the song is going to be more bluesy than it actually is:
|F#
|B
E: V-of-V
|E
V
|B
I
|
V
Verse
The initial verse consists is eight measures long and it parses into four short phrases equal in length. Harmonically
it opens up wide with three dominant seventh chords in a row:
E:
|E
I
|-
|C#
||F#
V-of-(V-of-V)
||B
V-of-V
|V
||
The appoggiatura in measure 5 of D#->C# sung in the melody over the F# chord below it would be expressive
under any circumstance, but the effect here is enhanced by the fact that the D# is the first occurrence in the
melody of a non-pentatonic scale degree.
Verse (variant)
The variant starts off very much in parallel with the initial verse, but in the second half both the choice of chords
and the pace at which they change is modified to help articulate a sense of closure:
E:
|E
I
|-
|C#
||F#
V-of-(V-of-V)
|A
|E
V-of-V IV
|I
||
The final cadence here is made via the IV chord instead of the more standard V, in spite of the fact that the initial
verse had ended on V, and this second verse happens to set up its own expectation of the V with a V-of-V chord
in measure 5. Following the V-of-V with IV connotes a subtle sense of deferred gratification and it would become
a long-favored Beatles trademark; we saw it in our look at “Eight Days A Week”, but it also shows up in the
canon as late as the title track on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Bridge
The bridge is another eight-measure section, and it too parses into four short phrases of two measures, each:
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E:
|A
IV
|-
|c#
vi
|-
|F#
|V-of-V
|C (nat)|B
flat VI V
||
Harmonically, this section has a roving feeling of being ungrounded in any one specific key from the way in
which the I chord of the home key is avoided throughout.
A sense of climax is provided by the manner in which the open ending on V is set up by the flat-VI chord and
the fact that the melody of this section peaks out at an ever so slightly higher pitch than do the verses. Further
bridge-like contrast is found here use of an ostinato figure (similar to one heard in the verses of “Hold Me Tight”)
in the lead guitar.
Outro
The outro is uncannily similar to the one in “Don't Bother Me” including such details as the title hook phrase, the
I-IV chord progression, and the usage for the first time in the song of the syncopated chord change on “fourAND”.
A Final Thought
The lyrical theme is angst-ridden to an extent that is consonant on some level with other trends in the rest of the
group's music at this point in time and yet the song seems a little detached albeit not insincere. I'll stand by my
opening comment regarding the way in which the whole production of this one is stylistically anomolistic.
Perhaps this is bound up in the fact that it was written with the a priori intention of being given away to Billy J.
Either that, or maybe I've just been spoiled over the years by the image of the later cover by the Mamas and
Pappas.
“Control yourself or you'll spurt. He's bound to be somewhere.”
012092#47
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The Long Tall Sally EP
General Points Of Interest
What Goes On?
With the exception of the much later “Magical Mystery Tour”, this was the only one of the British EPs to contain
unique material, and what a strange lineup it is: three covers from the not-so-late 50’s and one original from
John's compositional infancy! And these songs are not just old per se, but they (the covers especially) are very
different in words and tone from most of what the group had heretofore delivered.
The impact of this was blunted for us in the States by the way these four tracks were split up by Capitol
between the Second and Something New LPs, and thrown in there alongside generally more current and/or
original material. However, when you hear this lineup in the confines of the 7-inch/4-song mini-medium you can't
help wonder what in blazes the group thought it was doing here.
If you want to be cynical about it you might say they were under pressure at the time for new product and
simply couldn't do any better; that between the Conquering of America and A Hard Day's work on the film, which
had not yet been released, they had momentarily shot their wad and it was surely tempting enough to move out
old inventory on the assumption that, during this hottest peak of Beatlemania, no one would even notice. But not
so fast, wise guy. There are at least two other interpretations that can be cast upon the matter; the one, at least
benign, and the other even a tad sublime.
Now That You Know Who You Are, What Do You Want to Be?
If nothing else, I believe the song selection on this EP can be viewed as the result of the Beatles self-consciously
exposing their roots, as if to say “this is what we used to be like before we made it big!” But something much
more interesting than mere nostalgia is going on here as well.
They had been consistent from the start of the EMI relationship in carefully, incrementally building a
consistent musical image; it was more substantive than, but bears some analogy to, the collarless suits and ankle
boots. In this sense, covers were used in the early official releases to inobtrusively round out and solidify, rather
than complicate and thereby run the risk of confusing, what was rapidly evolving as a uniquely indigenous and
identifiable sound.
Yet, here in the middle of 1964, where this whole musical and marketing gambit had culminated to a height
virtually unprecedented in all of Western cultural history (and I don't say this lightly!), it would seem with this EP
that they were, with almost perverse delight, trying to push their image beyond the envelope they themselves had
established for it by branching out into new sub-genres, and borrowing/affecting/impersonating musical roles
outside of the ones which were recognizably part of their image and sound during the very first wave. It's as
though, with the cover songs on this EP they were saying
“Surprise! this is what we could be like if we want to be.” The fact that they could achieve this by dipping
backwards in their repertoire for material they had been playing since the dawn of the 60s only goes to make it the
more ironic.
Granted, we saw a trend toward covering oldies back on With The Beatles, but I'd argue that in terms of vocal
rendition and lyrical content, the likes of “Till There Was You” (as a love song), and “Roll Over Beethoven”
(with its trenchant wit) manage to fit in better amongst the L&M originals there than any of the three cover songs
heard on this EP. I suppose that “Money” does come closer to stressing the mold, but in context of With The
Beatles, its impact is diluted by virtue of its being outnumbered. As mentioned above, the exclusive focus on
oldies in this EP is intensified by the very compressed nature of the medium itself.
Cover songs would play a steadily diminishing role in their repertoire from this point onward, but this
harnessing of covers for the purpose of extending (not just rounding out!) the stylistic range of the group would
continue with the likes of “Mr. Moonlight” and “Act Naturally.” Furthermore, this notion of forward development
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and diversification of the group's image via the initially impressionistic mimicry and eventually synthetic
absorption of varied styles would come to its ultimate fruition in their original work of the Middle and Later
periods. At first this would appear tentatively and sporadically in the likes of “Yesterday” or “Yellow
Submarine.” But in the long run it would be directly traceable to the chameleon-like shuffling of funny and
diverse styles which so pervades the White Album and Abbey Road. The best visual metaphor for this
phenomenon is their appearance in costume on the cover of Sgt. Pepper standing right next to the waxworks of
themselves from around the time of this EP.
In summary, the Long Tall Sally EP would seem to be a unique event in their recording history. Using the
self-same material, they manage to make both the most unabashed tribute-like gesture to their past, while at the
same time uncannily signaling what they later would do with material written entirely by themselves.
Well You Can Imitate Everyone You Know
All three of the cover songs here are obviously in fairly straight 12-bar blues form, though it's noteworthy that
they each project a very different emotive/sub-cultural style, and appropriately, the vocal solo of each was given
to a different member of the group.
Although I describe these specific cover songs as extending the sound and image of the group, it should be
noted that all three of them formed a staple part of the Beatles stage repertoire not only during the salad days of
the '59-'62 period, but well into the '63 season as well. I was astonished to discover that all three cover songs on
this EP were performed at least once by the Beatles on the radio during 1963, and in essentially the same
arrangements heard on this EP. However, I assume that the exclusion of these songs from official release until this
relatively late date was not at all inadvertent.
Long Tall Sally
Key:
G Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Verse – Verse – Break – Verse – Break – Verse – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
Composers: Johnson/Penniman/Blackwell
Influential Version: Little Richard (1956)
This is a raving rock-n-roll blues number in the 4 + 8 model, where each 12-bar frame starts off with four
measures of expository lyrics that is followed by an eight measure refrain like section; compare the structure of
this one to “Money”, for example. To the extent that songs in this style often base their refrain section on the title
hook phrase (again, compare with “Money”), you'd half expect the title of this one to be “have some fun tonight”.
There are other stylistic cliches here as well: the backing of the mini- verse-like opening four measures of
each section with dramatic block chords that are widely separated by silence, the manner in which the lyrics of the
final section degenerate into simple repetition of the hook phrase, and the fact that this repetitious section is
repeated a second time. Especially dramatic is the shouted opening without intro or warning.
Paul's stylized imitation of Little Richard, the likes of which had not heretofore appeared on an official
recording of the Beatles remains so astonishing by itself that one tends to overlook just how outrageous the words
of this song are in context of the Beatles' act. Indeed, the strange tale told here about philandering Uncle John, his
girlfriend Sally, and their near-miss attempts to keep their antics a secret from Aunt Mary are a far cry from the
yearnings of teen love which were the virtually exclusive purview of the group's officially recorded output up
until this point in time.
The Beatles add some trademark devices to their arrangement of this song; e.g. the prominence of the piano
and lead guitar parts, the final ending on a dissonant I7/9 chord, and Paul's bass line which is predominantly
walking
throughout except for the final sections in which it changes the whole feel of the music simply by shifting to
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throbbingly repeated notes. All this notwithstanding, there are interesting differences between this and the original
version.
Little Richard played it in the lower key of F Major, his backing group sounds much more spare, and quite
frankly, his vocal performance is more raving-yet-controlled than it is screaming. Specifically, his high notes
contain a higher ratio of falsetto to screech than do Paul's, and you can make out the words much more clearly.
The original also follows a very different ordering of verse and break sections as follows. Note how the
Beatles bother to consolidate and re-order the sections so that the form more closely resembles the rest of their
output:
Verse (“Tell Aunt Mary”) – Verse (“Long Tall Sally”) – Verse (“Saw Uncle John”) – Break – Break – Verse
(“Long Tall Sally”) – Verse (“Saw Uncle John”) – Verse (“Have some fun”) (w/complete ending)
I'd heard both the original and the Beatles versions of this song countless times before, but not until I listened
carefully for the purposes of doing this article did I notice the fact that in the official Beatles version Paul changes
the line about “bald headed” Sally to read “long tall”; this, in spite of the fact that in all the live or broadcast
Beatles performances of this that I checked (both those that precede or followed the official recording by as much
as 6 or more months in either direction) feature the original wording restored!
All I can figure here is that the reference to a bald headed woman (with or without wig hat) was thought to be
just too raunchy or ethnic a reference for the typical middle-class and mainstream Beatles fan of 1964; or else
perhaps Dick James would have been offended.
And one last honest open question: I'm interested in a straw poll of whether people understand the song to
speak of only one or two different women named Sally; an honest, if stupid, question.
Slow Down
Key:
C Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Break – Verse (complete ending)
Composer: Williams
Influential Version: Larry Williams (1958)
The form of this song is based on an expanded variation of the classic blues in which every section is twenty-four,
instead of twelve measures long. The infra-structure is identical to the 12-bar model, but it leisurely unfolds at
half the speed, nicely urged along by a pentatonic boogie-like ostinato figure. As with “Long Tall Sally”, the tune
and lyrics divide the blues frame up into 4 + 8 (actually 8 + 16), with the title-hook refrain kicking in on the first
change to the IV chord.
Lyrics-wise, this is the most conventional of the three covers on this EP. Aside from the blackboard jungle
undertone which seems to be sort of Larry Williams' trademark, the focus of the words themselves is on loverelated angst, a topic quite in the mainstream of the Beatles own repertoire. Indeed, the hero of this song sound
like the guy in “You Can’t Do That” except that this time he's running scared.
The Beatles arrangement is characterized by lots of piano and lead guitar. The ostinato is executed in
painstakingly even eighth notes that make for a nicely humming backbeat. John's overdubbed vocal diverges
pitch-wise from the initial track so that he sounds as though harmonizing with himself in places; it's hard to know
if this was intentional or not.
Williams does it in a different key (D Major), he's got what sounds like close to a big band behind him, and
his ostinato swings a bit more than it is even.
His single tracked vocal is more melifluous and less shouted than John's, and this gives the whole song a
slightly different feeling; evoking a hero that is more cooly calm and self-assured, rather than on-the-run and
desperate.
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Both versions follow the same ordering of the formal sections. Williams uses the identical 24-bar chord
progression in every section whereas the Beatles use the original model only in the instrumental intro and break,
and make a subtle but effective modification to the pattern in all the sung sections. The third eight-measure phrase
in the original gives two measures each to the V and IV chords followed by four measures of the I chord. In the
sung verses, the Beatles give only one measure each to the V and IV chords and six measures to the I; this creates
the not unpleasant sensation of an accelerating intensification on the phrase “give me little lovin' etc.” that is
missing from the original. At the level of details that almost go without saying, Williams features a saxophone
solo while the Beatles feature a guitar. And although John does shamelessly rip off Larry's tongue-tickling
“BRRRRR!”, he does it in the second verse whereas Larry does it right off in the first section.
Matchbox
Key:
A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse – Verse – Verse – Break – Verse – Verse – (with complete ending)
Composer: Perkins
Influential Version: Carl Perkins (1957)
Though formalistically speaking, in straight 12-bar blues form, the rock-a-billy arrangement and patter-song lyrics
almost overshadow that fact. Unlike most of the other 12-bar covers we've looked at, this one employs its
title/hook phrase only in the verse section which opens and closes the number. According to Lewisohn, this song
went into the Beatles repertoire as early as '61 at which time the lead vocal was assigned to then-current drummer
Pete Best.
Although the topic here would seem to be love-related, the specific perspective of the “man who's sad and
lonely” which it represents is a novel departure from the typical Beatles love songs which had been officially
recorded until this point. By the same token, this one also establishes the start of a long term type-casting in the
sorts of songs assigned to Ringo. Note the common threads of both rock-a-billy style and forlorn lyrics that run
through “Honey Don't” (also by Perkins), “Act Naturally”, “What Goes On”, and even Richie's own “Don't Pass
Me By”. In this light, the fact that the latter song had already been written by some point in '64 (as we learn from
a chance remark made during one of the Beeb radio shows) seems like no small coincidence. Ringo provides a
double-tracked solo vocal, and just as we saw with the over songs above, the piano and lead guitar parts are
featured prominently in the mix. Note the Beatles-like staggered entrance of the instruments during the intro.
The Beatles organize the ordering of the sections slightly differently from Perkin's original version, and even
add a verse (“peaches”) which he did not have. Ironically, the form of the original below, with its two breaks that
are separated by one or more verses, is strongly reminiscent of the Boys' own restructuring of “Long Tall Sally”:
Intro – Verse (“sitting here”) – Verse (“old poor boy”) – Break -> Verse (“be your little dog”) – Verse (“sitting
here”) – Break – Verse (“sitting here”) (w/complete ending)
Class dismissed.
“... but not our little Richard ... oh no! When you're not thumping them pagan skins, you're tormenting your eyes wid that rubbish!”
020292#48
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A Hard Day's Night
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Though much less directly blues-derived than either “Can't Buy Me Love” or “You Can't Do That”, “A Hard
Day's Night” bears close comparison to both of those songs. At the very least, all three of them share the same
long form, with two bridges and an instrumental break. Of course, the more interesting connection is the manner
in which “A Hard Day's Night” takes one step further the concept, seen in the other two songs, of a style borne of
the fusion between traditional blues elements and those more recognizable as the Beatles own trademarks.
There's a bona fide trend to be charted here: “Can't Buy Me Love” had a verse section that was close to pure
blues in form, chord progression and melody. “You Can't Do That” retained the blues form and the chord
progression, but its melody already had wavered between the minor and Major 3rd. In “A Hard Day's Night”, only
the 12-bar length and AAB phrasing of the blues remains along with some of the minor 3rd melodic flavor, but
the rest had long since gone the way of Lennon and McCartney.
“A Hard Day's Night” is a particularly forward-looking song as well. Aside from several innovations in the
area of harmony and arrangement, its rhythmic resources make an especially strong contribution. As we'll see
during our walkthrough, behind the generally energetic and syncopated bustle that appears on the surface, there is
also a great deal of forward thrust generated here by the way the music, on an almost subliminal level, toys
around with surprising stop-and-go contrasts of pace and activity.
Melody and Harmony
The verse features notable emphasis on the bluesy melodic flat 7th, but with the exception of the closing phrase
("feel alright"), the melodic third is clearly Major, rather than minor. By contrast, the bridge is entirely in the
Major mode. All this, by the way, is very similar to what we saw in the melody of “You Can't Do That”.
Overall, the words are patter-scanned with one note per syllable. However, in contrast, there are many longsustained notes which jut out of the tune on a paradoxically frequent but irregular basis. The verse, in particular,
contains an unusually large number of different rhythmic values, all the way from half to sixteenth notes, and a
steady stream of syncopations; I'd spell it out further but without music paper it's just too tedious.
The song is firmly in the key of G Major, though the bridge presents a short-lived and weakly established
excursion to the unusual key of iii (b minor).
With the obvious exception of the opening/closing sonority, the choice of chords is familiar. Although the
Beatles had already used the flat-VII chord on few songs that pre-date this one (e.g. PSILY, “Don't Bother Me”,
and “All My Loving”), its appearance here is still a notably early example of its employment.
A couple of dissonant clashes between the tune and the chords are continually reiterated. In the verse, the
melodic note 'D' appears first as a 9th against the C Major chord (as on the word 'days' of the opening line) and
later as an added-sixth against the F Major chord (as on the syllable “wor” in “working”, and on the word "like").
Similarly in the bridge, the melodic note 'A' clashes as an added-sixth against the C Major chord on the word
“tight” (you should pardon the expression.) These all pass you by quickly, but on a subtle level the very
casualness with which such dissonance is used adds a characterizing slang flavor to the song's overall musical
vocabulary.
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Arrangement
Alas, even the mono CD mix of this song has a fake-stereo-like high level of fuzziness to it, though it does have
the curious property that if you turn it up loud enough, it begins to feel like a wall of sound. For those who have
ever bemoaned this fact, the roughly executed but clearly recorded early outtakes are a revelation.
The wall of sound effect is partly the result of the drumming style being kept unvaried throughout. With the
minor exception of some added four-in-the-bar beating on a cowbell during the bridges, we have wall to wall
thumping on drums and cymbals in place of the sort of drum fills and texture changes we're more used to hearing
Ringo employ to differentiate formal sections. Instead of creating a problem, this monolithic approach to
percussion here actually adds to the steam-rolling thrust of the song.
Joking aside, this is very much the song in which the characteristic sound of George's 12-string guitar would
establish itself. Its appearance in the opening and closing chords, as well as the manner in which it is doubled with
electric piano in the solo section are among the more instantaneously recognizable sound bites in all of popular
music.
John and Paul's vocals employ the familiar double-tracking throughout, but their arrangement itself features a
novel gambit. John takes most of the verse as a solo, and ditto for Paul with the bridge. The first half of the verse's
closing phrase, though, is done up as a duet in parallel thirds on an unusual downward chromatic run; a gesture
that mediates nicely between the alternating solo passages.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
That chord, (bang!), eh? Its great effect is not only related to the pitch content, but to the sudden, crisp attack as
well. Wake me up from the dead of sleep many years hence and play it for me by itself out of context, and not
only do I trust I'll be able to identify it immediately, but also summon with close to total recall just how it shot
through my consciousness the very first time I heard it as a mere not-so-pimply adolescent.
I've seen better people than myself argue (and in public, no less) about the exact guitar voicing of this
chord and I'll stay out of that question for now (what a cop-out, Alan!), and merely state that its sonority is akin to
a superimposition of the chords of d minor, F Major, and G Major; i.e. it contains the notes D, F, A, C, and G – to
my ears, only the B is missing. Even if you don't know a thing about harmony or musical dictation, you can at
least hear the G as a suspended 4th over the D on the bottom. Hullaballoo aside, this chord functions as a
surrogate 'Dominant' (i.e. V) with respect to the chord on G which begins the first verse.
As a formal section, this intro is precisely two measures long and is played “in tempo”; check out take #7
before which John explains to the others how he'll “tap toe” through the long pause that follows the opening chord
so the others know when to come in. This pause, by the way, is the first example here of how suspense and a
sense of rising expectation is created by a change of pace. A large part of this specific effect is the surprise factor,
especially as you experience it at the beginning of the film or the album. When the song is literally announced as
in a concert (“and now we're gonna play A Hard Day's Night ...”) the effect simply doesn't work as well.
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Verse
Although the 12-bar blues chord progression is not used here, this verse in section is still twelve measures long
and built out of three phrases equal in length that form an AAB poetic pattern (actually, quite similar to “I Want
To Hold Your Hand”):
G:
mm. 1 - 4, 5 - 8
------------------------------ 2X -----------------------------|G
C
|G
|F
|G
|
I
IV
I
flat-VII
I
mm. 9 - 12
|C
IV
|D
V
|G
I
C
IV
|G
V
|
The overall harmonic shape is closed and rather static. The appearance of an official V -> I cadence is delayed
until the third phrase, but well before then, the G chord has been confirmed as the 'I' of the home key several
times over by the gentler, less formal means of the the IV and flat-VII chords. The manner in which the first two
phrases of the tune seem so firmly centered on the note D provides an additional source of stasis.
A couple of factors work at pleasing cross-currents to the static harmony and melody and help lend some
shape and sense of direction to the verse; e.g. the syncopated stress and sustained duration given to the melodic F
naturals in measures 3 and 7, and the holding out of the melodic climax until measure 10 where it is embellished
by the brief duet of the two singers.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and built out of two phrases equal in length and parallel in melodic shape:
G:
(b:
|b
iii
i
|e
vi
iv
|b
iii
i ??)
|-
||G
I
|e
vi
|C
IV
|D
V
||
The first phrase presents a half-hearted modulation to the key of b minor. The new key is never formally
established by any kind of dominant -> tonic (V - I) cadence but for an instant, one surely hears the b -> e -> b
chord progression as though it were i - iv - i in the key of b. Of course, all this is all straightened out in the second
phrase where G is quickly re-established as the home key via one of our favorite rock cliche chord progressions.
Some free associations with “You Can't Do That” are unavoidable. Note the way in which the bridge opens
with a dramatically sustained melodic note (on the word "home" – the longest single duration in the whole song)
that is followed by a resumption of a chattier rhythm. The heavy emphasis on B and E chords in both bridges is
also striking though it should be pointed out that in the each of the two songs, the chords are to be interpreted in
the opposite ways. In “You Can't Do That”, the modulation was to e and the B Major chord sounded like its V
chord; here, it is b minor that sounds like the key to which the modulation has taken place, and the e chord sounds
like its iv.
As ever, we continue to find new examples in the active avoidance of so-called foolish consistency in the
creation of small variations: here, the completion of Paul's solo and the return to John's vocal at the end of the first
bridge is neatly spliced end-to-end but with virtually no overlap, whereas in the repeat of the bridge, John goes
out of his way to create a small spontaneous-sounding overlap by coming in a beat or so early moaning the
phoneme, “Oh ...”; I call it spontaneous sounding because the effect appears as early as takes 3 and 7.
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Solo
The solo is melodically unconventional yet very bluesy at the same time. The nervous and frequent changes of
rhythmic values seen earlier ripen into what borders on the spasmodic at this point. Indeed, am I the only one who
hears the execution of measures 3 and 7 of this solo as sounding "impossibly" fast?
Formally, we have the sort of semi-solo we first saw back in “From Me To You”, where the instrumental is
abandoned in the final phrase of the section in favor of a refrain-like reprise of the vocals heard in other iterations
of the verse.
Outro
The outro starts of with their trademark powering-down triple-repeat of the last half-phrase of the final verse, but
it ends off enigmatically on virtually the same chord with which the song began. This parallelism by itself
provides some unity to the song overall, but still, the use of a non-I chord ending is unusual, and at the time, was
virtually unprecedented in a rock song; indeed, non-I openings, while by no means nearly as rare, were
themselves still unusual.
Although the chordal outlines played gently into the fadeout by the lead guitar have none of the commanding
impact of the opening chord, the effect at the end is, in its own way, just as suspenseful as the opening. In the film
it effectively bridges the gap between opening credits and first scene.
Some Final Thoughts
The lyrics are far from epochal or even merely profound. As touched as you might allow yourself to be by the
hero's profession of loving gratitude and affectation of the working class hero, you just as easily might be made a
little uneasy by his faint air of condescending chauvanism.
Beyond a point it doesn't really matter, though. Based on only music and exuberant mood alone if necessary,
the song “A Hard Day's Night” arguably holds a place within the uppermost echelon of the Beatles catalog. And
in contrast to the historical subtleties of the Long Tall Sally EP, it is very much along what I've described as the
indigenous stylistic path of the group.
Even if you had somehow missed them on Ed Sullivan, or if perhaps you had seen them on Ed's show yet
their impact somehow missed you (you dour old curmudgeon), it would have become increasingly, if not
impossibly, difficult to ignore the Beatles once the likes of this song and its associated film came on the scene.
Even my neighbor Fred (yes, that Fred) confided to me once in a moment of exquisite vulnerability that
although his parents had taken him abroad on holiday during the summer of '64, a vacation during which he was
protectively sheltered from the deleterious influence of Top-40 AM radio, that when he returned to our shores in
the early fall, upon hearing our title song, even he now knew the Beatles were onto Something New.
“They take a turn down a back alley way and the crowd of screaming girls are after them.”
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021792#49
If I Fell
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse (original) – Verse + extension – Verse + extension – Verse (original) – Outro (with
complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This one was one of the most soulful songs L&M had yet written at the time of its initial release, and the
harmonic card trick contained in its intro remains one of their most clever and daring ever.
The form is also unusual. Instead of a discrete bridge or refrain section, formal contrast is provided by a bridgelike extension that grows directly out of each of the inner two verses.
Melody and Harmony
The melody, though punctuated now and then by a leap or two, moves primarily in step-wise fashion and contains
a couple of extended upward runs; the latter in spite of the theme of “falling” contained in the lyrics.
The motif of step-wise, scalar motion is curiously carried forward in the harmony, as well, with the repeated
use of the I->ii->iii chord-stream. The harmony carries with it a strong flavor of jazzy bittersweetness, largely the
result of the prominence given to the minor iv chord and the deployment of a pungent 7/9 chord at the climactic
point where the verse extension commences.
The intro actually starts off in a different key (D flat Major) from the body of the song, though as we'll see,
this is not at all immediately clear to one's ears as it unfolds in real time. Not surprisingly, given such a tonally
disorienting opening, the rest of the song stays very closely rooted to the home key without the slightest hint of a
modulation.
Arrangement
John solos in the intro, but the rest of the song finds Paul in the lead with John singing harmony below him in
their inimitably funky style in which they sneak in those open fourths and fifths where you least expect them. The
overall melodic range is relatively wide, though outside of the intro which is placed in John's baritone range,
Paul's lead remains on the high end of his own spectrum.
The contrapunctal aspect of this particular vocal arrangement is somewhat disguised by the rhythmically
placid context and the afore-mentioned predominance of step-wise motion in both parts. The disguise is so
successful that, if anything, you walk away with the impression that the arrangement is more of a chordal setting
for three parts in the manner of “Yes It Is”, but the truth is that there is no vocal part here for George; just John
and Paul huddled, according to Lewisohn, closely around the same mike.
Section By Section Walkthrough
Intro
The intro is eight measures long and built out of two parallel phrases equal in length:
Page 210
D-flat:
|e-flat
ii
|D (natural)
flat-II
|e-flat
ii
|D (natural)
flat-II
D: I
|D-flat
I
|b-flat
vi
|
|e7(natural)
|A
|
ii
V
Quite unusually for L&M, we find here an old fashioned kind of intro in the style of, say, Gerswhin or Porter. It's
fully developed as a section unto itself with material not heard in the remainder of the song, and set-off from what
follows by a different texture in the instrumental backing track; examples of the latter include John's four-in-thebar rhythm guitar strumming punctuated on the downbeats by George, and Ringo's delayed entrance until the
verse.
The harmonic shape of this section is another story entirely; hardly at all old fashioned and rather both
ingenious and clumsy at the same time. At the very start you pretty much assume that the opening chord (e-flat
minor) is the i chord of the home key but as the music free-falls first through D Major and then continues down to
D-flat Major, you're no longer so sure about that; in fact, for a couple measures, you're totally lost and out to sea –
go ahead and admit it, it's good for your soul.
It's only after we come back to the e-flat chord in measure 5 that you quite regain your bearings, only now,
this e-flat chord feels much more like a ii in relationship to the D-flat chord of the previous measure. The real
coup is in the way in which the second time around, the music makes an harmonic pivot, using the same D Major
chord that had appeared more or less in passing during the first phrase, now as the I of the actual home key of the
song.
Verse (original)
This verse is ten measures long and breaks down into two parallel four-measure phrases that are followed by a
two-measure connector which leads us back to the next verse:
mm. 1 - 4, 5 - 8
-------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|D
e
|f#
f-nat.
|e7
|A
|
D:
I
ii
mm. 9 - 10
|D
I
iii
|g
iv
flat-iii
ii
diminished
A
V
V
|
On a subtle level, a kind of circular harmonic openness is another unifying motif of the song in that both sung
phrases of this verse, as well as the connector, end on the V chord. For that matter, so does the bridge-like
extension below.
The chord on the fourth beat of measure 3, which I've provisionally labeled as “flat-iii diminished” is more
accurately described without any kind of roman numeral as one of those chords that is the incidental result of
linear motion of the various parts as they transition between the chords on either side of it:
Paul:
John:
"heart
C#
A
to
B |
G#
Page 211
you ..."
D
G-natural
Bass:
F#
F-nat. E
Note the vocal open 5th in the above example, as well as the similar open 4th at the beginning of measures 9. The
minor iv makes its quiet, first appearance in the final measures of this section and it too recurs throughout the
song.
Verse + extension
The first eight measures of this alternate verse section are identical to the original verse, but we find a new
extension here starting in measure 9 that's an asymmetrical seven measures long:
mm. 9
|D7/9
|I ..... V-of-IV
|G
IV
|
|g
iv
|D
I
|A7
V
|-
|
One's sense of D Major as the home key remains crystal clear but is made quite ironically bittersweet by some of
the chord choices and the way they are orchestrated; e.g. the yearning stretch in the vocals required for the D7/9,
and the small shift by John from B-natural to B-flat (on the words “and I”) in order to ominously change that
Major IV to a minor iv, accompanied as it is by Paul's literally trembling voice the second time around.
The phrase “sad if our new love” contains an unusual melodic cross-relation between the F-natural (on the
word "our") and the F# two words later on “love.” Also look out for the way that John, after singing most of this
phrase in parallel thirds with Paul, breaks out of the pattern with a slide from E all the way down to A on the
downbeat of measure 14.
Outro
The final verse is essentially identical to the initial one though it leads into a brief coda. The open 4th in measure
9 is repeated here again, though after the intervening general lushness of the texture, it sounds hauntingly hollow
coming as the final word. The coda, a terse, touching echo of the “sad if our new love” phrase, provides the lead
guitar with its solitary moment in the limelight. And then the song gently ends on a surprisingly reverberated
single chord.
Some Final Thoughts
The lyrics are deceptively simply and full of elliptical, ambiguous word play so typical of John's best work.
Examples abound – the dangling question (“[would you] help me understand?” – understand what ?), the use of
“to/too/two” in close proximity to each other, and the non-sequitur of the second repeat of the verse extension
("”cos I couldn't stand the pain”) when it follows the line “she will cry when she learns ...”
But beneath the mere cleverness of it all, what makes this song so potent is the desperate vulnerability it
manifests; a veritable obsession with the subjunctive “iffy-ness” of love, described as a state in which people
might run and hide and pride be hurt. For me though, the greatest ambiguity of all here is in the tension between
the hero's begging for love's being requited on the one hand, while at the same time holding back from freely
offering it for fear of being rejected. Is this ingenuous realism, such a lot of chutzpah, or likely a bit of both?
“You won't interfere with the basic rugged concept of me personality, will you, Madam?”030192#50
Page 212
I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
c# minor/E Major
4/4
Intro – Refrain (2nd half) – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
A brisk tempo combines here with relatively small section lengths to make this a short song with a paradoxically
longish form; the refrain is not only repeated twice, but the latter half of it appears as part of the intro as well.
Melody and Harmony
The melody of the refrain is quite pentatonic and has a shape in which downward gestures predominate. In
contrast, the verse melody is not at all restricted pitch content-wise, and its shape is more closely resembles an
arch.
This is yet another L&M song in which a Major key (E) and its relative minor (c#) continually alternate as the
apparent choice of home key. The verse here is always clearly in the Major mode, yet the intro and the refrains
always start off in the minor mode. In the outro, this duality develops into a brief moment of tense conflict before
it is ultimately resolved in favor of the Major mode.
Major/minor gambits must have fascinated John and Paul during this era judging from the number of roughly
contemporaneous songs which use the device. The Major/relative-minor trick appears for example in “Not A
Second Time” and “And I Love Her”. And a similar trick of alternating a Major key with its parallel minor (e.g.,
A Major/minor) appears in “Things We Said Today” and “I'll Be Back”.
Harmonic gambits are not the only devices to resonate from one song to another on the A Hard Day's Night
album. As I should have pointed out in our last note on “If I Fell”, the unusual technique seen there of having
three chords in a row moving downward in half-step root motion also appears (admittedly in a different context)in
“Things We Said Today”.
All this aside, the chord selection itself in this song is quite straightforward though the use of an augmented
alteration of V in place of the more normal Major chord is noteworthy.
Arrangement
Although George's understatedly sardonic performance as a quipster shines throughout A Hard Day's Night, his
double-tracked lead vocal here was to be, fairly or not, his lone moment in the musical spotlight.
A seemingly trivial and reverberated “oh-ooh” backing part for John and Paul in the refrains actually turns out
to critically underscore the rhythmic hook of the song. Note how from the very second measure, the move from
the f# chord to the one on G# which recurs over and over again throughout, is always delivered along with a
heavy syncopation on the half beat between '2' and '3'; i.e. "on 2-AND". During the intro and first refrain Ringo
nicely punctuates this moment with one of his characteristic fills. Unfortunately, he falls asleep at the switch for
this during the second refrain and most of the outro. And no, this is not an example of what I typically describe as
an avoidance of foolish consistency.
Speaking of consistency, note how the deployment of the backing voices is carefully staged. In the first
refrain they appear only after the second phrase (“is everything I need”), whereas in the second refrain it appears
after the first phrase as well (“Just to dance with you...”).
Page 213
The instrumental backing track is on the fuzzy side though John's bouncy rhythm guitar work does and Paul's
bass line both stand out clearly.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro + Refrain (2nd half)
This section is eight measures long and is built out of four two-measure phrases, the first of three of which are
based on the same chord progression:
c#:
-------------- 3X ------------|c#
|f#
G#
||A
i
iv
V
VI
E:IV
B
|E
B
V
I
V
|
The first four measures are entirely instrumental, while the latter four present what turns out later to be the second
half of the refrain. Following the initial establishment of c# minor as the apparent home key and repeated
emphasis of this fact, the song pivots around toward the relative Major in the final couple measures.
Verse
The verse is also eight measures long and built out of four two-measure phrases. The first two phrases form a
parallel couplet while the last two tend of be heard as one long phrase which balances out the first two:
E:
-------------- 2X ------------|E
g#
|f#
B
|
I
iii
ii
V
|A
IV
|E
I
c#
vi
|A
IV
B aug.
V
|E
I
(B)
(V)
|
In spite of the formal similarity between this and the other sections, contrast with the intro and refrains is provided
here by the key being clearly E Major throughout, and the fact that even though the tune itself contains some
syncopation, that hook rhythm on the chord changes is pretty much avoided here entirely.
A vi chord (c#) would have been a more likely choice to put in between I and ii at the beginning of this
section than the iii chord (g# minor). As it stands, the chord-stream parallel motion inherent in the iii->ii
progression adds a jazzy touch that would have been missing had vi been used instead.
Refrain
The schematic plan of the refrain is identical to what we saw in the intro. The only difference is that the first half
of the section now contains an opening vocal phrase to balance out what had been heard earlier as just the second
half.
Outro
The outro is a seven measure section that is elided with the last measure of the final verse. Note the ingenuity with
which this section begins as a deceptive cadence coming off the B augmented chord in what is the seventh
measure of the verse; you're expecting to hear E (I) at this point, not c# (vi):
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E:
E:
c#:
|c#
vi
c#: i
|f#
G#
iv
V
|c#
vi
i
|f#
G#
iv
V
|A
IV
VI
B
V
|
|A
IV
VI
B
V
|E
I
||
But most powerfully, they don't stop there. In many of their earlier songs, the triple rote repeat (or “petit reprise”
as the French call it) of a final phrase during the outro had become a cliche, trademark, or both. Here, in a novel
variation on this gambit, they pull the deceptive cadence trick twice in a row before playing it straight the third
time around. Somehow it conveys the image of beating something down that refuses to give up.
Some Final Thoughts
It's no surprise that the emphasis on c# minor during the outro is accompanied by a reprise of the back beat heard
earlier in the intro. The complete ending on an added-sixth chord also seems especially appropriate. To the extent
that this chord tends to sound as though it were a superimposition of the I and vi chords together, it's only fair that
while the Major mode is allowed to ultimately previal, a touch of the bittersweet vi is allowed to linger alongside
it, or if you will, embedded within.
By the way, looking for “mistakes” or recording oddities? Then what the hell is that little squeak or scrape
that managed to elude the quick pulling down of the faders right after the final chord?
“Why don't we do the show right here?”
030992#51
Page 215
Tell Me Why
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Bridge – Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Superficially speaking, “Tell Me Why” is not one of the more conspicuously forward looking songs on the A
Hard Day's Night album. The very limited, conventionalized set of chords, and the antiphonal vocal arrangement
seem particularly familiar, if not predictable. Nonetheless, the bracing, confrontational tone of the lyric, and the
subliminal way in which the blues are conjured even in absence of the 12-bar form, mark this song as one very
much if its place in time and context.
The form is also unusual both in the way it leads off with a refrain, but even more so in the way that the lone
bridge section is saved for very near the end.
Melody and Harmony
The melody of the refrain is in a pentatonically Major mode and is „rhythmically stretched out, whereas the verse
emphasizes the bluesy minor third of the scale and is rhythmically chattier and more jumpy. This subtle kind of
melodic differentiation between sections is a trait which we've seen in several other songs of the period, two of
the best examples of which may be found on both sides of the “Can't Buy Me Love” single, b/w “You Can't Do
That”.
The harmonic diet is pretty much limited to the I-vi-ii-V cliche chord progression. This set of chords is used
in both the refrain and verse sections but the melodic differences spelled out above as well as the use of a walking
bass line in only the refrains, make those sections sound and feel more different than they really are.
The song contains a much higher than average number of dissonant 7th and 9th chords by virtue of the
correspondingly high number of appoggiaturas and "escapes". I wouldn't dream of spoiling the fun of your
discovering these on your own.
Arrangement
This song provides a fine example of how a rhythmic motif may serve as a full-fledged hook. In this case we
have. in the intro, refrains, and outro, a triplet drum fill that precedes the downbeat, followed in the next measure
by a wrenching syncopation on the eighth note between the second and third beat (i.e. on “two-AND”).
Falsetto singing also appears as a leitmotif. Had it only been used for that magic moment in the bridge, its
appearance there would seem somewhat arbitrary. The casual, repeated use of falsetto in the refrains therefore
creates a context in which the big moment of the bridge feels better motivated.
We haven't been consistently checking mono versus stereo versions of songs over the course of this series, but
this one features a couple of particularly noticeable differences. On the mono CD pressing, John's solo vocal
sounds single tracked in the verses and the bridge, whereas the stereo LP pressing sounds as though the vocal in
those sections had been double or even triple tracked. The stereo version also has an extra second or two at the
very end; just long enough to hear someone running a hand down the neck of a guitar to dampen the remaining
reverberation of the final chord.
Page 216
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The four measure intro presents an instrumental, quadruple rote repeat of the ii -> V chord progression (e7 -> A7)
that is arranged around the rhythmic 'hook' described above. Notable are the non-I harmonic start as well as the
manner in which the rhythmic hook for drums alone starts the whole thing off.
Refrain
The refrain is twelve measures long. It consists of two parallel phrases equal in length, each of which is
subdivi„ded into a four-measure main phrase followed by a two measure "connector":
D:
---------------------- 2X ---------------------*
|D
|b
|e
|A
||D b |e
A |
I
vi ?
ii
V
I vi
ii V
We've seen this chord progression earlier in “This Boy”, in which context we commented on the feeling of
inevitably that it conveys following from the fact that most of it lies along the circle of fifths. It also happens to be
a tonally open-ended progression with its ending on V, and this sense of it is emphasized by the way in which the
connector sub-phrase recapitulates the entire progression of the first four measures in harmonic double time.
The walking bass contrasts with the stretched out melody and creates an illusion that the chords change more
rapidly than they actually do. And of course, the unifying rhythmic hook always appears at the end of the each
six-measure phrase.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and, similar to the refrain, is built out of two parallel phrases equal in length:
----------------------------
D:
|D
I
|b
vi
2X -----------------------------|e
ii
|A
V
|
Again, the bass line contrasts with the melodic line; this time, though, it's the bass line that is the more stable
agent working at cross-currents to the rather nervous, declamatory tune.
Bridge
The ten-measure bridge consists of two four-measure phrases followed by the two-measure connector, which has
become quite familiar by this point in the song from the several repetitions of the refrain:
|G
IV
|-
|A
V
|-
|
|b
vi
|-
|e
ii
|A
V
||D
I
Page 217
b |e
vi ii
A
V
|
This section is setup via a small modification made to the end of the refrain that immediately precedes it. Instead
of repeating the I-vi-ii-V progression in the final two measures of that refrain, we are given instead a plain
sustaining of the D chord for the full two measures. The longer that this chord is prolonged it begins to ripen to
our ears from plain 'I' into a V-of-IV. We saw the same effect in “This Boy.”
In addition to the unique falsetto outburst of the second phrase, this bridge is also made dramatic by the
sudden slowing down of the harmonic rhythm, the two full measures of drumming triplets, and a foolishconsistency-avoiding elimination of the syncopation in this repeat of the connector phrase.
Outro
The four-measure outro is entered as a deceptive cadence coming off the V chord that ends the preceding refrain:
|b
vi
|B-flat
flat-VI
|A4 -- 3
|V
|D
I
|
It is entirely instrumental, built out of what is, in context of the rest of the song, a novel chord progression, and
contains a hard syncopation in every measure. In gesture, it is reminiscent of the codas to both “Please Please Me”
and “It Won't Be Long”. Here, because literally every phrase of every other section ends on V, the song
accumulates a going-in-circles kind of forward inertia that requires a sort of radical intervention in order to bring
things to a halt.
Some Final Thoughts
Although one of the more confrontationally bitter songs of the period, this one somewhat uniquely incorporates
no small measure of the sad, desperate frustration seen in some of John's other work.
And just as we've seen in some of those other cases, no amount of studying the lyrics necessarily pierces the
surface ambiguity that surrounds the circumstance in which the song would appear to unfold.
To say that we're eavesdropping in real time on an actual moment of truth feels, somehow, too pat. In spite of
all ranting, I think I'd more readily assume it's the rehearsal-like soliloquy in advance of a Showdown, or perhaps
even, merely the muttering under his breath for self-comfort, after the moment for a face-to-face clearing of the
air had, alas, long since passed.
“If there's anything I can do ...”
033192#52
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I'll Cry Instead
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The “official” version, found on the British A Hard Day's Night album, is a standard two-bridge model with
neither an instrumental solo section nor double verse in between the two bridge sections. An small unusual twist
here is the lack of an outro, proper; instead, the song simply comes to a complete halt at the end of the final verse.
Strange as it sounds, the song was planned at one point to be used in The Film as the musical accompaniment
to the running and jumping scene, instead of “Can't Buy Me Love.” In order to lengthen it out to match the timing
of the film scene, an alternate version, with the first verse repeated at the end, was artificially spliced together.
This formalistic oddity can be found on the American film album (from United Artists) as well as the mono
pressing of Something New.
Melody and Harmony
As we've seen in many other songs on the A Hard Day's Night album, the melody of this one is heavily bluesy but
only in the verses, and even in there, the use of the blue minor third and seventh is not consistent; look carefully at
the tune and observe the continual alternation of b natural and b flat, and the extent to which this lends a
characterizing flavor to it. Similarly, the chords of the verse are limited to the bluesy set of I-IV-V, while the
bridge features a full-blown, albeit short-lived modulation to the key of V (i.e. 'D').
Arrangement
John's solo is the only vocal part heard on this track. The double tracking is quite noticeably better synched here
than usual, leading me to half suspect that it might have been artificially done, even though I don't believe that the
Beatles had yet discovered the special effect of ADT at this point.
The overall instrumental sound is rather countryish by virtue of the strumming style of the rhythm guitar, the
chordal obligatto part for the lead guitar, and the prominent use of the tambourine. Note the way they all 'zoom'
into the opening G Major chord from the note below, and the extent to which this effect recurs throughout.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
There's not much of an intro to speak of here, except for two measures worth of vamping on the I chord (i.e. G).
The guitar part hints at a shift to the IV chord (i.e. C) on the off beat, but I believe these are heard more as
transitional neighbor tones filling in between the I chords on either side, rather than as a discrete change of chord
root.
Verse
Page 219
The verse is sixteen measures long with four phrases all of equal length:
G:
|G
I
|-
|-
|-
||G
|-
|D
V
|-
||
|C
IV
|-
|-
|-
||G
I
|D
V
|G
I
|-
||
The harmonic rhythm is almost plodding, but the momentary speed-up in the final phrase helps create a sense of
formal closure to the section.
The melodic phrase heard over the C chord in measure 9 ('d->f->d->c-> b-flat->c' as in “if I could see you
now”) – with it's flat 7th and 3rd, as well as the way in which the f and d run roughshod over the C chord below it,
are extremely characteristic of both this song and the Beatles semi-bluesy style of this period in general.
The penultimate phrase of each of the two verses which follow a bridge section feature the dramatic touch of
the other guitars dropping out to make way for a long walking bass solo plus tambourine. Together with the
specific choice of words that starts off these verse (“and when I do you better ...”), this musical effect has a way of
connecting them to the preceding bridges and making them feel as if they tie off some kind of business left
unfinished back in the bridge.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long with two phrases of equal length:
G:
D:
|b
iii
vi
|-
|A
|-
||D
V
I
|-
|e
ii
|A D
V
V I
|
The pivot modulation from G to D is somewhat ingenuously awkward. The move to the b minor chord does not
by itself signal the start of a key change, and although the move from there down to A tells you something is
afoot, it is a move which is more ambiguous than sure-footed.
In truth, one does not regain a clear sense of key again in this section until near the end when the new key of
D Major is firmly established by its own ii-V-I progression. And yet, just as this happens, we just as quickly
scamper right back to the home key in the final measure of the section, a moment which contains the fastest
stretch of harmonic rhythm in the entire song. Indeed, this jumpy kind of tonal shifting around neatly reflects
some of the unease of the lyrics.
Some Final Thoughts
It's tempting to describe this one as a less mature, less self-aware warm-up for the later “You've Got To Hide
Yourself Away.” Most notable, in contrast to the few other bitter songs of this still relatively early period (e.g.
“You Can't Do That” and “Tell Me Why”), is the complete focus in this song on the forlorn aftermath of the
breakup, accompanied as it is with thoughts of self-pity and revenge. There are no descriptions or allusions here
to any past pleasures, whys or wherefores; only pain.
“Well, you stick to that story, son.”
042192#53
Page 220
When I Get Home
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major/a minor/C Major
4/4
Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Bridge – Verse – Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We wind up here completing our study of the Beatles third album with this relatively less popular but nonetheless
characteristically novel and interesting number. I believe that some listeners find in this song a tense agitation in
the refrain and a fierce determination in the verse that are irritatingly out of proportion to the situation implied by
the lyrics. For my own tastes, this contrast only goes to heighten a sense of irony and intruigue about the song.
After all, just why the forceful delivery ? Is the hero simply worried that he'll be somehow prevented by
woman#2 from returning "home", or perhaps is it more the reflection of an inner ambivalence within the hero
himself about wanting to effect such a return? I similarly wonder what in blazes he possibly means by the line “I'll
love her more till I walk out that door again.” – Just going to work or out on errands the next day after his planned
return, or is this some off-handed allusion to the inevitability of repeated philandering ? Such wonderfully
elliptical ambiguity! But getting back to the music...
The most unusual item found here is the key scheme. The relatively large number of songs on the A Hard
Day’s Night album which make conspicuous use of either relative Major/minor shifts (e.g. “And I Love Her” and
“I'm Happy Just To Dance With You”) or parallel Major/minor shifts (e.g. “Things We Said Today” and “I'll Be
Back”) has already been discussed in this series. But “When I Get Home” is the only example we've seen in
which both gambits are used in the same song.
Secondarily, the form of the song is also unusual, starting off with a refrain, but also containing a bridge, as
well. Compare this, by the way, with “Tell Me Why.”
Melody and Harmony
The parallel Major/minor gambit is based on the keys of A, with the refrain starting out in A Major but ending in
a minor. The relative Major/minor gambit is based on the relationship between the appearance of a minor just
mentioned and C Major which dominates the verses as well as the bridge.
Surprisingly, barely six different chords are used within the entire song to exploit such a complex tonal
situation, in which your sense of where the home key is is kept continually in flux. I'd suggest that this
changeability is so strongly a subliminal hook element of the song that the final ending on C sounds a tad abrupt
and forced; perhaps a fadeout would have worked better.
The melodic style here is essentially declamatory with short phrases of 3-6 notes repeated frequently repeated
for rhetorical effect; a Beatles trademark running as far back as “Love Me Do.”
Arrangement
The instrumental backing contains a fuzzy/boomy texture heard on several other tracks from the same album,
though some of the fancier drum work (such as fills which bridge the gap between the ends of refrains and the
beginning of verses) stands out nicely.
The vocal arrangement features John single tracked in the verses, double tracked for most of the bridge
(sounds like they rather fussily omit the second track for the climactic “I love her more” phrase of that section),
and accompanied for emphasis by the others in the refrain.
Page 221
The refrain contains a rhythmic hook to be found in the recurring hard syncopations on the final eighth note of
the measure (i.e. on “four-AND”), unusually followed by no demarcation of where the downbeat of the next
measure actually is; a special effect which only goes to make the syncopation feel all the more gut-wrenching.
Section By Section Walk Through
Refrain
The refrain is eight measures long and is structured out of two parallel phrases of two measures each that are
balanced out by a single phrase of four measures:
A:
|A
I
|-
|-
|D9
IV
|G
flat-VII
|a
i
|-
|G
flat-VII
C: V
|
|
The melodic use of G naturals in the A Major context of the first two phrases lends a bluesy touch. The last phrase
is especially tangy by vritue of the melodic E over the D chord in measure 5, followed by the F natural over the G
chord in the next measures. Lyrically, the opening of this section must be one of the earliest examples in the
Beatles oeuvre to feature wordless phonemes so prominently.
In terms of dramatic structure, this section strangely begins right off at a point of climax, giving us listeners
the feeling of having walked in on something already well in progress. This effect is further heightened by
surprising series of harmonic moves in the last couple measures; first the arrival of a minor in a place where you
expect it to be Major, followed immediately by the G Major chord which punningly pivots as a dominant V chord
over to the key of C Major. Note too, how the uneventful harmonic rhythmic of the first half of this section
contrasts with what happens in the remainder of it.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and structured in a manner similar to the refrain. This time, the initial twomeasure melodic phrase is repeated three times before blossoming out a bit the final time around:
|------------- 3X --------------|
C:
|C
I
|F
IV
|G
V
|-
|
Instead of containing bluesy hints, the tune in this section is shot through with little chromatic scale riffs. In
common with the refrain though is the melodic emphasis on the F natural over the G chord near the end here.
The tone of this verse is hard-edged and determined, and it is effectively designed to not only contrast with
the comparative turbulence of the refrain, but also, by virtue of its rhetorical repetitiousness and harmonically
open ending on V, to build momentously toward that next section.
I'll leave the second chord of the verse simply labeled as IV, though I believe it could (and should) be more
academically (and correctly) analyzed as the "ii 6/5"; i.e. d7 in the first inversion. Listen carefully and note how
Paul plays a double stopped fifth (F-C) in the bass, while the melody contains a D natural against it. For further
discussion of this type of chord, see our much earlier note on “No Reply.”
Page 222
Bridge
This bridge is ten measures long, the only un-square section to be found in the entire song, and can be broken
down into a series of five short two-measure phrases which coalesce into an uneven grouping of 2 + 3:
C:
|C
I
|a
vi
|C
I
|a
vi
|
|F9
IV
|G
V
|F
IV
|G
V
|a
vi
|G
V
|
The tone of this section is closer in spirit to the verses than the refrains, though the internal shape of the bridge is
more arch-like with an internal climax somewhere near the middle of the section (on those melodic octave leaps
to the F9 chords), rather than ending, like the verses, just on the verge of a peaking. Note how the final measure of
the refrain which immediately precedes this bridge is modified to sustain the a minor chord.
Outro
The outro of this song is in the form of a 'petit-reprise'-like extension of the final refrain. In measure 7, this time,
an A Major chord is substituted for the expected a minor, which nicely motivates a repeat of the second of the
second half of the refrain, starting from the D Major chord; except, of course, for the final surprising ending on C!
As the final C chord reverberates and fades away, I detect a curious resonance of the note F#, which may or
may not have been deliberate. Either way, the subtle appearance of such a dissonant and foreign tone in this
context lends a connotation of something uneasily left unresolved which somehow surely seems to fit in with the
spirit of what has preceded.
Some Final Thoughts
In considering the thirteen tracks on the A Hard Day's Night album as a whole and in comparison with the group's
work which preceded this collection, a number of interesting trends and other observations come to mind.
First off, a number of earlier trademarks of the group seem conspicuously downplayed, if not entirely
avoided. In particular, they would seem to have traded in their sinewy two-part vocal counterpoint for more in the
way of solo lead vocals that get punctuated by antiphonal touches of three part singing. There also seems to be
much less of the free-verse uneven phrasing here than before. And with exception of the Major/minor gambits
mentioned above or the intro to “If I Fell”, there also seems to be less than their typical level of experimenting
with unusual chord progressions.
But of course, there are the undeniable signs here of stylistic development as well. In the absence of cover
songs for the first time, it is particularly notable how many different moods, tempos, and instrumental textures are
included in the mix; in additional to the obligatory rockers, we also have the likes of a ballad such as “And I Love
Her”, as well as a couple of semi or pseudo acoustic numbers (e.g. “Things We Said Today” and “I'll Be Back”)
which anticipate the folk rock style heard later on Rubber Soul.
Just as importantly, there are also the examples of increasingly sophisticated word play and imagery, as well
as the several ways in which the spirit and flavor of the blues are conjured with only very little if any direct
reference.
“I've only one thing to say to you, John Lennon.”043092#54
Page 223
I Feel Fine
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (Guitar Solo) – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The form of this song is unusually bulky as a result of the individual sections themselves being rather short. Note
especially the unusual series of three verse sections in the middle, one of which is for solo guitar. The alternation
found here in the penultimate phrase of the verses between “I'm” and “She's” might be described, at this stage of
their career, as almost equally nostalgic as it is characteristic.
Melody and Harmony
The entire song stays firmly rooted in the home key of G Major, and the harmonic diet is limited to only four
chords; with the bluesy triumverate of I, IV, and V sufficing for the verses, and the iii chord being thrown in for
the bridges. The only harmonic feature here that is even slightly unusual is the use of iii to bridge the gap between
I and IV; i.e. iii more often than not is generally followed by vi.
The verse sports a number of other kinds of trademarks -- the melodic noodling on just a couple or three notes
in a narrow range; the bluesy flat sevenths found in the early part of the section followed by the flat third only
near the end of it; and the static harmonic rhythm in the opening phrase.
Arrangement
The guitar feedback at the very opening is much celebrated for its serendipitous, experimental origin. It's worth
emphasizing though that this effect is not random noise, but rather a clever isolation of the naturally occurring
harmonic resonance one octave above the original note that was plucked. Furthermore, the specific choice of note
plucked was far from random; see below.
The lead guitar is prominently featured on the backing track to an extent that its recurring presence provides a
secondary hook of sorts. Beyond the solo section itself, the licks which appear during the intro and in between the
two phrases of each verse create the impression of the guitar always lurking there in the background.
The vocal arrangement has John double tracked on lead with continually intermittent support from Paul and
George. Note how in the verse, the chorus joins John for the second half of the section, whereas the gambit is
reversed in the bridge – there, the chorus loudly reinforces the first half of each phrase, only to retreat for the
remainder of it to a sotto-voce “ooh-ing” support role. The consistent placement of John's singing of the tune on
the below the other two lines adds a characteristic tang.
On top of all else, the particular style of the drumming lends an offbeat, slightly 'Latin' flavor to the overall
production.
Page 224
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro starts off with the feedback sequence mentioned above. They may have had some specific duration for
this in mind, but the listener's impression of it is as though it were performed ad libitum, out of tempo.
This effect is immediately followed by a strange small noise, and then comes the intro proper, a section of
eight measures in length that is later quoted again almost verbatim in the second half of the guitar solo section:
G:
|D
V
|-
|C
IV
|-
--- 4X --|G
|
I
Once the music gets rolling, one hears the opening note retrospectively as having implied an A Major chord (Vof-V) in relationship to the D Major (V) which follows it. The V-IV-I progression itself helps set the quasi-bluesy
tone of the song from the start.
This intro is also a good example of the Beatles trademark layered opening, an effect created primarily by the
manner in which entry of the other instruments, especially the drums, is delayed until the end of measure 6.
Verse
The verse is ten measures long, and breaks down into two phrases of 6 and 4 measures respectively as a matter of
the rhetorical inner subphrasing of the lyrics and melody. In spite of the asymmetry, the overall dramatic shape of
the section remains arch-like and closed:
|G
I
|-
|-
|-
|D
V
|D
V
|C
IV
|G
I
|-
|
|-
|
The ensemble singing is ever so slightly ragged. With the exception of the third verse, they seem rather incapable
of making a clean, coordinated cut-off at the phrase endings.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and built out of two repeats of what is essentially the same four-measure
phrase. In contrast to the verse, the shape of this section is open ended and leads nicely back around to the verse
which follows it:
--------------- 2X -------------|G
|b
|C
|D
|
I
iii
IV
V
Page 225
Verse (Guitar Solo)
Though clearly based upon the verse, the length of this section is adjusted slightly, to add a tad more dramatic
emphasis to the second half (note the re-entry of those drums!), as well as to make an associative allusion back to
the intro.
The solo part itself mimics the pitch content and rhetoric of the tune. The original backing track already had
some solo guitar work on it, to which a final solo part was later overdubbed (you can check this on your bootlegs),
and the intersection of the two parts in a few instances makes for a surreal effect.
John vocally introduces this section with a moan. This is an infinitesimal gesture perhaps, but it sets up a
subtle point of reference that resonates nicely when the same effect returns in the outro.
Outro
The outro starts off as another one of those petit reprises of the last phrase of the final verse; in this case, a
winding back to the V-IV-I phrase yet again.
This is followed by a vamping into the fadeout over the sustained I chord, accompanied by guitar riffing
reminiscent of the intro, as well as moans, whoops, and handclaps. The latter are barely audible on the finished
release, but reference to the bootleg of un-retouched and unedited take 9 (misleadingly identified on all boots as
“take 7” – you heard this here first!), betrays the extent to which this horsing around went on during real time in
the studio.
Some Final Thoughts
Viewed in perspective of the Beatles stylistic development over the long run, this song very much builds directly
on the innovations and new trademarks of the A Hard Day’s Night album.
Perhaps the single most exceptional gesture in this particular number is to be found in its unaccustomed
display (for John) of such effusive romantic euphoria, completely uncomplicated for a change by even the
slightest second thoughts, anxiety, or self-doubt.
“Congratulate me, boys, I'm engaged.”
050792#55
Page 226
She's A Woman
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Break (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This one was one of Paulie's big personal triumphs. Not only was it a staple of the Beatles stage repertoire for the
season of '65, but as recently as the “Unplugged Special” of last year, it was clearly on the composer's own short
list of Beatles songs he's proud to still play in public.
At the time of its initial release, “She's A Woman” was Paul's most outrageous vocal performance since his
earlier rendition of “Long Tall Sally”, and it was also his first foray into this genre with an original effort. As I
commented back in my note on the Long Tall Sally EP, the underlying gesture of this stylistic masquerading
would have far-reaching repercussions for the Beatles in mid-to-late career. In terms of Paul's own contribution,
we can trace a relatively direct line between our current song and the likes of “Get Back” and “Oh, Darling.”
This song would be just about the Beatles most blues-like number to date on compositional grounds, as well
as those of performance style. The tune and the chord choices are bluesy in flavor, and the instrumental break and
outro sections even sport a true-blue 12-bar form. Even the verses turn out to be in a subtly disguised expanded
variation on the standard 12-bar framework.
As we've seen in other songs from this period, the bridge provides the only respite here from the blues. This
particular one is extremely truncated in length to an extreme that one tends to hear what is actually the beginning
of the next verse as though it were a continuation of the bridge itself.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic hook of the song is to be found in the quite distinctive melodic lick which opens the verse, with its
dramatic initial upward jump of a minor sixth, and the craggy manner in which it works its way back down the
other side of the arch. It also contains a tangy implied cross-relation between the opening C# (on the word “my”)
and the later C natural (on the first syllable of the word “presents”.)
The opening jump takes Paul all the way up to high 'A', a note that is barely within his comfort zone. In fact,
the predominant range of the tune (the fancy technical word for this is “the tessitura”) is on the high side. Paul's
evident strain in trying to reach the mark indirectly adds an earthy, humanizing factor to the proceedings. And –
for “Unplugged”, the older Mr. McCartney saw it as prudent to transpose the whole thing down a full fourth, all
the way to the key of E!
With the exception of the two brief bridge sections, the chord selection is strictly I-IV-V, though the bridge
does manage in its terse way to provide some respite.
Arrangement
In trademark fashion, the entry of the percussion (both drums and “chocalho” – sounds like maracas to me) are
delayed until the second half of the intro. Furthermore, the style of drumming is modified for the bridges and
outro.
The overdubbed piano, which doubles the guitar on those offbeat chords in the intro (or is it actually some
tricky double tracking of the guitar, alone?), sits out the first verse, only to return for the duration in the next
section with a part that is primarily chordal but which also features the hook phrase of the tune in mockingbird
Page 227
like antiphony with the singer; compare the latter effect with the handling of the lead guitar lick in "She Said She
Said."
There is some nice, ongoing interplay established between the bass line and the piano, though for one
precarious instant in the verse which follows the first bridge, the ensemble between the two of them sounds
almost ready to fall apart.
Macca sings solo throughout, though he is rather loosely double tracked for the bridges. From one verse to the
next, he employs an uncommon (for him) amount of improvised variation on the basic tune. These little twists
seem to get steadily freer, louder, and more extroverted as the song progresses; as well they should.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The available outtakes of this song with their inevitable count-ins show us that the music was conceived as being
in a very rapid 4/4 meter. By this rule of thumb therefore, the intro is eight measures in length:
A:
|E
V
|-
|D
IV
|-
|A
I
|-
|-
1*2* 3 4
|- E
|
V
The outtakes also show that the unaccompanied chords played on the offbeat were sufficiently clever to trip up the
group virtually every time. Even the flawless official version maintains the power to throw you, the listener, off
base a bit no matter how many times you've ever heard it.
Verse
The verse is twenty-four measures long and though its formal outline is very similar to that of the standard 12-bar
blues frame, that familiar structure here unfolds at half the normal pace (compare, by the way, with the Larry
Williams cover, “Slow Down”), and its resemblance is also further obscured by the recurrence of the D Major
(IV) chord in the midst of what would be, in a more pure blues number, measures of just the plain A (I) chord:
--------------- 2X -------------|A
|D
A
|A
||
I
IV I
|D
IV
|-
|-
|-
|A
I
|D
IV
A
I
|A
|-
|
|E
V
|-
|D
IV
|-
|A
I
|D
IV
A
I
|A
|-
|
An hypnotic mantra-like effect is created by the four-fold reiteration of the distinctive hook phrase over the course
of this section. The only other contrasting melodic material comes in little phrases that move stepwise around a
single note, and these too are repeated to hypnotic effect.
The first verse is slightly different from all the rest, with its lack of a piano part and its ending on a
syncopated V chord, just like the intro. Once the piano enters, it seems that whenever the hook phrase occurs, the
piano repeats the D-A chord change in measure 4 of that phrase even though the bass line appears to hold to the
sustained A chord pattern established in the first verse.
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Bridge
As mentioned already, the bridge is a scant four measures in length. It is built out of a repetition of the same twomeasure melodic phrase, and provides a terrific example of the way in which different chords used under identical
melodic conditions change the feeling of the melody in each case:
|c#
iii
|f#
vi
|c#
iii
|D
IV
E
V
|
Appropriate bridge-like contrast is provided by several factors – the non bluesy melody for a change, the new
couple of chords, and the brevity of the section itself.
After having discussed in our Note on “I Feel Fine” the relative propensity of the iii chord to be followed by
vi versus IV, we ironically find in this next song an object lesson in which iii is alternately followed by each of
those targets. I have a reasonable doubt regarding whether that chord on f# is a Major or minor triad; if the
former, then change my label to "V-of-ii", and add a footnote about how that chord suggests, but far from
consumates, a potential modulation to the key of b minor that is left hanging in mid-air.
Break (Guitar Solo)
In the guitar solo section, the music abandons all disguise and once and for all offers us a classic 12-bar blues
frame. Note both the strange stereo mixing of the solo, as well as the manner in which it manages to sound
spontaneously improvised even while it incorporates pieces of the opening hook phrase.
Outro
The outro features a break out into the 12-bar improvisatory style seen earlier in the solo section, this time
including Paul's own vocal part based on the title phrase.
Some Final Thoughts
I've suggested on a number of occasions the seemingly far-fetched possibility that there may have been times
when John and Paul would, if not quite compositionally compete with each other in any explicit, technical way,
subliminally work out some similar musical problem in parallel with each other; the result of which might be two
very different songs which, nonetheless, betray a similar lyrical thesis or technical structure at a level below the
surface.
I first suggested this way back in connection with “She Said She Said” versus “Good Day Sunshine”, and “It
Won't Be Long” versus “All My Loving.” We saw it more recently with “You Can't Do That” and “Can't Buy Me
Love.” I predict we'll see it yet again when we get to “Rain” versus “Paperback Writer”, and even “Strawberry
Fields Forever” versus “Penny Lane.”
Indeed, the flip sides of singles seem to have been a frequent and fertile place for this to happen. I suggest we
have this same phenomenon here between “I Feel Fine” and “She's A Woman.” In this case, I am particularly
struck by the euphoric subtext of the words, the stylized handling of the blues, and especially the V-IV-I intro in
which the ensemble doesn't quite start until the I chord.
Paul's got one leading edge here with a small yet stylistically prophetic bit of wordplay -- the manner in which
he rhymes "jealous" with "well as" seems just a tad too coincidentally similar to those rhymes of "doin'" with
"blue an'" and "runnin'" with "fun in"; to be found in “What You're Doing”, recorded more or less during the same
group of sessions as “She's A Woman.” What a guy!
“You'll have to love her; she's your symbol.”
051892#56
Page 229
I'm A Loser
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Solo Break (half Verse + Refrain) – Verse – Refrain – Outro
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
For a rock song, this one contains a stronger blend of folk elements than almost anything else the Beatles had
done to-date. Apart from the semi-acoustic arrangement, we have a form which (with the exception of the break
and outro) presents a ballad-like straight alternation of verse and refrain. The lyrics are different for each verse
and imply a kind of narrative that is told in 2nd person direct address, and ends on a cliche moral note (“... pride
comes be-fore a fall...”). We'll come across even more details supportive of this thesis as we do our walkthrough
below. The most unusual formal touch here is the instrumental break section that is a hybrid half-verse plus
refrain. However, the ad-lib intro and recapitulation of the break that occurs in the outro are both also noteworthy.
Melody and Harmony
The melody is closer to the Mixolydian mode than it is bluesy, with the Major 3rd (B) and flattened 7th (F)
consistently emphasized in the verses. The naturally ocurring Major 7th (F#) occurs only in the refrain section
along with the 6th degree of the scale (E) which is emphasized there after having been witheld entirely during the
verses. I'll grant you that virtually no composer plans out such consistency in any kind of pre-meditated fashion,
but it still fascinates me to observe how the creative mind does seem to subconciously impose such order.
The harmony is also modal by virtue of the heavy use of the flat-VII chord throughout. The continual
juxtaposition of the flat-VII (F Major) to the V chord (D Major) in this song makes for a tangy cross relation
between the F natural of the one chord with the F# of the other.
The harmonic diet is otherwise straightforward and limited. There is a small number of chords involved
overall, and the whole thing is strictly in G Major with not even the least hint of modulation or other gambit; yet
another aspect of the song which suggests the folk style.
Arrangement
The details of the arrangement seem more carefully organized than usual toward maximizing contrast between the
verses and refrains. In the verses, John sings a single tracked solo, the bass line is in a predominantly four-in-thebar oompah pattern, and the percussion is quietly restrained. For the refrains, John is double tracked and joined by
Paul's harmonizing above him, the bass line is walking, and the percussion gets noisier and more sizzling.
The rhythm guitar provides a background wash containing a high level of noise from the pick being strummed
across strings. The lead guitar provides its own wash of bent-note chords during the verses. This effect sounds as
if it were mixed more prominently and played with an increased amount of bending during the final verse; a touch
which pleasantly resonates with the analogous bent notes in the lead vocal and the harmonica solo.
John's harmonica makes its first appearance here since “I Should Have Known Better”, and this time it is used
more sparingly though with greater abandon.
Page 230
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
This is one of those relatively rare Beatles intros that is played ad-lib and out of tempo. Formally, it turns out to
be a truncated version of the refrain section:
G:
|A Tempo ---->
------- 2X -----|a
|D
||F
|ii
V
flat-VII
D
V
|
Most other songs with this kind of intro would find the complete ensemble coming in right at, or just before the
"A Tempo" downbeat; here, they wait it out until the very last beats of the entire section.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long. Although it is harmonically built out of a fourfold repetition of the same fourmeasure chord progression (yet another folksy touch), the melodic phrasing creates two eight-bar couplets:
G:
----------------------------- 4X -----------------------------|G
|D
|F
|G
|
I
V
flat-VII
I
The tune is roughly arch-shaped with unusual and slightly awkward leaps that take John all the way down to a
low G that is difficult for him to reach. By the same token, John makes the most of a bent-note D->C
appoggiatura which occurs toward the end of each verse; for example on the word “known” in the first verse.
In several places, the tune seems to go out of its way to force freely dissonant notes against the underlying
chords, making for a disingenuously "primitive" impression; note especially the G's in the second half of the first
couplet which clash over both the D and F chords – on the words “should” and “never” – reminiscent of
something we saw back in “I'll Cry Instead.”
Refrain
The bridge is eight measures long and is built out of two four-measure phrases that are melodically parallel even
though they are placed on top of different chord progressions. Note the subtle effect of the last measure of this
section, the only place in the entire song where the harmonic rhythm quickens beyond one chord change per
measure:
--------------- 2X ------------|a7
|D
|G
ii
V
I
|a
ii
|e
vi
|F
D
|
flat-VII V
Page 231
|
The verse had been harmonically static and closed in shape, and this refrain, even without any kind of modulatory
tendency, makes a nice contrast in the way that it starts away from the I chord and ends up on the V chord,
thereby providing motivation for the section which follows.
The tendency we observed in the verse toward free dissonance between melody and harmony is continued
here as well; the most striking example being at the beginning of the second phrase – E over the G chord and D
over the e chord on the two syllables of “loser” respectively.
Paul drops out of his supporting vocal role for the last half-phrase of this section leaving John's solo exposed
again. It's an elegant and dramatically convincing touch though, as we learn from the early studio outtakes, it was
not originally planned this way. If it were not for Paul's continual difficulty in finding an acceptable counterpoint
solution for those last couple bars, it's possible if not likely that he would have sung the whole way through.
Break (Harmonica and Guitar Solo)
This break is sixteen measures long and is pieced together from the first eight measures of the verse plus a
complete refrain. This strategy may be argued as necessary to the extent that the entire verse by itself would make
a poor basis for a break because of its static structure, while the refrain by itself would not work well as a break
section if you are forced to choose between placing it immediately following a sung refrain, or following a verse
in place of a sung refrain. Run these options in your head and think it over.
Again we find still more melodic dissonance against the harmony in both harmonica and guitar parts. This
effect tends to accentuate one's sense of Dylan's influence on the proceedings.
The percussion reaches its sizzling peak during this break; a fact you almost don't realize till the smoke slowly
clears, so to speak, over the course of the first phrase of the next verse.
Outro
The outro provides a virtually note-for-note recap of the break section albeit one faded out in mid-course. Ringo
inserts an elaborate fill (the only one in the entire song!) in between the first two phrases of this outro. The only
problem is that it sounds as though a small but critical fractional part of a beat is missing, the end result making
you feel like you've tripped over something in the dark when you hear it.
Some Final Thoughts
One of the obvious stylistic trends often noted about the Beatles For Sale album is its much larger quotient than
usual of unhappy love songs. Out of eight L&M originals, only “Eight Days A Week” and “Every Little Thing”
strike the familiar Beatles chord of romantic euphoria. The other six range across a fairly broad though equally
conventional spectrum of from sad-to-bitter regret at one end ( “I'll Follow The Sun”, “I Don't Want To Spoil The
Party”, “Baby's In Black”), all the way to desperate confrontation at the other ( “No Reply”, “What You're
Doing”).
“I'm A Loser”, though, is somewhat unique, both in terms of this general context as well as in the larger one
of John's other regretful or bitter songs written to this point of his career. For the first time in this one, the focus is
completely on self-blame almost to the excessive extreme of maudlin self-pity, but likewise with none of the
previously familiar emphasis at all on bitter accusations.
It's become glibly fashionable to trace a certain kind of turning point in John's compositional development to
the writing of “You've Got To Hide Your Love Away” , but it seems to me that a lot of what is in that later song
can already be seen emerging right here in “I'm A Loser”; even the choice of key and chords is awfully similar.
“No, she'll only reject me in the end, and I'll be frustrated.”052892#57
Page 232
Baby's In Black
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Bridge – Refrain – Refrain (guitar solo) – Bridge – Refrain –
Verse – Refrain (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Formalistically, this is among the more verbose and complicated songs we've looked at, with its refrain, bridge,
and guitar solo sections. While The Beatles didn't go in for this sort of thing very often, neither is such a form
unprecedented. Examples uncovered thus far in our studies include “It Won't Be Long”, “When I Get Home”, and
“You're Going To Lose That Girl”. The fact that the preceding list is entirely built out of songs that conspicuously
belong to John would seem noteworthy.
Stylistically, the song has an unusual mishmash of elements – the bluesy tune and choice of chords; the folksy
almost hillbilly vocal arrangement; not to mention the exotic touch in the final verse where those drone-like open
fifths in the bass parts conjure, to my ears, a strange musical cross between Scottish bagpipes and an Indian
tamboura.
John described it as a waltz (check his spoken lead into the song at the Paris concerts in January '65), but in
spite of the 3/4 time signature, the rapid tempo and agitated mood of the piece seem out of character with that
romantic dance form.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic mode is almost entirely Major with the exception of some intermittment use of the bluesy minor
third in the refrain.
Very few chords are used throughout and the song remains firmly rooted in the initial home key. The refrain
and verse sections limit themselves to the familiar I-IV-V chords. Although the bridge adds in the vi and V-of-V
for variety, its still all simple stuff.
The one notable harmonic detail is the familiar Beatles trademark of directly following V-of-V with IV
instead of V. Early and contemporary examples of this are to be found in “She Loves You”, “I Call Your Name”
and “Eight Days A Week”.
Arrangement
There's an unusual unrelieved end-to-end vocal duet with John on bottom and Paul on top. This relative lack of
textural variety here increases the tension and intensity of the mood. Note though how in spite of the
predominance of parallel thirds in the two voice parts, there are several places in which they subtly branch out
into a more typically Lennon/McCartney kind of counterpoint; check out the end of the refrain and the opening of
the bridge.
The instrumental texture is similarly consistent throughout, though in a wise attempt to avoid monotony and
provide a bit of contrast, they make a temporarily radical change to the backing for the final verse before
resuming the original texture for the closing refrain; an effect which would be repeated with equal success in
“Help!”.
Page 233
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is a scant four measures long and creates the effect of your having walked in on the middle of the song,
just as it was coming out of a refrain section:
A:
|A
I
|E
V
|A
I
|-
|
The guitar hook heard right at the beginning anticipates a key phrase of the tune (“Oh, what can I do”) and
provides a means of unification from the way it is repeated at the end of every refrain except for the second one.
The fourth refrain, by the way, presents the guitar hook in a different range than elsewhere, and I have a hard time
deciding weather this is avoidance of foolish consistency or just sloppy playing.
Refrain
The refrain is twelve measures long and is built out of three phrases equal in length:
A:
|A
I
|-
|E
V
|-
|A
I
|D
IV
|A
I
|-
||D
IV
|-
|E
V
|-
||
|
The melodic shape is an inverted arch. The harmonic shape is closed. The chords are the familiar I-IV-V of the
blues form though the progression pattern is far from the traditional one of that form.
Verse
The verse is an unusual fourteen measures long and built out of three phrases whose number of measures create
an asymmetrical pattern of 4+4+6:
|A
I
|-
|-
|-
|
|A
|(V-of-IV)
|D
IV
|-
|
|D
|A
I
|E
V
|A
I
|-
|-
|
Page 234
Again, the harmonic shape of the section is closed, though the strategy of the chords not changing on the phrase
boundaries creates a subtle sense of freedom.
For those who are keeping score of such things, note the “and/but” word collision in the final verse. This one
is even picked up by the compilers of the lyrical concordance, “Things We Said Today.” However, I believe that
if you listen carefully, it also sounds like their is another collision (this time on “he/she”) immediately following,
though this one sounds as though it is perhaps a residue from an earlier guide vocal track that they were trying to
mix out.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and would appear on the surface to be made up of two phrases equal in length:
|f#
ii
|-
|B
|V-of-V
|D
|IV
|E
|V
||A
I
Actually, the second phrase carries all the way through into the beginning of the ninth measure, where it makes a
striking elision with the start of the next refrain. It's an unusual example of this technique, even for the Boys,
because even the words here are elided at the point where the two sections intersect; e.g. “made...dear” instead of
“Oh, dear”.
The overall melodic range is cleverly managed. The frequently repeated refrain contains the unique low point
of the tune, but it also reiterates a constricted high point on the pitch 'E' almost to the point of monotony. The
verse sections open the high end up as far as 'G', but these sections even more so emphasize the same harping on
'E' heard in the refrains. The climactic peak of the song (on the pitch 'A') is held back and dramatically released
right at the start of the bridge.
Guitar Solo
For a guy who made such a specialty of the well-practiced kind of solo that is the most understated delicate
paraphrase of the tune, George really lets go here with a solo whose only obvious connection to the original
refrain melody is to be found in the lilting cadence of its rhythmic pattern. Otherwise, in place of the
predominantly stepwise melodic arch performed by the singers, we get a guitar part that is not only full of long
jumps, but is also peppered through with bent notes and free dissonances against the underlying chords; all in all,
a worthy contrast with the surrounding sections.
Some Final Thoughts
To the extent that the common wisdom seems to obsess on the “downbeat” mood of the Beatles For Sale album, I
suppose that its the implicitly lugubrious nature of the words to “Baby's In Black” that may have contributed more
so to this phenomenon than any one other song.
Personally, I've never been swayed too much by that. For one thing, it has always seemed easy enough to
simply interpret the mourning described in the lyric as figurative, rather than literal. And when all else fails, I still
find it difficult to get hung about a song that sounds so similar in a way to the traditional folk ditty, “Oh dear what
can the matter be?”; no matter how gamey the words may be.
“How do you like your girlfriends to dress?”
061692#59
Page 235
I'll Follow The Sun
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (half guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Form-wise, this is one of the more straightforward ones we've seen in a while: a familiar two-bridge model where
two verses, one of which is a (partial) instrumental solo, separate the bridges. The folksy first impression created
by the primarily acoustic arrangement and performance style is belied by chord progressions and a tune that are
distinctly non-folk-like.
Ever since we crossed the approximate frontier of the A Hard Day's Night album, I've been pointing out
repeated examples of the Beatles' tendency toward blending elements of the Blues style into a pop-rock context.
Along with some of the other songs on the Beatles For Sale album, this particular one is a fine example of the
Boys playing the same trick, but with folk elements instead of the Blues.
Melody and Harmony
A relatively small number of chords is used throughout. Although the song is ultimately seen to reside entirely
and firmly within its home key of C Major, the manner in which the chords progress during the verse does
challenge your clear perception of the home key. There's even some slight harmonic awkwardness to the verse as
though Paul were self-consciously striving for something new.
Chromatic line cliches that are concealed within an inner voice of the texture play a role here reminiscent of
what we've seen in both the earlier “Hold Me Tight” and the later “You Won't See Me.” The more obvious
example here is found in John's descending vocal counterpoint during the bridge. This is nicely balanced out by a
longer upward run in the verse, but the latter is quite a bit better concealed to the extent that it is merely implied
by the schematic voice leading of the underlying harmony rather than being explicitly called out.
The verse melody is a standout, not only because it contains an unusual series of upward leaps of a fourth, but
also for the extremely large pitch range traversed by its expressive arch shape.
Arrangement
The instrumental backing is most characterized by the finger-picking acoustic guitar part, in spite of the presence
of electric instruments on the bass and lead guitar parts. Note the unusual lack of any percussion part. Where was
Ringo, off practicing timpani for the other cuts?
Although it is Paul undeniably in the vocal spotlight, John plays an uncannily subtle supporting vocal role;
he's actually in there singing along almost the whole way, though you hardly even notice it! For example, John
doubles Paul in unsion for the first half of the verse only to drop out leaving Paul exposed solo in the second half.
The bridge features similar by-play between the two of them.
Page 236
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is a mere two measures long and serves to establish the home key as well as the background guitar
figuration:
|C
I
G
V
|F
IV
C
I
|
As the song unfolds, this intro turns out to be nothing more than an anticipation of the ending of the verse section,
and indeed, the same couple of measures provide the defacto outro at the end.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long. Though it metrically scans into two phrases of four measures each, it
melodically consists of one long phrase:
inner
line:
D
chords:
C:
V
G
|C
I
|G
e
iii
E-flat
|Fb7
IV
|D
G
V-of-V V
I
|C
I
E-natural
F#
|C
|D
V-of-V
G
V
|F
IV
C
I
|
|
Harmonically, this section begins away from the home key (on V) but converges eventually toward one though
not before throwing us a few curve balls -- i.e. the "gratuitous" dominant 7th on F (after all, it doesn't resolve to
B-flat), the deferred resolution of the first V-of-V, and the appearance of iii in the so-called 6/4 inversion with B
in the bass line.
I believe that in the context of this strange progression, the embedded line cliche plays a significant role in
holding the whole thing together by providing a clear (albeit concealed) thread of continuity. The speeding up of
the harmonic rhythm in the second half of he section also helps.
A slight modification is made to the two verses which precede the bridge sections: the C chord is sustained
through measure 7 and is converted into a dominant 7th (V-of-IV) during measure 8.
Bridge
The bridge is also eight measures long though its two four-measure phrases are nicely parallel in structure:
Page 237
A-natural
|d
ii
A-flat
|f
iv
|C
I
G
|C7
V-of-IV
|
|d
ii
|f
iv
|C
C
|d
ii
|
As with the verse, this section also starts out away from the home key, eventually converges toward it, only to
close right back on the ii chord, as is required to properly motivate the verse which follows with its own opening
on V. The downward line cliche provides us with one of the first minor iv chords we've seen in a while; and in a
“Paul song”, no less!
Some Final Thoughts
An astonishingly almost-but-not-quite version of this song has been preserved for us on a mysterious rehearsal
tape attributed to the Quarrymen of spring, 1960.
The form presented there is essentially the same as the official version, but the music varies quite a bit at the
detailed level. For example, the key there is G, while our album version is in C, and the bridge sections there each
conclude with a brief guitar lick that is totally absent in our version.
The most intriguing thing about the older version is how un-snugly the melody sits atop the chords. In reworking it for the official version, Paul must have been conscious of this problem to the extent that he changed so
much of the harmonic content for it. The thing is, as we've noted, that even the official version of the song retains
a certain "charming awkwardness" about it the only makes me wonder all the more: was the song somehow jinxed
in a way that prevented Paul from fixing it up completely, or is at least *some* of this so-called awkwardness part
of the intended effect here, perhaps?
“He can't walk out on us.”
062992#60
Page 238
Every Little Thing
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse (guitar solo) – Refrain – Outro
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The form of this one is a tad subtle; being neither a one- or two-bridge pop model, nor a folk-like strict alternation
of verses and refrains. Instead, we have some kind of hybrid in which the refrain sections (three, count 'em, three)
are alternated with double verses; yeah, I know, the single-versed guitar section breaks up what would have
otherwise been a foolishly consistent pattern.
In contrast to the last several songs we've looked at, this one is in a relatively germane and generic early
Beatles pop/rock style, right down to the usage of funky vocal counterpoint in the refrain.
Nevertheless, a sufficient number of novel details betray the extent to which the group had compositionally
progressed beyond the likes of “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand”: in addition to the unusual
form we have modally inflected harmony, and a carefully layered instrumental backing with its piano-reinforced
bass line and punctuating touches of timpani.
Melody and Harmony
The harmonic budget is frugal to an extreme that's rather typical of John. Aside from I, IV, V and iv, the only
chord choice here that is even slightly exotic is the heavy play given to flat-VII.
The melodic use of the inflected flat-seventh (G natural) in conjunction with the naturally ocurring Major
third (C#) makes the basic tune more Mixolydian-modal than bluesy. If anything, the refrain, with its avoidance
of a melodic 7th degree of any kind, sounds even a bit pentatonic.
Through our studies of the Beatles output we've become used to seeing fairly regularized harmonic rhythms.
In this song though, we find an unusual and sophisticated example of an irregular harmonic rhythm used to
underscore syncopation in the tune. We'll have more to say on this as we encounter specific examples in our
walkthrough.
Arrangement
John has a double-tracked solo for the verses but is joined by Paul in the refrains for a stretch of their trademark
open-fifth vocal harmony, the likes of which didn't show up much on A Hard Day's Night, but which re-appears
again on the Beatles For Sale album, not only in this song, but also on “Eight Days A Week” and “I Don't Want
To Spoil The Party”, as well.
The instrumental texture is unusual. There's a lot of noisily strummed acoustic guitar in the middle range
(compare with “I'm A Loser”), and a heavy bass line that is fortified (at least in part) by doubling in the low
octaves of the piano and some punctuation by timpani drums, of all things. Beyond the solo section, there is very
little role here for the lead guitar other than some almost subliminal punctuating (there's that word again) chords
during the refrain. And overall, the arrangement makes a paradoxical impression of weightiness that is
simultaneously balanced out by transparency.
Page 239
Ringo's brief stint on the timpani is somewhat history making, not merely because it is a relatively early
example of the group's incorporating an exotic instrument in one of their songs per se, but also because the
instrument in question is being played by a member of the group.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
Once you're used to the song, you come to recognize this two-measure intro as the opening of the verse section as
played by solo guitar. Even then, the fact that this intro begins on what is actually the second beat of the measure
without any provision having been made to give you a clue where the first beat of it was, tends to throw you off
your sense of meter until the first verse actually begins; the latter remains true, I'll bet, no matter how many times
you've heard the song!
Verse
The verse is six measures in length and is built out of three short phrases of two measures each. Rhetorically, the
first two phrases are roughly parallel to each other, with the third phrase providing, a sense of resolution to the
opening couplet stemming from the way in which it rounds out the melodic arch of the section. I'd dare say that
this kind of construction is as characteristic of John's style as the slow melodic triplet to be found in measure 5:
bassline:
rhythm: |
chords: |A
A:
I
bassline:
|
|1
|D
IV
|B
|b
vi
A
2
E
V
3
|G#
|E
V
4
|
|
|A
I
A
A
I
|
D
C# |
|1
2
3
4 |
|G
D
|
flat-VII IV
|
|
Another source of contrast between the first pair of phrases versus the final one is the way in which the first two
phrases share the syncopated harmonic rhythm in common, while the final phrase provides an harmonic scenario
which, though straight out of the textbooks for Harmony 101, is nevertheless seen in a song-by-song examination
of their output, to be extremely rare in the music of the early Beatles.
What this scenario consists of is a slow but prominent melodic "turn" (that's actually a technical term in this
context) around the note A. In measure 5, the A in the bass line functions merely as a passing note between the B
and G# on either side of it while the b minor chord above is sustained, and in measure 6 we find the E major
chord placed in the 6/3 (or "first") inversion because of the incidental melodic motion of the bass line.
The guitar solo section carefully follows the shape of this verse section with the first half being a close
paraphrase of the main tune, and the latter half being an improvised extension of the single slow triplet that had
appeared in the vocal verses. Note, by the way, that although the sung melody of the verse clearly places an A on
the downbeat of measure 2 of this section moving to B on the second beat, in all sections where the lead guitar
solos (as in the intro, solo section, and outro), it places B on the downbeat creating a characteristic added-sixth
sound above the D chord below.
Refrain
The refrain is eight measures long, being built as a repeat of the same four-measure phrase:
----------------------------- 2X ------------------------------
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melody: |
|A
I
E F#
A
F# |E
DD
|G
flat-VII
|
|-
D D
D
|D E
|A
I
D E
|
|
Counterbalancing melodic appoggiaturas are used here. In measure 2, the E on the downbeat is dissonant against
the G chord below (yet another added-sixth sonority!) but it quickly resolves downward to the consonant D.
Conversely, the D on the downbeat of measure 4 is dissonant against the A chord but it resolves, this time
upward, to the consonant E.
Though a slower and more subtle effect than what we saw in the verse, the sustaining of the G chord through
measures 2 and 3 in this refrain provides another example in the same song of syncopated harmonic rhythm.
We have a fairly traditional kind of textural contrast provided here by the drums, which after a relatively lowkey presence in the verses, signal the outburst of sizzling cymbals in the refrain by a neat little fanfare-fill at the
beginning of the section. Don't forget, either, about those chord-chopping lead guitar accents; attention paid to
such small d-e-t-a-i-l-s is one of the things by which These Boys were distinguished.
Outro
The outro recapitulates the same idea heard earlier in the intro (i.e. the first two measures of the verse played by
the lead guitar), but this time it is answered by the singers who set the title phrase of the lyrics to a new melodic
phrase that is sung in parallel thirds. This antiphonal pattern is repeated into the fadeout. The vocal parts turn the
E Major chord in this outro into a tangy E9. And there's also a vestigial occurrence here of the word “yeah” in the
form of an expostulation.
Some Final Thoughts
The words to this song are lovely in one sense but honestly a bit pedestrian at the same time. Still two details in
the first pair of verses catch my ear.
The first one is the opening couplet, “When I'm walking beside her, people tell me I'm lucky”, which
resonates with earlier examples of John's preoccupation with factoring in the opinions of un-named others when it
comes to his taking the measure of his sense of self-satisfaction or self-worth when it comes to affairs of the heart.
By the same token, the second verse with its reference to “the first time I was lonely without her” provides a
superb example of John's uncanny ability to embed a surprise twist, or place a surprisingly deeper poetic spin than
you'd expect onto an otherwise commonplace string of words. In this specific example, he could have just as
easily expressed the same idea in the positive sense of his remembering the first time he was thrilled to be with
her. But as it stands, he manages to score an ultimately positive point via an apparently negative, or reverse
inference, and this not only the more clever and elliptical, but also the more sublime; to an extreme that I'm afraid
my own fumbling words could never adequately describe.
“You'll have to love her.”
070892#61
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I Don't Want To Spoil The Party
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The instrumental and vocal arrangement create a folksy, even countrified facade for this song, but virtually
everything else about it including the lyrics suggests the pop/rock Beatles style. Conceptually it's another kind of
hybrid. The repeat pattern of the form with its use of a bridge instead of a refrain, as well as the chord choices and
melodic style, suggest the urban pop style more so than they do C&W, in spite of all acoustic guitar and vocal
harmony mannerisms on the surface of the piece.
Melody and Harmony
An unusually large number of chords are used, including five out of the seven naturally occurring triads (I, ii, IV,
V, and vi), plus flat-VII and two secondary dominants (V-of-V and V-of-vi). For a change, the melody contains
no touches of any quaint modalism. In fact, you could almost declare it as “purely” in the Major mode, though the
inclusion of the D# in the tune in order to maneuver around the V-of-vi chord does stretch the envelope a bit.
Arrangement
As we've seen in several other folksy songs on the Beatles For Sale album, the instrumental texture is dominated
by the acoustic rhythm guitar part. Even though the lead guitar is mixed quite forward and “dry” for its solo
section and the outro, its presence is so low key the rest of the time that you almost don't notice it's there. Even in
the intro, where it ostensibly provides a lead role, it is inexplicably mixed down behind the rhythm part.
In the first half of the verse John sings the top part with either Paul unusually singing the counter-melody on
the bottom for a change, or else it's John down there over-dubbed with himself. The third phrase of the verse
features Paul and George switching to a very un-folksy backing vocal of “oooohs” behind John's solo, with the
earlier folksy texture returning for the final phrase.
In the bridge it is definitely Paul on top and John on the bottom for a stretch of their trademarked stridently
bracing harmonies; note especially the juicy open 5th on the word “love.”
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is eight measures long and with simple chords quickly establishes the home key and sets the stylistic
tone for the rest of what will follow:
G:
|G
I
|-
|D7
V
|-
|-
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|-
|G
I
|-
|
The rhythm and lead guitar take the prominent role in this section with the entrance of the bass and drums
carefully held back until the very end of it.
The solo work is reminiscent of the music heard in the rest of the song though when you look at it more
closely you discover an extremely unusual example here where the material for the intro is in fact not heard again
in the body of the song.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and built out of four phrases equal in length to form an 'AABA' structure that
is nicely underscored by the handling of the vocal arrangement. The first pair of phrases form a roughly parallel
couplet, the contrasting and climactic third phrase provides both the melodic peak as well as an increase in the
pace of the harmonic rhythm, and the section is finally capped by a repeat of the opening phrase:
|G
I
|-
|-
|-
|
|G
|-
|D
V
|-
|
|e
vi
|B
|a
V-of-vi ii
|D
V
|
|G
I
|F7
|G
flat-VII I
|
|
The third phrase tends to cleave in two with the B Major chord (V-of-vi) particularly feeling left hanging as a sort
of harmonic non-sequitur. The melodic D# which sits above that same B chord similarly makes for an indirect
cross-relational clash with the D natural that is implicit in the D Major chord at the end of the phrase.
The manner in which the flat-VII is deployed here is slightly unusual. We're more used to seeing it used
predominantly in place of V, or else used in frequent alternation with V. Here, for a change, we're set up to expect
such a clear domination by the V chord that the sudden and belated appearance of flat-VII so near the end of the
verse section catches us a bit by surprise, and makes for what I react to as a lazy, shoulder-shrugging impression
in contrast to, say, the V9 chord you might have sooner expected in its place. Note, by the way, the freely
dissonant 7th made by the E in the melody over this F chord.
There is something ironic about the composition of the guitar solo; superficially much choppier, less
melodically continuous, and more dissonant than the sung tune, yet remarkably closer to the abstract outline of it
if you bother to compare the two of them side by side.
Bridge
The bridge is twelve measures long and is built out of a repetition of the same unusual six-measure phrase:
|G
I
|-
|e
vi
|A
|C
V-of-V IV
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|D
V
|
This six-measure phrase could have been coerced into a more standard (not to say rushed) four-measure model by
a doubling up of the harmonic rhythm starting in measure 3, but the way it stands with the sudden drawing out of
the melodic rhythm, makes a more dramatic, rhetorical effect.
In contrast to the verse which is closed in harmonic shape (in spite of the adventurous third phrase), this
section is open-ended in order to better motivate the return of the verse which follows it.
This is yet another one of the songs on this album to feature the "classic" Beatles gambit of "V-of-V moves to
V by way of IV", with its concomitant cross relation. Beatles For Sale features enough close-together examples of
this device to make you feel as though this must have been a “new toy” kind of thing for them at the time,
comparable to their apparent fixation with Major/minor combinations on the A Hard Day's Night album.
We also have another good example here where the bridge provides not only a change of pace from the verses
but also the unique melodic peak for the song overall. The verse had topped out on G (i.e. the second syllable of
the word “dis-a-ppear”), whereas the bridge here stretches it up to A (on the word “be” in the phrase “I'll be
glad.”)
Outro
The outro is primarily a recap of the same material heard in the intro though this time it is scored for the entire
ensemble. The two sections nicely function like symmetrical bookends to the rest.
Some Final Thoughts
The party that should have been a blast but which turned out to be a supremely hurtful confrontation with
romantic disappointment or betrayal is one of the archetypal scenarios of the top-40 pop-song genre.
The extent to which the Beatles were capable of transcending the nominal bounds of the cliche is effectively
brought home by comparing our current song with one of the more popular examples in this model done by
another roughly contemporaneous artist; I'm thinking of the one about “my party” and “I'll Cry If I Want To” –
yes, go ahead and flame me for even thinking about mentioning this one in the same article.
The crux of the matter can be summed up as a case of “less is more.” The other song spells out a kiss-and-tell
tale of woe in almost embarrassing detail. What John gives us, in contrast, is much more internally ruminative,
sparse, and ambiguous.
Just one example to get you thinking about it and then I'll take my own advice about less/more and get the
heck out of here: it's impossible to tell for sure from just the lyrics alone what kind of relationship existed between
the protagonist and his beloved prior to “the party”. The truth might lie anywhere along a broad spectrum of
possibilities that includes at one extreme the open betrayal by a significant other, and at the other extreme, the
case of a secret admirer merely disappointed over a lost opportunity to gaze from afar.
The interesting thing about such ambiguity is that it not only is more poetic by nature, but also opens up the
likelihood of the song which contains it to strike resonant chords in the hearts and experience base of the largest
possible number of individual listeners. And this latter point has implications that are marketing related as well as
merely aesthetic.
“It's all your fault, getting invites to gambling clubs. He's probably in the middle of an orgy by now.” 071592#62
Page 244
What You're Doing
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The form of this song is a quite standard two-bridge model. Although the overall instrumental texture bears an
uncanny resemblance to that of “Every Little Thing”, the arrangement does contain a number of features which, if
not entirely novel and unique, we've not seen in our studies for a while.
Melody and Harmony
Though clearly in the key of D Major, the heavily syncopated tune makes emphatic use of the bluesy minor third
scale degree (i.e. F natural); it also contains an uncommon number of appoggiaturas, suspensions, and free
dissonances. While some amount of dissonance is the life's blood of most musical styles, the extreme amount of it
found in this song is noteworthy. On an almost subliminal level, it is one of the main ingredients that make you
relate to the song as jazzy in contrast to Paul's more hymn-like songs, such as “Hey Jude” and “Let It Be” where
the dissonance is handled much more carefully, almost quaintly so.
An average number of chords (five, count 'em, 5) are used though this limited diet is rather spiced up by the
high quotient of melodic dissonance turning many of the plain triads into added-sixths and free (i.e. nondominant, non-resolving) sevenths and ninths.
The chord progressions of both verse and bridge sections give some prominence to the characteristic feeling
of alternating between vi and IV (i.e. b minor and G Major). Interestingly, this device was something that Paul
would come back to with increased fascination in “Drive My Car”. Note how in the refrain of that later song, the
extreme emphasis on vi and IV momentarily blurs your clear sense of what is the home key.
Arrangement
The solo use of drums here in the intro is a first for The Boys. The hard thumping is reminiscent of the timpani
drums used in “Every Little Thing”, though I believe in this song we are listening to the standard bass drum that
comes along with the kit. Timpani are tuned to a specific pitch and the drums on this track, to my humble ears,
have no pitch, only thud. The other passing resemblance here to “Every Little Thing” is found in the the heavyon-those-lower-octaves use of the piano.
The second half of the intro offers up an ostinato figure that bears partial resemblance to the tune; generally,
in terms of its syncopated nature, and specifically in the way that the last four notes of it echo the hook phrase
“what you're doin'”. This ostinato provides some overall unity to the song from the way it is deployed as a
backing obbligato within the verses, though its execution there by George is a bit timid and awkward sounding in
places.
Paul's solo is double tracked throughout. The backing voices though alternate between two functions. In the
first instance, they are used to punctuate, exclamation-style, the first words of the first two lines of each verse.
This trick anticipates what is likely the Beatles most famous use of the technique in “Help!”, though its worth
noting that the gambit had already been tried by them once before in the much earlier “P. S. I Love You”. In the
second instance, the backing voices supply an “oohing” background wash to the soloist in the second half of the
verse.
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Since we're already doing more than the usual amount of free-associating between this and other songs, I'd
propose that the layered handling of the intro and outro here, not to mention the ostinato figure, suggests an
anticipation of some of what would later appear in “Day Tripper”.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is longish and layered; its eight measures split into two four-measure sections, the first of which is for
solo drums that mark out a repeated drum-majorette kind of fanfare, and the second of includes the rest of the
ensemble joining with a dual- statement of the ostinato figure:
ostinato:D chords: |D
D:
I
>
>
- F# BAF#E - - ED EF# - |G
|D
IV
I
|G
IV
|
The identity of the home key is established entirely by the I and IV chords. Looking ahead, it is noteworthy how
only one other chord (vi) in addition to these two is used until the bridge section; indeed, the all important V
chord is held back all the way until the end of the bridge!
An exceedingly subtle though important difference between the ostinato and the main tune is that the former
starts off with a syncopation from the "four-AND" beat of the previous measure, whereas the latter starts, bang,
on the downbeat.
Verse
The verse is a standard eight measures which in turn breaks up into two four-measure phrases. The verse sections
which are followed directly by another verse instead of a bridge are nine measures long, with a two-measure
repeat of the ostinato figure that begins overlapping with the last measure of the eight-measure verse:
|D
I
|G
IV
|D
I
|G
IV
|
|b
vi
|G
IV
|-
--- ostinato --|D
|G
|
I
V
Examples of dissonance here include the following: the F-natural in the melody against F# in the D Major chord
every time the hook phrase appears (as on the word “you're”), the A->G appoggiatura in the second measure (on
the word “doing”), and the G on the downbeat of measure 5 against the b minor chord.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and is to be parsed into three phrases which make an AAB pattern of 2 + 2 + 4
measures:
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|G
IV
|b
vi
|E
|V-of-V
|G
IV
|b
vi
|
|A
V
|-
|
The verse was harmonically closed in shape, and this section contrasts sharply with that. The first half of the
bridge is heard almost as though there had been a modulation to the relative minor key (b minor) in which case
your ear interprets the chords b and G chords as i and VI respectively. One thing is sure in any event; this section
opens away from the I chord and ends wide open on the V chord by way of a broad set up from V-of-V.
The quotient of melodic dissonance remains the same here as seen in the verse. To save space, I'll leave the
finding of more examples as the proverbial exercise for the canonical reader.
One example, though, is worth pointing out, and that in the last two measures where F# on the downbeat of
measure 7 creates an added-sixth, followed by the 4-3 (D->C#) appoggiatura on the downbeat of measure 8.
There is an interesting dramatic effect to be observed in these two measures as well. The sustaining of the A
Major chord for two measures coupled with the descending melodic melisma on the word “me” is an essentially
relaxing or winding-down kind of gesture.In sharp contrast to this, the rhythm backing takes the opportunity to
use the last beat of the last measure as an energetic springboard into the next verse, and the overlap of the two
gestures makes an uncanny effect; kind of like your being pulled in two directions at once.
Outro
The outro is longer and more complex in organization than usual. We first start off with Paul's making an old
fashioned triple petit-reprise of the final couple measures of the verse. This sort of gesture had been common in
outros on the first two albums, but the most recent time we'd seen one like this before now was back on “I'm
Happy Just To Dance With You”.
The triple-repeat is followed by a reprise of the intro, more or less: first a single statement of the ostinato,
followed by four measures of the drum fanfare, accompanied this time in mid phrase by the bass guitar, ultimately
followed by a recap of the ostinato figure, repeated here not just twice as above, but implicitly ad infinitum into
the fadeout.
Some Final Thoughts
Paul's decision to rhyme “blue and” with “doing” and “fun in” with “running” recycles a clever idea seen earlier
in “She's A Woman”.
I'm evenly divided on the question of whether the abandonment of this pattern for the third verse (“lying”
rhymed with “crying”) was a purposeful avoidance of foolish consistency, or something more in the realm of
careless oversight or being fresh out of clever rhyming pairs.
“And don't you take that tone with me, young man!”
072292#63
Page 247
The Cover Songs Appearing On The Beatles For
Sale Album
General Points Of Interest
It's Still The Same
Some things would appear to never change:
•
•
•
We have here yet another album of 14 songs, 8 of which are Beatles originals and 6 of which are covers.
Music in the Blues form remains this time around the most conspicuous item that the group would order out
for.
The tendency charted earlier on With The Beatles and Long Tall Sally of their dipping back into the
procrustean layers of their pre-fame repertoire is continued further here, yet again.
But You Have Changed
Nevertheless, this group of covers is different in some respects from the ones we've seen in the past:
•
•
•
•
The Beatles stay more slavishly close to the originals this time around than they had before, in spite of an
earlier trend toward liberal reworking noted on With The Beatles and Long Tall Sally; perhaps a side- effect of
the relative haste with which this album is known to have been put together. Notably, the original key choices
and section orderings are closely followed for most of the songs in this bunch.
Stylistically, this set of six songs is evenly weighted between straight rock, rock'a'billy and pop/novelty. The
folksier stuff resonates with the several original songs on the album that have acoustic arrangements, and the
rockier stuff makes up a bit for what could be (fairly, I hope) described as a difficiency of fast jumping music
among the eight originals. By the same token, the appearance of “I'll Follow The Sun” must have eliminated
the "need" for them to include a tender/soppy cover along the lines of “Till There Was You” or “A Taste Of
Honey.”
For a change, no Girl Groups are represented in this group of covers. If anything, you might describe this as
an "oldies" / "tribute" collection of songs. This time, we not only have the familiar Berry and Penniman, but
Buddy and Carl as well. There's a temptation to draw a connection between here and the Long Tall Sally EP,
but I believe that the caricatures are much less outrageous this time around.
Five out of these six covers were originally recorded by their composers! This was not at all the case earlier
on, and I'm tempted to suggest that this was a conscious part of the “tribute” element, based on the group's
firmly established preference by this point in time for recording their own original material as much as
possible.
Rock and Roll Music
Key:
A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Refrain/Verse (four times) – Outro (complete ending)
Composer: Chuck Berry
Influential Version: Chuck Berry (1957)
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Within this batch of six covers, this was clearly the “longest running” number, still hanging in there at the bitter
end of their touring days. Along with “Twist and Shout”, it is one of a very small number of non-original songs
which might be described nonetheless as one of the group's emblematic "anthems". Curiously though, this
particular Chuck song appears to have not been on the playlist of the Quarrymen era in spite of the fact that they
were already playing back then the likes of “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Johnny B. Goode”, and “Sweet Little
Sixteen”.
While the harmonic material of this song is limited entirely to the familiar I-IV-V of the blues, the formal
schema used in both refrain and verse are more flexible here than the rigid 12-bar formula we're so used to finding
in Berry's other songs. The refrain comes close to the 8+4 sub-species of the 12-bar form, though a petit-repriselike repetition of the final half-phrase (“if you wanna dance with me”) rounds the section out to an unusual
fourteen measures. The verse is only eight measures long and harmonically opens and closes on the V chord.
The Beatles version follows the formal outline of the original, but both the arrangement and John's vocal
peformance suggest a harder-driven interpretation of the song rather than a stylized impersonation. Once having
gotten used to the Beatles version as the default, I find myself a bit "surprised" to rediscover how much more
melodic and laid back the original sounds in comparison.
Beyond this, the two versions differ in a matter of some details. For example, Chuck played it in the lower
key of E (or is it E-flat – the CD re-issue from MCA is mastered at what sounds like off-speed), and there is some
variation in the scanning of the words (e.g. "*PI*an*O* versus "pi*AN*o"). Note too how Chuck cues himself
with a I chord at the beginning, whereas the Beatles sensibly change this to V.
Mr. Moonlight
Key:
F# Major (yep, that’s right!)
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro – Verse (initial) – Verse (variant) – Verse (half solo, half vocal) – Verse (variant) – Outro (fadeout)
Composer: Johnson
Influential Version: Dr. Feelgood (1962)
Judging from the introductory vocal scream you'd be tempted to suppose that John had a hankering to play the
good Doctor that was as long-lived as Paul's desire to be Little Richard. It turns out that this song was not at all an
“oldie” at the time the Beatles picked up on it and they didn't even keep it in their repertoire for all that long!
Seems like this is the Beatles cover which everyone loves to hate; it must be something about the selfconsciously campy vocal, lugubrious Hammond organ, and generally queasy blend of dooh-whop and Latin
musical styles. But get beyond this if you can and discover a number of compositional details which are more
reminiscent of the Beatles' own style than you'd ever expect from the surface.
Some examples -The first section is based on a subtly different form from the rest of them. The relatively long verses all sub-divide
into two halves, the second of which is always introduced by a rising scale played solo by the bass guitar, and if
you bother to check, the first half of the first one is quite different (and eight measures longer than) the all the rest.
•
•
The harmonic rhythm is very slow and contains many cases where the same chord is sustained for 2 or 4
measures or even longer, and the overall result is that the poetic scanning of the phrases sound less foursquare than they actually are.
The half instrumental solo and half vocal division of the middle section is a favorite, granted not original with
them, device of the Beatles seen in such places as “From Me To You” and “A Hard Day's Night”.
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As with “Rock and Roll Music”, the original version turns out to be less extremely inflected than the Beatles
cover of it. One of the strangest variances is in the choice of key, the original having been in G. I can't honestly
figure what would have influenced the Boys to do it in the very unusual key of F# Major, unless the half-step
difference was just sufficient to keep John from cracking on the high notes. Still, I'd assume they must have
fingered it in an easier key like E or F and used some capos.
Medley: Kansas City - Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey
Key:
G Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro - Verse – Verse – Verse (solo) – Verse – Verse – Verse – Verse (fadeout)
Composer: Lieber/Stoller - Penniman
Influential Version: Little Richard (1959)
Here we have the inevitable song, actually two of them spliced together, in which every section is in straight 12bar (8+4 or AAB) blues form. Though recorded originally as two separate songs, Little Richard himself had
already popularized the medley performed here by the Beatles. Independent of Paul's Penniman fixation, it's easy
to imagine that the antiphonal backing vocals of the second half would have been something to attract the Beatles
toward this number.
For all its apparent simplicity, this turns out to be one of the more re-worked items in this set of six cover
songs. Paul reverses the lyrics to the first two verses; perhaps an oversight more than anything else. But Little
Richard saves the instrumental section (played on his version by a saxophone instead of guitar) until after the first
“hey hey” section has been sung. Along the same lines, we find that the original contains a complete ending
instead of the Beatles' fadeout; very strange considering the large number of other cover songs with fadeouts on
the original version changed to a complete ending by the Beatles.
Both versions are performed in the same key though. As is the case concerning John versus Chuck, we find
here that Paul's vocal sounds a bit strained and affected compared to the original. The Beatles make a small but
persuasive chord change at the end of the first verse; changing measure 12 to the V chord (instead of sustaining
the I chord from measure 11), all the better to motivate the next section.
Words Of Love
Key:
A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro - Verse – Verse – Verse (solo) – Verse – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
Composer: Holly
Influential Version: Buddy Holly (1957)
Strange, isn't it, given the extent to which the group can be said to have been influenced and inspired by the nice
fellow from Lubbock, that this is the only one of his tunes to have become part of the official Beatles songbook,
especially considering the relatively large number of his tunes that had been in their early repertoire, starting as
early as the infamous Quarrymen acetate of “That'll Be The Day”.
The form is monotonous in the manner of Chuck's blues numbers though the sections here are all eight,
instead of twelve, measures long. The harmonic content is an ostinato/mantra-like endless repetition of the I-IV-V
chord progression, and the two-fold instrumental solo section is an unusual touch.
Buddy's original is a tad more Latin in its backbeat, but the choice of key, as well as much of the guitar work,
is identical in both versions. Granted, the Beatles do greatly emphasize their own open-fifth style of vocal
counterpoint in the arrangement, plus they add hand claps and Ringo's banging on a packing case to the
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percussion section. But still, it remains essentially a sentimental and nostalgic Tribute To Buddy, rather than an
outright imitation.
Honey Don't
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro - Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (solo) – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (solo) –
Refrain – Outro (complete ending)
Composer: Perkins
Influential Version: Carl Perkins (1956)
Forget about Buddy and Berry. Clearly, our Boys had some kind of Carl Perkins fixation. Surprisingly, he scores
– together with Larry Williams, of all people – the highest number of songs by a single artist to have been covered
by the Beatles on their official releases!
Once you recover from your initial shocked surprise, it's worthwhile acknowledging the extent to which
Perkins' “rock'a'billy” style rounds out the repertoire of a group that at the time was in transition toward Rubber
Soul by way of Beatles For Sale. From a different perspective, you can even argue that Carl's penchant for
surprising, enigmatic lyrical turns of phrase (“sometimes you say you will when you won't”/”got that sand all over
your feet”) would also intrigue the Beatles, especially John.
This specific song didn't come into the act until as late as '62, but it stayed there as the default Ringo song on
stage, for a while. Personally, I always find John's rendition (as heard on a pair of Beeb radio appearances) the
more knowing and trenchant.
For a fellow like Perkins whose output otherwise focuses around 12-bar formats, this one is a bit unusual.
Granted, the refrains here are in the straight blues form, but the 12-bar verses incorporate a rather Buddy-esque
use of the flat-VI chord, and the guitar solo sections are actually a clever 8-bar contraction of the verses in which
the eighth measure moves to V instead of sustaining the flat-VI from the previous measure.
Compared to the tidiness of the typical Beatles original composition, the repeat and alternation pattern
sections of this one is relatively cranked out seeingly at random. Note especially the multiple solos and their
asymmetrical placement. Faced with a similar gameplan back in “Matchbox”, the ever-fastidious Fab Four had
taken the trouble to reorganize the song for increased tightness.
Those who are primarily familiar with the Beatles version will likely be surprised by the extent to which it
matches the original, right down to the same key, form, basic arrangement including the solo guitar work. Perkin's
original vocal delivery though is unique and would not easily imitated; especially by Ringo.
Everybody's Trying To Be My Baby
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro - Verse – Verse – Verse (solo) – Verse – Verse – Verse (solo) – Verse – Verse – Outro (complete
ending)
Composer: Perkins
Influential Version: Carl Perkins (1958)
Yet another Perkins song, dropped out of the repertoire during '63 only to return for '64 and '65, likely in order to
give George a solo vocal with which to fill the gap between “Roll Over Beethoven” and “If I Needed Someone,”
the poor guy.
Page 251
This one sports the familiar Perkins signature of a lengthy form with unusual repeat patterns and multiple
sections for instrumental solo. In contrast to “Honey Don't”, this time every section is in the classic 12-bar blues
mold. Indeed, the 4+8 inner structure of each frame obviates the need for a separate refrain since the longer
second half of each section provides its functional equivalent.
The Beatles opt for a thick, muddy sounding instrumental backing that makes Perkins' original look primitive
and homespun in comparison. The choice of key and form though match up with the original.
Some Final Thoughts
Going In And Out of Style
The following chart, derived from data published in Lewisohn's "Live" book, provides some insight into the
historical layering of the Beatles cover repertoire. The data below covers only the six songs under discussion in
this article, but I'd suggest the same technique *should* be applied to their entire catalog; volunteers ? :-)
'57-'59
Every
Honey
Kansas
Mister
Rock
Words
======
#songs
'60
'61
'62
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
======
6
X
X
======
1
X
X
======
2
X
X
======
4
'63
'64
'65
'66
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
======
3
======
4
======
3
======
1
#years
||
||
||
||
||
||
4
4
3
2
7
4
Some observations:
Our six songs entered and exited their repertoire on a staggered basis over the course of their entire stage career,
with all six appearing only in the '62 season. With the exception of “Mr. Moonlight”, all of these songs were
adopted by the Beatles at least a year or more later than the original appeared.
The persistence of two-to-three of these songs in the continually shrinking list of songs the Beatles would
play live as the group ground toward their last couple seasons as a touring band is striking in light of the expected
trend toward original material. It's also interesting too to see how the four cover songs current during '64 are
evenly divided among the foursome in terms of who is the lead vocalist.
Three of these six covers were dropped out during the busy '63 season, though two of them paradoxically
were returned to the lineup in '64. Even stranger, and likely indicative of their scrambling to fill out the album, is
the inclusion on the album of two songs which were not part of the live lineup any more as of '64; indeed, was it
nostalgia or desperation?
The earliest included song of the six, “Words Of Love”, was also the first one to be dropped out. And quite
appropriately, “Rock and Roll Music” was fated to be the longest running!
“Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” 080592#64
Page 252
Becoming Artists (1965 – 1966)
In the middle of the sixties rock musicians began to see themselves as artists. The Beatles stood at the
front of this movement, treating their music as an artistic expression of their emotions and a serious
reflection of their feelings. The Beatles already departed from their image as teenage stars with their
first single of the year 1965 Ticket To Ride / Yes It Is, which appeared in April. This tendency became
stronger in their summer single Help! / I'm Down, released in July, and the sound tracks on on the
album with the same name, released in August. December saw the album Rubber Soul and the single
Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out. The Beatles started late in 1966. In July they released the single
Paperback Writer / Rain. One month later, in August, the album Revolver followed step. As Pollack
shows in his analyses the development of the group in these years is ruled by a growing independency
from their musical roots.
Page 253
You Like Me Too Much
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Break (solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
George had been granted his first solo shot as a songwriter with “Don't Bother Me” way back on With The
Beatles. Amazingly, he had to wait until this one for a second chance. It's up to the biographers to find out if this
was the only other thing he had written since then, or if perhaps there is a plethora of “lost” Harrisongs that have
been either suppressed, destroyed or are otherwise waiting to be unearthed by the perseveringly enterprising.
In spite of its superficial resemblance’s to the Lennon & McCartney songs which surround it in context, “You
Like Me Too Much” contains ample substance which attest to its belonging to George, only; especially in its
chord progressions and the attitude of its lyrics.
The form of the song also contains a number of formalistically distinctive earmarks: the apparently adlib/slow intro, the deployment of both a bridge and break, and the subtle manner in which verse and bridge ellide
with each other in terms of both music and words.
Melody and Harmony
The entirety of the melody lies within a narrowly constricted range of only six notes; from G only up to E above
it. The verse especially has a circular repetitiveness reminiscent of the kind of rut you can wear in a carpet from
too much fretful nervous pacing.
Furthermore, a falling scale fragment permeates the tune as a leitmotif in both verse and bridge. Seemingly by
way of contrast, the break uses a chromatic scale fragment which both rises and falls. This chromatic idea also
makes unifying appearances at the end of the bridge, as well as in the intro and outro.
A larger than average number of chords are used here; six out the seven which appear naturally
("diatonically") in the home key (I through vi), plus flat-III, and a couple of secondary dominants (i.e. so-called
"V-of..."s).
But more so than the variety of chords per se, it is in their unusual sequencing that George's particular style is
distinguished. The more typical pop song, whether influenced by blues, rock, folk or whatnot, is dominated by
clearly teliological chord progressions that start from (and/or move steadily toward) such harmonically
conspicuous goals as the tonic (I) or dominant (V). As a result, progressions which lie along the circle of fifths
and involve root movement of a fifth upward or downward also typically predominate.
In contrast, George demonstrates a predilection for root movements that are stepwise or by thirds. He also
likes to defer bringing things to a sense of climax or resolution, and even once he finally reaches the brink of such
a payoff, we'll note a tendency for him to step away from it yet one more time; a musical technique and effect
which uncannily matches and reflects the strong subtext of vague, ambivalent dissatisfaction which underlies so
many of his lyrics.
Arrangement
The choice of home key and the prominent role of the piano suggest at least a superficial connection between this
song and the subject of our previous study, “Tell Me What You See”. And indeed, these two songs were recorded
at back-to-back sessions.
Page 254
The Steinway-reinforced electric piano part provides the song with a rhythmic hook by virtue of its relentless,
syncopated accenting of the eighth note in between the second and third beats (on “two-AND”). The piano also
freely embellishes many of the chords with added 6ths and 7ths, lending a slightly jazzy flavor to the backing.
George is vocally double tracked in unison for start of each verse, with a second harmonizing vocal line
(either Paul or George overdubbed) added for the title hook line and continuing through most of the bridge. The
harmonization is primarily in parallel thirds though a Beatlesque open fourth occasionally is snuck in (e.g. on the
final “you” in each verse).
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro only seems to be slow and out of tempo as an artifact of there being no percussion backbeat behind it. If
you compare it carefully with the outro, in which the virtually identical phrase is recapitulated with backbeat,
you'll discover the tempi of the two is quite close, with just a small amount of rubato applied to the intro.
We start off with a drawn-out six measure phrase in which the home key is clearly defined before the song
moves on to deal with less direct chord progressions:
G:
|G
I
|-
|B-flat |D
flat-III V
|G
I
|-
|
The use of flat-III right off the bat is unusual enough. When its F-natural is melodically sustained against the
following D Major chord (with its concomitant F#) we have a small clash which just might be the most bluesy
moment of the entire song.
A lugubrious touch of reverb is applied in this short passage to one of the keyboard parts and some tremolo to
the other one. The latter effect returns in both the break and outro, but thankfully, the former one is not repeated
elsewhere.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long and contains four phrases equal in length. The first two phrases form a couplet
followed by a bridge-like third phrase which leads to the closing title hook:
-------------- 2X -------------|a
||C
|G
||
ii
IV
I
|b
iii
|-
|D
V
|-
||G
I
|C
IV
|D
V
|-
||
In spite of the plentiful supply of 'I' chords in this verse, the harmonic shape of the section is “open” on both ends;
both starting and ending away from tonic. Furthermore, the setup of IV via ii and the setup of V via iii are
examples of the kind of weak or indirect chord progressions that I described above as creating a sense of
avoidance of harmonic closure.
Page 255
Bridge
The demarcation of this bridge as a section distinct from the verses which adjoin it is significantly blurred by the
flow of the lyrics. The opening bridge line ("I really do") follows seamlessly from the verse ending (“you like me
too much and I like you”). Similarly, the ending of the bridge (“If you leave me”) moves just as smoothly into the
next verse (“I will follow you ...”).
The harmony here, being even more open-ended than the verse on both sides, helps support this sense of
formal elision. In addition, the large number of secondary dominants and some syncopation in the last couple
measures create a semi-modulatory feeling of being less than securely grounded. You could parse it as an almost
but not quite complete pivot modulation to the key of D except that the end of the section sounds so clearly like
big windup on the V chord. Even so, note how the continuation with the next verse (starting on ii) winds up, true
to form, leaving the resolution of this V chord deferred until later.
As a result of all the above, this eight-measure section sounds much less four-square than it would appear to
be on paper:
|e
iii
|-
|b
ii
|A
V-of-V
|A
V-of-V
|E
A
V-of-V-of-V V-of-V
|-
|A
|
D
V
|
The melody of this section fails to break the range barriers of the verse, though any potential side-effect of
monotony caused by this is balanced out by the striking manner in which the opening of the section broadens out
rhythmically.
One other source of contrast in this bridge is the temporary addition of a tambourine to the backing track.
Break
The break is a very clever combination play of a 12-bar instrumental blues frame with the four-measure sung title
hook phrase grafted on at the end.
At cross-currents to the underlying blues form, the piano and lead guitar parts trade copycat chromatic scale
riffs during the instrumental portion.
Outro
The outro in introduced, so to speak, by yet one more petit-reprise of the ubiquitous title hook phrase.
From there on, it's all a rehash of the intro except that this time it's accompanied by the steady support of yer
droombeat.
Some Final Thoughts
The lyrics to this song seem to send a mixed message. I mean, if you were on the receiving end of them, would
you be convinced in your core that George really “likes” you as unshakably as he professes, or would those
reiterated accusations and the recounting of your past misdeeds tend to undermine his claim in your light blue
eyes?
On the one hand, we could debate all night the question of whether this kind of Harrisonian ambiguity is the
result of artful design or unintended-yet-unavoidable awkwardness. But, then again, I'm reminded in this regard of
Page 256
a former boss who, when confronted over a bare-faced self-contradiction he had just made, responded that the
difference between confusion of mind and complexity of mind or emotion is often merely the thinnest of gray
hairs.
“Oh, you can come off it with us.”
110292#68
Page 257
Tell Me What You See
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
In context of some of the more innovative songs of the Help!/Beatles VI era, this one is part of a small group of
songs that might be described as nice but non-blockbuster. Several by now well-established Beatles trademark
devices and novel touches are apparent here at the detailed level; the larger than usual number of cross-references
and associations with other Beatles mentioned below indeed seems to reflect this.
Nonetheless, the overall mood and technique here are relatively simple and straightforward. I'm sure there is
at least one of my readers who has been in love with this one since the first time s/he heard it, and that's fine. Just
remember, I did say it's nice, didn't I?
On the surface, the form is yet again the familiar one of two-bridges-but-no-solo, yet the verse section here is
unusual in that its second half sounds a bit like refrain; compare this with the earlier example of “Thank You
Girl”. Even more unusual is the way that a mini-solo is worked into the second half of the bridge itself.
Melody and Harmony
The song is clearly and unrelievedly in the key of G Major. A recurring emphasis on the flat 7th scale degree (F
natural) at the beginning of each bridge lends some touch of the blues, but compared to examples like “A Hard
Day's Night” or “Ticket To Ride”, this one contains an extremely mild dose it.
The harmonic diet is very plain, being limited to the major chords of G, C, and D (i.e., I, IV, and V). The G
chord that opens the bridge with an F natural in the melody actually functions as a V-of-IV, but regardless of how
you parse it, it's still a chord rooted on G.
Harmonic rhythm is more varied in the service of formal articulation and this somewhat makes up for the
small number of chords.
Arrangement
The prominent solo part for electric piano as well as the several exotic percussion instruments which substitute
during most of the proceedings for the usual full drum kit provide quite a bit of novelty to the backing track. This
texture also turns the song into the most strongly Latin-flavored of any Beatles original since the days of “Ask Me
Why” and “P.S. I Love You”.
The vocal arrangement features two voices throughout, though the two parts alternate frequently between
phrases sung in harmony and those sung at the unison or octave. To the extent that the words communicate the
kind of desire for loving union that will never accept 'no' for an answer in spite of all distance and other obstacles,
this device takes on an almost programmatic significance; the operative phrase in this regard being “we will never
be apart if I'm part of you.”
I definitely hear John in there for at least parts of the song, but in some places, I have a hard time determining
whether its the Two of Them, or just Paul over-dubbed with himself.
Page 258
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
With just two measures of vamping on the I chord (G), the predominant mood and texture is quickly established.
The music starts a small instant before the downbeat and this subtle gesture has a way of pulling you into the song
as if by the hand, so to speak. Compare this to “I'll Cry Instead” and “The Night Before”.
Verse
The verse is sixteen measures long. Though it parses neatly, on one level, into four phrases that are equal in
length, the structure here is more accurately described as two eight-measure couplets; the first being verse-like
and the second sounding more like a refrain, with its suddenly slower harmonic rhythm and hook-phrase ending:
G:
|G
I
C
IV
|D
V
G
I
|G
I
C
IV
|G
I
|
|G
I
C
IV
|D
V
G
I
|C
IV
D
V
|G
I
|
|G
I
|
|G
I
|
|C
IV
|G
I
|C
IV
|C
IV
|G
V
|C
IV
D
V
The tune is distinguished by its opening with a dramatic upward leap of an octave and its abundance of
appoggiaturas. In terms of shape, it gets rather obsessively stuck around the 5th scale degree (D) and curiously
contains no appearance of the 7th scale degree (F#).
The opening line of the verse (and much else) is scanned so as to place virtually all rhythmic emphasis off the
beat. This nicely cuts across the underlying smooth and steady backbeat.
The vocal arrangement features two-part harmony in first two measures of the first couplet (with John on the
tune) but the remainder of this section has them singing in unison.
Bridge
The bridge is an even eight measures but its structure is unusual. Only three of the four measures in the first
phrase are sung, featuring the title phrase declaimed as though it were a kind of categorical imperative. This
phrase is rounded out by a fanfare-like riff on the electric piano (featuring a slow triplet, no less), and leads to a
second phrase that is entirely instrumental:
|G
|-
|C
|-
|
|G
|D
|G
|-
|
Page 259
Other sources of bridge-ly contrast here are the dramatically still slower harmonic rhythm and the sudden
appearance for the first time in the song of the complete drum kit.
A unifying connection with the music of the verses is found in the continued high quotient of appoggiaturas
and that leap upward at the end of the piano solo; a sixth this time instead of an octave, but the gesture still
resonates with the tune's opening.
Outro
The outro is a compressed variation of the bridge in which only the first phrase is presented as modified so as to
lead directly to a complete ending. The surprise touch of humming without words here at the end had been used to
equally satisfying effect by John way back in “All I've Got To Do.” A peculiar loud amount of hiss can be heard
right at the end on the right channel, leading me to suspect that someone must have been caught asleep at the
sliding fader switch.
Some Final Thoughts
That the group had a longstanding sweet tooth for the Latin flavor in their cover repertoire can be traced along a
trajectory that runs from “Besame Mucho” through “Mister Moonlight” with several other examples coming in
between. But you wouldn't necessarily say the same thing about their repertoire of original songs, especially
during the year or so that preceded our current number.
Granted, during much of '64 they could be seen as branching out into unaccustomed styles and cross-blends,
but the marked trends we've noted are in the direction of first bluesy, and later folksy elements. The turning here
toward their erstwhile favored Latin beat is at first glance a mildly shocking surprise, or even an anachronism.
On another level though, you might say this also shows not only a flexible versatility, but even a restless
determination to keep trying new things and not repeat themselves overmuch. In perspective of what was first yet
to come from them over the next several years, you might call this otherwise simple song yet another clue to the
one of several new directions.
“Oh, you can come off it with us.”
100592#67
Page 260
Yes It Is
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Comparisons of this song to “This Boy” are inevitable and ubiquitous. Yet, for all their similarities, “Yes It Is” is
arguably the more fully developed and mature of the two songs. Behind the standard two-bridge-no-solo form,
and in spite of its B-side status, “Yes It Is” features lyrics that are more clever, an harmonic palette more rich, and
a mood more sharply characterized than the earlier song.
Melody and Harmony
The verse melody is constrained to an almost entirely pentatonic range of six notes; from E up to C#. The bridge
opens this range way the heck up to G#; an unusually high note for John.
The roster of chords appearing in the song is relatively standard but both the ordering of their progressions, as
well as the voice leading transitions between some of them, is extraordinary. Only the bridge section and the first
phrase of the verse are made up of chord progressions that approximate cliche patterns of the period. The
remaining three-quarters of the verse is pure Lennon/McCartney with its twice-surprising deployment of flat-VII
and the last-minute deceptive cadence to the relative minor key.
This latter gambit of, in a song that is otherwise clearly in a Major key, hovering around the relative minor
chord to such an extent that the identity of the actual home key becomes a tad or more ambiguous, was something
for which the Boys had a real penchant; e.g. check out our studies of “Not A Second Time”, “And I Love Her”,
and “I'm Happy Just To Dance With You”. “Yes It Is” is not quite as extreme an example as these others, but the
principle is the same. To the extent that “And I Love Her”, “I'm Happy Just To Dance With You” and “Yes It Is”
are in the same key, I wonder if they somehow had some a subliminal association of the gambit itself with the
world of 4 sharps!
Back in “This Boy” we had already commented on their use of an harmonic technique that had been popular
in the late-Romantic/Impressionistic periods of so-called classical music; the one in which the resolution of
9/11/13th chords is delayed until the point at which the root of the chord has already changed, conjuring a feeling
as if one chord has melted into the one that follows it. The same technique is brought forward in the current song
to the point where some of the higher-order dissonant chords are found to never quite resolve.
The bridge section offers a short-lived but real modulation for a change; something we haven't seen all that
often in our studies.
Arrangement
The three part vocal arrangement of the verse is dense and dissonant, and its level of compositional sophistication
begs some intriguing questions about the working mode of the group and the involvement of George Martin as a
coach. Bootlegs of the unmixed final take 14 belie the cream-finished haziness of the officially released product
and betray just how dry and close-up the vocal parts were originally recorded.
In the bridge we have John's double tracked solo in the first half with George and Paul coming back in to give
him appropriately moaning support for the big climax.
Page 261
The rhythmic scanning of the words contains a large amount of syncopation and two-against-three cross
rhythms which cut across the evenly lilting triplet rhythms of the backing track. You might go as far as to describe
this as the rhythmic analogue to the dissonant harmonic elements described above.
George's tone pedal guitar adds an ethereal touch that is as novel as it is complementary to the vocal texture.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
Given just two measures of the 'I' chord, this intro sets forth the basic backbeat and instrumental arrangement for
the entire song. The piece begins with a guitar pickup of low B natural “on FOUR”. As we did back on “Don't
Bother Me”, I propose that this song be parsed as though its measure lengths were half as long as the 4-in-the-bar
count-in heard in the outtakes would imply; otherwise, the phrase lengths come out looking absurdly short.
Verse
The first verse is an unusual fifteen measures long. It starts off with a couplet of two phrases, each of which is
four measures long. This is balanced out by a closing phrase of six measures plus one last measure of plain
breathing space before the next verse begins:
E:
|E
I
|A
IV
|f#
ii
|B
V
|
|E
I
|A
IV
|D
flat-VII
|B
V
|
|E
I6
3**
|-
|A
IV
|D
flat-VII
|
** first inversion w/G# in bass
|c#
vi
|E
I
|-
|verse #2 & 3 ...
||
A:V
The second and third verses, both of which are followed by a bridge section, use a rhetorical repetition of the
closing hook phrase to extend this section out to a more typical sixteen measures. This allows the sustained E
Major chord at that point to be punningly leveraged as not only the plain I, but also the V of the key of A, which
nicely sets up the modulation to that key just in time for the bridge.
The flat-VII chord is used in two different and unusual ways in the second and third phrases respectively. In
the first case it is used as a surprise surrogate for the ii chord heard in the corresponding context of the previous
phrase. The resolution of of this same chord to vi (the relative minor of the home key) in the third phrase is even
more unusual, and quite evocative of the bittersweet message of the song's lyrics.
Page 262
Some quick examples of the free dissonances created by the lead vocal against the underlying chords: an A9
in measure 2, an f#11 in measure 3, and a D added sixth (called a 13th by some) in measure 7. I believe one
senses a feeling of exquisite yearning in the implied resolution of the note D-natural upward to D# over the
barline between measures 7 and 8; the effect is ironically enhanced by the fact that the voices actually drop out for
measure 8, leaving this D-D# literally implied rather than spelled out.
Bridge
The bridge is ten measures in length and it follows a similar plan to that of the verse, with the second of its
somewhat parallel phrases being elongated; i.e. a 4 + 6 subdivision of the 10 measures:
A:
|b
ii
|E
V
|A
I
|f#
vi
|
|b
ii
|E
V
|c#
iii
E: vi
|E
|
|F#
V-of-V
|B
V
I
|
Formal contrast is provided in this section by the change of vocal arrangement, a temporary cutback in the level
of dissonance, a large-scale opening up of the melodic range, and the clear, obvious build to a climax; the latter
following on the heels of a verse which had no such sense of dramatic shape.
The modulation that is first hinted at by the E7 chord at the end of the second verse is not fully consummated
until the third measure of this bridge. In fact, the continued use of D#'s in the melody of this further serves to
blunt one's sense of a modulation having taken place in so many words, or perhaps I should say chords.
The reappearance of the c# minor chord right at the start of what is the quickening toward climax touches one
as being somehow ominously appropriate.
Outro
The full ending is crafted out of a last-minute variation on the sixteen-measure form of the verse, the two final
reprises of the hook phrase now being harmonized as follows:
|E
I
|-
|G#
|A
V-of-vi IV
|E
I
|
The appearance of G# Major at this turn half-surprisingly hints that a belated modulation to the relative minor key
of c# might yet actually take place, but it even more surprisingly resolves deceptively to IV and from there to the
final I chord.
The riff of pedal guitar notes which float away after the last chord has already been sounded -- D# - B - G# C# -- close things up in the freely dissonant mode that characterized most of what preceded.
Page 263
Some Final Thoughts
Over the long run, John is nothing if not consistent in the style of his wordplay. The red/blue pun which runs
through the current song has as its precedents not only the black/blue obvious example of “Baby's In Black”, but
also the “this/that” motif of “This Boy”, and many others as well.
A number of equally familiar verbal pirouettes reappear here, some of which go beyond cleverness to hint at
emotional content with almost subconscious indirection. We have, for example: a vague reference to something
spoken offline from the song proper (“remember what I said tonight”), a hint that the hurt of love lost is
exacerbated by a feeling of public humiliation (“everybody knows, I'm sure”, and “but it's my pride”), and just
plain small talk cliches thrown in for good measure (the title phrase, and “it's true.”)
Most potent of all is the ironic place of honor given in the song to the persistence of memory; ironic because
of the manner in which the tyrannical, debilitating power of such memory is contrasted with the simple, mundane
objects and sensations of life which are capable of triggering such hot flashes. Granted, John had already dealt
with this theme as early as the song “Misery”, but you can intuit that a more permanent and serious attachment
was at stake in our later song from a subtle shift in emphasis. Back in “Misery” the tears were shed over the
memory of “all the little things we've done”. Here in “Yes It Is” we're now talking about "the things we planned."
“Can you take me back where I came from?”
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Ticket To Ride
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
After the folksy originals and nostalgic covers of the Beatles For Sale album, “Ticket To Ride” brings with it a
measure of tight toughness that is most welcome to those wondering wither this erstwhile sharp edge of the
group's attitude and style had fled following the A Hard Day's Night album.
The form is an ordinary two-bridge model with only one verse in the middle and no instrumental section. The
special kicks here are to be found in the arrangement, especially in its exploitation of texture, rhythm, and
harmonic dissonance.
Melody and Harmony
Although the tune does not make a primarily bluesy impression, both the flat 7th and minor 3rd scale degrees do
bear some melodic emphasis in the verse and bridge, respectively.
Five of the seven chords that naturally occur in the home key as well as the flat-VII chord are used. No other
more exotic chords show up nor is there any hint of modulation. This relatively bland harmonic diet is spiced up
by the liberal use of free melodic dissonance and a certain suspense factor created by the exceedingly slow
harmonic rhythm.
In the dissonance department, Major ninths and seconds appear as though a leitmotif. Not only is there an
unusual number of 9th chords in the song, but the bare interval is also found within the opening ostinato figure as
well as in the repetitious vocal line which takes the song out at the end.
Arrangement
The ostinato figure played by the solo 12-string guitar at the outset provides a great deal of unity to the song. As
we've seen in other ostinato-driven songs of the Beatles, these recurring, motorized little figures seem to create the
illusion of being there in the backing track more of the time than is actually so. For example, if the figure is
apparent at both the beginning and end of a section, as long as there is something of sufficient interest to divert
your attention in the middle, you will subconsciously assume that the figure has continued all the while, even
though if you double check carefully you'll find that this is not so!
The ostinato used here's not as distinctively melodic as the ostinati in either “What You're Doing” or “Day
Tripper”, but it does have a wrenchingly syncopated rhythm which carries all the through to the characteristic
backbeat of the intro and first two verses:
rhythmic emphasis
>
>
>
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
ostinato
A
E C#A B
>
>
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E
>
As a foil to all this, the tambourine is relegated to simply marking off the 2nd and 4th beats of virtually every
measure in every verse. The vocal arrangement is fussier than we've seen in a while, with three alternating
textures used in the verse, alone. The first half of the first phrase is sung by John, solo and single-tracked. Paul
joins him above on funky counterpoint for the remainder of this phrase into the first half of the next one, and then
leaves John exposed solo at the phrase's end. John then sings the third phrase double tracked with Paul joining
him for a final touch of counterpoint at the end of the fourth phrase.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro consists of a four-fold presentation of the ostinato figure over the I chord. The ensemble joins the solo
guitar with a slow dramatic drumroll just before the downbeat of measure 3:
|A
|-
|-
|-
|
The parallel between this and “You Can't Do That” or “Day Tripper” is noteworthy. The accentuation here by the
drumming of the syncopated rhythm inherent in the guitar ostinato is especially gripping and literally pulls you
into the music.
Say, is that a small touch of organ or harmonium used as a wash behind the solo guitar opening ? If so, does it
continue throughout, just buried in the mix ? or perhaps, does it drop out quickly once the rest of the ensemble
gets going ?
Verse
The verse sixteen measures long, built out of four phrases equal in length. The section more logically splits right
down the middle, with the first half providing an eight-measure expository section that harmonically opens up to
the V chord, and the second eight measures providing a refrain-like ending which veers back toward the I:
A:
|A
I
|-
|-
|-
||A
|f#
vi
|D
IV
|f#
vi
|G
||f#
flat-VII vi
|-
|b
ii
|E
V
|
|E
V
|A
I
|-
|
The tune has an unusually high amount of rhythmic syncopation against the underlying beat (on "four-AND") as
well as melodic dissonance against the underlying chords. I'll leave the majority of such details as an exercise for
the reader though two examples here are noteworthy. First off, the melodic sustaining of the pitch E over the b
chord in measure 7, on the second syllable of the word "away". Even better is the the climactic event over the G
Major chord in measure 12, with John singing the pitches F#-E-C# on the stretched out word “ri-i-de”, none of
which is consonant with the chord below it.
The three-way alternating pivot off the vi (f#) chord is one of the more novel harmonic gambits we've ever
seen the Beatles pull; first to the IV, then to the flat-VII, and ultimately to the V, which under the circumstances is
the most comfortingly "functional" of the three choices. It kind of reminds of the feeling one has in a chess game
where you think you've been check-mated, but in a half-panic, on considering your several brute-force logical
Page 266
alternatives, you eventually discover with some relief that there is still at least one legal move available to you
with which to continue the game.
The vocal counterpoint at the beginning of the second phrase not only features their trademark parallel, open
fourths, but Paul's initial stress on the pitch B provides a development of the added- ninth flavor we've described
as inherent in the opening ostinato figure. Also note how John's initial stress on G natural here adds a subtle,
partly hidden touch of the blues (I'm also very partial to the little rapid-fire 16th note run with which John ends
the phrase):
Paul:
B
B
A
G
A
A
John:
G
G
E
D
E
EDC#
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and built out of a parallel-style repeat of the same four-measure phrase:
|D
IV
|-
|-
|E
|
V
Bridge-ly contrast is provided by virtually every compositional parameter:
•
•
•
the vocal arrangement shifts to straight-away parallel thirds except for a couple of stray eighth notes in which
John is left exposed solo for a split second (check out the second syllable of the word "goodbye.")
the rhythm section, including the tambourine, shifts away from wrenching syncopation to a pattern of
relatively even-handed eighth notes in which the off-beat (on 2 and 4) pattern, first heard from the tambourine
in verses, now prevails in the drums.
the harmony, even though it features no kind of modulation, does manage to stay entirely away from the I
chord, the section ending firmly on the way back towards it.
A new guitar riff is used at the very end of the section to lead back into the next verse. Its melodic and rhythmic
gesture are reminiscent, albeit not slavishly so, of the opening lick. The F# that marks the apex of this new figure
makes for yet another added ninth chord here.
Verse Variants
This song has a higher than average number of small twists applied to the arrangement of its later verse sections.
As spontaneous as these details sound to us, I rather suspect that at least some of them were planned quite in
advance.
Here, in the third verse, John adds the word “yeah” to the end of the second line (in addition the one that
repeatedly appears at the end of the first line), and he prefaces the third line with an “Oh” (or is it an “aw”?); the
latter variation being repeated in the fourth verse as well.
Ringo provides an evenly beaten sixteenth note pattern as a fill between the second and third lines of the third
verse in place of the plain roll he uses elsewhere in the song. In the final verse he plays in this spot no roll nor fill,
but only a single whack “on FOUR!”.
One particular variant feature rises above the status of mere detail to assume structural, and perhaps
subtextual significance. The hard syncopations mentioned above which so pungently characterize this song are
actually found to be very much subdued starting right after the second verse. Granted, we already noted that the
Page 267
bridge itself dispenses with the syncopation as a matter of contrast. But look ahead – in both of the final verses,
Ringo's drumming sticks with the more evenly played eighth note patterns introduced in the bridge instead of
returning to the wrenchingly syncopated pattern; this, in spite of the fact that the guitar ostinato (from which his
syncopated patterns were derived in the first place) does continue to make its own appearance. This could hardly
have been accidental and I find myself pondering its motivation – did they discover that the wrenching rhythm
when carried all the way through was simply too much of a good thing, or is there some subtle poetry embedded
in this change drumming?
Outro
The question of what manner of poetry may be conveyed by a change of beat is further sharpened by what
happens in this outro where the syncopation is loosened even further than it was for the bridge.
This time, the effect is one of a sudden, free-wheeling, accelerating release of all tension. John would later use
a similar effect at the end of “She Said She Said”.
Also here at the very end, the final vocal lick, which is otherwise double-tracked in unison, splits out for an
instant to include one last example of a Major second sonority.
Some Final Thoughts
“Ticket To Ride” was recorded after more than a two-month hiatus (11/27 to 2/15) in the Beatles attendance at
Abbey Road. One gets used to the song's having been tucked away on the Help! album as the last song on “side
1”, but in truth, it was the first song recorded after the Beatles For Sale album was released, and it appeared as the
A-side of a single several months before the film was released.
Once you get the chronology straight in your mind, it's hard to listen to the song without feeling as though
you've crossed a frontier. Lewisohn himself comments on this, though his perspective is entirely on the recording
process changes that kicked in at this point in time; i.e., the practice of perfecting the rhythm and backing track
first before adding everything else on later as overdubs.
I'm thinking more of style, though whatever compositional innovations are to be found in this song are not
without their own irony to the extent that they represent at least as much a return to erstwhile values as much as
they do a forward evolution. Yeah, this one looks at least as far ahead as “Day Tripper”, but it equally so picks
right up where “A Hard Days Night” left off, followed as it was by the anomalistic Beatles For Sale album.
“I ride this train regularly; twice a week!”
082592#65
Page 268
I'm Down
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Break (guitar solo) – Verse – Verse – Verse – Break (organ solo) – Refrain (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Tucked away on the lonesome B-side of the “Help!” single was this spicy little surprise. It's raucous, rough-shod,
and in context of where the Beatles were "at" as of the time of its release, it's even a bit self-consciously
regressive. We had heard Paul screaming several times before, repeatedly, but never quite as primally this; at least
not in an L&M original.
On the basis of the raw material alone it's tempting to assume that they threw this song together in less than a
single afternoon. The musical style is derived from one of the archetypal cliche R&B idioms of the 50's; a semiimprovisatory rave-up in which the exact words don't quite matter as much as the angry or naughty tone they set.
You might even say that this quality of sounding as though it's being made up on the spot as they go along is an
essential part of the aesthetic.
That said, there's still an impressive amount of carefully staged and choreographed variety applied to both the
arrangement and the blues form here. Nothing earth shaking per se, but indicative nonetheless of the type of care
the Boys would take in sweating the details, even for a quick one-off.
Melody and Harmony
The song is extremely bluesy in both departments. The tune is shot through with flat 3rds and 7ths, and the chords
are strictly limited to I-IV-V.
Even though the tone of the song is very similar to those Berry and Penniman numbers in which every section
is based literally on the same chord progression and phrase lengths, it turns out that a couple of slightly different
forms are used here in alternation.
Arrangement
The first and last phrase of each verse feature sudden syncopated accents that are followed by dramatic
momentary rests in the backbeat. This effect provides a bookend-like symmetry to the verse itself. It also provides
contrast with the rest of the bouncy texture that is otherwise used throughout and lends a certain amount of
higher-level periodic rhythm to the overall composition.
The backing vocals sound more like the Stones (circa “Between The Buttons” or earlier) than the Beatles.
Every time Paul sings the title phrase, someone (John?) doubles him on the second word in a sustained mock
baritone voice, while two other singers (one of which is definitely George and the other might even be Paul
overdubbed) provide a mockingbird like commentary in response (“I'm really down/ down on the ground”).
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Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
The verse is a fourteen measure long distortion of what would otherwise be a straight 12-bar frame of the 4 + 8
model if only the middle phrase were not extended by a third repetition of the title phrase. If you don't believe me,
imagine what the section would sound like with measures 9 and 10 excised:
G:
|G
I
|-
|-
|-
|
|C
IV
|-
|G
I
|-
|C
IV
|-
|D
V
|-
|
|D
V
G
I
G
I
|-
|
A couple of Beatle-esque verse variants worth mentioning: Paulie starts off the song in the first verse entirely solo
without even so much as a single bass note or drumbeat to help clarify to the listener the location of either key or
downbeat; no matter how many times you've heard the song, it's an effect which retains the power to startle. In the
second measure of the third verse he anticipates the syncopated downbeat with a little chromatic riff of F-> F# ->
G; or is that actually George on lead guitar ?
Break
Both breaks are genuine 12-bar frames though they differ on a choice of chord in one measure (the first break
sustains the D chord through measure 10):
|G
I
|-
|-
|-
|
|C
IV
|-
|G
V
|-
|
|D
V
|C
IV
|G
I
|-
|
The first break features the lead guitar in foreground against a backing of fast organ triplets that is punctuated by
Paul's screaming. The first phrase of this break carries through the dramatic pause concept heard in the verse
sections.
The second break features the organ itself in the foreground, its rapid-fire triplets now punctuated by some
wild off-beat glissandi and even more of Paul's screaming than heard before. In this break the dramatic pauses in
the first phrase are dispensed with making the section feel quite a bit looser than the previous break; an effect
which nicely sets up the jam-session feeling which prevails for the remainder of the proceedings.
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Refrain
The thrice-repeated refrain section is yet again a 12-bar frame in the same flavor as the second break diagrammed
out above.
The only differences among the three refrains are in the improvised scat singing and improvised lyrics heard
in each section. From one repeat to the next, the mood gets successively wilder and less structured with the final
round degenerating into the likes of “baby, baby, baby” and “I'm down, down, down, down, down, down ...”; the
latter strung out nicely at cross-rhythm to the underlying beat.
Some kind of congas, bongos, or other kind of slapped drums sound as though either added new at this stage
of the song, or else they were perhaps there all along and only now mixed a bit more forward.
Some Final Thoughts
As Lewisohn points out (and well he should), “I'm Down” was recorded on June 14, 1965 at the same session as
“I've Just Seen A Face” and “Yesterday”. Whether by coincidence or by design, it was indeed a day on which
Paul's prowess in the versatility department was fated to be displayed with astonishing prowess. Given that our
current subject was 2nd in the batting order that day, maybe I'm still amazed that, with only a 90 minute break for
dinner and a smoke, he was ready after all that earlier shouting to come back in to tackle Ol' “Scrambled Eggs.”
But that's Our Kid for you.
Of course such historic perspective and appreciative revisionism is a wonderful but curious thing. Memories
of my own reactions to hearing “I'm Down” for the first time way back in the counselor's lounge at camp in the
summer of '65 are quite different. There, in spite of the reverent popularity accorded to the A-side of the same
single, the lads would frequently gather round the juke box to listen to this one strictly for a giggle. We couldn't
quite turn the sound down on him, but it never did stop us from saying rude things.
“Get him out of here!”
110992#69
Page 271
The Night Before
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (half solo) – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
With its strong bluesy foreground that is so nicely balanced out by the predominantly pop style that underlies it,
this song provides about as good an example as you'll find of the Beatles predilection on the threshold of midcareer for a synthesis of their erstwhile desire to play genuine 12-bar blues with an even greater passion to
transcend that it.
They use the standard long form here, one of their favorites, with its two bridges that are separated by two
verse sections, the second one of which is partly for instrumental solo. “From Me To You” and “A Hard Days
Night” come to mind as archetypal examples, but there are many others as well.
In addition, there is an almost subliminally unifying effect created by the recurring use of chromatic shifts and
scale fragments; anticipatory shades of Paul's later “You Won't See Me”, which happens to share a certain amount
of similarity with this song at the level of its subject matter.
Melody and Harmony
The song utilizes a relatively large number of chords (eight!), fully half of which are foreign in one way or
another to the home key. In addition to the I, IV, V, and vi which are diatonically indigenous, we also find here
the flat-III, minor iv, flat-VII, and V-of-V.
In terms of chord progressions, this just may be the first place that The Beatles would use flat-VII in between
I and IV. The song also features the first example we've seen in quite a while of the minor iv used in a Major key.
Ironically, although I tend to associate the use of this chord especially with John, the most recent example we had
seen was back in Paul's “I'll Follow The Sun”.
Chromatic shifting between two flavors of a note appears here under a number of guises. The first and most
prominent example is in the opening phrases of the verse where the melodic prominence given to the bluesy
minor 3rd (F natural) in phrase 1,2, and 4 is contrasted with a switch to the major 3rd (F#) near the end of phrase
3. Note, by the way just how juicy a cross-relation that heavy use of F natural makes against the D Major chords
in the accompaniment.
Other deployments of the same basic idea are found in the alternation between B natural and B flat implied by
the chord change between b minor and g minor in phrase 3 of the verse, as well as the melodic noodling around
D/C# and E/D# at the beginning of the bridge.
Arrangement
Paul's vocal lead is double tracked throughout and he repeatedly throws in a little Gershwinesque grace note in the
final phrase of the verse (on the word "did") that reminds me of something John did in “I'm A Loser”.
The vocal arrangement of the verse is of particular interest. What appears at first as a garden variety call-andresponse pattern actually turns out to be a single thread vocal line shared, “hocket”-like, between the doubletracked soloist (Paul) and the backers. Last time we had seen anything quite like this was “Please Please Me”.
“Help!” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl” use a device that is, while similar to the hocket, more in the realm
of a gloss or commentary on the main line rather than a sharing of it.
Page 272
The prominent appearance of the electric piano here yet again would seem to suggest that its sound was
something the group had somewhat faddishly latched onto during the late spring of '65.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
This is one of those songs where the instrumental texture is relatively unvaried throughout. I'd dare say that if you
could find yourself a bootleg of just the backing track for it, it would sound just like the intro.
This section is one long eight-measure phrase with a slow harmonic rhythm and a chord progression that
neatly opens out to V, thereby providing motivation for the verse which follows:
D:
|D
I
|-
|F
|flat-III
|G
IV
|-
|A
V
|-
|
Two nice rhythmic details to listen out for -- Paul's C# -> D anticipation of the first downbeat; and the manner in
which the individually syncopated parts combine during in the last couple measures to make for a compound
rhythm that is very close to even eighth notes.
Verse
The verse is a standard sixteen measures long and is made up of four equal phrases that form a poetic pattern of
"aabc":
------------------------------ 2X ------------------------------|D
|C
|G
|A
|
I
flat-VII
IV
V
|b
vi
|g
iv
|b
vi
|g
iv
|D
I
|G
IV
|D
I
||-
verses which are followed by another verse:|F
|flat-III
|
|
|
G |
IV |
The narrative and poetic structure is abetted by the harmonic scheme. The first two phrases open up widely to the
V chord. The third phrase, rather than providing any kind of resolution, further heightens the suspense and even
adds a touch of anxiety by its staying away from I and introducing the ominous sounding minor iv chord. As is
typical, the final phrase puts everything right with its return to I. Note, though, how in those verses that are
followed by another verse the harmonic ending is modified so that a motivation for a return to I at the beginning
of the next verse is motivated by a forced move away from I at the last moment.
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A faintly stuffy, pedagogical observation about first minor iv chord in phrase 3: it could alternately be parsed
as ii6/b5 because of the e in the melody. To the extent that both ii and iv denote a subdominant function though,
the difference between the two labels is somewhat moot.
Although the lead and backing vocalists share the melodic spotlight in the first two phrases, they interestingly
overlap at the “seams” of their respective parts. This creates a special effect at the beginning of the second phrase,
where the backers falling away from the lead subtly suggests a kind of sighing accompaniment. The manner in
which the backers continue on in the third phrase entirely as part of the background wash, only to dramatically
desist entirely for the final phrase, also makes for a dramatic effect.
George, likely feeling finally unbound after keeping such a low profile in the first half of the song, introduces
his solo section with an enthusiastic “Yes!”. There's a more half-hearted “yeah” that precedes the second bridge,
which for all we know, just might be another one of those infamous anomalies.
The half-section's worth of guitar solo is doubled at the octave and definitely sounds more worked out and
painfully practiced than it does improvised; the tip-off being in the way that both phrases of it are repeated
identically. The interjectory nature of the solo and the dissonant manner in which its melodic content rides
roughshod over the chords below it sound perversely out of style with the rest of the song. It's as if they were
trying to achieve in music the same kind of obtuse non-sequitor which peppers their onstage verbal antics.
Bridge
The bridge is eight measures long and built out of two equal phrase:
|A
V
|D
|G
V-of-IV IV
|-
||b
vi
|E
|A
V-of-V V
|-
|
As is a well-established convention, a subtle change of the percussion pattern is used here to help the bridge
sound more set-off from the surrounding verses.
With the exception of the intro, the harmonic rhythm of this song is relatively fast throughout. The phrase
endings of this bridge provide a notably rare and brief breath-catching respite.
The song makes a slight, short-lived modulation toward the key of G, but it pivots right back around to set up
a return to the home key with its big finish on the V chord, set up on a silver platter by V-of-V.
The melodic climax of the entire song occurs at the very end of this section on the high note 'A'. This is felt as
especially dramatic in context of the constricted melodic range of the song overall; you'll note how the verse
rather butts its head, so to speak, up against a ceiling of G.
Outro
The complete ending consists of a simple petit reprise of the final phrase that is easily built out of an extension to
the end of the verse:
|D
I
|G
IV
|D
I
|reprise|- guitar riff
|F
|D
|flat-III I
||
||
The return of the solo guitar for a final fanfare lick lends a classic touch of unity, and anticipates what is
essentially the very same gesture that would appear much later in “Penny Lane”!
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Some Final Thoughts
At a high level, this song thematically belongs to one of the archetypal sub-genres of the two-minute pop song:
the one in which the protagonist, post-breakup, acknowledges what a good thing he had in retrospect and
expresses the fond hope and prayer for a reconciliation.
At a closer level of detail, this one bears a surprising amount of comparison with one very specific other song
of Paul's songs; one written pretty much around the same time. Granted, this one is written in direct address to the
girl and openly begs for another chance. The other song, in contrast, speaks of the girl in third person and, in spite
of an expressed longing for a reversal of the situation, the hero there seems, with grim resignation, to better accept
his fate.
And yet, the common denominator between the two is in their focus on the past, and in their desire for an
impossible turning back of the clock by a mere 24 hours. In this sense, in spite of all other differences in musical
style, the two songs are closely enough related that I could almost imagine their two titles reversed or comingled:
“Last Night” and “The Day Before”.
“I will be pleased, men, to see the earth disintegrated.”
112392#70
Page 275
I Need You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We have another intriguing stylistic mix here, this time from George. The pop-rock core is augmented by a folksy
undercurrent that manifests itself most strongly in the haunting pseudo-modality of the tune. The choice of form is
the shorter two-bridge model where the bridges are separated by only one section.
George's proclivity for blurring somewhat the division between verse and bridge sections by the phrasing of
the lyrics shows up again here though in not as pronounced a form as the one observed in “You Like Me Too
Much.”
Melody and Harmony
A relatively large number of chords is used (seven!), though there is nothing more exotic in this entire bundle than
a V-of-V. George's taste for weakly transitive chord progressions is reflected here in both the holding back of the
V chord for as late as the bridge, and his reliance in the verse on IV -> I and the even more indirect stepwise
choice of ii -> I to establish the sense of home key.
George uses an effective trick of his mates in keeping the melodic pitch content and style of the verse and
bridge sections distinctively different. Whether or not you're willing to accept this notion as operable on even a
subconscious level, you can't deny how striking is the de facto evidence of this effect.
The verse derives a folksy modalism from the manner in which its melody is restricted to a pentatonic scale
(A-B-C#-E-F#) with the solitary exception of one note that is a flat-seventh (G natural), not strictly speaking part
of the scale for the home key; look out for it at the very end of the second phrase. This tune is also made
distinctive by its large number of appoggiaturas, several of which leave dissonant, non-harmonic tones hanging at
vocal phrase endings; see below.
Just as the V chord is held back until the bridge, so does the non-pentatonic fourth scale degree suddenly
make a featured appearance in the tune of that section. In the second half of this bridge we also find a very nonfolksy chromatic shifting amongst D natural -> D# -> D natural that is reminiscent to the trick we saw Paul play
just last time out in “The Night Before.”
Arrangement
The backing track has a nicely balanced, airy texture of acoustic rhythm guitar mixed with a part for electric pedal
tone guitar in which the latter instrument sounds almost like a keyboard.
The vocal track is pure Middle Period Beatles almost as though it were a recipe-pattern done up “by the
numbers”: the composer double-tracked on the lead and the two others (with very rare exception, such as “Carry
That Weight” where you can hear him right through the heavy mix, Ringo didn't “do” backing vocals) providing
an instrumental- like backwash of “ahhhs” in second half of verse and bridge.
Those mockingbird pedal tone fills at the phrase endings become a leitmotif for the song. As we'll see below,
in a couple of instances where the vocal phrases end up on an unresolved dissonance, these guitar fills actually are
necessary to tie up what would otherwise be a disconcerting loose end.
Page 276
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is a mere two measures worth of vamping on the I chord, but in it are quickly introduced both the basic
instrumental texture of the entire song as well as the melodic two-part turn 'round C# (C# -> B, D -> C#) which
recurs as a motif in all the verse sections which follow.
Verse
The verse is an unusual fourteen measures in length made up of four phrases which create a classic aa'bc pattern.
The last phrase is half the length of the other three and this asymmetry lends a subtle feeling of poetic, free-verse
to the whole:
A:
----------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|A
|D
|A
||
I
IV
I
|f#
vi
|c#
iii
|f#
vi
|A
I
|-
|
|b
ii
|
The pedal tone guitar turn around C# heard in the intro (or a slight variation on it) reappears at the end of the three
of the four phrases of this verse, overlapping in each case with the last two notes of the vocal line in each case.
In the first two of these phrases the vocal line binds off unusually with an appoggiatura that creates an
unresolved dissonance against the chord below it. If you've ever been nearly so depressed, yourself, to the point
that you no longer have the energy or motivation to quite finish your sentences before they trail off a few words or
so before their proper ending, then you'll likely relate to the poetic effect created by these dissonant, tentative
phrase endings.
In the first and second phrases, you have C#->B and A->G respectively sung against an A Major chord.
Without the D->C# resolution offered by the second half of the guitar turn which follows, you'd be left hanging in
each of these cases as though waiting for a shoe to drop. Try imagining this scenario out in your mind.
Bridge
The bridge is nine measures long and its two unequal phrases present an elongated free verse effect that is the
exact opposite to the similar truncated effect seen in the verse:
|D
IV
|E
V
|A
I
|-
|D
IV
|E
V
|B
V-of-V
|E
V
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|
|-
|
To the extent that this bridge section provides any contrast to the surrounding verses it is because the home key is
established here with more forceful clarity than anywhere else in the song; note the use in this section of both V
and V-of-V. We're actually much more used to the opposite effect: of the home key having been established to an
almost monotnous fault over the course of the first couple of verses, and the bridge providing contrast by making
a brief excursion away from it.
And ever true to the by-the-numbers recipe for contrasting bridge sections you'll note the addition of a
cowbell to the percussion track for just this section.
Outro
The eight-measure coda is developed as an extension to the final verse, and it kicks in right where the truncated
fourth phrase of the verse section is usually to be found:
|A
I
|-
|f#
vi
|-
|D
IV
|-
|A
I
|-
|
Harmonically, the coda is built out of the I-vi-IV cliche minus the expected V chord, but the omission of the latter
chord is very much in keeping in this instance with the rest of the song.
The vocal line at this late stage of the song turns around and plays the same mockingbird game as did the
pedal tone guitar earlier on. Here, the vocal line repeats three times the same exact melodic phrase of three notes
(A -> B -> C#) over each chord change. The effect is especially striking where the ending on C# creates a Major
7th dissonance against the D Major chord; the resolution to which, as always, is provided ultimately by the now
familiar D -> C# of the guitar part.
Some Final Thoughts
We find George at his absolutely most vulnerable in this song. Granted, he had appeared pretty crashed out way
back in “Don't Bother Me”, but with the net result of his being unable to speak directly to his erstwhile love, or
anyone else for that matter. In “You Like Me Too Much”, on the other hand, he not only seemed sufficiently
recovered to address The Girl directly, but he even swaggered a bit before her with his gentle chiding. And in the
likes of “Think For Yourself” would come just around the next corner, he would raise the emotional ante from
mere negativity all the way to disdain and ridicule.
Viewed from this perspective, “I Need You” scores uniquely for its bittersweetly mixed tone of plaintive,
terminal desperation.
“You want to stop being so scornful, it's twisting your face.”
120792#71
Page 278
Another Girl
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
If you make the effort to get beyond the pedestrian lyrics and the by-today's-standards embarrassing visual
background given this song in the Help! film (Paul out on a beach holding a woman sideways and “playing” her
like some kind of anthropomorphic bass guitar – or do I misremember it?), you find here a song that is a veritable
cross-section of the tricks and trademarks of the Beatles to this point of their career.
We also find in this song yet another example of John's cross-influence on Paul. Though the influence in
this case is not as obvious on the surface of things as it is in the case of, say, “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”, the
parallels between “Another Girl” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl” are as striking as they are surprising,
once they've been pointed out to you. The form sounds subtly more unusual than it actually is because of the
extremely refrain-like final phrase of the verse section. The last time we had seen this effect, way back in this
series “You’re Going To Lose That Girl” and “It Won't Be Long”, it had thrown us off guard quite a bit. Once
you parse this phrase as part of the verse proper, the form suddenly reveals itself as one of the standard forms,
with two-verses, two-bridges, and only one verse intervening. The use of such a pseudo-refrain, though,
especially when it also appears as the song's introductory section, does have a unique the power to, if not outright
confuse, make a formalistically fluid impression.
Melody and Harmony
The melody makes prominent thematic use of downward chromatic scale fragments and a certain amount of
noodling around the same few notes in a constricted pitch range; both Beatles trademarks. Although the song is
hardly a 12-bar blues ditty in terms of chords, tune, or phrasing, the melodical stress on the flat 3rd (C natural)
and flat 7th (G natural) scale degrees projects bluesy feel overall.
The verses rely entirely on I, IV, V, and the flat-VII deployed simply as a neighboring chord between two
instances of I. The bridge, though, features an unusual (in context of the Beatles) full-blown modulation to the key
of C Major whose relationship to the home key is that of “relative Major of the parallel minor”; the latter being
one of this songs principal and unmistakable connections with “You're Going To Lose That Girl”.
The emphasis on the melodic flat 3rd is sufficiently stronger than average here to create a Major/minor
ambiguity regarding the mode of the home key that is somewhat reminiscent of “I'll Be Back.” The effect is
especially noticeable where the music returns to A Major at the end of the bridge, and makes you wonder in
retrospect if, in the verses, it really was only the melody and not the chords too performed in the minor mode;
what do the chord books say there? Is the first chord A Major or minor?
Arrangement
Paul is double tracked on the lead vocal with the familiar italicizing effect of the backing voices joining him on
the recurring title phrase. George supplies notable guitar fills, the frequency and raucousness of which both
increase over the course of the song.
Page 279
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The song opens vocally with absolutely no instrumental cue, yet another affinity with John's “You're Going To
Lose That Girl” and “It Won’t Be Long”. The intro turns out to anticipate the final phrase of the verse section. It's
a phrase whose length comes out to be closer to five than four measures; at the very least, it ends on the downbeat
of the fifth measure. A side effect of this peculiarity is that the phrase tends to suggest an elision or overlap with
the beginning of whatever follows it whenever it appears:
A:
|A
I
|D
IV
|A
I
|D
IV
|Verse -->
|A ...
I
Verse
The sixteen measure verse has a phrasing pattern of AABC and sounds almost like a non-traditional 12-bar form
plus short refrain:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|A
|G
|A
|D
|
I
flat-VII
I
IV
|D
IV
|-
|-
|E
V
|
|A
I
|D
IV
|A
I
|D
IV
|
The IV chord which gets sustained through four measures that *don't* exactly coincide with where the phrase
divisions lie provides a good example of how harmonic rhythm can be used to strong, albeit subliminal effect.
Bridge
This eight-measure section sounds as though entered as an elided, directed extension of the 'refrain':
|C
I
|G
V
|C
I
|G
V
|C
|E
I
a:III
|A
|E
V
I
(surprise!)
Page 280
|
V
The music briefly modulates to the key of C Major before it pivots back to A. The pivot in this case relies on
tricking you into expecting a return to a minor with the A Major chord then coming as a surprise twist. The pivot
into the modulation is interesting; forcing you, as a listener to hear the final D chord in the preceding verse
punning itself as both IV in the home key as well as V-of-V in the new key, the latter not being resolved until two
measures into the bridge.
As is so often the case, the bridge provides melodic contrast with the verses in the way that the erstwhile
noodling within a small range is replaced here by an extended arch shape which supplies at its zenith the unique
melodic high point of the piece.
Outro
The outro is a simple extension of the verse ending with the the title phrase repeated a canonical three times. The
trailing guitar lick at the very end is a novel touch that helps unify the song overall from the way in which it
carries forward both the motif of the ubiquitous guitar fills and the blusey undercurrent.
Some Final Thoughts
This song may be far from what you'd call one of Paul's career highlights but you've got to admire his
craftsmanship here even if the material itself is less than entirely distinguished.
You may want to quibble with Paul from time to time over whether or not you think he exerts a
sufficiently discriminating filter on the supply of new ideas and directions which pop into his head. But in terms
his facility in the developing of such ideas and his seemingly casual and second-nature mastery of technique, you
can only be amazed; maybe.
“Give 'em a pull.” 122292#72
Page 281
I've Just Seen A Face
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4 (2/2, a.k.a. “cut time”, may be more accurate)
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (solo) – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Refrain –
Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Aside from the delightfully unplugged arrangement, and a greater than ever amount of attention paid to
compositional detail, this song manifests a button-busting sense of energy that is timeless and most compelling.
The form is reasonably clear in some sense, but it's also unusually complicated and would appear to have
absorbed the influence of several styles. The two verses in a row near the beginning are pure pop/rock. The strict
alternation of verse/refrain in the second half is rather folksy. The triple refrain as an outro is reminiscent of the
R&B rave up. And the whole thing is lead off by an extraordinary intro that is not so easily pigeonholed.
Melody and Harmony
Only four chords are used but this very limited number of them are cleverly deployed so as to alternately suggest
two different styles: the pop/rock cliche of I-vi-IV-V in the verses, and the bluesy V-IV-I in the refrains.
Melodically we find several trademarks yet again: the noodling around within a tight pitch range during the
verses, with the headroom freed up somewhat during the refrain. The tune is also shot through with Paul's much
favored appoggiaturas; I'll spot you “face” and “place” in the opening phrase, but you've got to find the rest of
them on by yourself – have you no natural resources of yer own?
Arrangement
The instrumental texture is most strongly characterized by the folksy sound of several crisply recorded acoustic
guitars. And yet, the use of (what sound like to me as) jazzy wire brushes in place of the usual wood sticks for the
drum kit, not to mention overdubbed maracas (in the refrains and guitar solo) create subliminal free associations
with other styles.
Paul is closely single-tracked for a change on the lead vocal, the more intimately for us to feel the slight
quiver in his voice. During the refrains, he provides his own contrapuntal backing part in the same nasally
affected C&W voice used to back Ringo in “Act Naturally.”
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
This fully instrumental introduction is unusually long and musically involved. On the one hand, it features an
oscillating motif in slow triplets that never shows up again for the remainder of the piece. And yet, the long scalar
bass line whose full octave span stretches out over the complete length of the intro has embedded within its
ending the ubiquitous “La-da-da da'n'da” hook phrase (i.e. D->C#->B AG#->A).
The slow triplet pulse creates a deceptive sense of tempo. When the verse finally kicks in with its four-square
beat that is sustained for the remainder of the song you have a gear-shifting feeling of acceleration as though the
tempo had changed. But this is entirely an illusion, anticipating what would show up later, even more forcefully,
Page 282
in “We Can Work It Out.” If you count the measures in “two half” time instead of the twice-as-fast 4/4 you'll
more easily grasp the extent to which the underlying tempo is constant.
The illusion of acceleration is abetted by the phrasing. The intro has an unusual ten-measure length and is
built out of three phrases, the last one of which is foreshortened and thus hastens the arrival of the first verse. In
any event, this feeling of speed is one that is particularly effective in the song's album-opening context of the
American Rubber Soul line-up where you feel drawn straight into the entire LP by it, not just the first song.
Harmonically, the song opens subtly away from the home key but quickly converges upon it. Even though the
bass line line starts off, unaccompanied, with the pitch of the home key, the first chord is f# and until you reach
the end of this section the sense of harmonic grounding is quite suspended; similar to, though not quite as intense
as, the opening of “Help!”
In order to better elucidate the truly fine detail of this intro, I've included in the schematic below a precis of
both the bass line and top voice along with the usual harmonic information. In the latter department note the
unusual sonority created in measures 6 and 7 by the “non-harmonic” passing tones, and the handling of the E
chord in measures 9 and 10 with an appoggiatura instead of the the root note in the bass:
top-most line:
chords:
bassline: A G#
A Major:
vi
|F#
|f#
|F#
|A
||-
top-most line:
chords:
bassline:
|D
IV
|D
|D
|-
|E
|F#
||- 9/6/4|- 7
||C# |
top-most line:
chords:
bassline:
|B
V
|C#
||-
|F#
||-
|verse --->
|E
|D
|C#
|E 6/4
|- susp
|A
G#
|A
I
|
|
E
|
|
|-
|
|A
Verse
The verse is blues-influenced to the extent that its form is twelve measures long, consists of three phrases, and its
harmonic rhythm is mostly slow throughout. Note, though, that the chord progression used is distinctly pop:
|A
I
|-
|-
|-
||f#
vi
|D
IV
|-
|E
V
|A
I
||
|-
|-
Page 283
|-
||
The first two phrases are virtually identically, tune-wise, though they sound different simply because of the chord
change, not to mention the unfolding lyrics. The bass line motif of the intro is continued here albeit abbreviated in
length. In measures 3-5 the tune marches down the scale in parallel 10ths with the bass, but note how the same
basic idea idea in measures 7-9 makes for parallel 5ths!
Refrain
The refrain is eight measures long and parses into a couplet of two short phrases that are balanced out by one
longer one ('AAB'):
|E
V
|-
|D
IV
|-
|A
I
|D
IV
|A
I
|-
|
The chord progression and the unique appearance within the song of a melodic minor 3rd (on the first syllable of
the word 'calling') give this section a slightly more bluesy feel than the rest of what surrounds it.
Solo
The solo is an almost slavish replicate of the tune, but one that is cleverly transformed in character by the
Countrified, rhythmically flat rendering of it. The slight departure from the tune in the final three measures (the
guitar melodically harmonizing a 3rd below where the tune itself should be) is a most welcome variations,
especially as it is followed by that 'bon mot' flourish one octave up right at the end.
Outro
The use of a triple repeat to signal the approaching end of a song is quite a well-worn Beatles trademark. We're
used to seeing this trick used on the scale of a “petit reprise” of a phrase no longer than two to four measures in
length. The repeat here of an entire eight bar chorus is rather unprecedented.
There's an unusual and shameless bit of stumbling word painting in the final repeat where Paul throws in that
extra “oh!” and sounds literally as though falling; but it works quite nicely.
The last refrain runs out into a little instrumental reprise that is redolent with associations to what we had
heard earlier on in the song. Primarily, we have a snippet of the last part of the intro which adds a bookend formal
symmetry and allows the song to be ultimately summarized by its “La-da-da da'n'da” hook phrase. But even that
final strummed guitar chord seems to resonate with what I had described as the 'bon mot' ending of the solo
section.
Some Final Thoughts
By this point they had been freely borrowing and blending various stylistic elements of pop, rock, folk, blues, and
still other styles for quite a while. Still, this otherwise sweetly simple “folk rock” song really pushes the envelope
in terms of the sheer number of diverse styles juggled simultaneously as well as the effortlessly seamless manner
in which they are fused.
In the final result though, if resonance has any thing to do with why you find this song enduring, I'll bet it's
not so much in scholarly terms of style, but rather in those not so easily verbalized ones of your own experience.
If you are, let's say, of the type who, when romantically enthused (you should only be so lucky!), tends to start
talking rapidly, getting all inarticulate and muckle-mouthed about it in the bargain, then you're likely to find
Paul's patter-song-like syllabic delivery of the words of this song, up to and including his momentary retreats into
scat phonemes, rather apropos, maybe even truly inspired.
Page 284
“I want all the world to see we've met.”010593#73
Page 285
It's Only Love
Key:
Meter:
Form:
C Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain - Outro
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
The combination of textural soft-focus with a Moderato tempo is a bit of a departure for John though the elliptical
emotional stance of the lyrics is right up his alley.
The form is structurally both short and simple. To the extent that, as we'll see, the formal boundary between
what I've labeled as Verse and Refrain is rather blurred you might argue that the meat of the song be even more
compactly described as a repetition of a single larger Verse + Refrain “combo” section.
Melody and Harmony
Chromatic scale motion, always one of John's favorite hot buttons, has an influence on both melody and harmony
in this song; creating here side effects as diverse as cross-relations, augmented triads, and harmonic root
movement of a tritone.
In spite of the relatively small number of chords that are utilized throughout, the song deploys the mildly
unusual flat-VII (B flat) in two entirely different contexts; as we'll see, it's the same old chord but with a different
meaning, the result of a change in the angle of approach.
The melodic hooks of the song feature a sighing 6->5 appoggiatura, whether it's the descending guitar lick of
the intro/outro, or the main vocal line; in the verse, on the words “(be)side-you”, and in the refrain on the word
“hard”, so to speak.
Arrangement
The overall sound of the piece is one that is difficult to pigeonhole. You would expect the prominence of the
guitar parts and relative absence of percussion to project a Byrds-ey folk rock image, but the hazy finish applied
to the final mix works at cross-currents to that.
The acoustic and electric guitars remain well isolated from each other on the two stereo tracks in spite of all
haze. The lead part consists heavily of choppy chords applied to the syncopated off-beats and short melodic fills
between the phrases.
The vocals feature John all the way; single tracked solo in verse, and doubled up in the refrain. The double
tracking here sounds more out of synch and less evenly balanced than usual, making me wonder if one of the two
vocals is actually the vestige of a “guide vocal” left over from an early take of the backing track.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
We have a four-measure intro which economically establishes the instrumental texture, tone, and tonality of the
entire song:
Page 286
C:
--------------- 2X -------------|C
|a
|
I
vi
The intro, (as well as the outro and part of the refrain) place an almost hook-like emphasis on the I->vi
progression, which is an old Beatles trademark starting back as far as “Misery” and running heavily through the
“A side” of With The Beatles.
Verse
Very much like what we saw last time in “I've Just Seen A Face”, the verse here is a twelve measure section
whose 'AAB' phrasing pattern matches that of the blues even though such a connection is supported by neither the
harmony nor the style:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------chords:
|C
e
|B-flat
F
|G
|G augmented
|
b'line:
|C
B
|B-flat
F ...
I
iii6/4
flat-VII IV
V 4 -> 3 #5
|F
IV
|G
V
6
|C
I
-> 5
|a
|
vi
The downward chromatic bass line at the start forces a strange root progression of I->iii->flat-VII. The effect of
this is somewhat softened by the linear logic of the bass line itself and the placement of the iii chord in so-called
second inversion; try playing the same progression with the iii chord in root position and see how much more
strange it sounds.
Some analysts might even argue in favor of not analyzing our e minor chord here as 'iii' with a Roman
numeral per se, as much as they would describe it more simply as the transitory harmonic by-product of linear
motion between the two surrounding chords. Again, try imagining the phrase without any e minor chord in it, just
the C Major chord sustained all the way through the entire first measure, and note how the overall feel of it is still
the same.
The usage of flat-VII sounds here like the "IV-of-IV" variant most familiar to Beatles fans in context of
the second half of “Hey Jude.”
A constant low-level of harmonic dissonance abounds, rather evocative of the vague basal uneasiness
described in the lyrics. Some of it is logically motivated and clearly resolved; e.g. the 4-3 suspension implied by
the lead guitar part in measure 3, and the transient augmented chord caused by chromatic motion, this time
upward for a change. Yet, some of it is entirely gratuitous; e.g. the added sixths implied by the vocal part over the
F and G chords in the last phrase (on the words “so” and “to/it”).
The first two phrases open out to V; not just a plain vanilla kind of V, but that intensified augmented
flavor of it. And this only goes to heighten the sense of musical frustration and backing off that is inherent in the
deferred gratification of moving onward from V to IV.
The ending of the section with our much favored I-vi progression is so open ended in feeling that the
dividing line between the verse and refrain is much less clearly articulated than usual.
Page 287
Refrain
The refrain is eight measures long and built out of two roughly parallel phrases that are equal in length. The first
phrase leads into the second one exactly the same way it itself had been set up by the verse ending. The second
phrase leads back toward the following verse with its ending on V:
|B-flat
flat-VII
|G
V
|C
I
6
|B-flat
flat-VII
|G
V
|a
|
|G
|
vi
-> 5
|F
IV
V
With the the verse ending on the vi chord (a minor), you'd much sooner expect the first chord of this refrain to be
either IV (F) or ii (d); try this out and see how well it actually works. The move to B flat, while not at all
unsatisfying *does* work as a surprise, and furthermore sets up a cross-relation when the next chord after it is V
(G). This use of flat-VII as a subdominant is something we saw for the first time way back in “All My Loving”, of
all places. As a device, you might describe it as similar in structure and effect to the gambit in which V-of-V is
followed by IV, which also turns out to be a much favored harmonic trick of the Beatles. No surprise, by the way,
but a tambourine is added for this section to provide some contrast in the instrumental backing.
Outro
The outro is so smoothly handled that you'd never notice where the seams of it are unless you stopped to analyze
it per se. It starts off with a single petit reprise of last half-phrase of the refrain that is stretched out for an extra
three of measures by John's falsetto melissma, with the whole thing is capped by the intro redux:
------- 2X ----|F
|G
|C
|a
|C
|a
|C
||
IV
V
I
vi
I
vi
I
|--- reprise ---|---- melissma ---------|
| -- 2nd time: intro ----|
The resonating reverb and tremolo applied to the final chord is striking; what more can I say about it?
Some Final Thoughts
The lyrics of this song are deceptively simple in their outlook and message. We've noted elsewhere (e.g. back in
our study of ) John's talent for plumbing the poetic depths that are inherent in the bourgeois cliches of the
vernacular, and this one provides yet another fine example. Indeed, if it's “only love”, then why the exquisite
pleasure pain over why it's “so hard”? Right!?
On a different plane, I seem to remember a possibly apocryphal tale that a certain Mr. Zimmerman has
claimed to have been clued in to the fact that Our Own Sweet Boys had begun to “take Tea” by the opening line
of this very song. Can one of the biographic fiends of this group shed some light on this one? “I get high ...”,
really, now.
“She'll only reject me in the end and I'll be froostrated.”
011993#74
Page 288
Yesterday
Key:
Meter:
Form:
F Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse - Outro
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is so well established in the pop-cultural subconscious that it's difficult to relate to it objectively, no less
say something new and insightful about it, but we'll try.
As is often the case with the over-exposed war horses of any artsy genre, whether or not you like this song,
there's some good reason why it became so over-exposed in the first place. (hint) It's a fine piece of work with
something going for it in virtually every department: the unique arrangement, an attractive tune, even some
asymmetrical phrasing and a couple of offbeat chord progressions.
By the same token, one should not be fooled by whatever unique and interesting factors surround the song's
history and production into thinking of it as more unique and different than it is. Especially if you can step around
the self-pitying lyrics for a moment (Paul possibly taking a lesson from George, for a change) you'll find this song
to actually lie along the same compositional and moody lines of the other hymn or anthem-like ballads which so
vividly characterize some of Paul's highest achievements, especially in the post-Pepper period.
Just for the record, the form here is the shorter two bridge model. And the tempo is uncharacteristically slow.
Melody and Harmony
The melodic phrases are consistently arch shaped and shot through with sentimentally expressive appoggiaturas;
very dangerously close to being too much so. Ultimately, I believe it's the free-verse, non-four-square scanning of
the words that saves it.
The overall home key is F Major but the music demonstrates a curious tendency to repeatedly veer off toward
the relative minor key of d. This device subtly sets a mood for the song in which all attempts at putting on a
positive face are betrayed by pervasive melancholy; shades of “beneath this mask I am wearing a frown.”
Interestingly, Paul had used a similar harmonic trick (actually the same basic idea but in reverse) in his very
similar earlier offering of “And I Love Her.”
By funny coincidence, we find here the same harmonic cross-relation between G and B-flat chords as we saw
last time in “It's Only Love.” Granted, the order of the two chords is reversed here, and the semantic meaning of
the progression is changed by the difference in home key between the two songs. It's an uncanny parallel,
nevertheless.
Arrangement
The instrumental backing consists entirely of acoustic guitar and a string quartet (2 violins, viola, and cello), with
the two elements mixed 100% apart from each other onto separate stereo channels and the vocal split down the
middle. Paul is single tracked virtually all the way through except for a short patch of double tracking to reinforce
the high notes at the end of the first bridge. To my ears (especially when isolating the right channel with acoustic
guitar, it sounds like there was some intermittent reverb applied to the vocal track.
Even without the usual electric guitars and drums, some standard tricks still apply; to wit, the layered effect of
holding back on the bowed strings until the second verse, and the manner in which the quartet never plays the
same section exactly the same way more than once. Regarding the latter effect, note for example the ominous
Page 289
interjection by the viola (or cello ?) in the second bridge, and the sustained high note in the first violin during the
final verse, the latter, a terrific anticipation of the similar effect created for the second half of “Hey Jude.”
As with those other hymns of Paul's, the bass line of this one is played with special emphasis, whether in
those slappingly hard-picked notes on the low strings of the guitar or reinforced by the cello.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro consists of just two measures of guitar vamping on an open-fifth drone-like scoring of the I chord,
minus the third scale degree whose presence would otherwise make explicit whether we're dealing with a Major
or minor key. This seemingly small detail starts the proceedings off on a suspenseful, ambiguous note.
Verse
The verse is an unusual seven measure in length and divides up into three phrases which form a 3+2+2 poetic
meter:
F:
|F
I
|e dim.
ii-of-vi
|F
I
|d
vi
A
V-of-vi
|d
vi
IV
G
|B-flat
V-of-V
IV
F
I
|B-flat
V
C
|
|
As mentioned above, the music harmonically retreats off to relative minor key of d even before the Major home
key of F has been properly established. The arrival on the d minor chord in the third measure is, indeed, the first
instant in the song in which you feel a sense of being harmonically grounded, the opening F chord at this stage of
the game still not at all clear to you, even in retrospect, as the chord of the home key.
The chord progression in which V-of-V is followed by IV, with its concommitant cross-relation and implied
ethos of deferred gratification makes a somewhat surprising appearance here at the end of the verse. This
progression was always very popular with both Lennon and McCartney, but we're used to finding it in the faster
and harder driving likes of “She Loves You”, “Eight Days A Week”, and the title cut of Sgt. Pepper. In the
current instance, the effect of the cross-relation is somewhat blunted by the tracing, in one of the inner voices of
the backing, a Barber Shop Harmony-like descending chromatic line which also happens to be intrinsic to this
chord progression.
Of course there are extremely juicy appoggiaturas on the first syllable of the opening word as as well as the
words "far", and "here".
Bridge
On paper, the bridge is eight measures long and built out of two four-measure phrases, but it sure as hell doesn't
sound that way! It sounds much more to our ears as each phrase of the bridge begins on what I've notated as the
second measure below, with the first measure being a wind-up extension of the previous phrase:
Page 290
--------------------------------- 2X ------------------------------|e dim.
A
|d
B-flat |g
C
|F
|
ii-of-vi V-of-vi
vi
VI
ii
V
I
The phrase endings of this section are the only place in the song where the home key is clearly established by a
clean Dominant-Tonic (i.e. V-I) cadence. The starting off in this bridge, yet again, from the harmonic perspective
of the relative minor key makes these phrase endings in F sound almost as much like the end result of a
modulation away from the home key rather than the a true return to it; doubly ironic because of the extent to
which the chords used in this section overlap so heavily with those of the verse.
The end of the second bridge features a lovely melodic variation. In the first iteration of this section Paul
sustains the high F (on the syllable “day .....”) with one of the strings playing a descending counter-melody (F-CB-flat-A) against him. In the second bridge, Paul now includes that subordinate phrase as part of the main line.
Note too the stepwise descending bass line which spans measures 2-3 of each phrase in this section.
Outro
The outro contains just a single reprise of the final phrase scored as yet another hum job. For just this last time,
the descending chromatic inner line is used to accompany the vocal line minus the supporting bass line below it.
Some Final Thoughts
The scoring for string quartet and acoustic guitar is truly inspired. By the time this song appeared, the Beatles had
well established their flair for creating stylistic hybrids from surprisingly diverse elements; yet this one is more
than just another crossover.
In this case, there is an ironic tension drawn between the schmaltzy content of what is played by the quartet
and the restrained, spare nature of the medium in which it is played.
The cross-current set off by this effect adds an engaging level of depth to the performance. But more
importantly, it provides an antidote in advance for any possibly perceived surfeit of sentiment; a key point that has
so often been overlooked by those who, with the best of intentions, seek to cover the song, and thereby “ruin it”,
with a backing in the mode of The 101 Strings.
“She'll only reject me in the end and I'll be frustrated.”
020193#75
> Francois Pachet writes:
> I was very surprised to see that you do not mention a detail that, as far
> as I am concerned, embodies my overall perception of "Yesterday" :
> There is a very strange (and interesting) seventh (E flat in the key of F)
> played by the cello, in the middle of the bridge. I read somewhere that this
> was actually an explicit request of McCartney to the arranger (G. Martin ?)
> The corresponding cello line is awkward, and I would like to hear your
> opinion about it.
There's virtually no end of the level of detail to which one might go with the style of analysis used in the Notes.
Partly in order to keep my own pace moving, and partly in consideration of the fact that there are some who likely
find the Notes already too long, it's no wonder a salient point or two worth making sometimes is overlooked.
Page 291
In this case, I thought I actually had made passing reference to the “ominous intrusion” of that E flat in
the cello part. In any event, though, let's use the opportunity here to backtrack and add a couple of footnotes to the
original post:
•
•
As a stylistic hybrid, the use of classical and pop elements figures most heavily in the mix, but there
are other elements as well: For example, that E-flat in the cello is the only occurence in the entire
song of the flat 7th melodic degree and, showing up so late, lends an isolated, even surprising touch
of the blues. Similarly, the G Major chord used in the verse, aside from the cross-relation it creates
with the B flat chord that follows it, conjures a folksy Dorian modal tone a la “Parsley, etc.” with the
d minor chord that precedes it. I'd even go so far as to suggest that the manner in which the melodic
note A is pitted against the ii-of-vi chord at the start of the bridge is somewhat jazzy.
On an entirely different note, there is a deft moment near the end of the verse where the harmonic
rhythm is uniquely syncopated. This both breaks up what otherwise might have become the
monotonous flowing of the rest of the music and, to the extent that it appears in every verse as well as
the outro, it provides a subtle, non-verbal hook for the piece.
Page 292
The Cover Songs Appearing On The Help! and
Beatles VI Albums
General Points Of Interest
The End Of The Line
For us listeners, the use of cover songs by The Beatles as “filler” was wearing out its welcome by this point, but it
was also something on which they thankfully would never have to rely upon again; with the exception, of course,
of their arrangement of the “traditional” “Maggie Mae” for Let It Be, but that's another story altogether.
The three songs in the current group still do play some role in stylistically rounding out the collections of
which they are a part; it would be an overstatement to describe them as the musical equivalent of styrofoam
peanuts. “Act Naturally” both resonates with, and extends, the gesture that the group had already made in the
direction of folk rock. It also fits perfectly within the already well established pattern of handing off novelty songs
to Ringo. The two Larry Williams songs provide a double shot of plain old hard rock-and-roll the likes of which
the Beatles own originals on these albums had already grown beyond in sophistication of vocabulary and ethos.
The two Williams numbers had been a part of the pre-Beatles repertoire as early as the period of '60 - '62.
They then disappeared from it during the major concertizing heydays of '63 - '64, with “Dizzy Miss Lizzy”
resurrected for the '65 season, but “Bad Boy” reappearing only for its use on the American Beatles VI album. “Act
Naturally” appears to have been added to their set list specifically in '65.
Song By Song Walkthrough
Act Naturally
Key:
G Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro - Verse – Bridge – Verse – Break (intro) – Verse - Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
Composer: Russell/Morrison
Influential Version: Buck Owens (1963)
This Rockabilly entry goes much further down the “coontryish” path than any Beatles original had to-date but it
works in context, due in large part to Ringo's unvarnished vocal which sounds astonishingly similar in treatment
to the Buck Owens original.
The music is built on a sturdy and frugal set of chords limited to just I, IV, V, and V-of-V; the latter held back
for strategic deployment at the end of the bridge. The arrangement is characterized by a recurrent obbligato for the
low strings of the guitar (w/low E tuned down to D!) and the tapping of drumsticks.
Beyond the lead vocal, the Beatles version matches the original in many other respects including same key,
same basic arrangement right down to the tapping, and the backing vocal part for the bridges.
There are some differences, as well, the most significant of which affects the form: the music used by the
Beatles for Intro/Outro/and Break appears in the original only for the break and even there it is used in
abbreviated form. At the detailed level, the original uses a boogie-like arpeggio bass line for the bridge while the
Beatles stay with the oompah figuration used in the verse. Paul continues the backing vocal into the final verse
whereas the original omits it. And, for those more or less exclusively acquainted with the Beatles version, the
different scanning of the words by Owens sounds somehow “wrong” at first.
Page 293
Bad Boy
Key:
C Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro - Verse – Verse – Break – Verse (with complete ending)
Composer: Williams
Influential Version: Larry Williams (1959)
The common wisdom on this as a cover choice by the Beatles is that it was aimed in particular at The American
Audience, as if somehow the humor contained therein might be found incomprehensible on the other side of the
pond. Granted, the amusingly disruptive behavior described in this song as somehow traceable to an unhealthy
preoccupation with rock-and-roll is admittedly as American as almost any song by the Coasters. But I'm just a tad
skeptical that we could have possibly had some kind of monopoly on this relatively benign strain of juvenile
delinquency.
To be sure, this is compositionally a very typical song of Mr. Williams and it bears some direct
comparison with his “Slow Down”, also covered by Our Own Sweet Boys on the Long Tall Sally EP; see the
earlier Notes on “Long Tall Sally”. With “Slow Down” we found a bloated, twice-as-slow 24-bar variant on the
12-bar blues form. Here in “Bad Boy” the variation is a bit more interesting: a 20-measure form in which the
final, suddenly heavily syncopated phrase reverts to the strict 4 measures instead of being doubled up to eight.
Note, by the way, how the Break section is a strict 12-bar frame!
The Beatles version features a nice single-tracked vocal by John, equally nice lead guitar work that
mimics the original surprisingly closely by George, and the inevitable rhythmic shaking of a tambourine. The
form matches the original, but as you might expect differences abound at the detailed level.
The original (by the composer, himself, of course!) sounds as though backed by an ensemble the size of a
small stage band, dominated by the sounds of piano and saxophone. Williams sings it in the slightly lower key of
B-flat, and the vocal arrangement features the relentlessly kitschy, not to say judgmental, recitation of “he's a bad
boy!” between every single line of the lead vocal.
Dizzy Miss Lizzy
Key:
A Major
Meter: 4/4
Form: Intro - Verse – Verse – Verse (solo) – Verse – Verse – Verse (with complete ending)
Composer: Williams
Influential Version: Larry Williams (1958)
This Williams song is of the genre in which every single section is in the strict 12-bar format. Indeed, no Beatles
album to this point would be complete without at least one example of this kind. Here, the distinctive feature is
the bluesy lead guitar ostinato figure used as solo material in the intro and Break and as an obbligato in all the
verses.
John is double-tracked throughout this time and seems to be busting out all together with various “oohs” and
“ows” which are not very much in evidence on the original; perhaps he was getting mixed up between this song
and the previous one, the original of which does have the lead singer thus expostulating. The reverb that seems to
have been gratuitously added to the CD remix of this track is among the more infamous “recording anomolies” of
the Beatles annals.
It turns out that the Beatles tamper with the form of the original, adding a second instrumental break section
and a final repeat of the fever" verse.
Page 294
Though a boogie-woogie piano part figures prominently in both versions, the original again has more of a
stage band sound than the less-is-gutsier sound of the Beatles. Williams performs yet again in B-flat and he
inconsistently sustains the I chord in measure 12 of some of the frames instead of always shifting to V as the
Beatles do.
The lead vocal of the both Williams originals has a restrained and melifluous quality that will no likely come
as a surprise to those familiar with only the Beatles covers. Alas, the Beatles of the mid '60s would seem from our
politically correct vantage point to have labored under the unnecessary, even misguided presentiment that it was a
virtue for a white singer, in performing the works of a black artist, to resort to raspy shouting in order to hit the
mark. I have to call them as I see them, and this foible would seem to be as common to Paul's evocations of
Richard Penniman as it was to John's of not only Williams, but also Berry and even Robinson. This is not to say
that such Beatles covers are entirely without either merit or success, but I'd dare say that on some level they sound
a bit more parodistic and less interpretive than intended.
“Have you no natural resources of your own ?” 020892#76
Page 295
Drive My Car
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro - Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (solo) – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Recorded in mid-October '65, “Drive My Car” bears some uncanny associations with both sides of a certain
“double-A” single of our acquaintance that was coincidentally worked on in the studio during the same week. To
my ears, the rap-like declamation of the lyrics and anti-melody of “Day Tripper” (not to mention the lubricious
“driving” metaphor), and the slow triplets of “We Can Work It Out” strongly resonate here.
By the same token, “Drive My Car” also has a few unique aspects to it. The form is the flat one of the folk
ballad in which four pairs of verse and refrain are presented in a row with the only relief coming in the way of a
guitar solo for one of the verse sections. The vocal parts are exceedingly dissonant. And most unusual of all, the
particular use of harmony here makes your clear sense of the home key an extremely elusive proposition much of
the time.
In true ballad the refrain lyrics are unvarying while the words of the four verses are all different. The lyrics,
while not quite unique or ground breaking per se, are notably Lennonesque in the way they weave such a
suggestively droll tale from scraps of small talk that are pieced together so that it's not immediately obvious who
said what to whom. I especially like the tag line, “and maybe I'll love you.” WHADAYMEAN, maybe!?
Rhythmically, the verses always start after the downbeat, the refrain starts right on the downbeat, and the
“beep-beep” coda starts with a long wind up ahead of the downbeat.
Melody and Harmony
The high level of tonal ambiguity in the song is made ironic by the otherwise frugal harmonic budget. Chords
rooted on only five different root notes chords are used in the whole song: D, G, A (with also the occasional
suggestion of a minor), b, and e. Granted, many of their respective appearances are spiced up by 7/11 and
Major/minor embellishments, but strictly speaking, these kinds of bluesy/jazzy touches only serve to enliven what
remains, at root, a limited chordal repertoire.
This is one of those cases where a paper-based analysis of the situation can actually mislead you away from
what you hear and respond to when listening in real-time. The opening on a D chord and the large amount of
space given in the song to the chord progression of D -> G -> A would, on one level, seem to make it appear like
and open-and-shut case of the home key being D Major.
However, the top vocal line with its dissonantly rough-shod, insistent hammering away on the note 'G' goes a
long way toward making the repeated D -> G progression of the verse sound ambiguously as much like V->I of G
than a I->IV of D. This makes for an interesting comparison with “What You're Doing”, where the identical chord
progression contains no such ambiguity; you never stop for an instant to question the “obvious” identity of 'D' as
the home key; the result of the tune in that case clearly supporting the key of D starting right off in the first
measure.
If you want another example of just how easily a melody can change your perception of home key in the very
same chord progression, you actually need look no further than our current song. As much as I'm arguing that the
song creates a plausible optical/aural illusion that the home key at times might actually be G, I'd be the first one to
acknowledge how the melodic emphasis on D in the guitar solo suddenly for the first time in the song allows you
to possibly entertain that D->G chord progression as I-IV!
Page 296
In the terminology of high school physics (I warn you, my erstwhile music theory students used to tease me
mercilessly as the Master of Analogy) you might describe the home key of “Drive My Car” as having a perilously
high, and thereby inherently unstable, center of gravity.
Arrangement
Vocally, Paul and John opt for one of their favorite deluxe positions here: McCartney, shouting on top, and
Lennon, muffled below. In addition to the G pedal already mentioned, Paul's part is shot through with flat-7 Fnaturals, while John gets to sing lots of 4-3 appoggiaturas over the G chord. George joins along with the Two Of
Them for the beep-beeps.
The bass guitar work contains an exceptional amount of motivic working out. Paul consistently
embellishes the root notes of the chords with a 3-5-3-1 triadic figure which free-associates with the top melody of
the refrain.
The lead guitar appears in the intro, solo, and outro with an intensity that practically upstages the lead
vocal for both lyricism and dissonance. You can also pick up a whiff of the lead guitar during the last verse but I
believe what you're hearing there is the vestigial bleed through of an earlier run-through or overdub.
The percussion section weighs in with parts for tambourine and cowbell whose interplay with the regular
drum kit is more intricate than you'd ever perceive on more than a subliminal level; unless you care to zone-in on
it per se. The use of sizzling cymbal crashes to punctuate several nodal points of the song is also nicely euphoric.
The (electric) piano's triplets are simultaneously both more and less disruptive than the same gesture in
“We Can Work It Out”; less because in this song we have part of the ensemble still marking the ongoing 4/4
meter; and more, ironically for the same reason – the continuation of the 4/4 backbeat kind of rubs your nose in
the rhythmic dissonance created by those slow triplets.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
This intro has to rank as two measures-worth of the Beatles most rhythmically disorienting music ever. It starts
with an eighth note pickup before the downbeat but the melodic contour of the syncopated guitar part combined
with the offbeat entrance of the bass guitar make it virtually impossible for you to find the meter. For the record, it
looks like this, but don't ever forget that it was designed on purpose to keep you from ever groking it without
extreme effort:
guitar:
bass:
drums:
& |1
&
2
&
3
&
4
A |C
|
D
C
A
F
A
C
C
D
|
&
>
D
D
|1
||
&
>
D
2
&
3
&
4
&
C
-
C
-
D
-
|
Verse ...
D ...
Fill ------- Cymbals!
Several details drive you crazy when you try to aurally parse the above:
•
•
•
The first note of the guitar sounds like it's on the downbeat.
The bass line and guitar syncopation ties over the downbeat to the second measure.
Ironically, the bent high note of the lead guitar in the first measure, as well as the last three notes of the
second measure along with the drum fill all fall ON the beat but you've been sufficiently thrown off the trail
by that point.
Page 297
•
•
It becomes clearer if you prepare with the exercise of, without listening to the recording, drilling the correct
rhythm of the guitar part into your head, with particular attention to the second measure's "and-TWOTHREE-FOUR."
The harmonic envelope for this intro is a D Major chord. Whether it is to be understood as the I of D or the V
of G is ambiguous at this stage of the song. In any event, the use of C and F naturals in the lead guitar line are
meant to sound bluesy.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and features four highly syncopated short phrases equal in length:
D:
--------------- 3X -------------|D
|G
|a
|I
IV
ii
D
I
|
G: V
Even though the D chord has been the only harmonic event of the intro, it winds up sounding in retrospect during
this verse as much like the V of G than the I of D, largely the result of Paul's melodic emphasis on the pitch G.
Ask yourself as you listen, which of the two chords you hear as the one of the home key. The harmonic shape of
this section is closed, at least “on paper,” if you say the home key is D. The final chord, though, sounds like a
possible pivot modulation to the key of G for the start of the refrain.
The chord I've labeled as “a minor” in the 7th measure has such a prominently dissonant F natural in the vocal
part that it's hard to tell if their is actually a E natural buried somewhere in the mix. The F natural is hammeringly
sustained in the tune all the way through the following chord where is makes for a Major/minor dissonance with
the D chord.
The ongoing steady motor-rhythm of the drum part is nicely interrupted for a bit of rhythmic by-play with the
melody line in the final two measures each verse section, including the one with the guitar solo.
The guitar solo follows the phrasing model provided by the sung verses. The final two measures, with their
voice-like slides, are reminiscent of the intro, and they provide a kind of compact summary of the song's overall
profile of dissonance.
Refrain
The refrain is also eight measures and it follows the same AAAB phrasing pattern seen in the verse; note too how
both sections are left harmonically wide open:
G:
--------------- 2X -------------|b
|G
|
iii
I
|b
iii
|e
A
D:
|D
vi
ii
V
G
|A
I
IV
|
V
The target of the modulation to G setup at the end of the verse is deceptively deferred until the second measure of
the refrain. Before the key of G is ever allowed to formally establish itself, the music pivots right back to the
original home key, ending a fat V chord that nicely motivates the next verse. You tend to associate this type of
tonal mobility more with bridge sections than refrains.
Page 298
The level of melodic dissonance heard earlier is continued here, up to and including: the gratuitous 7ths on the
b and G chords, an F natural over the e chord, and (just as in the verse) the Major/minor conflict of F natural in
the melody with the F# in the D chord.
The refrains that are followed by the guitar solo and outro are trailed by the little beep-beep codetta which
contains yet another Major/minor clash, this time on the A chord. The use here of falsetto singing and
onomatopoeia words, both Beatles trademark/cliches is notable.
Outro
The outro consists of the beep-beep motif iterated five full times into the fadeout like a post-hypnotic suggestion,
embellished this time by drum fills, cymbal crashes, and lead guitar licks. The harmony of this section is entirely
D->G->A and sounds very much as though the home key were now, indeed, D Major.
Some Final Thoughts
“Drive My Car” is one of the Beatles harder-rocking bluesy numbers, ranking way up there with the perhaps more
celebrated “A Hard Day's Night” and “Ticket To Ride” for its hyper-thrust and equally sharp edge. Given the
extent to which the early-to-mid-career legendary fame of the group was founded on their success as a rock group
(yeah, yeah, yeah), it's somewhat ironically surprising in retrospect to contemplate just how relatively small a
portion of their total output consists of songs quite as red hot as this one.
“He blew his mind out in a car.”
022401#77.1
Page 299
Norwegian Wood
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
3/4 (6/8)
Verse (Instrumental Intro) - Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (Instrumental Solo) – Bridge – Verse –
Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This understated and characteristically oblique song of John's is also admirably economical in terms of both form
and content, with everything but the bridges being derived from the same hook motif. In lesser hands, the large
amount of unvaried repetition and static harmony of this piece might have resulted in a moribund, boring mess.
The Beatles leverage it all in favor of and unity and focus. It is also another one of the very few Beatles songs in a
ternary meter; this time, most lilting and very un-waltz-like.
The much commented-upon use of a sitar was surely ground breaking enough at the time per se. What I am
particularly struck by, given the novelty-numbing distance of time, is the extent to which the psychedelic buzzing
of that exotic instrument is so uncannily complemented here by the high level of percussive noise achieved by
using a hard pick on the otherwise standard 12-string guitar.
Melody and Harmony
The extent to which they must have known in their souls that they had an especially fine hook going for them in
this song is likely borne out by the way in which it is used repeatedly throughout to almost hypnotic effect. This
so-called hook would, indeed, make a for a lovely and sophisticated textbook example of one of the archetypal
melodic paradigms; i.e. the prevailing downward spiral, as distinct from the arch (do pardon the clunky analogue
used here in place of a true music staff):
|
|B
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|C#
|
|
B |
|
A
|
|G#
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|F#
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
A |
G#|
|
|
|
|E
|
|
|D
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
A |
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
C#|
|
|B
|-
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
The melodic contour of the above essentially lays out an octave descent with a mix of linear and disjunct motion.
The initially simple gesture of a downward scale that turns around its upper neighbor tone is further developed
twice-over by a pattern in which the overall downward progression is marked by a two-jumps-down/one-jump-up
kind of subfigure in which the jumps are increasingly wider. The modal use of the melodic flat 7th (D natural)
adds some additional spice.
The hook phrase stretches out leisurely over eight measures that are bound to an “harmonic envelope” on the
I chord (E). We could likely argue all night about whether or not one hears equally implicit chord changes during
this hook, but we've got better things to do all night than that, right, buddy? In any event, this drone-like element
Page 300
in the harmony combines with the sound of the Indian sitar to create a stylistic sound which, if you stop to think
about it, anticipates here in “a John song” what would soon become very much a specifically Harrisonian
trademark.
The bridge strays briefly into the parallel minor (shades of “I'll Be Back” and other earlier Beatles tunes) and
provides some welcome harmonic movement, but interestingly, the melodic gesture of those otherwise contrasting
sections still remains prevailingly downward.
Arrangement
The instrumental backing is acoustic in flavor, and, quite typically for the Beatles, is worked out to a finer level of
detail than at first meets the eye or ear. Examples of this are the staggered opening; the way in which melodicversus-rhythmic interest is traded back and forth between guitar and sitar even to the point where they double
each other in several places; a tamboura-like buzzing drone sound from the sitar that kicks in during the verse
following the first bridge; and the clinking of finger cymbals which starts in the second bridge and follows
through the final verse and the coda.
John sings the wry lead vocal fully exposed in single track with Paul taking the top part for the bridges, which
although it is actually the melodic line of that section, is ironically mixed back.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is sixteen measures long and consists of a verse-like two-fold presentation of the hook phrase; the first,
for solo acoustic guitar followed by the entrance of the sitar (which then carries the melody) and bass guitar.
Verse
All the verses follow the pattern set up in the intro with John carrying the tune, the guitar stepping back into a role
of rhythmic support, and the sitar occasionally providing a mockingbird reprise of the hook's ending as a rejoinder
(e.g. verse #1 and the first half of the final verse).
Bridge
The bridge is also sixteen measures long and though we finally feel the release of some harmonic movement, the
slowness of the harmonic rhythm helps maintain the measured mood established earlier:
|e
i
|-
|-
|-
|A
IV
|-
|-
|-
|
|e
i
|-
|-
|-
|f#
ii
|-
|B
V
|-
|
The use of the Major IV chord in context of a minor key lends an antique, modal touch that resonates with the
melodic flat 7th used in the verse hook. In context of the Beatles we're much more used to seeing the reverse trick
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of the minor iv chord in a Major key. In fact, the only other time we have seen this Major IV/minor key gambit
used in a Beatles song was way back in George's “Don't Bother Me.”
Outro
The outro provides one repeat of the hook. Two repeats would have been more consistent with the established
pattern of the rest of the song, but specifically breaking the rule at this point is what good art and composition are
all about.
Some Final Thoughts
The preliminary though fully worked-out Take 1 version of this song has been widely available on Beatlegs ever
since Ultra Rare Trax, volume 3, appeared on vinyl. It makes for a number of provoking comparisons with the
official version (mixed down from Take 4):
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Take 1 was apparently performed in the lower key of D, though in light of the recent debate in this newsgroup
regarding the speed of the Decca tapes, I'll have to grant that this observation may be an artifact of an offspeed bootleg copy. Still, I think John sounds vocally out of breath on the low notes in this outtake, hence the
motivation for transposing the song upward.
The arrangement of Take 1 is not only different per se from the official version, but is in many respects more
fussily detailed than it, perhaps too much so:
The tempo may be close in speed but the whole feel of the beat is more lumberingly deliberate, even a bit
mechanical.
The solo section in the middle contains only one iteration of the hook phrase.
John double tracks the end of every phrase in every verse.
The phrases “biding my time/drinking her wine” are reversed.
The sitar playing is rather clunky sounding but it holds all the instrumentally melodic interest, relegating the
guitar to a role of entirely rhythmic support.
The sitar provides a mockingbird rejoinder in the bridges instead of the verses, and it also throws in a corny
“that's all folks” little riff at the very end.
Finger cymbals are used throughout, with maracas and a tambourine added for the bridge.
Lewisohn seems to judge the official remake as the “heavier” of the two treatments, but I'd be happy to argue him
back the opposite way. While some of the differences in the later version (all of 1 week on the calendar!) may be
explained by their simply having the song that much better under their fingers, I dare say the more substantive
changes may be traceable to a better-judgment consideration of the aesthetic principle that “less (not to mention a
lighter, faster touch) is more.”
“I showed ya!”
031893#78
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Nowhere Man
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse (Guitar Solo) – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with
complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Nowhere Man” remains a pioneering landmark example of what, within less than a year or so of its release,
would be labeled as the “folk rock” sub-genre. Aside from the topical relevance of its lyrical theme, and in spite
of the electric arrangement and pop-ish choice of chords, an ingenuously simple tune and non- syncopated beat
help create a subtle fusion of styles.
The form of this song is unusually long with its three bridges and a double verse in between the first two of
them. In all our studies to date I don't believe we've yet seen another example with a third repeat of the bridge.
Melody and Harmony
Superficially, the melodic material of the song is straight away in the Major mode. However, one's interest in the
tune is piqued on a more subtle level by a combination of the large number of appoggiaturas, the pseudo
pentatonic nature of the bridge, and the prominent role given to the flat 6th scale degree (C natural) in the backing
vocals.
The flat 6th also bears some influence on the harmony, forcing, as it were, the appearance of one of John's
much favored minor iv chords in the context of a Major key.
A relatively small number of chords are used throughout, most of them being simple choices to boot. Aside
from the minor iv chord already mentioned, the other point of harmonic interest here is found in the unusual iii ->
IV progression; uncannily, the last time we had seen it used was in (no coincidence) a song by the same composer
called “I Feel Fine.” (And I do).
Arrangement
The instrumental texture is thick with the sound of electric guitars in a way that is rather anticipatory if not
actually influenced by The Byrds or even The Wilburys. Paul provides an almost hyperactively arpeggiated
marching bass line. And Ringo's drum work remains uncharacteristically undifferentiated throughout.
It is the vocals however which truly stand out in this arrangement, making it one of their more ambitious
though relatively uncelebrated forays into three-part singing. The a cappella opening itself is unprecedented,
(though I wonder if I'm the only one who finds that when instruments come in at the fifth measure the singers
sound retrospectively as though they had been slightly off key).
Also note how the chorale-like style of the verses is modified in the bridges to a solo-plus-two-backersdoing-“la-las” (reminiscent of “You Won't See Me”). In the current song, this switch nicely supports the change
in the lyrics at the point from speaking in the third person to a direct address of the title's typological anti-hero.
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Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
The verse is only eight measures long and is made up of three phrases, the last one of which is equal in length to
the sum of the first two:
E:
----- #1 ----|E
|B
|A
I
V
IV
------ #2 ---- -------------- #3 ------------|E
|A
|a
|E
||
I
IV
iv
I
The melody of this verse makes for an ironic contrast with the hook phrase of “Norwegian Wood” that we looked
at so closely last time. Although both tunes share the downward traversal of an octave as their common backbone,
the manner in which the octave is filled out here is both melodically and rhythmically much plainer than the other
song; even a bit simpleminded by comparison. Also worth considering is that the octave run in “Norwegian
Wood” is based on the 5th scale degree whereas in our current song it is based on the tonic 1st degree of the scale.
I would suggest that it is this certain blandness in the tune itself which allows our hook-thirsty attention to
be diverted to the little guitar riff which trails every verse section. This riff also happens to traverse a downward
octave (one based on the 5th scale degree) and its rhythmic syncopation and fanfare like arpeggiation nicely
contrasts with the tune and at the same time resonates with the bass line.
The guitar solo verse further develops the characteristics of this little riff and concludes with a surprising
gesture in which a sudden deep descent all the way down to the low, open E string is capped off by a ringing,
harmonic high E.
Because of the F# in the melody on the downbeat of measure 5, there is a part of me that might want to
parse the chord in that measure as a ii6/5 instead of IV with an added 6th. It's moot to the extent that both such
chords function synonymously as subdominants.
Bridge
The bridge is also eight measures in length and breaks down into a phrasing pattern similar to the verse, except
that the first two short phrases here are identical, and even the longer third phrase is merely an extension of the
material heard in the first two:
------------- 2X -------------tune: |B
C#
|E F#
G# B |B
chords:
|g#
|A
|g#
iii
IV
iii
IV
tune: |C# B G#
chords:
|-
B
||B
|A
B |E D# C# B
|
|
|
|
V
Appropriate bridge-like contrast is provided by a number of factors. The melodic shape of this section is arch-like
for a change, and harmonically, the start of this section away from I with a big finish on V that sets up the verse
which follows.
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The sustaining of the A chord through measure 7 provides a subtly slow syncopation to the harmonic rhythm.
To my ears, the bass line of the first bridge is played differently than the other two, creating some confusion as to
whether the chord in measures 6 - 7 is actually A or f#, but both other bridges make a clear case for A.
A comparatively large amount of dissonance between melody and chords is created in this bridge by a
tendency in the tune to dwell on melodic notes which more properly belong to the chord that either precedes or
follows the current one. This melodic effect is so pronounced that it combines with the already mentioned
syncopation in the harmonic rhythm to create the illusion of a dissonant 4-3 suspension in the backing voices at
the end of this section, whereas no such suspension actually exists!
Outro
The outro contains a Beatles-trademark triple repeat of the verse's final phrase. The guitar hook, as might be
expected, is given the absolutely last word. Paul vocally upstages the others in this coda, crying out loudly with
the melodic flat 6th placed high in his range.
Some Final Thoughts
Even if the lyrics here aren't quite the likes of Dylan (or even Barry McGuire), it's worth recalling, at the risk of
sounding like it's a case of damning with faint praise, that the mere fact of The Beatles essaying something this
outspoken at this juncture of their career was historically remarkable.
For myself, there is a slightly uncomfortable preachiness about these lyrics that one tends to associate more
with George than John. Even one of the more clever tag lines – “isn't he a bit like you and me” – which in theory
ought to have blunted some of the exhortatory tone with it's well-needed dose of self-inclusive deprecation, still
strikes me as a bit forced and awkward.
The title epithet, though, is, no question, still unabashedly worth the entire price of admission. If necessary,
you can give it to me, straight on the shoulder; or anywhere else for that matter.
“Jeremy Hillary Boob, Ph.D.”
033093#79
I wrote:
>- “Nowhere Man” remains a pioneering landmark example of what,
> within less than a year or so of its release, would be labeled
> as the "folk rock" sub-genre.
Whoops! I should've known better ...
I've already received a couple of letters in response pointing out that I've been discovered with my
chronological pants down, so to speak.
Dylan's electric-set-induced fiasco at the Newport Folk Festival, indeed, was during the summer of '65. I'm
doubly embarrassed to admit that I was one of his early fans that was rather disappointed in him at the time; oy!
Such phenomena as the cover of his “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds were to follow very shortly if they did
not actually appear in parallel with the release of “Bringing It All Back Home.”
Therefore, in truth I should alter the stance of my Note to acknowledge that while “Nowhere Man” remains an
unusual stylistic venture for the Beatles per se, by itself it did not so much define the folk rock style of its time as
much as stylize it.
Flame away, anyway!!
“Oh, by all means; I'd be quite prepared for that eventuality.”
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Think For Yourself
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major/minor
4/4
Intro – Verse - Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Refrain –Outro (Refrain + petit reprise
with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is extremely ambitious in its chord choices and progressions, as well as the rhythmic antiphonal
counterpoint between its main vocal thread and supporting bass line. At the same time, its bluesy melodic motifs
and flat, folksy formal outline make it a curious stylistic hybrid.
Melody and Harmony
Though one can make a decent argument for the song's being ultimately in the key of G Major on the basis of
predominant evidence, there is an exceeding amount of exposure given in it to the parallel minor mode of g. The
latter is manifest in the frequent use of the bluesy bi-modal I chord (G with a B natural in an inner voice and Bflat in the melody) and a number of chords that properly belong only to g minor, not G Major; e.g. – the minor v
(d minor), flat-III (B-flat), and flat-VI (E-flat).
Earlier we've seen both John and Paul play around with parallel Major/minor gambits for effect; most notably
in “Things We Said Today” and “I'll Be Back.” The game plan in both their cases, though, was to shift between
the modes as a matter of contrast. George's usage here is to rather freely blend the Major and minor modes,
creating a dissonant and unsettling (though not unpleasant) result that is neither quite really Major nor minor; an
effect which, in retrospect, is uncannily resonant with the attitude and mood of the lyrics.
Beyond mere chord choices the progressions here, as well, demand our attention, especially in the verse. In
context of a pop/rock music genre in which the average song verse begins on I (or else begins on something like
V and then moves quickly towards I), the opening progression of this song's verse is unusually indirect, and
restlessly wandering. Again, while we've seen plenty of Lennon and McCartney songs with openings away from
the I chord, George here carries the idea to a novel extreme.
The melody is has a “Day Tripper”-like rhetorical rhythm about it, and is shot through with flat 3rds, flat 7ths,
and appoggiaturas, all of which add a level of spice to the underlying harmonies. This full set of melodic
characteristics is captured within the tag line of the refrain and refracted into a myriad of variations in the
syncopated fills of the fuzz tone:
|think for
your-self
'cause|I won't be there with|you ----|G
B-flat G
B-flat G
|F D
D F
G
|B-flat G
Arrangement
The instrumental arrangement is most vividly characterized by the sound of a so-called fuzz tone bass on the right
stereo track (R) which, truth be told, does not carry the true bass part of the song, but rather selectively doubles
the more conventional electric bass part one octave above.
The subtle pattern of by-play between tambourine and maracas is modified back and forth between verse and
refrain in a way that by this point of their career was a veritable Beatles trademark if not cliche. If you take the
effort focus in on this track in your listening you'll note an exquisite effect resulting from the way in which they
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go on their merry four-in-the-bar way in blissfully independent rhythmic dissonance against the slow triplets
played out by the rest of the arrangement.
George sings the lead vocal (automatically?) double-tracked throughout with each of the tracks isolated to one
of the two respective stereo channels – check this out! In the verses he's joined by Paul and John for three-part
harmony in block chords on the even-numbered lines of the quatrain. In the refrain he gets to sing solo on only the
first line, being joined by Paul (who is mixed very far back) singing rather free counterpoint for the remainder of
the section.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
At first blush the intro seems like an almost inconsequential two measures worth of vamping on the I chord, but it
does manage to quickly introduce a number of overall characteristics of the song: the fuzz tone texture, the
indeterminate Major/minor gender of the home key (the fuzz tone includes a B-flat in its riff but the underlying
backing sounds Major), and the slow triplets:
beats:
|1
2
3
4
|1
bass: |G
G:
I
G
G
G
|G
-
G
2
3
4
-tripletG G G# |a
1
The chromatic upshifting here from G to 'a' turns out retrospectively to anticipate what is the end of the refrain
which loops always like a Moebius strip into the next verse.
Those slow triplets which more typically connote repetitive emphasis (think about the penultimate refrain in
Buddy Holly's “That'll Be The Day” – one of the UR slow triplets in all pop music) here tend to suggest a bit of
emotionally overwrought stumbling; if not quite right off the bat in the intro, then certainly so by the time they
recur in both verse and refrain.
Verse
The verse is twelve measures long but unusually built out of two parallel phrases of six measures each:
G:
|a
ii
v
|d
|a
ii
v
|d
|B-flat
flat-III
|C
IV
I
|G
|B-flat
flat-III
|C
IV
V
|G
|-
|
|a
|
ii
The establishment of the home key is delayed and roundabout. By the end of the first phrase that you finally do
have a sense of arrival in G Major but until much before then it's a little like drifting (perhaps “thrashing” is more
apropos) all over the map. The only harmonic difference in the second phrase happens in the last measure but it
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seriously erodes whatever harmonic “gratification” you may have experienced with the arrival on I this second
time around. The juicy appoggiaturas in this verse are the 6-5 (B->A) over the d minor chord in measures 2 & 8,
the 4-3 (C->B) on the G Major chord in measures 5 & 11, and the 9-8 (B->A) on the a minor chord in measure 12.
Key your ears on the inter-relationship among the bass line, the chords and the tune. A favorite detail: the
bass line's slow triplet in the second half of measure 2 comprises a downward scale fragment (E->D->C->B-flat)
that uncannily resonates with the similar downward scale fragment in the tune from measure 1. And a detail
within a detail: the bass line in that same measure launches its scale fragment with a 9-8 appoggiatura just at the
precise moment that the tune resolves its own 6-5 leaning tone, forcing the measure to continue its dissonant ways
just as the tune would seem to have finally resolved itself:
Words:
|word or two ...
|
Tune: |B
A A
|
Chord: |d minor
|
Bass:
|D
E D C
|B-flat
- triplet-
Refrain
The refrain is eight measures in length, and though it harmonically parses into two four-measure phrases, the tune
parses it into three phrases all of which are roughly parallel (compare with the bridge of “Nowhere Man” where a
similar melodic plan is more directly supported by the harmony):
|"Do ... ... and|Go ...
|Think
|Phrase #1 ---- |Phrase #2 ---- |Phrase #3 -------------------- |
|C
||G
||E-flat
|D
|G
||
IV
I
flat-VI V
I
The formal “seam” at either end of this refrain is rather smoothed over by the way in which the music flows into
and out of the section. More specifically, you'll note how the same game plan seen in the verses, of interjectory
vocal phrases traded off against syncopated bass licks (many of which contain slow triplets), is continued right
through here.
A not unreasonable amount of bridge-like contrast still does manage to assert itself, partly in the arrangement,
but even more so in the harmony. The harmonic rhythm of this section is noticeably slower here than in the verse,
the minor mode is also more strongly felt here than earlier on. While I believe the backing parts are playing G
Major chords underneath it all, the tune in this section gives unrelieved stress to B-flat. In fact I believe the G
chords in this section should be labeled as Major/minor.
The E-flat chord in measure 6 of this section is in the so-called second inversion ('aka' the 6/4 position); a rare
occurrence in context of the Beatles output. Here, it shows up as an artifact of Paul's dramatic bass line flourish in
measure 4 which starts on G, jumps up a third to B flat and then successively hops its way down a full octave
below.
Outro
The structure of this outro is an extended variation on the Beatles much favored gambit of using a three-time
repeat to signal that It's Getting Very Near The End. In this case we have two iterations of the complete refrain
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followed by a petit-reprise of the last phrase in which the harmony is modified for the sake of making a better
final cadence as well as to give to a fuzz tone riff the very last word:
|E-flat
flat-VI V
|D
IV
|C
I
|G
||
Methinks Paul makes a bass line mistake right at the start of the second full iteration of the refrain; but I'll bet he
figured if he kept going that no one would ever notice it.
Some Final Thoughts
Talk about your preachy attitude..., this song is surely the one in which Georgie really hits his stride. And it's
uncanny that on the British (and theoretically canonical) lineup of Rubber Soul it should follow on the heels of
“Nowhere Man.” I myself am somewhat divided in my feeling of whether such a sequencing actually helps or
hurts our song. Your own mileage may vary, but think about how differently you react to this song when it
follows “You Won't See Me”.
On a much more serious note, I wonder about the extent to which our song here supports the notion that
George's oft-stated inner conflict between his own identity and that of his Beatles persona is nowhere more
apparent than in his own music of this period. Indeed, for all of the unmistakable Harrisonian fingerprints one
finds imprinted all over “Think For Yourself” (the restless and pungent harmonies in particular), the influence of
Lennon and McCartney (as seen in certain cliches of the arrangement ) is equally hard to miss.
Ironically one might argue that whatever personal conflict may have been engendered by this stylistic crossblend it is ultimately a source of aesthetic strength and success. The metaphorical vision comes to mind of
George, ever the quiet one, observing from the sidelines his more prolific mates at work; biding his time, drinking
their wine, in fact, and in the meanwhile, quite subtly and unavoidably making it his own in some measure just the
same.
“You ought to stop being so scornful.” 042593#80
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The Word
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Verse - Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge (instrumental) – Verse (partial
instrumental) – Outro (Bridge) (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“The Word” quite intriguingly (if also a bit obviously) anticipates the later and more ambitious “All You Need Is
Love”, and we'll have what to say about that in the final comments. However, as impressively dressed up as it is
in virtuostically raucous production values, you can't fully disguise the extent to which it is based at root on very
simple musical material; a kind of Middle Period analog to “Little Child”.
The comparison to “Little Child” , by the way, turns out to be more apt than you'd think at first blush – no
snickering back there. If nothing else the two songs share a nod to the pure 12-bar blues form and a
correspondingly shouting R&B vocal style. Even more interesting though is the extent to which, in both songs,
one has a hard time deciding what kind of labels (chosen from the routine list of verse, bridge, or refrain) to place
upon each of the formal sections.
There are a few relatively unique formal touches here as well: a) what I've been referring to lately as the “flat
folksy” form (with its rote sequencing of sectional pairs), b) dissonant deployment of a static ostinato in the
bridge, c) holding back of the instrumental break until quite late in the song, and d) allowing that break to spill
over into the verse section which follows it.
Melody and Harmony
In this department the song bears a rather typical split personality. The verses are truly blue with their I-IV-V
chord set, 12-bar form, and the melodic stress on the flat 3rd (F natural) which creates a Major/minor conflict
against the harmony. The bridges, for purposes of contrast, shift to a more modal style in which, though the
melody stays with the bluesy emphasis on the flat 3rd and 7th scale degrees, the harmony sneaks the rock-ish flatVII chord into the lineup.
We've seen the Beatles use the flat-VII chord in several different ways in our past studies but I don't think
we've yet seen to-date the specific semantic use found in this song. Here it is used as though it were the “V of flatIII” which is only unusual to the extent that the home key here is Major. If you stop to think about it, the same
progression (C -> F) is very much at home in the parallel minor key of d!
Arrangement
For study's sake, you must listen at least once to the left and right channels of this song by themselves. No
OOPsing is needed this type to forge your own pseudo-Beatleg outtakes.
I've often heard people complain about the artificiality of the stereo effects on the Rubber Soul album but I
dare say that in this song (and least “Think For Yourself” and possibly others we'll yet come to) these effects
reflect a striving to creatively exploit the medium and are, on some MacLuhan-esque level, a part of the song's
message.
Paul's bass line is arranged in a layered way. The riff-like version of it on the right channel has only its
syncopated accents reinforced by a second simpler bass part on the left channel. History of Orchestration buffs
will recognize this kind of thing as a stock-in-trade technique of the late Romantic composers – check out the
Page 310
opening pages of Mahler's 2nd Symphony for a nifty example) – and I believe it is even in such small details of
this sort that one witnesses the guiding hand of George Martin.
John and Paul sing a raunchy (in the nice sense of the word) duet for the verses. As in “Think For Yourself”,
these verse vocals sound as though (artificially?) double tracked with each one of the two tracks isolated to a
separate stereo channel. This effect, combined with John's hoarse single-tracked bridge vocal that is isolated off to
the right channel for a change, plus the harmonium solo miked loud enough to the point of distortion, gives the
recording a surreal if not psychedelic stereo picture that you can feel in your head even without listening via
earphones.
On the performance (as opposed to the strictly recording) side of the production we find some of the nicest
drum fills this side of “She Said She Said”, possibly the first piano parts this side of the Help! album, a dissonant
use of the harmonium faintly reminiscent of “12 Bar Original” (recorded just the week before!), and a linear trend
over the course of the song for the vocals to increase in terms of falsetto and feigned hoarse screaming.
As I said, the overall material may be simple here but by this stage of their career, it seems clear that no
matter what kind of hurry they may have been in at times (in this case, racing to complete an album so that it
could be in the stores in time for the all important Xmas rush) they had an autonomically embedded commitment
to a certain pretty damned high level of craft and intensity.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
We get two measures of vamping on the Major/minor I chord, preceded by a two-beat piano pickup.
Verse
The verse is a standard 12-bar blues frame:
(X)"Say the|word ...
|D
|I
(X)Say the|word ...
||-
(X)Say the|word ...
|G
|IV
(X)Have you|heard ...
|D
|I
|
(Y)It's|so fine ...
|A
|G
V
IV
(X)It's the|word ...
|D
|I
|
|
The tune is built out of short repetitive phrases in a pattern of XX-XX-YX. The 'X' phrase runs up and back down
a little 123-321 pattern, and even the 'Y' phrase syncopatedly reiterates the same downward gesture in the form of
32-21. The same recurring lyrics in the last four measures of each verse lend the section a refrain- like quality.
The V->IV segment of the frame (mm. 9 - 10) is underscored by juicy appoggiaturas and an arpeggiated bass line.
Bridge
The bridge is a short four measures and provides a break from the 12-bar pattern:
Page 311
|D
I
|C
|F
flat-VII
flat III
(V-of-flat-III)
|G
IV
|
In addition to the implicit change of mode already discussed, the arch shape of the melody in this section,
shadowing in some respect the contour of the bass line, enhances the sense of bridgely contrast.
A four-in-the-bar ostinato pattern of D-C-A-C, underscored by a fuzztone guitar, pervades every measure of
this section. Note how the consonant versus dissonant status of each note of the ostinato changes with respect to
each chord in the series. Over the D chord, the C natural creates a freely dissonant (non-functional) 7th chord.
Over the C chord we start off with a nice 9-8 appoggiatura but are left with an implied added 6th. The F chord
provides the most consonant support with the first two ostinato notes making a 6-5 appoggiatura. In contrast, the
G chord makes for the most dissonant basis – with the first ostinato note a member of the chord but the other two
notes making for a freely dissonant 9/11 chord.
To the extent that you can talk yourself into hearing what I've called the verse as a refrain, you may find
yourself starting to perceive what I'm here calling the bridge as the actual verse.
Outro
The form of the song's back end (starting with the instrumental bridge) is deceptively simple. The harmonium
“solo” (actually a single chord sustained to the point of pleasure pain) is extended into the first two measures of
the following 12-bar verse, obscuring the formal division that occurs there. When the voices then enter in what is
actually now measure 3 of the next section it strikes you at first as though it were the first measure of a new kind
of section, neither verse nor bridge; but parse it out – it is measure 3 of the next verse!
The remaining 10 measures of this last 12-bar frame are based on material similar to that of the other verses
but the phrase lengths and pattern are a bit different, along the lines of an XXX-Y pattern in which the ubiquitous
title phrase is declaimed with the insistence of a categorical imperative:
harmonium ------------- (X)"Say|the word ...
|D
|||I
(X)Say the|word ...
|G
|IV
(X)Say the|word ...
|D
|I
(Y)Say the|word ------------------------ lo-ove
|A
|G
|D
|V
IV
I
|
|
|
The unusually rapid fadeout occurs as the ensemble moves on to a repetition of the instrumental bridge. In context
of the flat cyclical form, rave-up style, repetitious lyrics and their various associations with the likes of “12 Bar
Original” and even the much later “Dig It”, the ending here is suggestive of a jam-like session that could go on all
night (“if it weren't so hard on my suspenders,” speaking of Marx and Lennon).
The final four measure phrase diagrammed above is the one place in the song where the vocal parts can be
identified as clearly not automatically double tracked. While the right channel presents the descending chromatic
Page 312
line with which we're all familiar as the predominant part, the voices on the left channel sustain the same notes for
two measures, not unlike the earlier harmonium part.
Some Final Thoughts
Far beyond the direct parallels with “All You Need Is Love”, the lyrics of this song foreshadow to an unexpected
and astonishing degree John's eventual emergence as someone attempting through his art, with an almost
messianic zeal that inspired many while it made some others equally uncomfortable, to suggest, if not outright
instigate, a better world order.
“In the beginning I misunderstood”, we are told, but based on the assertions that now “I've got it”, and “I'm
here to show everybody the light” we are promised that if only you will do this mysteriously simple thing
(“say/spread the word”) then magically “you'll be free” and even better, “be like me.” And if you're at all in doubt,
then by all means at least do “give the word a chance.” Indeed, not just the ideas, but some of the very turns of
phrase expressed here resonate with later efforts of John's.
Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, “The Word” also contains the subliminal message that you can
learn from books (both the good and bad ones). But, of course, serious fans of The Film will immediately
recognize that this one idea is the result of Ringo, me lad's, influence.
“They can't buy you happiness, my son.”
050493#81
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Michele
Key:
Meter:
Form:
F minor/Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse - Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse (instrumental) – Bridge – Verse – Outro
(Bridge + Verse (instrumental)) (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Encouraged as he must have been by the raging success of “Yesterday”, Paul provides us in “Michelle” with yet
another tender, plaintive ballad; this one in equal part Art Song and neo-schmaltzy foxtrot. The affinities between
these two songs are both deep and numerous, as we'll see. At the same time “Michelle” surprisingly bears some
comparison with the likes of George's “Think For Yourself”. And while the notion of direct influence in this case
may be debatable, the technical parallels between the two (the shifty handling of the Major/minor modes, a jumpy
melody, and equally prowling harmonies) are ironical and instructive.
The form is on the generous side. Granted, the verses are very short, but the lengthy bridge is repeated three
full times, and its second half shows up as both the intro and first part of the outro.
Melody and Harmony
The parallels between “Michelle” and “Yesterday” start right off with the choice of home key, not to mention the
single-word title. The only other Beatles original in their official songbook up to this point in time that's in the key
of F other than these two is, “Hold Me Tight.” The only cover in this key is (surprise!), “Till There Was You.”
Does something tell you that Paul's the common denominator here?
Each verse starts off with an F Major chord but for all intents and purposes the song's center of gravity is
much closer to f minor, as can be seen from the chord choices throughout and the way in which the bridge so
unabashedly embraces the minor mode.
A larger than average number of chords are used, though some of them are more reasonably explained as
the prolongation of linear movement of a bass line or inner voice. We have seen relatively few diminished seventh
chords in our studies of the Beatles' songs to-date, though in this case, the vii(dim)-of-V is given extensive airtime
that brings an exotic influence on the melody in its wake; e.g. the melodic augmented second found in the phrase
“go together well” – F->A-flat->B-natural->A-flat-G.
The melody is shot through with flat 3rds and 7ths, but in absence of a more 12-bar-oriented harmonic
context, these nominally melodic tokens of the blues style here sound exotically modal and minor.
Arrangement
The instrumental backing is provided by a combined acoustic and electric grouping of the sort that typifies the
more-folksy/less- rocky sound of the Rubber Soul album, though on this track, they are cleverly arranged and
recorded to sound more like a pop-music studio band than anything else. In this respect, the same paradox we saw
in “Yesterday”, of an exceedingly romantic song being scored for an ensemble not usually associated with that
genre, is repeated here but on a much more subtle level.
The recurrent riff for double-tracked acoustic guitar, first heard in the intro, is a unique reminder that it is The
Beatles after all, as much as the solo part that is scored in the baritone range of the lead electric guitar
subliminally conjures a non-Beatles Uptown pop style; compare this with the piano solo of “Not A Second Time.”
Paul's lead vocal, single-tracked as demanded by the intimacy of the song's lyrical theme, is supported
virtually throughout by the harmonized cooing of George and John, a technique which blends with the backing
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track to the point of absorption by it, and which is yet another cliche trademark of the underlying pop style being
chased here. The trick of dropping out the backing voices to suddenly expose Paul, as at the beginning and end of
the bridge, is, on the other hand, pure Beatles.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The four-measure intro becomes a kind of hook for the song by virtue of its reappearance in the bridge and the
outro. The essential harmonic game plan of this little section is a simple I->V progression, but the descending
chromatic scale of the first three measures spices things up considerably. I think it's most “correct” (i.e. matches
up most closely with your own experience of it as a listener) to parse the first two and a half measures as simply
an f minor chord with the scale moving against it rather than try to assign a different roman numeral to each new
vertical combination:
melody:
inner line:|F
chords:
f:
i
|C
E
|f
||E-flat
|-
|C Bb
Ab
D
|D-flat
|b-flat
iv 6/5
V
***
***
***
***
|C
|
|C
|C
|
|
can be alternately
parsed as *** vi4/3
(D flat) by virtue of
the F in the bass
If it were not for the leisurely pace at which the scale unfolds, you'd never even think to parse it any other way;
run the exercise of playing this same progression with the scale four times as fast as it appears in the song.
Granted, the slower mode creates a very different experience, and is in fact, in context of the textbooks,
considered a special effect; I've seen both the terms prolongation and harmonic envelope applied to it.
At the very beginning of measure 3, we get a bass note of F that is at least an octave lower than anything yet
heard in the song, and I believe this simple event also helps keep your ear attuned to the idea of the f chord
sustained on some level from the beginning of the phrase to this point.
The V chord when it finally appears is in the form of a bare open fifth; an uncanny detail in common with the
opening of “Yesterday”.
Verse
The verse is only six measures but is formally doubled up only at the beginning of the song. It's really one long
phrase in terms of its melodic arch though it can be decomposed into a series of rhetorically short phrases of
uneven length; yet another similarity with “Yesterday”:
|F
I
|C
V
|b-flat
iv7
B dim |C
vii-of-V V
|E-flat
|B diminished 7
VII (added 6th) vii-of-V
|
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|
The melodic action in this verse has a much higher than average number of non-linear jumps in it, especially for
McCartney. These tend to follow the chord outlines and serve to draw one's attention to the harmonic movement
that belies the tune.
The manner in which the optimistic clean opening in the Major key so quickly turns minor ("spring time
turning to autumn", to paraphrase a different bard) becomes, through repetition, another subtle hook element of
the song. Paul had played a similar trick back in “Yesterday” with the relative minor key, but the use of the
parallel minor here is more piquant.
The progression from iv->VII threatens to follow 'round the minor key circle of fifths, but the pattern is
quickly broken with the dip down to the diminished seventh chord that eventually sets up the cadence on V. The
switch over to placing B natural in the bass line in place of D for the last two iterations of this diminished seventh
chord has a neat elegant feel to it.
Bridge
The bridge is among the more interestingly (attractively?) built ones that we've seen; ten measures in length, and
composed of two subsections – six measures of new music coupled with what we've already seen as the intro:
|f
i
|-
|C
V
|f
i
|A-flat
V-of-VI
|D-flat
|
VI
|----> Intro
The melodic and emotional climax of this song comes right at the beginning of this bridge where the protagonist's
sudden, frustrated abandonment of all bilingual pretense is matched effectively by the release of carefully saved
up high notes. The slow triplets in the tune at this point combined with the 9-8 appoggiatura on the downbeat of
the second measure make the pleasure of this climax all the more exquisite, and it is indeed a delight to observe
the way that Paul handles the latter detail a bit different in each repetition of this section -- adding a spasmodic
trill up to a high A-flat the second time around, and in the third bout betraying a bit of worn-out but insistent
hoarseness.
The first half of the bridge with its unambiguous embrace of f minor stands in contrast to the mixed-mode
bittersweetness of the verse. The second half of it provides an unusually drawn out transition back to the next
verse. Indeed, no matter how many times I have heard this song, the F Major chord at the beginning of each
successive verse, surrounded as it is on each side by the minor mode, always catches me slightly by surprise and
evokes for me a sense of the persistence of romantic optimism against all odds.
Solo Section
The otherwise routine solo verse of this song is unusually entwined with the bridges on either side of it. In the
preceding bridge, Paul finishes up with a unique melodic flip upward that is both modal and interrogatory in tone,
and he sustains out the end of this little phrase well into the second or third measure of the solo. Similarly, the
guitar solo finishes up with a relatively long rush up the scale in fast triplets that overlaps neatly with Paul's vocal
pickup to the next bridge.
Outro
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The outro begins (“and I will say the only, etc.”) with one of Paul's compositional master strokes, and I don't say
that lightly – turning the intro/bridge-second-half into a “coda” by supplying it with a different tune for a change;
one that is both more similar in style to that of the verse itself, and befitting of closure in terms of its melodic
shape. If the start of the bridge marks the song's climax, then this moment here is its crux. The song is finally
allowed to power down with a verbatim reprise of the instrumental solo section, an unlikely shade of “The Word”,
and this is repeated one more time, still, into the fadeout.
Some Final Thoughts
The Anglo-Franco lyrics are admittedly a clever touch, but the premise implied by them strikes this curmudgeon
as cute-but-contrived; very nearly at, if not over, the bounds of poetic license. Perhaps I'm being arbitrary here;
heck, I have no such problems for example with “Drive My Car.” Or perhaps I even allow my privately romantic
verbal, dare I say oral, fixations get the better of me betimes. But I ask you – how can anyone be as desperately in
love, as is described in this song, with someone with whom they cannot hold a decent conversation, no less an
email correspondence?
“Encore de champagne ?”
052093#82
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What Goes On?
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Refrain – Verse - Refrain – Verse – Refrain (solo) – Verse – Refrain – Outro (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This almost parodistic homage to the same C&W style the Beatles had earlier covered in the likes of “Act
Naturally” is a typical Ringo vehicle if ever there was one, right down to the scenario of sad-and-lonely betrayal
described in the lyrics.
The form is a folksy strict alternation of refrains and verses, the key is the ever popular choice for the Beatles
of E Major, and the tempo is fast – fast enough that 2/2 might be a more accurate designation of the meter than
the 4/4 that I have chosen.
Melody and Harmony
The basic materials are relatively simple all around. The melody essentially noodles around stepwise within a five
note range. The mode is almost purely Major, though with an occasional hint of the bluesy minor 3rd, as in the
final phrase of the refrain (on the words “in your mind”).
The harmony is essentially limited to the set of I-IV-V chords, though some interest is added by the big play
made out of the 4-3 suspension on V (found at the climax of each refrain) and the use of the minor iv in the
verses.
Arrangement
Ringo's single-tracked lead is mixed in stereo to the far left, while John and Paul's backing vocals are equally far
to the right. The backing parts for the refrain are quite idiomatically twangy for the context, though the verses
feature a subdued “oohing” that is surprisingly, for the context, reminiscent of what we just saw in “Michelle.”
The lead guitar part is recorded with an almost surreal clarity for its time, rather suggestive of today's direct to
digital sound quality. It's a shame, therefore, that the riff playing on this track is not up to the standard of the
recorded sonics.
Speaking of which, the recording of this song is well known for its unusually large number of so-called
anomalies; one of which (the rejoinder to Ringo in the second verse) smacks of horseplay, while the others sound
more like an unaccustomed and accidental exposure of Ringo's singing or humming to himself to help keep his
place during the portions of the song where he wouldn't be singing lead.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro consists of a 3-beat pickup plus four simple bars which establish, in good introductory form, the home
key and the overall instrumental style and texture for the song:
E:
|E
I
|B
V
|E
I
|-
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|
Refrain
The refrain is 20 measures long and is unusually made up of five phrases equal in length, making for a poetic
pattern of AB/AB/C:
E:
------------------------------- 2X -----------------------------|E
|||||E
||A
|||
I
IV
4-------------->3
|B
|V
|E
I
|-
|
Ironically, this five-phrase structure is one of the few non-routine features of this otherwise routine little song, yet
it's a device whose handling here is a bit too clever by half, and winds up at the root of what I consider to be a
close to fatal lack of forward drive.
The asymmetry and extra length inherent in a five-line stanza requires a special compensatory effort to
prevent it from coming off as stilted. In this case, unfortunately, the opposite seems perversely true: i.e. all five
phrases are on the short side with long breathing spaces of close to two full measures following on each of them, a
gesture that inhibits both connectivity between successive phrases as well as momentum from building over the
series of them. Furthermore, the ultra simplicity of the chord progression, further exaggerated by the slow pace of
the harmonic rhythm, only makes the first problem worse.
For me, the almost unrecoverable low point of the section is the moment in which you realize (even if
you're not a musicologist your mind does register this subconciously, I dare suggest) that, oh no!, they're actually
gonna repeat all of the first eight measures all over again instead of moving onward. The 4-3 suspension over the
V chord in the last phrase adds a well needed dose of last-minute intensification, but it's awfully belated. Try this
experiment: eliminate the repeat of those eight bars and try what's left of the refrain as a 12-bar form and see how
much better it flows.
Verse
The verse is an asymmetrical fourteen measures long, and is built out of four phrases in an A/A/B/C poetic
pattern:
- 2X -----------------------------tune:
|B B B
G#
|A G# F# E
|E
||a
I
iv
|A A
|a
iv
|B
V
A
A
|B
V
|-
|G#
F#
E
|E
I
F#
|F# F#
|-
F#
G# |A
|
|
|G#
|-
|
|
The harmonic syncopation of sustaining the a minor chord over the phrase boundary of measures 8 and 9 is
another source of the kind of drag I've cited against the refrain. Nevertheless, there are a couple of helpfully
counter-balancing factors in this section: the harmonic rhythm picks up a bit here, and the foreshortened final
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phrase (only two measures) lends a mild effect of acceleration; run the experiment in your head of allowing the 'C'
phrase to be rounded out to a more usual full four measures and not how badly it schleps.
The melody provides a modicum of added interest in this section in the form of some appoggiaturas. The F#'s
and G#'s against the a minor chord are especially pungent.
Solo Refrain Section
The underlying flaws of the vocal refrains are further exacerbated in this solo. I'd assume they were trying to be
clever by singing all the way through the first phrase of this section and then leaving the lead guitar to continue on
by himself, but for my money, this gesture backfires by throwing off the listener's sense of the section's structure.
I have trouble hearing the beginning of the solo itself as the second phrase of the refrain, as opposed to the first
phrase of a new section, in which case the slow harmonic rhythm and overall weak harmonic teliology of the
section don't help at all get me re-oriented.
Furthermore, the style and content of the guitar riffs, which sound fine when used as they are during the rest
of the song as obligato fills between sung phrase, sound here like disjointed non-sequitors rather than a solo with
a beginning, middle, and end.
Again, the 4-3 play on the V chord helps things end up on a decent footing but there's a good 8 measures or so
before then where you, as a listener, are left drifting without a clear sense of formal context.
Outro
The coda this time finds the group vamping on the I chord for an additional four measures, ending finally with
one last chord that's allowed to reverberate almost until it dies out on its own. Beatles tracks to this point in time
tend to generally exhibit a rapid fadeout of the last chord imposed during the final production mixdown. Even in
this song where the reverb is allowed to go on for a second or two longer than average you can hear where the
faders are applied if you listen.
You can hear Ringo clearly repeating the phrase “in your mind” throughout this outro, I assume, to help him
keep count of the number of measures before the end.
Some Final Thoughts
If you grew up in the States, then this selection was self-effacingly tucked away near the back end of the
“Yesterday and Today” album in between what had been the two 'A' sides of the “We Can Work It Out/Day
Tripper” single. But on the CD, as in the original British lineup, you flip over the record, so to speak, and instead
of hearing “It's Only Love” (an expectation which dies very hard for those who have their pubescent experiences
permanently downloaded like a TSR) you get this potboiler; and a bit of a letdown. It's not that “What Goes On?”
is entirely without either merit or charm; the song is not so much a bad one as much as it appears weak in context
of what its authors were capable of on a fairly regular basis by this point of their career. Lewisohn's discovery that
the song originally dates as far back as the Pre-Beatles/Quarrymen days makes some excuse for it, I suppose, but
sure doesn't make the song itself any better. What I do find difficult to completely fathom is how, for all the hurry
against a deadline which underlined the production of the album, they had the self-restraint to reject “12-Bar
Original” (ironically recorded at the same session) yet let this one through even though it is in some respects only
marginally better. Of course, I suppose if you want to be mean, you can look to the unique attribution of this song
(L&M& Starkey) and blame it all on Ringo. Hey, if the group dynamic portrayed in “A Hard Day's Night” is
anywhere close to true, I suppose that in this case the group itself might have done precisely that; i.e. blame
Ritchie.
“I recognize the psychological pattern.”060693#83
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Girl
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A-flat Major (strange, huh!?)
4/4
Verse – Refrain – Verse - Refrain – Bridge – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (instrumental) – Refrain
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This predominantly acoustic, stylized folk ballad embodies many of the trends, themes, and techniques that
characterize the overall image of Rubber Soul. It often does seem unfairly lost in the shadow cast by certain
bigger hits on the album. Yet, even though it may be neither as trenchant as “Norwegian Wood” nor as sublime as
“In My Life”, “Girl” does contain much to be admired; particularly in its intense yet oblique baring of the author's
heart it lies directly along a vector from the earlier “You've Got Hide Your Love Away”.
Considering that the Beatles didn't go in for full-fledged modulations all that much in their songs, this one is
quite notable for the way in which it keeps changing key throughout. In particular, it makes use of the technique
of alternating between a minor key and its relative Major towards ends that are both expressive and structural.
Paul would appear to have as much a soft spot as John for this gambit over the long run. Off the top of my head
we've seen it most before in “Not a Second Time” , “And I Love Her” , and “Yesterday.”
The form is of interest for its inclusion of both a refrain and a bridge, as well as its placement of the
instrumental solo so near to the very end; the latter, yet another connection with “You've Got Hide Your Love
Away”.
Melody and Harmony
The choice of chords is straightforward throughout. This allows one to more undistractedly focus in on the
systematic changes of key which, as stated, are the arena of harmonic interest in the song. The melody is similarly
uncomplicated though a nice exotic touch is to be found in the augmented seconds (as in “girl who came to stay”)
made possible by the so-called “harmonic minor” scale.
Arrangement
The strumming acoustic guitar work oom-pah bass line of the backing track are, in large part, the sources of the
overall folksy flavor of the track.
John's single track lead vocal has a quivering sincerity that is intensified by the placement of the tune so high
in his range, and the rhythmic fexibility given to his scanning of the words against the underlying meter.
Lewisohn describes it as “sultry”; I relate to it more as “extremely direct presence”.
In the refrain the backing voices provide a classically Beatles-like italicizing of title word. In the bridge they
provide a uniquely “naughty” scat singing backwash.
With the exception of two significant momentary lapses the backing rhythm is carried by a rocking or lilting
of implied fast triplets. The lapses occur in the bridge and final verse where a shift to exactingly even eighth note
motion signals a mood change; the even motion connoting a “no mincing of words” kind of rise above the more
relaxed and resigned feeling of the triplets. This use of surface rhythm as a combination leitmotif and
articulative/associative device is a mark of extreme compositional sophistication.
Layering the arrangement a bit had always been a favorite trick of theirs, but here it's carried a step more
subtle. What sounds like either a mandolin or acoustic 12-string adds a counter-melody to the lead vocal in the
second verse. This idea is further developed in the final (and completely instrumental) verse section by the
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addition of a second counter-melody (this one sounding very much like a finger picked sitar!) played in
counterpoint to the one that had already been heard the previous time around. The choice to recapitulate the no
mincing rhythm in this verse, so late in the song and the only instrumental section of it to boot, is an uncanny and
unifying stroke.
Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
The song opens completely “in medias res” (recall your High School studies of Greek tragedy!) without any intro,
fanfare, or even an instrumental cue for the start note. In the Beatles oeuvre this is relatively rare, but when it
happens it's always treat – look back, for example, at “She Loves You” , “It Won't Be Long”, “All My Loving” ,
“Can't Buy Me Love”, and “You're Going To Lose That Girl.”
The verse is eight measures long and is built out of two parallel phrases; the melodies of which are identical
but with a small different twist in the chord progressions:
|c
c minor: i
|c
i
G
V
|c
i
|f
iv
|E-flat
VI
V
G
G
V
|c
i
|f
iv
|c
i
|
|
This section is entirely in the minor mode with a i-to-i closed shape, though the first phrase does end with a rather
prophetic deceptive/fake pass at the relative Major.
Refrain
The refrain is brief and most bittersweet; just four measures built out of two short parallel phrases. Harmonically,
I have some doubt as to what is intended as the second chord of the first measure. My gut and “mind's ear” tells
me that the overall progression of this section is the R&R classic cliche of I-vi-IV-V (E-flat, c minor, A-flat, and
B-flat respectively); indeed, there's at least one book in which I've seen this stated this with apparent confidence.
What complicates life for me is Paul's downward scale-wise bass line: if D is the bass line note played against the
second chord, it strikes me as more dissonant against a c minor chord than what is heard on this recording; below
I opt for a g minor chord (in the 6/4 'second inversion', no less) with a 4-3 appoggiatura in the tune. Try it on for
size and call me in the morning if it doesn't seem to fit:
------------------------------ 2X ----------------------------chord:
|E-flat
g
|A-flat
B-flat
bass: |E-flat
D
|C
B-flat
|
E-flat: I
iii6/4
|IV6/3
V
|
f minor:IV
|
The lyrics consist of the title word plus a pitch-less phoneme that is, with great calculation, executed
indeterminately somewhere in between a hiss of frustration on the one hand, and on the other side, a sigh of
deepest regret that is co-mingled with a moan of jealous, unquenchable desire. The key change in this section to
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the supposedly more cheerful Major mode works at ironic cross-currents to those ambiguously blue-mood
phonemes.
Bridge
The bridge is structured similarly to the verse, being eight measures long and built out of two parallel phrases that
have identical melodies with a slightly varied harmonization for the second one:
|f
f minor: i
|f
i
|C
V
|f
i
|C
V
|C
V
|f
i
|A-flat
III
E-flat:
IV
|
|
The mood intensifies here in every way that you could measure it. There's a modulation to f minor. The tune shifts
over to a rantingly rhetorical hammering style; not to mention the even eighth note rhythm and the “tit-tit”
backing vocals.
The words too intensify. The attitude earlier in the song had been more on the side of sadness than anger, but
starting here and continuing into the final sung verse a streak of bitter and not entirely becoming pique and anger
exposes itself. How true to form it is, as well, for John's hurt to be revealed as critically linked on some level to
humiliation in public by the words and deeds of his beloved.
Some Final Thoughts
The most intriguing aspect of this song is how it manages to forge an ultimately coherent statement out of what on
the surface would seem to be a tangle of internally contradictory and changeable, confused sentiments. There's a
restless emotional shifting of mood and perspective as we move from one section to the next as the song unfolds;
this is reinforced on the purely musically plane by the extent to which the key and melodic style changes every
time to match.
It is as though coherence is dynamically established here as a kind of tense truce drawn for the moment
between the negative anxiety and hurt of the verses and bridge articulated explicitly by words, and the ineffable
certainty of desire of the refrains, left entirely implicit and embedded between the phonemes.
“She'll only reject me in the end...”
062493#84
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I'm Looking Through You
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A-flat Major (strange, huh !?)
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse– Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
We've got yet another fine example here of the Beatles' own unique folk/rock style; this one jazzed up a bit by a
faintest touch of the blues. Kinetic energy abounds from more than just the beat. For one thing, Paul scans the
lyrics in a manner that is inconsistently off-center from the otherwise four-square phrasing of the music; an effect
more pleasing than it would sound from my verbal description of it. But even more so, the phraseology of both
verse and bridge features a rhetoric suggestive of cumulatively established momentum. The image comes to mind
of “run & jump, now return to the starting point you so you may run & jump again, only this time much farther.”
Resonance between the latter strictly musical phenomenon and any correlative emotional or passionate experience
of yours are guaranteed to raise a smile.
The form, for a change, is the very standard model with two bridge and only one verse intervening.
Melody and Harmony
A-flat Major is an unusual key choice for the Beatles. It works out nicely in terms of the track sequencing on the
album; making a smooth inbound transition from the 3-flat key signature of “Girl”, and setting up a pace-setting
outbound shift of a half-step upward to the A (natural) Major key of “In My Life.” Nevertheless, I'd be surprised
if Paul originally conceived of the song in this key, and rather suspect that it was composed in the easier key of G
and adjusted upward, perhaps by capo, in the studio.
Paul's typically generous application of expressive melodic appoggiaturas helps liven up an otherwise
straightforward set of chord choices. Just the same, the tune remains essentially within the diatonically pure realm
of the Major mode. The only exceptions are the bluesy minor 3rds used at the climax of each verse, and the
equally bluesy minor 7ths which appear in the little riffs that trail those climaxes.
The chord progressions are also relatively simple yet the song does feature the same sophisticated tendency of
the predominant Major key to wilt downward into the relative minor that we've seen in before “Yesterday” and
elsewhere.
“4->3” suspensions appear in both the verse and bridge and this provides a source of subliminal unity within
the song. The suspension in the bridge is quite dramatic, coinciding with the big build up at the end of the section
(“... disappearing over night”). The verse suspensions are tucked away more quietly and unfold more quickly at
the end of each of the first two phrases.
Arrangement
Paul's lead vocal is double tracked the whole way through except for the outro, where the switch over to single
tracking adds a surprising last minute sense of increased intimacy and immediacy. John joins in for a relatively
limited spot of backing on third phrase of each verse.
The instrumental texture is dominated by the sound of acoustic guitar and electric bass. In place of the usual
drum kit, percussion sounds in this song are limited to thigh slaps (or are they all hand claps?) and a tambourine.
As is so typical of the Beatles, the tambourine part is more carefully planned out in a pattern than you might ever
notice unless you pay careful attention to it as a listener; i.e. it is shaken on the offbeats of the trailing ends of the
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verses, and during the bridges and outro. It is never played during the four sung phrases of the verses except for
one stray shake in the midst of the third verse; surely that must be a mistake.
Lewisohn et al acknowledge perplexity over Ringo's being credited on the album jacket with playing organ on
this track as though there were no such evidence of it to be heard. Nonsense -- the bluesy riffs which trail each
verse are clearly punctuated (one-two) by chords played on an organ in the first two beats of the measure.
The electric lead guitar in this song seems to play the role of a shy lurker, commenting on the main action in a
rather tentative, interjectory way; it doesn't even play a single note until the midst of the second verse! I am
intrigued by the question of whether those fills at the end of each verse involve the guitar at all or whether the
licks as well as the punctuating chords are provided on the organ by Ringo.
There is a “recording anomaly” I've not yet seen on anyone else’s list in the double tracking of the first
bridge, at the phrase “love has a nasty etc.” – a nasty splice is what it sounds like to me.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The instrumental intro features a staggered entrance of the players:
|A-flat
A-flat:
I6/4
------ 3X ------|E-flat
|A-flat D-flat
V
I
IV
|
The opening I-V chord progression has the I chord in the so-called second, or '6/4' inversion. This particular
usage, the textbooks teach us, cause the listener to parse the first chord not so much as a "I" chord per se, but more
so as dual-appoggiatura embellishment of the V chord to which it is adjoined. In slightly plainer terms, this means
you tend to hear this opening less as a full-fledged I-to-V root progression, and more so as a V chord with
simultaneous 6->5 and 4->3 suspensions placed upon it.
Given the combination of the latter effect with the relatively widespread airplay given to 4->3
suspensions within the rest of the song I wonder if, indeed, the infamous “false start” on the American edition of
the Rubber Soul album was really a mistake or something done intentionally, in order to, right at the outset, call
attention to itself.
Verse
This verse provides a rare analytical conundrum; indeed, where is the downbeat of each phrase located ? There
are at least two ways of parsing it, either one of which has pros and cons. I've opted, after much vacillation on the
matter, to present it below as though the downbeat is just before the first word of each line:
(rest)I'm Looking|through etc. ...
------------------------------ 2X -----------------------------|A-flat
D-flat
|b-flat
|f
|E-flat
A-flat: I IV
ii7
vi
V4 ----> 3
|f
vi
|b-flat
ii6---->5
I
|A-flat D-flat
IV
V
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|E-flat
|
|
|A-flat
I
IV
D-flat
ii7
|b-flat
|D-flat
IV (w/flat 7!!) I
IV
|A-flat
D-flat |
----- 2X ------|A-flat D-flat |
I
IV
The above analytical perspective clearly outlines the poetical/metric structure of the section as AABA+ a vamping
connector in the manner of the intro, and it places the starting point of each phrase on expectable harmonic
footings. One side effect of this view (if you really do hear it this way!) is the kind of meta-syncopation implied
toward the second measure of each phrase, the nature of which is awkward albeit interesting. Another is the
equally interesting/awkward elision of the the last sung phrase with the connector.
Alternatively, you can parse what I've called the first measure of each phrase as a pickup, shifting the
beginning of each phrase one measure forward from how it is parsed above. This view eliminates the metasyncopation problem of the first view but it throws the starting points of all phrases on unusual chord choices and
makes the elision of the last sung phrase feel even more awkward.
The harmonic rhythm here is unusually flexible compared to what we've seen of the Beatles in this
department over the long run. In addition, the deceptive cadence toward vi (the relative minor!) at the start of the
third phrase is treat and a fine example of monotony-avoidance.
Every time the progression of I-IV-ii appears, Paul provides the same bass lick which makes nice
downward counterpoint to the melodic rise which it accompanies. Once you know it's there it provides both a
subliminal hook to the song as well as something to look forward to; analogous to some habitual move your lover
makes, of which, you somehow (somehow never grow tired):
words:
tune:
bassline:
(rest)
|A-flat
|A-flat
I
C
I'm looking |through
you
|
D-flat
F
|A-flat
F |
D-flat
C
|B-flat
|
D-flat
|b-flat
IV
ii
|
The 'A' phrase of the tune has a pleasing arch shape which would chafe eventually were it not for the master
stroke with which it finally breaks through the glass ceiling in the final phrase; break on through to the other side,
so to speak.
Bridge
The bridge in this case provides typical contrast, if for no other reason, by virtue of its straightforward
phraseology of 4+4, AA':
|D-flat
IV
|-
|D-flat
IV
|-
|A-flat
|-
|E-flat
V4 -------------3
|-
I
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|
Other sources of contrast include the off-center harmonic emphasis on IV, the slower steadier harmonic rhythm,
and the Really Big Climax on V.
Outro
The outro is built atop the same I-IV vamping heard in both the intro and trailing connector of the verse. Here it
repeats forever into the sunset with Macca now single tracked and getting a tad silly with the words.
Some Final Thoughts
To our great fortune Take 1 of “I'm Looking Through You” is widely available on bootleg. We've got reason to
expect it to appear some day in official release should the ill-fated Sessions album ever see the legitimate light of
day, though even then, the unblended, unedited, and un-faded version of this outtake which appeared on the likes
of Ultra Rare Trax will forever remain the one to seek out.
As we saw with the Take 1 outtake of “Norgweigan Wood”, this early version is instructive to the extent to
which it both resembles and differs from the so-called Official Release. You can tell right off that this is no rough
or tentative demo rehearsal from the fussy care with which the arrangement is worked out, not to mention the
precious phoneme-level sound bites captured on the start/stop rough edge of the source tape of Paul giving last
minute directives to his mates. Amazingly, for all its differences, the first take is amazingly similar to the official
version in its vocal arrangement. But what of those other differences?
Superficially speaking, the tempo is slower, and the folksy feeling is made even stronger by virtue of not only
more hand claps and thigh slaps, but also (of all things) the inclusion of maracas!
More substantively speaking, the first version features something which, in comparison with the most
effective bridge of the official version, falls a bit flat on its face: a 12-bar frame for the interjectory lead guitar
which otherwise does not appear anywhere else in the first take, coupled to a reprise of the last half of the verse.
I'll close with the following two observations which fall along the spectrum somewhere in between the truly
minute and the big-picture variations: a) The first take does not feature the descending bass riff in the verses; but
b) it is, by the way, in the key of G!
“You wear L'air Du Temps ...*”
072593#85
* a pint at Christophers to whomever figures out the connection to Our Song of this very vague filmic reference ! :-)
Page 327
In My Life
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Bridge – half intro – Verse – Bridge – Verse (instrumental) – Bridge – Outro (with
complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
In spite of the Baroque keyboard solo of the original, or the schmaltzy- cum-folksy arrangement cooked up by
Joshua Rifkin for Judy Collins' cover if it, the style of this song remains tantalizingly indeterminate. The form
contains a folk ballad-like rote alternation of sections, though the use of a bridge rather than a refrain, coupled
with the inconsistent deployment of the motif heard in the intro as a 'spacer' between sections, blurs most of
whatever specifically folk-style associations you might otherwise derive from the it (the form) per se.
Above all, the song creates a delicate and delicious balance between heart baring intimacy of the first order
and a vaguely subordinate and reticent unease. The closest I can pinpoint the latter is to something not quite
straightforward about some of the chord progressions and the way in which the tune runs roughshod over them. In
the final result, this unease is something that, as a long term listener, I feel more strongly than I can discern with
any precision. But if I am at all on the right track, it is as though whatever confidence is shared within the
confines of this song is done so at no small cause of pain, as though it were happening compulsively on some
level, in spite of the author's will.
Melody and Harmony
The rising interval of a sixth provides a melodically hopeful and pervasive subtext to the song, appearing as it
does in all sections: e.g. the very start of the intro, and the very end of both the verse and the bridge.
The tune remains almost rigidly pentatonic until the bridge where the 4th scale degree (D) is introduced for
the first time in the tune on the word “lovers”. The 7th scale degree (G#) appears nowhere in the song,
melodically, other than as the last note of the introductory guitar riff.
The melody incurs an unusually large amount of free dissonance against the chords of the accompaniment
from its large number of appoggiaturas, “escapes”, and gratuitous 7ths and 9ths. The pervasiveness of this
melodic style lends a puzzling attitudinal touch of I'm-so-tired laziness or enervation, at least, that runs at crosscurrents to the otherwise earnest theme of the song.
The choice of chords for the song is relatively simple though the verse features John's much favored minor iv
chord motivated by the chromatic descent of an implied inner voice. The bridge features some increased
complication in the choice of chords and their progression.
Outside of the so-called “spacer” motif, the harmony of this song strongly avoids the type of clear key
definition and closure one associates with straightforward V->I cadences. Note how the V chord doesn't even
show up in the bridge, and its one appearance in the verse is followed "deceptively" (that's a technical term, son)
by vi. I pick up on this as yet another source of curious indirectness and reticence.
Arrangement
The stereo image places the basic backing texture of electric guitar, electric bass, and percussion off toward the
left, with the voices and, later, the piano off to the right.
John sings the lead double tracked with Paul providing a Beatles-trademarked duet of free counterpoint on the
odd numbered phrases, with John left by himself for the even numbered ones. As much as I always prefer John in
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single track mode (and feel that this song, above many others, would particularly lend itself to such an immediate
delivery), the transition between the duet and a single tracked solo would likely have been too stark.
As is not at all unusual in other arrangements of theirs from this period, it is the percussion section which
helps articulate the form. For the intro and verses, the drumming features an understated syncopated pattern that is
punctuated by quickly damped cymbals. For the bridges, the beat shifts to something close to four in the bar, and
the dry damped sound of the verses is traded in for the bright ringing sounds of a tambourine and drum sticks
tapping lightly on cymbals' edge.
George Martin's much celebrated solo on electric piano was played for the recording an octave lower, and half
as slow as it sounds on the finished track. I would bet that the motivation for this was as much to distort the
attack/decay timbre of the instrument to make it sound more like a harpsichord as it was to help project a
sensation of almost un-natural speed in the performance; the solo turns out to be not that difficult to perform in
tempo – even the running scale at the end.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The four-measure intro establishes the home key while introducing the melodic upward sixth and setting a
measured pace by virtue of its slow harmonic rhythm:
A:
--------------- 2X -------------|A
|E
|
I
V
The two-measure motif from which this intro is built recurs throughout the song as a unifying device; repeated
here in the intro, a single reprise just before the second verse, and in extended repetition for the outro. The “AA”
inner form of intro itself presages the parallel kind of structure that is to be found in both the verses and bridges
which follow below.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and is structured as an 'AA' couplet based on the following four-measure phrase:
A:
------------------------------ 2X ----------------------------|A
E
|f#
A7
|D
d
|A
|
I
V
vi
V-of-IV
IV
iv
I
Melodic dissonance abounds: in the first measure there's the B->A/ 9->8 appoggiatura on the downbeat (on the
word “pla-ces”) and the escape from the neighbor tone C# (on the first syllable of “remember”); measure 2 starts
with a "free" seventh on its downbeat (on the second syllable of “remember”); and measure 3 starts off with a B>A/6->5 embellished appoggiatura (on the drawn out word “life”).
There is an unusual syncopated boomy noise in the second half of the measure 2, right after the A7 chord is
reached. I imagine that it's either the result of a collision between an A played by the bass with a G-natural played
just below the A on a low string of the rhythm guitar; or else it may be one of those strange double stops of Paul's.
Bridge
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The bridge is also eight measures long and is structured as a pseudo AA' couplet:
|f#
vi
|D
|G
IV
flat-VII
(or V-of-flat VII)
|A
I
|f#
vi
|B
V-of-V
|A
|d
iv
|
|
I
The melody of the two phrases may almost be the same, save for the exceedingly subtle change in the the
rhythmic execution of the upward “flip of a sixth” at the end, but the harmony of the second phrase is very
different. Granted, both phrases make a similar harmonic gesture, starting away from the home key yet
converging back toward it via different routes that are comparably indirect. Rather it is in the specific chord
choices and progressions that each phrase asserts something unique. In the first phrase the appearance of flat-VII
comes as an especial surprise against the backdrop of the pentatonic verse. The second phrase provides a triple
whammy: the thwarting of V-of-V when it is not followed by V (a favorite Beatles device of long standing), the
F#/F-natural cross-relation created by the minor iv chord, and the straight-faced irony that the tune is essentially
the same between the two phrases.
Still more melodic dissonance abounds. In particular, we have the C#->B appoggiatura on the downbeat of
measures 2 and 5. In the former case (on the word “moments”) this creates a 7->6 double dissonance (!!), and in
the late (on the word “living”) we have more of a garden variety 9->8 resolution.
Outro
The outro is creatively structured as one iteration of the intro/spacer phrase + a last petit reprise of the last phrase
of the bridge + one last iteration of the spacer, this time modified to provide the complete ending. The extended
nature of this outro, especially in its poignant use of the minor iv chord is strangely anticipatory in a subdued way
of the likes of the much later “Happiness Is A Warm Etc.”
Some Final Thoughts
I have it on good authority that I'm not alone in my personal experience of, having heard it for the first time as an
romantically earnest if yet adenoidally awkward teen, walking around for many years thereafter “searching”
(cross-referance to “Anna”) for the significant other to whom I could in all sincerity and good conscience dedicate
this song. And by “dedicate” I don't necessarily mean having Scott Muni or Bruce Morrow blab it all over the AM
air waves; a discreet email will do just nicely, thank you.
What is it, I wonder, that makes such a song so ultra special if not sacred to the collective consciousness?
People often talk about the elliptical nature of John's text as they mine for potentially relevant autobiographical
underpinnings. But, again, I wonder if there isn't something just a bit circular or at least reflexive about this
mining for meaning.
Is it possible that the vague references and ellipses of this song, beyond their being pregnant per se with
whatever embedded or hidden meaning, also serve equally to invite and encourage the listener to respond
personally, and autobiographically, indeed?
“You'll have to love her. She's your symbol.”
082293#86
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Wait
Key:
Meter:
Form:
f# minor
4/4
Verse/Refrain (two times) – Bridge – Verse/Refrain – Bridge – Verse/Refrain – Verse (with complete
ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
There's a higher than average level of formalistic interest in this song: it opens right in the midst of the action with
an off-the-beat vocal pickup; there's no intro, not even an instrumental downbeat to give the singer his cue. For
that matter, there's no formal outro here either; the song kind of just rhetorically grinds to a halt. Furthermore, the
main expository component of this song is curiously half-verse/half-refrain in style. It's almost tempting to parse
the section as two discrete sections in their own right but that would lead to a rather over-busy reading of the form
which I don't believe is supported by your experience of listening to it.
What's particularly fascinating is that not only have we seen both of the above formal features in other earlier
songs of the Beatles, but in a couple of cases we've seen both features within the same song; to wit – “I Want To
Hold Your Hand”, “It Won't Be Long” and “You're Going To Lose That Girl.” And if the strong John Connection
doesn't yet strike you, consider the following punch list of songs which feature the verse/refrain concept, albeit
without a midst-of-action opening – “Please Please Me”, “From Me To You”, and “Ticket To Ride.” Granted, you
can likely find me similar examples which are not all exclusively by John; Paul's “All My Loving” comes
immediately to mind, for example. Nevertheless I believe the correlation I've cited bears some weight.
The music itself is highly syncopated to the max, the effect of which is emphasized by the non-four-square
phrasing of the verse section and the almost constantly offbeat harmonic rhythm.
At the other extreme, the particular choice of form lays out the lyrics in an almost slavishly symmetrical
mosaic pattern of ABCACBA.
Melody and Harmony
The tune, in all sections of this song, is peppered through with fanfare-like triadic outlines and other long jumps.
The harmonic gameplan features the same kind of minor/relative Major key alternation that we saw, most
recently, in “Girl.” Although the lyrics of this song superficially make for an almost mirror image of the story told
in “It Won't Be Long” the rapid key vacillations of “Wait”, taken in combination with a chance comment (“if your
heart breaks ... turn me away”) hint here of a last-minute twinge of self-protective anxiety that is totally absent
from the earlier song.
Arrangement
Although there is something somehow 'unfinished' about the strangely thin instrumental texture of this song, they
appear to have still sweated the patterned deployment of percussion sounds with their usual fastidiousness. Look,
for example, at the first three phrases of the verse: phrase #1 features a syncopated tambourine, phrase #2 adds a
pair of maracas in even 8th notes, and phrase #3 (introduced by a nice drum roll) finally brings in the full drum kit
and the tambourine switching now to even 8th notes in sympathy, as it were, with the maracas.
John performs the lead verse vocal single tracked, though Paul harmonizes with him in not-quite parallel
thirds for most of the section except for the pickups to the first couple phrases. Paul then gets to do the bridge in
double-tracked solo.
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Section By Section Walk Through
Verse/Refrain
This compound section is an unusual fourteen measures long and breaks up into a six-measure “Verse” (parsed
3+3) and an eight measure “Refrain” (parsed 4+4):
pulse
|1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & |
composite rhythm|>
> >
> >
|>
> >
> >
|>
> >
> >
--------------------- 2X ------------------------tambourine |
>
> >
|
>
> >
|
>
> >
|
inner-voice |E
D#
|D-nat.C#
|
|
chords
|f#7
B6/4
|b6/4 f#
|C#
f#
f#:
|i
V
I
----- 3X -----|A
D
|A
A: I
C#
|f#
f#:III
V
I
IV
|
|
|
i
The schematic diagram of the chords and phrasing that I usually provide is embellished, above, to call your
attention to two details of the arrangement:
•
•
The opening phrase features a typically JL-like descending line cliche which in theoretical terms argues
against putting 'roman numerals' on the 2nd and 3rd chords. To the extent that the note f# is a sustained pedal
tone throughout the entire progression of the first four chords, one tends to hear the harmonic action of this
phrase as a stretched out move from i to V.
The same phrase also features a composite rhythm that is syncopated in a cutsey yet seductive, belly-dancer
sort of way; yet another John Lennon trademark of sorts, to the extent that the one used here is so reminiscent
of a similar touch in the likes of “All I've Got To Do” and “Ticket to Ride.”
The verse is firmly within the key of f# minor. The refrain starts off with an equally firm, even abrupt, modulation
to the relative Major key of A before neatly pivoting back to the home key of f#.
Bridge
The bridge is formally simpler than the verse/refrain section, and is built out of two rather parallel phrases that
differ from each other in terms of instrumentation (note the increased prominence of the guitar strumming in the
second phrase) and the chord choice of the last measure:
A:
|b
ii
|E
V
|A
I
|f#
vi
|b
ii
|E
V
|A
I
|C#4 ->3
f#
III
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|
V
|
The harmonic strategy of this bridge, starting with an ambiguous sense of home key and converging back to f# by
way of a climax on its V chord, stands in contrast to the more expository verse and refrain.
And speaking of tonal ambiguity, do you hear the opening of the section as a modulation to the key of A
(in which case the b minor chord sounds like ii and the f# minor chord sounds like vi)? Or, do you hear the entire
section as being in the key of f# (in which case the E Major chord sounds like the V of III)? The question itself is
actually more interesting than either answer to it.
Outro
The song closes up with a final repeat of the verse which, in its last phrase, suddenly downshifts into dramatic,
emphatic slow motion.
At the last moment all the percussion instruments used earlier are brought out (along with the jewelry), as it
were, for a bow and a rattle, with the absolutely last word going to an arpeggio in the tone pedal guitar; this one,
in the downward direction for a change.
Some Final Thoughts
“Wait” has the dubious distinction of having been the song that was left over from the Help! album, later to be
dredged up in a panic to fill out Rubber Soul when the looming pre-Xmas deadline threatened to catch the Beatles
with a shortfall of new material. But do you really think it sticks out in context as something picked up off the
cutting room floor? Or do we eventually fall victim to the so-called common or collective wisdom about such
things?
While this song is far from being in the top tier of Rubber Soul, I dare say that it's an exaggeration to say that
it sounds grossly out of place there, either. And if you accept this observation for what it's worth, then it's only a
small increment of will before you start to question the notion, become so deeply rooted over the years, that Help!
and Rubber Soul exist somehow on opposite sides of some great musical divide. It's really closer to something
like distinct yet neighboring distinct upon a continuum.
“It's been a long time.”
101893#87
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If I Needed Someone
Key:
Meter:
Form:
A Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (instrumental) – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with
complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“If I Needed Someone” is not anywhere nearly as ambitious or original as the likes of “Don't Bother Me” and
“Think For Yourself”. And yet, just beneath the surface production values that otherwise allow the song to fit in
so compatibly among the L&M originals which surround it (the title of a certain ancient Beatleg, Homogenized
Beatles comes to mind), are to be found all the telltale touches which mark the song as one by George; in
particular, the modal harmony, the cramped stepwise tune, and the wistful appoggiaturas.
The form adds an unusual twist to the classic two-bridge model, with three consecutive verses separating the
bridges, the middle one of which is a kind of instrumental break.
Melody and Harmony
In our previous looks at other Harrisongs I've often noted George's pronounced taste for wandering chord
progressions that are less goal orientated than the average. The harmony of this one is actually quite a bit more
teliological than usual for George, but we do find here, in the verse, an early example of “sustained pedal”
harmony; a device which, before much longer, would become George's predominant style trait as he entered what
you might call his unabashedly Indian Period.
And yet, as obvious it may seem for us to associate this device of pedal harmony with the static, nonharmonic drone-based basis of Indian classical music, I also wonder if there is not a heretofore overlooked and
much more direct connection between the device and the early-to-mid musical style of the Beatles! In particular,
I'm thinking of the number of songs by John which conspicuously start off with at least 4 bars or more of the I
chord; off the top of the head, try “Ticket To Ride” and “Day Tripper”, but above all don't forget “Tomorrow
Never Knows” and “Rain”.
Overall, I'd describe the home key as flavor of A Major that is modally inflected by the heavy use in the
verses of the flat-VII chord superimposed over that pedal harmony of the I chord. The bridge provides a very clear
and decided modulation to the unusual key choice of ii (i.e. b minor).
The melody of the verse is in straight Mixolydian mode; that's the scale with the Major 3rd and the flat 7th -think of it as the white note scale starting on G. By way of contrast, the bridge tune is in an equally
straightforward minor mode.
Though somewhat disguised by the three part harmony of the verses, the melody of this song, throughout,
lives within an extremely constricted range, with mostly stepwise motion, and a great deal of circular repetition;
you may find it interesting to compare with “You Like Me Too Much.”
Pitchwise, the verse tune is centered around A, and uses only four more notes – G, B, C#, and D. The bridge
tune rounds this out by adding F# and A# (of all things) to the mix. Also, the G# that you'd normally expect to
find in the key of A Major makes its first appearance in the harmony of the bridge.
Arrangement
The hypnotically fuzzy solo guitar sound used at the very beginning of the song rather pervades the entirety of it;
sometimes doubling the main vocal line, and also reiterating the opening hook in between the buttons.
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George starts off the first verse with a double tracked vocal solo, but Paul and John quickly join him on the
title/hook-phrase in a bit of three-part block-move triadic harmony uncannily reminiscent of “Think For
Yourself”, right down to the subtle detail of your being able to hear John somehow raspily loudest of all. George's
double- tracked solo part returns for the bridges, but all the rest of the verses, other than that first one, are sung
entirely in 3-parts. There's a really nice detail that I was originally going to map out but decided to leave it as an
exercise for the listener -- note how the phrases of 3-part harmony start off in parallel 5/3 chords, but then shift at
the melodic apex to the 6/3 inversion.
Finicky changes in the percussion part are yet again used to help punctuate formal contrast. The tambourine is
struck on beats 2 and 4 of each measure of the verses, but in the bridges it is shaken in fast-moving even eighth
notes.
In the last phrase of almost every verse section (including the instrumental) Ringo provides an eighth-note
figure on the bass drum that leads into a cymbal crash coinciding with the word “Someone.” Do you suppose his
leaving this out during the final verse was out of a desire to avoid what I call foolish consistency, or the result of
his being asleep at the switch ?
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The song opens with an archetypically Beatlesque layered design, the likes of which makes the fact that this one
was recorded on the same day as “Day Tripper” seem like more than a coincidence; for that matter, both songs
make uncommonly heavy use of an ostinato figure, as well.
Entrances are leisurely staggered over the course of the intro and first two verses, starting with just solo
guitar, followed by the rest of the instruments, then George, and finally, the backing vocals; the latter, singing
only on the hook phrase at first, and then later, for the entire verse.
The four-measure intro is built out of two repetitions of a two-bar solo guitar ostinato lick that cleverly
anticipates the tune which is about to follow without necessarily giving it away, so to speak. Think, for example,
about the similarities between the two of pitch content and range, the gentle but unceasing offbeat syncopation,
and the implied superimposition of the G chord over the home key chord A.
Verse
The verse is a typical eight measures long, though it parses into an extremely atypical three-phrase pattern, of
2+3+3:
|phrase#1-------|phrase#2---------------|phrase#3---------------|
A:
|A
I
|-
|-
|-
|A/G ||A
||
flat-VII susp. I
b:
flat VII
There is virtually no harmonic motion in this section; the sense of home key arising more out of the insistence of
the drone-like bass note than from chord 'progression' per se.
The section that I've labeled as an instrumental break might be more properly called a “verse without words”,
given that its texture is built out of wall-to-wall 3-part vocal harmonies and a guitar solo variation on the opening
ostinato figure that is almost buried in the mix.
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Bridge
The bridge is also eight measures in length but is built more simply out of two even phrases:
|e
b:
|F#
iv
|V
|b
|e
i
|F#
iv
|b
|E
V
i
A:ii V
|
The harmony of this section features an almost textbook-perfect pivot modulation to the key of b minor. In
particular, on the way back to the home key at the end of the section, you get a clear opportunity to observe how
the mind reinterprets the b minor chord in measure 7 retrospectively as the ii of of A once you've heard the E
Major chord that follows it.
The home key of A Major is established by traditional V->I means rather belatedly as this section moves into
the following verse. In fact, this is the only place in the song where the E Major chord, with its concommitant use
of G# (as opposed to the G natural of the flat-VII chord), appears.
I'll leave most of the appoggiaturas in this song for you to find for yourself, save the piquant 9->8 job in
measures 4 of this section (on the phrase “been like this”) because it is so quintessentially George-like.
Outro
The outro is a partial reprise of the instrumental middle break, in this instance truncated to just two measures
worth of vamping on the I chord, modified to incoroporate the exact original ostinato figure instead of a copycat
variation of it, and followed by that memorable final chord with the guitars playing plain open fifths instead of the
complete triad.
Some Final Thoughts
But what's 'e trying to say ? It seems to me that the lyric is saturated by a conditional plan- and promise-making to
an extreme that seriously belies the protagonist's claim of being too much in love" right (yes) now, thank you.
Of course, whether such a mixed message be art or artifice, who can really tell for sure?
“I don't really know, but it sounded distinguished, like, didn't it?”
111093#88
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Run For Your Life
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain – Verse/Refrain – Break (instrumental) – Verse/Refrain – Verse/Refrain – Outro
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
Everybody, including John himself, has apologized or made excuses for this song somewhere along the line.
You'd think that this one must be one of the more obvious last-minute fillers hastily thrown together before the
Rubber Soul drop-deadline. When you go to check Lewisohn's recording diary, though, you're surprised to find
out that it was one of the first tracks recorded for the new album! Furthermore, we now live in a time where we've
been sensitized and dismayed by a rising tide of ubiquitous domestic violence to the point where the words of this
song seem in plain bad taste. Personally, I can vouch that even way back at the time of its initial release, people
thought that the Jealous-Guy-Posturing heard here was at least a tad over-stated, especially for supposedly good
clean fun.
It's a shame since musically at least, even if it's not top-draw Beatles music circa late '65, it's not really such a
bad song, per se. The style is that hard-to-categorize mix of blues (dig that lead guitar riff), pop-rock (the old
cliche I-vi chord progression), and even a touch of the folksy (if you'll note the use of the acoustic rhythm guitar)
so characteristic of the middle-period Boys.
The form is distinguished by a primary section that combines elements of both Verse and Refrain (compare
this with “Wait” ), a 12-bar blues frame for the instrumental break, and an overall repeat pattern that doesn't quite
match any of our more typical one or two bridge models.
Melody and Harmony
The I-vi cliche (and here, I'm talking about just I-vi, and not the case where it continues to IV-V) was a veritable
staple of the early Beatles vocabulary, especially John's, whether in “From Me To You”, “All I've Got To Do”, “It
Won't Be Long”, and “Not A Second Time.” With the exception of this song and the somewhat older “It's Only
Love” the device would seem to more or less disappear during the middle period.
In this specific instance, the I-vi gesture adds more than local color to the chord progressions; in fact, the song
has a rather skewed harmonic center of gravity, to the extent that in spite of a clear home key of D Major, all the
verse sections veer straight off toward a cadence in the relative minor key of b. Even the tune, taken without any
of the chords to provide you with any external hints, suggests the key of b much more so than 'D'.
The lead guitar sets a bluesy tone right off the bat that is picked up only partially by the vocalists. The
opening guitar riff makes prominent use of both flat 3rd and 7th degrees, whereas the tune makes passing use of
the flat 3rd, and otherwise eschews the flat 7th in favor the of the “naturally occurring” Major one.
Arrangement
The final mix has an almost Wilburys-like richness that is ironic considering the relatively spare forces at play;
three guitars (one each: acoustic, electric, and bass), lightly exercised drum kit, and tambourine.
The vocal parts are fussily both arranged and recorded. John sings the verse sections single tracked and close
to trembling, exposed as he is at the high end of his comfort zone, all the way up to F# and G; compare this with
“Baby's In Black.” In the refrains, John sounds double tracked with each of his vocals split to a different channel,
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and he his joined by George and Paul for a spot of harmonizing. Note how they sort of trail off at the end of each
section (right after the hard “D” in “end-AHH”) leaving John exposed (well almost) yet again.
Paired repetitions of the opening guitar riff recur throughout the song (with the exception of immediately
before and after the break) as a kind of connective tissue between sections. Most recently, we had seen this same
device in a song of a rather different color, “In My Life”.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The song provides, still, yet another layered opening. The vamping acoustic guitar leads off, joined next by the
lead guitar, bass guitar, and tambourine, followed by the lead vocal and drum kit at the start of the first verse, with
the backing vocals added for the refrain.
The intro itself is six measures long and based on just one chord. The acoustic guitar starts off just before the
first downbeat, though the way the part is accented, it's not entirely clear where the beat is until the other's join in;
compare this with the very opening of “Drive My Car.”
Verse/Refrain
This compound section is sixteen measures in length. The verse is in a 4+4 AA pattern, and the refrain is in a
2+2+4 BBB' pattern:
D:
-------------- 2X --------------|D
||b
||
I
vi
|b
vi
|E
|b
|E
|b
|e
F#
V-of-V vi V-of-V vi ii
b: iv V
|b
|-
|
i
The inner form of the refrain is nicely supported by the harmony. The vi chord moves twice in a row to V-of-V (E
Major), only to fool you the third time around by going to ii (e minor, in the the 6/3 inversion, no less!) instead,
and then it veers off sharply to the key of b minor. It's a ready/set/surprise kind of setup.
The repetition of V-of-V (which raises your expectation of the V, itself, arriving) in a context where V is
actually deferred for quite a while, as well as the contrasting alternation between V-of-V and ii (with its
concomitant G#/G-natural cross-relation) is a favorite Beatles device going way back; the similarity between our
example of it here with “Eight Days A Week” is particularly striking.
The modulation to b minor is, of course, quite short-lived, with a rising chromatic bass line lick taking the
music straight back home to D.
Break
This instrumental break is in true-blue 12-bar form. It's a trick to which The Boys would resort from time to time,
seemingly on those occasions when they couldn't think of anything else. The only deviation here from the
absolutely classic mold is the repeat of the V chord in measures 9 and 10 instead of having V move to IV. This,
by the way, is the only place that V appears in the entire song!
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The guitar solo grows so smoothly out of the recurring rifflet you've heard throughout that you barely notice
that the song has gone off on a bit of a formalistic tangent at this point.
The rising chromatic bass lick is conspicuously not heard as we come out of the break because we're already
in the home key of D at this point and there's no need to transition back from b minor in this instance.
Outro
The outro begins as though they were cycling back still one more time for another verse, but after the rising
chromatic riff and the vamping lead hook we proceed to get a repeat, seemingly ad-infinitum, of the guitar hook
alternating with John's scat singing of fragments of what sound like variations on the chromatic riff.
Some Final Thoughts
One of my private pet compositional hunches about the Beatles is that they preferred the complete ending over the
fadeout more strongly than the average band of their period. Unfortunately I don't have at my fingertips the
actuarially global statistics needed to prove such a point; it remains a gut feeling for me. Indeed, if the Rubber
Soul album itself were any indication one way or the other, its 50/50 showing in this department would seem
equivocal.
There's a much more easily calculable statistic related to the above that's intriguing to consider -- the
complete-versus-fadeout status of songs which close Beatles albums. If you look at the canonical British lineup of
the first 6 albums, (Please Please Me through Rubber Soul), you'll discover the score as 4 to 2 in favor of
complete endings for the final tracks. Most interesting of all is that all four of the albums with the complete
endings close with a cover song! The two fadeouts are “I'll Be Back” on “A Hard Days Night” and our song, here.
Plotting this idea much beyond Rubber Soul gets into some tricky areas. For example, how to parse Magical
Mystery Tour; the EP ended w/ “Blue Jay Way” (complete), but the expanded album ends w/ “All You Need is
Love” (fadeout). Similarly, does the Yellow Submarine album end with “All You Need Is Love”, or the second
side's worth of George Martin instrumental fantasies? Even better, with respect to Revolver, does “Tomorrow
Never Knows” feature a complete ending or a fadeout; even better than better, what about “A Day In The Life”?
Let's stay with my simplifying assumption about the first six albums for now.
Granted, this might be a complete coincidence devoid of any forethought. Even if it were intentional, I'm not
sure if one could easily prove which factor (the choice of covers, of the choice of a complete ending) was the
cause versus the effect in this circumstance. Even so, it's a detail hard to not ponder once you've noticed it.
“Get out while you can, ladies.”
112893#89
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Paperback Writer and Rain
Introduction
This double-A single marks one of the most significant nodal points in the compositional and recording
development of the Beatles. After the just-in-time for Xmas release of Rubber Soul the Beatles took a four month
break from the studio. They went straight to work on what was to become the Revolver album in early April '66,
and the two songs on this single, released in June (two months ahead of the album) were recorded just a couple
weeks into the new sessions.
The subject matter, musical style, and recording technique of both “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” make them
as qualitatively different from what we heard on the album which preceded them as they presage the album which
was yet to follow. The release of “Penny Lane” b/w “Strawberry Fields Forever” as an antecedent to the Sgt.
Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band LP is the other major single of theirs to have this level of potent prescience in
terms of an album in progress.
The other important angle to a study of this pair of songs is the extreme to which they bear comparison and
contrast with each other. Each of these songs reflects so clearly its respective composer, and yet at the same time,
there are similarities galore which reflect not only cross-influence, but I suspect, a subtle element of competitive
looking over each other's shoulders. We've explored this notion several times before in this series, most notably in
connection with “All My Loving/ It Won't Be Long” and “She Said She Said/ Good Day Sunshine.”
So what are the similarities in this case?
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Key – both songs “sound” in the key of G, even though the backing track for “Rain” was recorded at a faster
tempo and higher key, and slowed down during the mixing phase to playback differently.
Post-processed special effects- As Lewisohn puts it (Recording Sessions, p. 74), “both were chock full of all
the Revolver technical advancements: limiters, compressors, jangle boxes, Leslie speakers, ADT.” More
specifically, “Paperback Writer” has the tape echo at the end of the alternate verse sections, and “Rain”, in
addition to the modified tape speed, includes the much talked about played-backwards vocal in its outro.
Wall-of-sound texture – Even without the special effects, both songs have a noticeably denser, punchier
texture than virtually anything else done by the group up until this point, largely the result of the standout
drumming, basswork, and heavily over-dubbed vocal harmony on both cuts.
Drone-like harmony – Neither song is literally built on a pedal point, though both of them use very few
chords, and contain sustained passages over the I chord that lend a static feeling to the harmony overall. At
other times, the Beatles could delightfully take you by surprise with a novel chord progression, but in this
case they seem to be transfixed by an aesthetic of stasis.
Subject matter – Neither is a love song. “Nowhere Man” was the only other time, to date, where they had
tried anything like this, but from this point forward, this tendency to comment on things social or experiential
would become increasingly pronounced. And then again, there are those yin-yang/John-versus-Paul points of
contrast between the two songs, and what's particularly delicious about some of these is that they are
embedded within factors that would otherwise seem at a superficial level to be common denominators rather
than points of departure:
Tempo – This pair of songs constitute what might be among the fastest and slowest ever songs done by the
Beatles to-date. In the case of “Paperback Writer”, listen to how fast the “1-2-3-etc.” count-in is on the pair of
bootlegs that are in the public domain (I use the latter term loosely :-)), and the fact that take 1 of the backing
track breaks down because, as George notes on the tape, it keeps getting faster. In the case of “Rain”, John's
ultra-slow harmonic rhythm and his scanning of the words (see the bullet on Prosody) manage to project an
almost catatonically measured pace in spite of all furious activity in the textural foreground.
Perspective on the respective subject matter – Paul's essay is a gritty, journalistic slice of life on the sleazy
side, starting off in the first person and cleverly shifting 'round to a self- referential third-person focus as the
book is described. Indeed, you must see the photograph of Paul's manuscript for the lyrics, not only written
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•
•
out literally in the form of a letter (opening – Dear Sir [or Madam]), but signed by one “Ian Iachimoe.” Talk
about vague references or hard trivia questions; who's 'e, eh? John, true to his own form, turns in an elliptical
tirade in the third person about what “they” do when the metaphorical rain comes; inscrutable on the surface
but pregnant with deeply embedded meaning.
Modality of the home key – “Paperback Writer” is quite Mixolydian. For example, the tune places great
emphasis on the melodic flat 7th, and the harmony includes I, ii, and IV but *not* V; if you check the bootleg
take 1 you can actually hear them playing V in the intro and refrain sections but in the final mix it's deftly
mixed out! "Rain", on the other hand, though it is harmonically much more clearly in the Major mode (check
out the I-IV-V chord vocabulary), manages to convey a modal feel by virtue of its pseudo-pentatonic melody
(note how the lead vocal contains no 2nd or 7th scale degree – i.e. no 'A's or 'F's), and the open-fifth dronelike harmonies of its refrain sections.
Prosody of the verbal delivery – “Prosody” is a technical term describing the manner in which words are
rhythmically declaimed together with accompanying music. In contrast, say, to the almost deadly four-square
delivery heard in a song like "Yellow Submarine", “Paperback Writer” provides as good an example as you'll
ever find of syllables pleasurably ricocheting off an underlying beat. “Rain”, in contrast, is performed in style
in which the words seem to be intoxicatingly, and/or counter-intuitively fighting against the beat. The Master
(if not outright inventor) of this technique circa 1966 was Bob Dylan. To the extent that it would become a
very Lennonesque trademark as well from this point on is, to me, evidence of a to-date uncharted, overlooked
subtle point of Dylan's influence on the Beatles.
And on that note, let us move on, finally, to our closer look at each of these songs in turn.
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Paperback Writer
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain (intro) – Verse – Verse – Refrain (intro) – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is definitely in the top tier of Beatles' hardest rocking cuts. In addition to the fast tempo and gutsy
backing track, the melodic flat 7th of the Mixolydian mode and the 12-measure verse lengths add a touch of the
Blues.
The form is made curious by virtue of the a capella opening (see “Nowhere Man”), the doubling up of the
verses, and the recurrence of that unusual intro as a sort of refrain section.
I've commented elsewhere about how, whenever you have a song that starts off with a vocal pickup, the
unedited studio tape must have on it some amount of pre-take cueing of the starting pitch for the singers. Take 2
of this song provides a perfect proof of this, where you can here them, just before the actual count-in singing the
word “Paperback ...” in a nervously tentative stage whisper.
Melody and Harmony
The tune has the bouncing rhythm and limited melodic contour of a patter song, or even “talkin' blues”, though
just the same, it does manage to fill out the full octave in a rather clever way. Harmony is used quite frugally to
static effect. To the extent that the V chord is suppressed from appearing throughout, the sense of home key is left
to establish itself via the relatively weak plagal cadence of the IV chord, and a kind of drone-like, manifest
insistence of the I chord.
Arrangement
The vocal parts are worked out and varied to an unusual extent. George and John's backing vocals play off of
Paul's double-tracked lead vocal, sometimes antiphonally (the intro), sometimes in accompaniment (Frere
Jacques), and yet at other times in chorus (the hook line at the end of each verse). Alas, the vocal parts don't sound
quite as well rehearsed as they are ambitious. After repeated close listenings to the recording you can't help notice
the often ragged ensemble cutoffs at phrase endings or entrances.
The fancy vocal parts are just about upstaged by the much discussed Motown-like punchy bass part and the
syncopated lead guitar riff. For that matter, you can't overlook Ringo's between-the-sections drum fills here.
Though they were an trademark of the Early Beatles sound, they kind of disappear for the most part during
Rubber Soul, yet make a welcome return on both sides of this single, and on many other Revolver cuts as well.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is eight measures long:
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|Acapella vocals----------------||Guitar riff-------------------|
|C
|G
|a
|||G
||||
I
V
ii
I
G:
The first half is set for pseudo-acapella voices in a pattern of cascading antiphony that is something off the beaten
path for these guys. The large number of overdubs makes it sound as though many more than just three people
were singing; a modest anticipation of what would surface much later in the likes of “Because.”
In the second half we suddenly are faced with almost the entire instrumental backing ensemble executing a
double-barreled iteration of a really knockout ostinato riff for lead guitar and bass drum; one that I'd say is easily
way up in there the same class with the one from “Day Tripper” in terms of both its distinctive melodic contour
and craggy syncopations that extend over one and a half of the ostinato's two-measure length.
The outtakes reveal two subtle points about this intro:
•
•
The finished recording is mixed to sound as though the intro were performed “ad libitum”, but the outtakes
prove that it is very much done in tempo. Take 2 contains both a count-in and a metronomic tapping out of the
beat on what sounds like a cymbal, not only through the entire first half of the intro but in every other 'refrain'
where the a capella vocal section is repeated. Darn clever how this tapping track is so neatly mixed out of the
final version.
The harmony of the a capella section sounds on the finished recording as I've diagrammed it above: just I, IV,
and ii. In take 1, though, you can clearly hear a skeletal backing track (placed there, I assume, to provide sotto
voce support for the singers at the vocal overdub stage) which shows that they originally intended to have a V
chord in the fourth measure. Once you know it's there in the outtake, you start noticing how on the final
version it's there as well, but somehow was mixed way down but not quite out, deftly, every time the phrase is
repeated; there must be some pretty fast fingers on those faders.
The bass/guitar riff strikes with tremendous power when it is heard for the first time. The preceding a capella
section, in spite of its being in the same fast tempo as what follows it, conveys, from its four-square and slow
rhythmic pattern, a sense of pent-up potential energy that is mercifully unleashed when the riff kicks in.
The bass drumming that backs the lead guitar riff is so sharp that when the bass guitar finally enters at the tail
end of this intro with a pickup to the intro you think for a second that maybe you're hearing an overdubbed second
bass part; but it's not so.
Verse
The twelve measure length of this verse is phrased (AAB) like a blues frame even though the harmony doesn't fit
the classic pattern:
-------------- 2X -------------|G
|C
|G
G:
I
IV6/4
I
|C
IV
|-
|G
I
|-
|
|-
|
The C chord in measures 2 and 6 is elusive, indeed. For starters, the bass line gives a pedal tone-like stress to the
note G throughout the first eight measures, placing the C chord in the extremely weak 6/4 (aka 'second') inversion.
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Secondarily, the melody stresses the note D during measures 2 and 6, creating a sense of the C and G chords
being superimposed over one another.
The second verse of each pair ends with that startling and unprecedented tape echo effect in measure 12.
You'd think that the singers held their notes all the way through the end of the measure, and that the special effect
consists of distortion being applied to what they had sung in real time. Surprisingly, take 2 demonstrates that the
vocalists actually had cut off sharply at the end of measure 11; meaning that the measure's worth of echo was
deftly spliced on as an extension of the original vocal.
George and John have a bit of fun in the second pair of verses, sneaking in a counter-melody backing part
based on the nursery tune “Frere Jacques”. In the second of the two verses, they step their vocals up a notch in
pitch, thereby creating a subtle feeling at that point of intensification.
Refrain
This is, in each case, virtually a note-for-note reprise of the intro. The recurring sudden change of pace between
this section and the frantic bustle of the surrounding lends to the song an overall a wrenching subtext.
Outro
The outro is based on a variation of the antiphonal vocal of the intro. In the intro the “answerer” had rhythmically
imitated the “caller.” Here, the answering part is modified to a more rejoinder-like snappy double time. This new
pattern is repeated completely four times into a fadeout with all sound failing just after the start of the fifth
iteration.
During the guitar riff half of the refrain that precedes this outro we find an example of the small rough edges
they obviously thought weren't worth sanding off because no one would ever notice them. In this case, we hear a
throat being cleared and someone (I believe it's George) making sure he has the right pitch he'll need to sing at the
start of the outro; in falsetto, no less!
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Rain
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
For all of its musical and technical innovation, it's a bit ironic to note how standard is the form and harmonic
content of this song. Though no sitars or other ethnic world music instruments are used here, the style of the song
very much connotes the style of classical Indian music by virtue of the droning harmony and the, at times florid
tune.
Melody and Harmony
As far back as “Love Me Do” (amazingly), John and Paul had stumbled onto a novel use of spicy little trills and
langorously stretched out melismas that, along with sung open and parallel fifths, is truly one of the more subtle
trademarks of their early “sound.” Here, what is essentially the identical technique is pushed beyond the routine
envelope to create an entirely new and exotically foreign effect.
Aside from ornamentation, the tune is structurally organized in a very Indian manner; with the approximate
two halves of the melodic octave each isolated to its own respective section of the song; the verse stays carefully
within low G up to E, while the refrain deals with the upper end of the octave, from the high G down to middle C.
The harmonic budget is frugal to the extreme of creating, what I can only assume is, an intentionally static
effect. You'd expect the use of I-IV-V throughout this song to create a much more non-modally inflected sense of
G Major as the home key than was the case in “Paperback Writer”. It's intriguing, though, to contemplate how the
even more widespread use in “Rain” of superimposed chords and the ornamentalized melody manage to over-ride
the sense of clear Major mode and suggest something Modally tangy in flavor, even though the 'letter' of the
musical text does not support this notion!
Arrangement
Both vocal and instrumental tracks on this song were subjected to speed changes in between original recording
and mix-down for mastering, and this detail accounts for, as much as any other factor, the psychedelic, surreal
quality that surrounds the whole of it.
Lewisohn tells us that the backing track was performed in fast tempo (and, implicitly, in a higher key than
G), so that it could be slowed down on playback to what we have on the final recording; thus altering not only the
pitch but the 'textural' sound of the ensemble. The vocals (at least John's lead) were manipulated in the opposite
direction (though Lewisohn inadvertently tries to confuse us on this point); in other words, John sang for the
recording in a slower tempo and lower key, so that on faster playback his 'Mickey Mouse' vocal not only presents
him uncharacteristically beyond his normal upper range, but also with an eerily hyperactive vibrato in his throat.
John's double-tracked lead vocal is accompanied by George and Paul in the verses, and by John Himself in
the refrains. The backers starts in the second verse, where they either echo and comment on what the lead sings or
else they "emboss" what he sings by harmonizing right along with him.
Ringo has a veritable field day on the drums and cymbals throughout. Also, even on this relatively
'progressive' track, they take the time to bother with one of their so typically fussy tambourine parts; on all four
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beats in the intro, on alternate even-numbered beats in the first pair of verses and the refrains, and shaken on every
eighth note of the measure in verses three and four.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
We have here as attention-grabbing an opening in its own way as is the a capella vocal opening of “Paperback
Writer”; a ra-ta-tat half-measure's fanfare of solo snare drums, followed by four measures of the drone-like guitar
vamping on the I chord (equally reminiscent of both tamboura and pipes) that pervades the piece.
The lower reaches of the arrangement definitely sounds as though there are some kind of open fifths at play;
whether they are sounded entirely by the bass guitar, or are a composite of bass and lead guitar is not easy to
ascertain given the level of distortion applied to the finished track.
Verse
The verse is an asymmetrically phrased nine measures in length; parsed as 5 (actually 3+2) + 4:
G:
|G
I
|C
IV
|C
|IV
D
V
|G
I
|C
IV
|G
D
V
|-
|G
I
|
|
I
Uneven phrase lengths are another good example of an offbeat compositional technique that had been a manifest
part of the Beatles arsenal from the very beginning, and yet, it is used here in the (shall we call it) Late- MiddlePeriod to very different effect than it had been back in the days of “Love Me Do”, “P.S. I Love You”, and the like.
Toward the end of the second verse there's quite a blooper. It's hard to unravel what was the respective cause
and effect of it, but it sounds like between John's behind-the-beat delivery of the words and a hesitating screw up
of the bass part by Paul right where the chord is supposed to change back to G in measure 8, they manage to add a
dizzying excess pair of beats or so and still keep going. I suspect that this was unplanned but kept in the final
version anyway because of its serendipitously appropriate off-kilter effect in context.
Measures 6-7 feature an implied superimposition of G over the C chord similar to that seen in “Paperback
Writer”
Near the beginning of the third verse (~1:20 into the track) there is what sounds like a faintly sounded cueing
beep. Was this supposed to be a half-hearted anticipation of the similar effect near the mid-point of “Tomorrow
Never Knows” (you know, the thing that sounds like “at the tone the time is ...”), or is this some kind of subtle
clue that this song actually dates from the Twickenham Get Back sessions of 1/69 ? (JUST KIDDING!)
Refrain
The refrain is twelve measures, and is built out of a repetition of the same (again, non four-square) six-measure
phrase:
--------------------- 2X ---------------------|G
||C
||G
||
I
IV 6/4
I
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This section conveys a sense of ecstatic slowing down even though the tempo here is the same as it was for the
verses. This effect is created by the change of beat for the first four measures from its erstwhile bounce to
something more plodding and regular, combined with the suddenly with the slower harmonic rhythm of the
section and the yawningly stretched out vocals. At the end of this section, the illusion of speed change is spun in
the opposite direction by the way in which you feel an acceleration when the bouncier beat resumes in the final
two measures.
The time warp effect is pushed still one step further in the second refrain by the addition of slow triplets to the
bass line in the first four measures. Yet again one more example of a technique we've seen in so many earlier
Beatles songs, that is recycled here to a different, more strange effect than usual. Looked at from the opposite
perspective, you might say that while a song like “Rain” makes you know we're not in Kansas any longer, it still
does seem like the Boys sure wanted to take along a lot of their same old clothing for the big trip.
We have the same elusive kind of C6/4 chord in this refrain as we saw in “Paperback Writer”. This time, also
it is superimposed over open fifth G Major drone in the lower parts.
Outro
The outro commences with what seems at first like an ad-libitum general pause and a short passage for drums and
bass guitar. If you count along carefully you discover though that the entire thing is quite in tempo, and exactly
three measures long.
What follows at this point is the unprecedented (and in retrospect, historically significant) trailing vocal of
John's, dubbed over the backing track by playing a tape of his earlier vocal in reverse. The actual splicing and
mixing in of this special effect was done very smoothly, especially by the standards of '66 technology. No pops,
no clicks, no sudden change of ambience, etc.
If you have any doubt about the technique used here, you can either spin your turntable backwards, or
transcribe the trailing vocal part and sing it yourself in reverse. The only suspicious thought I have concerns the
sustained sung note 'C' which occurs fairly well into the fadeout, and which, for the life of me, I cannot find the
counterpart of in the original “forward” vocal.
Some Final Thoughts
As ground-breaking as this single was, it somehow didn't turn out to be so record-breaking on the charts. Don't get
me wrong; by the standards of mere mortals, the single did just fine in terms of chart position and copies sold. But
by the standards of Beatlemania, it didn't come close to some of the really big hits. Wha' happened!? Were these
two songs, at the time, perhaps a bit too original, or could it have been the opposite – were we all becoming a bit
blase where the Beatles were concerned?
I can only speak for myself, and indeed, I'll be the first one to admit my own experiences may not be typical;
... but I know they're mine. A warning though – unbridled soppy nostalgia runs rampant in the next couple
paragraphs. You may want to turn back now.
The first time I heard “Paperback Writer” was from a jukebox in the Seagull Coffee Shop, on Brighton Beach
Avenue (under the 'El', and not far from the boardwalk), sitting with a group of extended friends at a couple of
tables pushed together, all of us wallowing in the euphoria of a terminal case of High School Senior-itis; and this
new song by the Beatles was our soundtrack that late spring afternoon . It's strange how after all these years I can
still remember pausing for a moment to acknowledge it with a head nodding “oh well, will you listen to that!”, but
then also quickly diving back into the conversation that had been interrupted. Funny how I can't remember a thing
about the contents of that conversation, yet I do remember the music; vividly!
Within two months, things changed radically. I remember coming home from my stint as music counselor at a
“sleepaway” camp, flipping on the newfangled “stereo” receiver I had been given as a graduation present by my
parents, tuning in the radically new upscale FM rock station (Scott Muni on WNEW, no fooling) and hearing for
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the first time the Boys' really new double-A side; “Yellow Submarine” b/w “Eleanor Rigby”. By this time, no one
was blase about it any more, or in the least.
But at this, all excess reminiscence aside, I'm getting way ahead of our story.
“When you're not thumping them pagan skins, you're tormenting your eyes with that rubbish.”
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122293#91
Taxman
Key:
Meter:
Form:
D Major
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain (two times) – Bridge – Verse (guitar solo)/Refrain – Verse/Refrain (two times) –
Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
They seemed to always open their albums with something hard-driving, loud, and relatively up-tempo; you'd think
they were running to catch a bus. Indeed, the ever-popular American line-up for Rubber Soul which opens with
the gentle, folksy “I've Just Seen A Face” would seem to be notably if only slightly at odds with this trend; after
all, even it is fast.
“Taxman” turns out to be George's one-time-only shot at the first track position, and though his offering
surely grooves with adequate oomph to match its predecessors, the song is still an album-opening change of pace
in terms of its exotic flavor in the music and absence of love interest in the lyrics. I half wonder if the campy
count-in is meant as a direct self-parody of “I Saw Her Standing There” or not.
The form is relatively flat, with many iterations of the same Verse/Refrain “combination” section and a bridge
that is musically not much different from the rest of the song.
Melody and Harmony
The song contains a great deal of modal flavor from the extent to which both the tune and the chord choices place
stress on the flat 7th degree, i.e. C natural. The choice of mode is difficult to judge (given a choice between
Mixolydian and Dorian) because the 3rd scale degree is avoided entirely in the tune, and in the harmony, we are
frequently given the tangy Major/minor I chord, which depending on which of the two you think dominates, could
indicate either Mixolydian or Dorian.
The tune is otherwise pentatonic (C,D,E,G,A) and mantra-like in the way it obsessively noodles around with a
limited number of motifs and within a limited range.
The harmony contains relatively few chords; just the “Hey Jude” trio of I, flat-VII, and IV (i.e. D, C, and G)
plus one belated appearance of flat-III (i.e. F) strategically deployed to signal the nearing of the end. In other
words, there's no V chord!
Arrangement
The underlying beat, which in most respects is hard driving, is made a bit awkwardly ambling or lurching by
virtue of sharp syncopations and uneven section lengths.
On a different plane, the intensity of the music increases and the texture thickens over the course of the song.
Perhaps the best previous example of this gambit that that we've seen to-date is “You Won't See Me.”
Paul provides yet another effective bass line ostinato figure, and makes an even more impressive “debut” on
lead guitar with his rapid- fire and wide-ranging solo; modal inflections, bent notes and all. Ringo gets yet another
chance to show his stuff, as usual, in the joints between formal sections.
George's lead vocal is double-tracked as is his wont. John and Paul provide a varied backing vocal; embossing
the lead in each refrain, adding a rejoinder to the lead in the penultimate verse, and reinforcing with a 3-part
“Taxman!” the one-two guitar chops in the guitar solo and final verse.
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Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The track opens up with a phony spliced-in “count-off”, the effect of which is made whacky by the tone of what
sounds like George's artificially slowed-down speaking voice, the sound of a guitar's stray noodling in the
background, seemingly random fast-backward tape noises, and the fact the this count off is not in the same tempo
as the music which follows. Listen closely and you can hear Paul calling out the real count-off (especially by the
time he reaches “four!”) .
When the music starts, we are given two measures worth of instrumental vamping on the bass line ostinato
that pervades the song. The melodic contour and rhythmic pattern of this figure make for an interesting
comparison with the ostinati of “Day Tripper” and “Paperback Writer.” Though hard syncopations feature
prominently all three of them, the figures of the earlier two songs spread out over two full measures and have an
arch-like melodic shape. In our current song, the duration of the figure is one measure only and it's melodic
contour, such as it is, is much more like a saw tooth than an arch; overall, it lends the song a feeling of being tense
and tightly wound.
Verse/Refrain
The thirteen-measure verse starts off straightforwardly enough with an eight measure (4+4, AA) couplet, but it is
asymmetrically balanced off by a five-measure phrase which subdivides into 3 measures of refrain plus the same
two measures of vamping from the outro; the underlying effect of which is artfully lopsided:
Verse:
--------------- 2X -------------|D ||||
D
I
Refrain:
|C ||G
flat-VII
|D
IV
|I
|
A strong hint of the 12-bar blues manages to assert itself in this verse in spite of the asymmetry by virtue is the
'AAB' form, the rhetorical obligatto-filled space at the end of each “AA” phrase, the flat 3rds in the rhythm guitar
chords and flat 7ths in the tune. Even the flat-VII-to- IV harmony of the 'B' phrase manages to sound like a
paraphrase of the traditional V-to-IV cliche of the 12-bar frame.
Those obligatto-filled spaces at the end of the “AA” phrases are where the ever increasing intensity over the
course of the song, mentioned above, is manifested. The tone is set right off in the first verse with those D
Major/minor guitar chords sharply executed on 1-2, and reinforced by sizzling cymbal slashes; the second verse
adds tambourine first and later cowbell to the percussion backing; the third verse adds more cowbell plus those
“Ha, ha, Mr. Etc.” backing vocals in falsetto; and in the final verse we get “Taxman!” in 3-part bold-italic
harmony sung at the top of their lungs, an effect first introduced at the very beginning of the guitar solo and that
returns at the start of the intro.
Bridge
The bridge is nine measures long and parses out as an “AA” couplet of parallel phrases, the second one of which
is elongated an extra measure for rhetorical emphasis:
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|D |I
|-
|C
|
flat-VII
|D |I
|-
|C
|flat-VII
|
The lead and backing vocals create a special effect in this section, with the vocal ensemble harmonizing on the
first portion of each phrase, and then allowing the lead to finish the phrase while the backers sustain the last
syncopated word of the first half-phrase.
Guitar Solo
The guitar solo fills the verse segment of "just another" Verse/Refrain section, though without the usual vocal
cues you almost don't notice that aspect even though the one-two cymbal slashes *do* fall out in measures 3 and
7 as they usually do. You can trace an affinity of the Boys for this kind of half-to-two-thirds instrumental at least
as far back as ` "From Me To You."
Paul's guitar solo is hot stuff; fast triplets, exotic modal touches, and a melodic shape which traverses several
octaves and ends with a breathtaking upward flourish. Barry, my erstwhile sysops guy back at mirror.tmc.com,
used to say this solo had all the earmarks of being improvised an inveterate bass player, pointing out the extent to
which this solo was motivically linked to the bass line ostinato. On the other hand, this solo has always sounded
to my ears almost as though it were Clapton's own handiwork, only sped up to the frantically comical pace of the
Keystone Cops.
Once the lead guitarist finishes his solo, note how he stays on as a more ongoing presence for the rest of the
piece, more or less doubling the bass line ostinato an octave or two higher. It's a subtle but definitely calculated
contribution to the effect of ongoing increased intensity over the course of the song.
Outro
The final refrain is modified in chord choice and extended an additional measure in length in order to provide the
kind of implicit deceleration that typically signals the end is near:
|Refrain:
chords:
|C
|bassline:
|G
|D
|F
|F
|-
- |
- E D C|D ...
flat-VII
IV
I
flat-III
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|D
|Outro:
|...
The bass line provides an unusual, small twist of “counterpoint” in the way it helps fill out the sustained two
measures on the surprising F Major chord. Once the D chord is reached, we head into the fadeout with a more or
less literal reprise of the guitar solo.
Some Final Thoughts
What goes around comes around. Here we have George's turn at the wordy, droning, modal, technologically
whimsical (yet topically serious) Song Type. It's actually aged more gracefully over the years than many another
“political” song from the 60’s or any other period. Must be something about the perennial inevitability of the
subject matter; no joke or exaggeration – I heard it played over the P.A. system at the local post office one recent
Ides of April. Cheap joke, huh?
In “Taxman's” original historical context of PW and R, though, you'd think, to paraphrase a popular Peanuts
video (of all things), that the Beatles suddenly could find No Time For Love. In this respect, it's a shame the
technology couldn't have supported a three-sided single; heck, add “Eleanor Rigby”, and you'd have either the
makings of an EP or a quartet for bridge.
“So Wilson said to Dubrovniev, 'come on, boy, we gotta swing”".
010594#92
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Eleanor Rigby
Key:
Meter:
Form:
e minor
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain (two times) – Bridge (Intro) – Verse/Refrain – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
As one of the most “serious” pieces of the entire Beatles cannon, this song straight-facedly vaporized several
commonly supposed limitations of what the 2-minute AM-radio pop/rock musical genre might be capable of
including within its purview and power of expression. Pigeon-hole terms, such as Crossover, Fusion, or Hybrid,
somehow don't seem to do it justice.
You can look at from at least two angles and try to pull it apart with great clinical precision; the Verismo
lyrics and grainy, tintype backing arrangement for strings on the one side, and the more familiar bluesy,
syncopated, boxy form on the other. But the truth here is even more elusive than usual, and I dare say that the real
irony of this song is to be confronted in the extreme to which the otherwise analytically separable elements within
its blend are so well synthesized. Think of it as an amalgam whose elements can no longer be so easily separated
ever again once combined.
Although the music here is highly syncopated, instead of the jumpy kind of high-stepping effect you'd expect,
you find the song to be characterized overall by a gesture resembling an anxious sigh (like a sharp, sudden intake
of breath expelled in enervating slow motion) that applies not only to foreground rhythm, but several other
parameters as well, including harmonic rhythm, phrasing, and even the contours of the tune itself.
The “story” is typical of Paul with its two characters who seem to be unrelated to each other when introduced
respectively in the first two verses, only to be brought into ironic proximity of each other in the final scene, as
though this were some kind of novel by Dos Passos, or Paul's not much later song, “Penny Lane”. On the other
hand, I can't help but sense the influence of John upon Paul's particular choices of detailed imagery and
idiosyncratic turns of phrase.
Melody and Harmony
The melody here is in the Dorian mode; that's the one with the minor 3rd but Major 6th and 7th, and it's a
relatively uncommon choice for the Beatles, over the long run.
The harmonic resources are quite spare, with a very small number of chords actually used, and those that are
used make for relatively weak and modally “plagal” establishment of the home key. Aside from the large dronelike air play given to the e-minor i chord, we have no more than VI (C) and iv (a); the Major IV chord (a nice
modal touch in context of a minor key) is implied as a passing chord over the e drone.
Arrangement
The backing arrangement for small string ensemble is well crafted by someone who clearly understood the string
quartet idiom. Though eight players are used, the writing is in essentially four parts where, except for brief flashes
of solo playing, each is doubled for strength.
George Martin credits the influence upon him of Bernard Hermann's score for the film, “Farenheit 451”,
though I also detect an affinity here for the same composer's infamous “Psycho” overture. Against a “warp” of
mechanical and strident chords (the effect of which is heightened by their being played in short, choppy downbows “near the frog” of the bow, the non-vibrato fingering, and the close miking) is woven a continuously varied
and syncopated series of melodic counter-figures in either the cello or violin; trace it, section by section, yourself!
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And if you do, notice the exquisite “softening” effect created by the sometimes retreat into eight notes in the
warp, instead of the very stark quarter notes.
Paul's single-tracked solo is the backbone of the vocal arrangement, with John joining him briefly in the Intro,
Bridge, and Outro sections, and Paul doubling himself for the refrain. The stereo mix contains an anomaly at the
start of the first verse where the changeover from double-tracked Paul to solo is made abruptly right before the
final syllable of the opening “El-ea-nor”.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The 2-times-4 (“AA”) phraseology and arch-like shape of the tune in this intro are standard enough ... :
--------------- 2X -------------|C ||e
||
e: VI
i
... but it remains, indeed, one of the great non-I openings, distinguished by the manner in which it asserts what I
earlier characterized as the gesture of an anxious sigh.
“Anxiety”, resulting from the way in which the music starts right off at what you surmise to be a peak of
tension but which only goes to increase still further a bit before winding itself down.
“Sighing”, from the extent to which the respective peaks and unwindings of the voice-versus-accompaniment
pull out of synch with each other; note, for example, how the vocal part has peaked and is already winding down
far ahead of the chord change in measure 3, and the way that the cello's emphatic arrival on the low E in the
middle of the same measure is delayed a couple beats *behind* the chord change.
Verse/Refrain
The Verse component of this section features offbeat phrasing that tensely contrasts with the underlying marchbeat of the accompaniment. The five-measure length is unusual enough, but what really makes it noteworthy is
the internal parsing of that 5 into a “1 + 3 + 1” pattern, combined with the harmonic rhythm that returns to the i
chord on the second half of the final measure; you might find this intriguing to compare with “Yesterday”:
------------------- 2X ------------------|e |||C
|e |
i
VI
i
Expressive appoggiaturas abound, the spiciest of which is the the one that creates an added-sixth to the C chord
(on the word “been”); the rest of which you're on your own to locate.
There are some theory teachers who, erring in the direction of trying so assign Roman Numerals to every
vertical slice of notes, would argue that there is more harmony “implied” in measures 2-3 here than what I've
labeled; i.e. -- they'd point out the 7th added to the i, and the IV6/4. IMHO, the structurally significant chords here
are just the ones I've labeled above, and the remainder is all a matter of linear motion against a background.
The structure of the Refrain sub-component is more straightforward, with its 2-times-4 (“AA”) phraseology
(viz. the Intro!!), but it is made unusual by its harmonic content:
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--------------- 2X -------------inner voice
|D
|C#
|C-nat.
|B
implied harmony
|e
|(A) |C
|e
i7
IV
VI
i
|
|
We have, here, a very John-like example of harmony under the influence of the compositional cliche sometimes
referred to as the downward chromatic scale fragment in an inner voice; just remember that even sex can be
alternatively described in equally unappealing clinical terminology. Again, one can make a theoretical argument
that the harmony here is, structurally, just a droning i chord. But even those who might agree with this perspective
will still acknowledge the extent to which the inner voice here connotes that saddened, sighing gesture -- if you
don't believe me, try singing that inner line along with the recording.
Note how the second iteration of the refrain phrase is melodically just a tad so-satisfyingly more extravagant
than the first one; the first one tops out on “E”, but the second one stretches way up to “G”. All this going to
demonstrate yet another one of the Great Compositional Principles -- you not only don't shoot your whole wad the
first time around, but whatever you save for the next time must be especially exciting. And, as if to underscore
this truth, we have the lead violin mimicking in snappy syncopation the tail of that second refrain every time this
section comes around.
Also note how even this second iteration of the refrain phrase does not upstage the ultimate peak of this song
which is still to be found in intro/break phrase (up to “A”) – ultimate peaks being yet another one of those
archetypal principles of life, love, and music.
Bridge
This is, I believe, a rote repetition of the intro.
Outro
Superimposed over what is essentially Paul and the string players' one last repeat of the refrain couplet we are
treated to John's tag line from the intro, dubbed in here almost sotto-voce, and in perfect counterpoint. The violin's
mockingbird repeat of the second refrain line is rhythmically stretched out this time in even quarter notes to help
safely guide the music into the complete ending.
These couple of details elevate what is otherwise a formalistically simple ending into something elegant and
sophisticatedly unified.
Some Final Thoughts
I had a professor who used to say that sometimes a good hard question (an “eisener kashe”) was better than a
hundred simple answers. In that spirit, I close this Note with three of this kind of question for you to consider as
homework:
•
How much of the compositional credit should George Martin get for this song? Granted, “Eleanor Rigby”
could survive an arrangement for other forces than string octet, but I'd dare say that Martin's contribution goes
far beyond mere orchestration, and is truly an integral part of the message of the original; no?
•
Where does the inspiration for something like this song come from, and whatever happened to the cute Beatle
who wrote it? I personally encounter in this song a level or dimension of further potential growth that has,
alas, not been realized.
•
Could any one individual or group other than the Beatles have pulled off this kind of stylistic fusion with as
much commanding respect and success? The many other classically-influenced entries by other groups from
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this period (I'm thinking here of a broad spectrum roughly marked out by the likes of “Walk Away Renee”,
“Classical Gas”, and “MacArthur Park”) remain curiosities at best. And I wonder, putting aside for the
moment the undeniable special quality, per se, of “Eleanor Rigby”, whether perhaps one critical element in its
ability to succeed is the fact that it comes to us with the imprimatur of The Beatles.
“As it is you took the wrong turning and what happened -- you're a lonely old man from Liverpool.”
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021394#93
I'm Only Sleeping
Key:
Meter:
Form:
e flat minor
4/4
Verse/Refrain (two times) – Bridge – Verse (half guitar solo)/Refrain – Bridge – Verse/Refrain – Outro
(fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is mastered in the extremely unlikely key of e flat minor; no doubt a side effect of the extent to which
the original tapes of both the backing track and vocals were manipulated on playback; in opposite directions, no
less – an effect familiar to us from “Rain.”
I half-wonder if the placement of this track directly following the e-minor tonality of “Eleanor Rigby” was
done intentionally to highlight the half-step downward in key. But at any rate, I'm going to discuss it below in
terms of e minor, simply in order maintain some semblance of orthographic legibility. If you don't think it makes
a difference, try sight-reading, some time, the sections of the WTC written in e-flat (or even better, d#) minor.
We have an interesting formalistic elision here in the way that the bridge melds so seamlessly with the verse
that follows it that the next verse at first sounds like the ending the bridge rather than the start of something else;
and in retrospect, the bridge, per se, seems like only a fragment of something. This example, by the way, bears
intriguing comparison with “She's A Woman”, of all things; do check it out.
Melody and Harmony
The tune features a patter-song-like hammering away on the tonic note of the scale, though the verse still manages
to lazily spread out over the span of a full octave. The brief bridge section features a couple of bent notes which
lend a touch of the blues.
Compared to the several drone-like songs we've looked at most recently, this one has a larger number of
chords in it than we've seen in quite a while, though none of them are particularly exotic choices.
The most curious harmonic feature of the song is the use of a chord stream (i.e. step-wise root movement of
chords) in the refrain, the likes of which we haven't seen since the very early days of “Ask Me Why”, “Do You
Want to Know a Secret”, and “P.S. I Love You.”
Arrangement
What must have started out on the source tape as a backing track of relatively straightforward instrumentation was
slowed down a bit to add that certain grainy/chunkiness on playback. Similarly, the speeding up of John's vocal
on playback makes him sound tremulous and eerie; the latter effect being further intensified by the manner in
which the automatic-double-tracking is split out onto the two stereo channels for only some of the phrases;
compare this with “The Word.”
The backwards-mastered guitar licks are a special effect that have nicely weathered the march of time losing
none of their popularity nor their ability to transfix, though the background story regarding how George carefully
practiced his guitar bits so that they would sound fine when mastered backwards after being played forwards is,
by our own contemporary standards of digital control, rather quaint. True to their, by now, well-established
penchant for layered arrangements, the application of the reversed guitar bits first starts in the second verse.
The backing vocals add their own little touch of surrealism to the proceedings. Their echoing of the last line
of each verse and “oodle-i-doo” falsetto harmonies of the refrain have something of an Andrews Sisters/1940’s
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kind of unsettling resonance. Only Paul's bluesy counterpoint in the bridge sounds a bit more familiar in context
of the Beatles.
Paul uses walking-bass passing notes in two critical places here, thus providing a subtle effect of unification:
at the end of the verse, he fills out the space between the C and a chord with a melodic B, and similarly, near the
end of the short bridge, he fills out the space between the a and F chords with a G. Granted, these are exceedingly
small touches, but if you know this song and like it, well, I'd bet you've noticed them even if you haven't done so
consciously. Or put it this way – try and imagine hearing the song without them!
Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
The verse is a surprisingly odd nine measures in length, in spite of its obvious AA' phrasing:
e:
|e
i
|a
iv
|G
III
C
IV
|G
III
|e
i
|a
iv
---- 2X!!------|G
C
|III VI
B
V
|
a
iv
|
Both phrases are harmonically open but in different ways. The first one ends on V, nicely begging a reprise. The
second one rhetorically adds that one extra measure, and then ends on VI --> iv, thus begging for something
different from what was heard previously.
In the always relevant department of Foolish Consistency Avoidance, we have the verse with the guitar solo
filling out only the five measures of the A' section. Actually, the “real” aesthetic lesson being taught in this
instance is not so much one about non-consistency, as much as it is a one regarding the Conservation of Special
Effects.
Refrain
The chord stream of this refrain, not to mention the prominence of that juicy C Major 7th, is a prime source of
what gives this song its overall jazzy feeling.
The section is a somewhat unusual length of six measures, and its internal phrasing is remote from anything
in the nature of a balanced binary form. Rather, we have a 1-measure's worth of tune that chases its tail several
times within a narrow range before petering out entirely before the end of the fifth measure:
|G
III
|C7
VI
|a
|b
iv
|
|a
v
||e
i
|
iv
|-
|
The refrains that precede each of the two bridges are extended by an additional two measures of a time-stopping
vamp on the i chord. The second one of these extended refrains (i.e. the following the guitar solo) includes some
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muted, errant talking in the background, followed by a strange foghorn-like electronic sound during the e minor
vamp.
The refrain is harmonically quite elliptical. Its opening measures convey intimations of a shift toward the key
of G (the so-called Relative Major of e minor), though nothing approaching the finality of a complete modulation
is in the offing. For that matter, the manner in which the home key of e is confirmed at section's end is also done
without clear or complete cadence.
Bridge
No matter how you parse this section, it somehow seems to fall out as incomplete or fragmentary. Even if you add
in what I call the two- measure vamp at the end of the refrains into this section, I believe there is no escape from
hearing, at first, what turns out to be the first phrase of the next verse as though it were the second phrase of this
bridge:
e:
a:
|d
vii
iv
|E
|a
|F
V
i
|
VI
As with the refrain, we have yet another tentative harmonic foray, this time toward the key of a minor. The formal
elision between this bridge and following verse is somewhat disguised the way that this modulation fools you into
hearing the first two measures of the next verse as still being in a minor, with the pivot back to e first coming near
the end of the first phrase, as follows:
a:
|e
iv
|a
|G
i
C
|G
VII
B
III VII
e: III
|
V
Outro
As an "outro", per se, this one is rather unusual in both form and substance. At the end of the final refrain, where
previously we have had the C Major 7th/e minor bass arpeggio, this time the backing abruptly, even awkwardly,
just stops, leaving the backwards lead guitar to “noodle” all alone into a fadeout.
Some Final Thoughts
This song belongs to a special category of Beatles songs in which content plays a secondary role to gesture. I
define content, in this context, as the relative level of special care and quality lavished on the basic musical
elements of tune, chord, and form; and gesture as a focus on the bedazzling and disorienting overall effect to be
achieved by the incongruous combination of familiar yet disparate stylistic cliches that are not usually found
under the same roof, plus the overlay upon one or more of these elements of surreal special recording studio
effects.
That the Beatles were great innovators of new styles synthesized from among the elements of disparate
influences is widely celebrated. But the kind of gesture we're dealing with here, where one or more cultural
readymade is exploited for its very hackneyed recognizability is an achievement of a slightly different nature. In
this particular instance, we have a strange montage of the boozy/jazzy ride-beat, the patter song tune, the cooing
backing vocals, combined with that lead-guitar that is distorted on playback.
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The amazing thing is to ponder not only how much this peculiar type of parody would flower in the PostPepper-Period, but the extent to which you'll note how its roots were embedded deep, all along, if only you look
back with an eye toward discerning them.
It wasn't only the in the music, either! What better example of a surreal montage made of found pop-culturalobjects can you think of in the realm of album cover art than the pseudo-photographic black-and-white job done
by Klaus Voorman for our Revolver?
“Give me a bottle of milk and some tranquilizers.”
032094#94
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Love You To
Key:
Meter:
Form:
c minor (“Dorian” mode)
4/4
Intro – Verse/Refrain – Sitar Solo – Verse/Refrain – Outro (fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
One of the most curious side-bars on the history of music in the late 60s has to be the apparently sudden
flashpoint of interest in, and influence of, the so-called Classical Music of India. The Beatles, George in
particular, were prime catalysts of this faddish phenomenon, and a song like our “Love You To” can hardly be
talked about without some consideration of the historical context.
At the time it seemed like many people who, just the week before had never seen a sitar or heard of Ravi
Shankar, were running out, overnight, to buy what we nowadays call “world music” recordings, tickets to rug
concerts, and even authentic instruments. Eventually (if not in very short order) this was, alas, for most folks, an
even more short-lived fad and greater source of retrospective disappointment than Nehru suits. But it was hot
while it lasted.
No one should have been surprised. Indian music, for a number of reasons, is a not so easily-acquired taste for
Western ears as it may appear on the surface. Sure, the externals are pleasing and psychedelically seductive
enough and all that, but the lack of harmonic movement can quickly bore, and the melodic focus on freely
improvised detail-within-a-subtle-framework calls for a trained ear.
Hell, I did a year of graduate study of this music (back in '72-73) and worked hard in order to learning how to
appreciate it, but it demanded both difficult cognitive study as well as an aesthetic soulful stretch. The music is
not only built out of unfamiliar techniques, but is also reflective of a different world outlook – think about the
extent to which harmony in Western music implies “teliogical movement or progress”, and, by contrast, the extent
to which detailed elaboration over a drone conjures a so-very-different mood of quiet contemplation of the word
without-and-within. It's a chutzpah for the Westerner to expect to confront this stuff without sincere and patient
preparation.
“Love You To” was so novel when it first appeared that it was “cool” practically by default. After all, how
many of us at the time even had a clue what to make of it, or to what it could or should be compared? The song's
openly Indian flavor of goes far beyond the superficialities of an added sitar and some static, droney harmony,
which, by the time Revolver was released, had already been exploited by not just the Beatles but other groups, as
well; look, for example, at the Stones' “Paint it Black.”
Here, in “Love You To”, we find a genuinely Indian-styled usage of mode, melody, rhythm and
instrumentation. Even the form, which otherwise maintains a neo-classical boxy rock form preserves the Indian
convention of an out-of-tempo improvised slow intro.
Melody and Harmony
The ragas from which the melodic material of Indian music is drawn go conceptually beyond the simpler concept
of scale or mode to include characteristic riffs, and division of the scale into two regions. And in the melodic
department, this song proves to be quite authentic; the mode is (to lapse into Western terminology) quite Dorian,
the riffs both recurrent and tending to appear in either one half of the scale or the other.
The harmony is simply a drone with occasional implied oscillations toward the flat-VII chord. The
Major/minor modality of the home key is left ambiguous by the open-fifth quality of the drone, in spite of the fact
that the sitar part features the minor 3rd quite prominently.
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Arrangement
Though there may be more involvement of the Beatles themselves on this track than, say, “Eleanor Rigby,” it
hardly seems to matter, though, does it? Yes, indeed, Ringo adds a tambourine in the second verse, and it might
actually be John or Paul adding that fuzztone-like electronic embellishment of the flat-VII chord, but that's about
it. Paul supposedly contributed a backing vocal but that was mixed out of the final track. The overall effect of the
arrangement is one of George having imported a group of real-thing studio musicians directly from Bombay; preechoes of “The Inner Light.” Two comments about this song in Lewisohn's Recording Session cry out for rebuttal.
In the first place, he blithely asserts, from the fact that no studio sitar player appears credited on the album, that it
just might be George playing the ornate solo part. I don't think so. Frankly, there is no way I can imagine that
George at the time of this recording could have had one tenth of the chops required for this performance.
Goodness, Lewisohn himself recants this blooper in Chronicles.
His other mistake has to do with his unchallenging quote of one of the studio musicians as having been asked
by George to play the rhythm track in “Ravi Shankar style, 16 beats” (i.e. straight four in the bar). Even if
Lewisohn did hear this on the studio tape, he should have sufficient musical awareness of what is actually played
on the tape to question this. Indeed, you only need to tap (or try to tap) your foot along with this number to note
just how tricky the meter is; with occasional 3-beat measures thrown in among the otherwise, ahem, 4/4 texture.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
This intro features a slow, drawn-out exploration of the basic melodic motifs of what is to follow that is
stylistically genuine and effective. Damn it, the opening scale glissandos, the tentative noodling, and that lone F#,
no matter how exotic an impression they may make, are unfortunately out of place, but what can you do.
Though performed in a manner that suggests completely free improvisation, the intro is easily parsed into a
number of subsections:
-
Two repeats of the eleven note downward C major scale; C -> G, an octave+half below
Fragmentary attempts at establishing a tune; following that C->F#->G red herring of a start, the lower half of
the C-dorian scale is exposed by way of a motif which goes: C->D->E flat-> D->C->B flat (slow slide)->C.
The C-dorian motif evolves but shortly breaks off and segues into ... - ... the “a tempo” main song; of which,
we'll chalk up two measures of four-in-the-bar vamping to the end of this section.
Verse
This section is ten measures long and breaks up into eight measures of verse, proper, followed by a two-measure
lead-in to the refrain. The verse itself parses into an AAA' pattern which fills 2+2+4 bars. However, two subtle
details belie what would otherwise be a simple enough structure for your mind to grok:
•
•
The melody, which up through the first six measures almost plods along in equal quarter note values, breaks
into neatly syncopated melissma (e.g. on the word “me”) that temporarily weakens your sense of where the
downbeat is located. Unless you tap it out carefully, you might never notice that the melissma ends on the
weak 4th beat of measure eight, literally, one beat ahead of the sitar hook. Notice, too, how the drop out of the
drum part in measures 7 and 8 serves to heighten the effect.
The first of the two-measure lead-in to the refrain is in 3/4 time! The identical hook phrase appears a couple
measures within the refrain where it fills a regular 4/4 bar, so you'd almost never notice this irregularity in the
lead in; by try counting in fours out loud and see what happens :-)
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•
The tune has a nice melodic arch shape, though in relation to the tonic note, it is centered on the high-centerof-gravity 5th degree of the scale.
Refrain
The refrain is six measures long and features a call-and-response exchange between George and the sitarist. The
fourth of the six measures is in 3/4 time, and just as in the verse, this one-beat-short measure is filled by the same
sitar hook.
Sitar Solo
This is very much the high point of the song. The sitar solo is both melodically and rhythmically ornate, as well as
exotically authentic. The meter feels even less predictable here than it does in the verse or refrain. Part of me
suspects that the solo section is supposed to be modeled on the same metric pattern, or at least the same total
number of beats as the verse + refrain. Nevertheless, I find that even after determinedly repeated listenings, I am
unable to clearly discern in this solo section the expected pattern of 4/4 measures punctuated by the occasional
one in 3/4, heard earlier on. The total number of beats don't match either. One's attempt to get to the bottom of
this is made still more difficult by the teasing way in which the sitar line is rhythmically declaimed in “irrational”
(e.g. 7-against-4) groupings over the steady underlying beat.
Outro
The outro sort of picks up where the solo section left off, with a sense of growing rhythmic abandon that
continues right into the fadeout, suggesting that in the studio, this bit of jamming could have gone on for quite a
while.
Some Final Thoughts
It's a bit too easy for us at this distance of time to underestimate just how much personal courage this coming out
of the closet as an impassioned devotee of Indian music required of George. Alas, this fragile first offering is not
entirely successful, and over the long run, I dare imagine that George himself must have felt at some point that he
had steered himself into a cul-de-sac.
“Love You To” has two primary weaknesses which I cannot avoid seeing no matter how much I honestly
enjoy the song:
1. The limited extent to which the East/West musical elements are blended -- there's an oil-and-water kind of
separate awkwardness here borne of naivete and inexperience rather than craft. George was smart enough to
rely on well-trained studio help to lend an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Indeed, this song is never
more successful when it is at its most authentic, but the flip side of this is that the value added by these
outsiders rather upstages whatever it is that George himself has to offer.
2. The fatal negativity of the typically Harrisonian lyrics – the classical Indian tradition is lyrically drenched in
Song-of-Song-like allegories of religious yearning and ecstasy cast in imagery that is at once both
transcendentally mysterious and exquisitely sensual and erotic. George's embittered pout over dead-old-men
and people who'll screw you in the ground smacks way too much of “Positively 4th Street” for the crosscultural context.
George would persist for another two years or so following this song to offer both similarly “genuine” Indian
efforts (e.g. “Within You Without You” and “The Inner Light.”) as well as attempts at Indian- Western fusion
(e.g. “Blue Jay Way” and “It's All Too Much.”) As we eventually examine all those songs in this series, I predict
a remarkable paradox will emerge: The genuinely Indian stuff is so pungently inflected that it's nigh impossible
Page 363
for the Westerner to do it right without appearing affected; yet at the other extreme, it's when the Westerner tries
to be most creatively original and fusionistic about it, that he comes across at his most stilted.
In this sense, it gives me a great sense of relief to know that George could move on in the end to the likes of
“Something” and “Here Comes the Sun.” But don't get me wrong – George drove that car as far as he could
before abandoning it “somewhere out West,” and for that he deserves more than a patronizing token amount of
credit.
“Ah, very good that, George.”
081494#95
Page 364
Here, There, and Everywhere
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Outro (with complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song is remarkable for its bittersweet tune, clever harmonic scheme, and understated arrangement. It is a
landmark triumph of the soft rock genre. No kidding.
It opens with one of those (relatively rare-for-the-Beatles) ad-lib introductions, but the form is otherwise the
classic two-bridge model, with only one verse intervening and no instrumental break.
The lyrics make a rather John-like structural use of the title words.
Melody and Harmony
The tune uses a wide variety of rhythmic values to convey an impression of the naturally spoken word. It also
manages to maintain a nicely fluid melodic feeling through its mix of stepwise motion, long leaps, rhetorical
dwellings on a single note, and some triadic outlines.
The home key of the song is G Major, but both its Relative minor (e), as well as the parallel minor (g) and its
Relative Major (B flat) make important appearances. Both Paul and John were fond of these types of key
schemes, and there are many songs we've looked at that use one or more of these tricks. This is a particularly rare
example in which all of them are used in the same song. Granted, in the formal context of the 2-3 minute song,
there is relatively little room for the full-fledged modulations you'll find in larger forms, but this in no way
precludes a more furtive and no less restless exploration of alternate tonal centers.
The opening measures of the verse make use of a jazzy chord stream of the sort that harkens all the way back
to early numbers like “Ask Me Why” and “P.S. I Love You.”
Arrangement
The arrangement subscribes to the aesthetic of “less-is-more,” with restrained yet carefully placed details in all
departments. This accomplishment is made to seem ironic and all the more impressive given the extent to which
Lewisohn reports they fussed over the arrangement in the overdub stage. Even without access to the bootlegs of
so-called Monitor Mixes, you can get a feel for this by simply listening to each of the stereo tracks on the official
release one at a time.
Paul's lead vocal was recorded on the low and slow side in order to make it sound higher and much wispier on
playback. Both this lead vocal and the lead guitar licks of the bridge are selectively double-tracked. You'll note
places in which the second track either drops out or provides a harmonization with the primary track. Enjoy
discovering these for yourself!
The backing vocals provide their much talked about, deceptively simple block harmonies on the phoneme,
“ooooh.” The slight changes they make in their articulation of the chord changes in measures 5 and 6 of the verses
make these backing vocals sound somewhat instrumental. And in the instrumental area we have a subtle
patterning of the guitar chords, and a bunch of just-right gentle touches in just the right places from Ringo. Did
you ever notice the addition of finger snaps in the final verse and the outro?
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Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro gives away, in its first two chords, the secret of what will soon unfold as the songs characterizing
harmonic restlessness. The B-flat chord provides a pleasantly surprising cross relation against the B-natural of the
preceding G Major chord, and also foreshadows the later flirtation with this “relative Major of the parallel minor”
that will appear in the bridges:
G:
|G
I
|B-flat
flat-III
|a
ii
|D
V
|
There's an interesting comparison to be made between this intro and the one from the much earlier
Verse
The verse is a fairly traditional eight measures long, though its phraseology contains some subtle internal
patterning. The overall structure is 2+2+4, “AAB,” but the B section is itself subdivided into its own “AAB,”
though the durations are halved down to 1+1+2.
The harmonic structure of the verse opens up to V after flirting in the second half with the relative minor, e.
According the “stricter” theorists who argue that the home key isn't officially established until both I and V have
been exposed, this verse doesn't establish G Major until its very ending:
G:
|G
I
|f#
ii*
|
B
V
|f#
ii*
C
IV
B
V
|G
I
|e
i
G: vi
|
a
ii
|
e:
C
IV
VI
|C
D
|
IV
V
The chord on *f# in measures 5 and 6 is a so-called “half-diminshed” 7th; i.e. the triad itself is diminished (F#-AC) but the 7th (E) is minor. I grep in vain, through all the preceding notes in this series, to find another use in a
Beatles song of this somewhat jazzy chord type.
Bridge
The bridge is 6 measures long, strictly speaking, but the phrasing of the melody and words elides right into the
start of the next verse based on a repetition of the second part of the first phrase, and this obscures your perception
of where the actual section boundary is:
B-flat:
|Bb
I
g
vi
|c
ii
g:iv
D
|g
V
i
|c
iv
D
|
V
Stepping into B-flat at the beginning of this section is, indeed, “deceptive cadence”, and feels at first as though a
fourth dimension opens up. The slip into g minor delivers a melancholy twinge, yet the deceptive cadence back
Page 366
into the parallel Major at the start of the next verse is akin to the feeling you get on a day when the sun comes out
in late afternoon, just when you've resigned yourself to the day being a cloudy one. Paul evidently was proud of
this trick, as he would play it over again, almost identically in the “Two of Us.”
Outro
The outro is built on top of the first half of the verse section, but this last time Paul provides a different melody
for it, one that is set to the words of the title. This special effect lends a sense of closure and summarization to this
outro. We've seen something very similar to this in “Michelle,” even though the latter song ends with a fadeout.
The outro finishes off the song harmonically on a “Plagal” cadence; i.e. I-IV-I. Don't underestimate the extent
to which the absence of the V chord at this juncture allows the music to end on a more laid-back note than it
would with the V chord. Try the alternative out in your head if you don't believe me.
Some Final Thoughts
It seems like the number of resonances spotted in this song to other McCartney efforts means this one is either
unusually pregnant with resonances, or else we've been writing this series too long.
In any event, I save my favorite free association, this time, for last. Now, this song is characterized by the
following gesture that opens each verse: a declarative word, followed by a pause, and then rhythmically active
ascent in the tune, as in – “Here (pause) making each day of the year ...”
An informal page-through of the collected lyrics of Mr. McCartney reveals the following list of other
examples of the same, or at least similar, gesture. Granted, the grammar of all of these is not the same, nor is the
melodic contour of the consequent phrase, but still, I think these are interesting, and some of them are
unmistakable:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Listen (pause) do you want to know a secret
Eleanor Rigby (pause) picks up the rice
Day after day (pause) alone on a hill
Hey Jude (pause) don't make it bad
Hold me tight (pause) tell me I'm the only one
Honey Pie (pause) you are making me crazy
The long and winding road (pause) that leads to your door
Michelle (pause) ma belle
Oh darling (pause) please believe me
Try to see it my way (pause) do I have to keep on talking
Look (pause) what you're doing
When I call you up (pause) your line's engaged
Yesterday (pause) all my troubles seemed so far away
“Do you think I haven't noticed ... do you think I wasn't aware of the drift?”
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112894#96
Yellow Submarine
Key:
Meter:
Form:
G Major
4/4
Verse – Verse –Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse (instrumental) – Verse – Refrain
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
“Yellow Submarine” is another late-Middle Period example of how the Beatles so astonishingly manage to
elevate gesture over content, per se; and I mean this with no pejorative intent. The music which underlies this
track is simple, even a bit simplistic, but that's not only the whole aesthetic point of it, but this simplicity provides
the firm platform needed to support the campy-yet-futuristic collage of sampled sound-bites overlayed upon it.
The deployment of the sound effects here would be cute enough no matter where they came from, but that the
fact that the Beatles themselves took the trouble to synthesize and participate in them adds value. It's also worth
recalling just what an attention-grabbing curve ball this song appeared to be in context of its initial release. Sure,
the Beatles had been growing ever more difficult to pigeonhole for a while by mid-'66, but the appearance of this
song b/w “Eleanor Rigby,” no less, promised to go the limit. Could anyone other than the Beatles get away with
this? Try to imagine “Yellow Submarine” as the first or second song of a no-name group.
On the more mundane level of song writing craft, we have the following points of interest:
•
•
•
The “in medias res” opening with an unaccompanied vocal pickup. Compiling a list of all Beatles songs with
this feature is both instructive if not entertaining party game.
The use of a refrain, not bridge; approximately only one third of the more than 100 songs we've covered in
this study so far use the refrain, and consideration of just which Beatles songs go for it in favor of the bridge
is another matter I'll leave as a party game for now. We also have here the extremely unusual appearance in
the middle of three verses in a row.
Harmonic rhythm used to articulate form -- note how the verse is characterized by the pattern "four-ONE, 2, 3
four-ONE...," and the refrain contrasts with its "ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR."
Melody and Harmony
Only five chords are used throughout, all of them garden variety, diatonic choices. The tune is also painfully
simple, though in a subtle way, bears the John Lennon stamp of pentatonicism. You'll note that the 7th scale
degree (F#) does not appear at all, and the 4th degree (C) appears only briefly and in the subordinate role of a
passing note between 3 and 5; as on the word “the"”in the phrase, “In the town.”
Arrangement
The arrangement is consistently varied on sectional boundaries for the most part. This device was a long-standing
Beatles trademark in the purely instrumental/vocal realm, but here it is extended to apply to include special
effects:
•
•
•
•
Verse 1: acoustic guitar with maracas (?), and later, bass drum
Verse 2: add the sound of water waves
Refrain 1: waves continue
Verse 3: party sounds, and later, a sloppy marching band in the style of “Rainy Day Women, #12 & 35.” If
this were being done by the likes of Charles Ives, the band would enter off beat, in a different tempo and key.
Page 368
•
•
•
•
In context of a pop song, it's already sufficient just to have a band make an appearance, per se, even if it is in
the same key and tempo; at least the chords they play clash with the backing track.
Refrain 2: add drumsticks tapping. It's as though you can't have a Beatles song without this; or handclaps, or
tambourine.
Verse 4: slice-of-life submarine noises (whirring machinery, shouting people, clanging bells, etc.)
Verse 5: Lennon echoes Ringo in the manner of a captain shouting orders over the squawk box. One of the
unsung mono/single song variants in the Beatles canon is the mix of this song which features Lennon's echo
starting right off the bat on the first line of the verse. In my humble opinion, the decision to later have it start
not on the first line is a fine example of “avoidance of foolish consistency.”
Refrain 3: the backing vocals sound richer, out of some combination of larger forces, more overdubs, and/or a
wider stereo picture.
Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
The eight-measure verse parses into a 4+4, “AA” structure. The harmonic shape of the section is open (ending on
V) but still, the rote “AA” repeat combined with the relative absence of interesting chord changes creates a not
entirely unpleasant monotony; especially in those stretches where the entire verse is repeated twice or more in a
row.
------------------- 2X -----------G |D
C |G
e |a
a |D
G |
I V
IV G
vi ii
ii V
I
G:
What is the chord on the final beat of measure 3? The pattern of root movement by a 5th, established throughout
the rest of the section suggests that the chord should be 'a' minor. I hear a C natural in the bass line at that point,
though. Is the chord simply 'a' in its 6/3 inversion, or do they mean to break the pattern with C Major (or added
6th) here?
Refrain
The refrain is also eight measures long, and parses into 4+4 “AA”. It flirts even more dangerously with montony
than the verse with a clunky harmonic rhythm and a closed harmonic shape, ending on I. The sustaining of V
through the inner two measures adds some slight slow-motion syncopation to the harmonic rhythm which gives
some relief from the four-squaredness. Additionally, with the exception of the outro, they have the wisdom to not
repeat the refrain twice or more in a row.
-------------- 2X --------------|G |D
||G
|
I V
I
Outro
The outro features the refrain repeated potentially forever into the fadeout. In actuality, the music trails off near
the end of the second iteration; remember, the full refrain is eight measures long, not four.
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Some Final Thoughts
Way back, in our study of “Little Child” I had remarked on the how the first side of With the Beatles sequences
five Beatles originals in a row, all in the same key but certainly not all in the same mood or tempo. The running
order of the first side of Revolver bears some striking contrast and comparison.
Though both albums make extensive use of stylistic contrasts in moving from track to track, the later album
shows not only a more extreme variety of styles, but also a much more sophisticated handling of key sequence and
mode:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Hard R&R/Blues (Taxman)
Classical (Eleanor Rigby)
Psychedelia (I’m Only Sleeping)
Indian world music (Love You To)
Soft rock (Here There and Everywhere)
Novelty number (Yellow Submarine)
Psychedelia (She Said She Said)
D
e (dorian)
e-flat
c (dorian)
G
G
B (Mixolydian)
Although the quotient of non-rock music is relatively high, the placement of two of the hardes numbers in the first
and last positions helps establish a center of gravity for the side as a whole.
Okay, now; you turn the record over.
“O-U-T spells ‘out.’”
122494#97
Page 370
And Your Bird Can Sing
Key:
Meter:
Form:
E Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse (guitar solo) – Bridge – Verse – Verse (guitar solo) – Outro (with
complete ending
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
This song may be most notable for its setting of an elegantly classical/Baroque leitmotif in context of a protogrunge and noisy guitar mix but there's more to it than that.
That opening riff would feel intrinsically Baroque just by virtue of its perpetual-motion-in-even-eighth-notes
and its embellished scale-wise melodic content. But the gesture is further intensified by Paul's occasionally
walking bass line, and most of all, by the way that the riff is cyclically repeated in the manner of a concerto
grosso's ritornello or a da capo aria's obbligato.
The form, though essentially a two-bridge model with only one verse separating the bridges, includes a repeat
of the entire the guitar solo verse section right before the outro.
The lyrics are wordier than usual. Even though the title phrase repeats in every verse, and the bridges have
their own refrain, every section opens differently, and this accentuates the (“... and while I'm at it, let me tell you
another thing ...”) ranting feel of the overall production.
Melody and Harmony
The home key is a sunny E Major jazzed up by those pentatonic touches so characteristic of John. In the tune, I'm
thinking of the motif that goes with the phrase, “but you don't get me.” In the guitar hook, look to the last measure
of the intro. In context of the otherwise Baroque nature of this hook, that syncopated lick at the end is ironic
sounding.
The other device much favored by John to be found here is the chromatically descending bassline in the
bridge. Yes, Paul liked to use it too, but our current example reminds me most of “I'll Be Back.”
Arrangement
Lewisohn is surprisingly silent on the question of how the backing instrumental for this song was put together,
leaving us to puzzle over, in particular, how many over-dubbed guitars participate in the lead part, which in the
bridge sounds like at least two, to me; the final scale sounds like parallel sixths or tenths, which I imagine would
be difficult to execute so cleanly, and legato, on a single axe.
John's lead vocal sounds like it is artificially double-tracked the two results cleanly mixed left and right as
single track vocals. I don't think it's possible to get “real” double tracking this tightly synched, and besides, the
type of mix we have here provides a unique effect of its own.
We find the usual extra amount of production values lavished on the details; this, in spite of the intentionally
“dirty” sound quality – actually, the latter might be ironically described as very much one of those carefully
sweated details. Others include:
•
•
the use of backing vocals for bold/italic emphasis, and the break in this pattern for the final verse where they
accompany the entire first phrase
the guitar lick between the first two verses, and its lick-like arpeggios during the bridges
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•
•
the careful patterns played by the auxiliary percussion such as tambourine in the verse and (yes, again) hand
claps in the bridge
... and speaking of that final verse, there's John's vulnerable striving to add a little trill on the phrase “get m”
way out on the edge of his range.
You never really become conscious of this stuff unless you obsessively go after it, but someone did go out of their
way to put it there, and, after all, an exceedingly tedious neighbor of mine once cornered me to let me know that it
is just this lonesome, solitary discovery of such things at wee hours of the night in the bowels of the library's
stacks that makes “Scholarship” the exciting profession that it is; and be forewarned, he told me.
The rhythmic pulse of the backing track is curiously clunky, with the syncopation coming primarily from the
guitar lick and vocals in the foreground.
Section By Section Walk Through
Intro
The intro is four measures long and utilizes a single chord, over which we hear the guitar riff for the first time.
Following the basic principle of not shooting your whole wad straight out of the box, they give us only what turns
out to be the first half of the solo; saving the climactic second half for later.
Verse
The verse is eight measures long and has a 4+4/AB phrase structure that is articulated, in part, by a difference in
harmonic rhythm between the phrases:
E:
|E |I
|-
|-
|f#
ii
|A
IV
|E
I
|-
|
The harmonic shape of this section is “closed” (opens and closes on the I chord). The home key is established
here by the plagal IV chord, with the dominant V saved for the bridge.
In order to fill out the full eight measures of the verse, the guitar solo sections extend the lick used in the
outro with a dramatic down-and-back-up-again scale passage.
Note carefully how the harmony for the guitar solo verses replaces the IV chord of measure 6 with a V chord.
It's not just that IV clashes with the melodic content of the solo; I think it's also a matter of wanting the solo to
convey the stronger sense of climax provided by V.
Bridge
Harmonically, the bridge fakes us out for a moment, as though it were going to modulate to the key of g# minor.
Ironically, the downward chromatic scale leisurely played out over the first four measures of this section takes us
straight back to the home key. This scenario, in which initial resolve to move elsewhere is belied by the inertia to
stay at home, is uncannily in synch with the song's subtext; see Final Thoughts below.
chords:
bass: |G#
iii
|g#
|
|G-nat.
||F#
||E
|F-nat.
I
ii
|f#
|E
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|V
|B
|
Outro
The outro is crafted out of a ready-steady-go repetition of the obbligato's opening. The coup de grace here is the
surprise ending on an A Major IV chord, in the 6/4 (aka "second") inversion, no less!
The very next song on the album, “For No One,” also ends inconclusively, though it chooses to end on V
instead of IV. In the case of “For No One,” you can at least rationalize that the V chord ending fits smoothly
within the overall flow of the song, where each refrain leads back to a verse by virtue of that V chord. The IV6/4
ending here, though, is generally a much less common ending than V, and in context of the rest of this song, it
seems an unprecedented surprise. This, like the abandoned modulation of the bridge, is another one of these
details of the song's internal design that resonates with the songs inner meanings.
Some Final Thoughts
Shall I stay within the comfort of where I am, or do I have the guts do go where I should be? (Do I dare eat a
peach?) And which choice is the “right” one? Going out on a very personal limb here, for a change, I'm not sure
that “And Your Bird Can Sing” discloses its innermost secrets until you've both sat within the sanctum of your
own living room making special plans with one individual, only later to be cornered in the last booth of the
Chinese restaurant by someone else to talk about new drapes for that same living room.
Maureen Cleave's interview of John, published 3/4/66 in the London Evening Standard, achieved
international notoriety because of his “we're more popular than Jesus” remark. But the overall portrait it paints of
the artist as he stands between Rubber Soul and Revolver is rather incredible for the hints of inner conflict and sad
ambivalence about materialistically excessive success which peep their way through the haze in spite of, (or is
that, because of), his stream of offhand, calculatedly outrageous sound bites. “You see there's something else I'm
going to do; something I must do – only I don't know what it is,” indeed.
Today we call it Mid Life Crisis, and we expect it to happen around the age of 41, or the environs. Goodness
... John was a tender 25, and was capable of articulating the excruciatingly impossible to verbalize nature of it;
and in music.
“Sex is the only physical thing I can be bothered with anymore.”
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For No One
Key:
Meter:
Form:
B Major
4/4
Verse – Verse – Bridge – Verse – Verse (instrumental solo) – Bridge – Verse – Verse – Bridge (with
complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
As an example of Paul's interest in borrowing elements of the early 19th century Art Song, I place this one on the
Spectrum of Style somewhere in between “Eleanor Rigby” and “Michelle.” Its self- conscious application of
Classical techniques is almost but not quite as extreme as the former, while the romantic feelings conjured by its
lyrics are at least as earnest yet infinitely more grown up than the latter.
The form is completely cyclic in the style of a multi-versed art or folk song. The sequence of double verse and
bridge is thrice repeated without intro, outro, or any other intervening interludes.
Melody and Harmony
The tune features a larger than average quotient of jumps and triadic outlines compared to either scalewise
movement or repeated notes.
The bridges feature a textbookishly Classical pivot modulation to the key of ii (c# minor). By contrast, the
verses rely on the definitely non classical flat-VII chord, instead of V, to establish the home key. Ironically, the
errant V chord makes its only appearances in the song as part of the pivot home at bridge's end.
The first phrase of the verse here makes use of a slowly walking bass played out against static harmony that is
interesting in comparison to the same stretch in “Here, There, and Everywhere.” The deep-structure chord
progression in both songs is from I to IV, though the walking bass in each case moves in the opposite direction.
The home key is the unusual choice of B Major; the only other Beatles song I can think of in this key, off the
top of my head, is “One After 909.”
A Riddle About the Recording
A couple of Lewisohn's comments about this song in Recording Sessions cannot be neatly reconciled without a
little creative hypothesizing. (A caveat: what follows here may not be news to you; I'm guilty of not having
checked everybody else's study of this song to see if this has been noted yet by anyone else. However, if it hasn't,
then consider this a real scoop.)
The comments:
•
•
•
Lewisohn says Paul's lead vocal was recorded with the tape running slow in order to sound higher (and
thinner) on playback.
Alan Civil, the French horn player on the recording, says that the tape he was asked to dub his part onto was
“in the cracks” between B-flat and B Major.
Mr. Civil also describes his horn solo as a “middle range” affair.
Why they are difficult to reconcile:
•
The finished song is mastered in, as close as I can tell, a true B Major; it's not “in the cracks.”
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•
The French horn solo is way the hell up in (and even a bit beyond) the conventional range of what a French
horn can play, especially with the medium-loud volume and easy nuance heard in this performance.
The creative hypothesis:
•
•
•
•
The song was performed in B-Major.
The artificially slow taping for Macca's vocal is what was “in the cracks.”
It was onto the latter that Civil's horn solo was recorded.
Furthermore, the horn solo was not merely speed-corrected back up to B-Major, but actually doubled in speed
on playback in order to sound a full octave higher. If I am correct about this, you might say that this horn solo
is the brassy analog to what Mr. Martin did with his piano solo on “In My Life.”
Arrangement
The instrumentation features two different sounding piano parts, a strong, prominent bass line, restrained
percussion, an ultra-sincere- sounding single track lead vocal, and of course, that solo for French horn.
The arrangement is layered in typical Beatles fashion:
•
•
•
•
The first two verses have only what sounds like an out-of-tune “tack” piano (and turns out to be a clavichord,
specially rented for the occasion) in chopping, even quarter notes, with some kind of percussion that sounds
like distorted, post-processed snare drumming.
For the first bridge add tambourine and a heavy bass line that sounds at least an octave or two below the rest
of the texture, and change the piano to a more normal sounding instrument playing a Schubertian
accompaniment figure of rocking eighth notes.
The heavy bass and the tambourine stick around for the rest of the song, but the piano part follows the pattern
established earlier.
The horn part first appears in the second half of the second verse pair, nicely inlaid within the arrangement by
virtue of its starting those two beats before the beginning of its verse, and extending a few beats into the
bridge which follows it. For both purposes of unification and avoidance of foolish consistency, the horn part
is repeated for part of one of the final verses, and again for just the last couple notes of the final bridge.
Section By Section Walk Through
Verse
Although the verse is a standard 8 measures long, its two 4-measure phrases are rhetorically subdivided into
unequal segments by the rhythmic flow and phrasing of the tune.
The harmonic motion of the phrase moves from I to IV and back to I by way of the modally-flavored flat-VII
chord; compare and contrast this with “Help!” The B Major chord is not exactly sustained through the first four
measures, but I think it would over-dignify what happens in there by designating a different Roman numeral for
each measure. The ear follows the large-scale motion from I to IV, and accepts the intervening measures as
connective tissue that is harmonically “inconsequential.”
chords:|B
bass:
B: I
|B
|-
||
|E
inner voice: |G#
|A#
|G#
|F#
|E
IV
|A
|B
|G-nat
|A
|B
flat-VII I
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||F#
|
|
|
|
|
The section nicely climaxes at the start of measure 5, with a D# in the tune creating a tangy Major 7th chord. The
further move to flat-VII with the chromatic descent buried within the texture helps unwind the tension, and adds a
slight nostalgic touch.
The Baroque syncopations and triadic outlines of the horn part nicely sympathize with the tune.
Bridge
The bridge is ten measures long and is built out of an 'AA' couplet of four-measure phrases plus a two-measure
bridge which sets up the return of the next verse:
B:
c#
|c#
ii
i V
B:
|c#
ii
c#
i
|G#
|c#
|-
i
|-
|G#
V
i
|c#
|-
|
|F#
|
V6 ->5
4 ->3
Some folks will describe the harmony of m.10 as a I6/4 chord moving to V. I prefer analyzing it as entirely the V
chord, with the first half of the measure being a double appoggiatura that resolves in the second half. If you're
unaccustomed to think about music this way this all sounds, no doubt, like a matter of hair-splitting semantics.
The difference though hinges on whether or not you hear root motion between the two chords, and believe it or
not, you'll find various harmony textbooks rather split and vehement in the way they hold on this point.
Some Final Thoughts
Savor these lyrics, for in them we get an unaccustomedly undefended glimpse though the aperture of Paul's
soulful heart, as though it had been dilated against his will by hypnosis or drug. Incidentally, these lyrics also
sport clever uses of changing perspective (e.g. alternation of verses which speak of him, her, or both him & her)
and varied reprise (e.g. the different reference to “need” in the last line of each verse except one, and the manner
in which the final verse leads off with the same opening line as the first.) -- but this, alone, would not make them
as special as they are. And yet, if you think these final lyrics are intense, you've got to take a look at an earlier
draft of them, as they are presented to us scrawled literally on the back of a metal-clasped manila envelope (see
“Things We Said Today”, which further credits the John Cage “Notations” collection.) While the final lyrics are
to be preferred on poetic terms for their theme of bittersweet resignation, the earlier draft shows a person nowhere
yet near on the mend from heartbreak.
Paul's original title for the song was “Why Did It Die?” The first two verses match the final song exactly but
from that point on, you cannot miss the rather Woody Allen-esque manner in which the hero beats his head in
denial against the brick wall of truth:
Why did it die?
You'd like to know.
Cry and blame her.
You wait
You're too late
As you're deciding why the wrong one wins, the end begins
And you will lose her.
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Why did it die?
I'd like to know.
Try to save it.
You want her
You need (love) her
So make her see that you believe it may work and some day
You need each other.
Working out this kind of thing in public surely was never Macca's preference, no less strong suit. Yet, we see here
how much the poor fellow must have hurt for Ms. Jane Asher. My own rhetorical final question is what, why, and
wherefore, in the final lyrics, are these tears that she cries “for no one”? Wishful thinking, or mature, ironic
insight?
“You won't forget her.”
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Doctor Robert
Key:
Meter:
Form:
B Major
4/4
Intro – Verse – Verse – Refrain – Verse – Refrain – Verse/Outro (into fadeout)
General Points Of Interest
Style and Form
While “Doctor Robert”’s most conspicuous claim to infamy may be its oblique-yet-obvious reference to
recreat