Notes on "Eight Days A Week" (EDAW.2)

KEY	D Major


FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Verse -> Bridge -> Verse -> 
		Bridge -> Verse -> Outro (w/complete ending)


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 WCWIO, 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" (EDAW) 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 EDAW 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 EDAW on _Anthology 1_ reveal the following:

- ("Hey, I thought he'd talk about those infamous parallel fifths, but this false-relation stuff sounds *really* kinky!")

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 EDAW:

- False-relations appear in both the verse and refrain of EDAW. 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.


- EDAW 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.



- 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 bassline 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.


- The verse is a four-square (4 * 4) 16 measures long, with a musical phrasing pattern of AABA':

	------------------------------ 2X -------------------------------
			(uses G#)	(uses G-natural)
	|D		|E		|G		|D		|
D:	 I		 V-of-V		 IV		 I

			(uses G-natural)		(uses G#)
	|b		|e		|b		|E		|
	 vi		 ii6/3		 vi		 V-of-V

	|D		|E		|G		|D		|
D:	 I		 V-of-V		 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 bassline!

- Watch the arrangement:


- 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		|-		|b		|-		|`
	 V				 vi

	(uses G#)	                 (uses G-natural)
	|E		|-		|G		|A7		|
	 V-of-V				 IV		 V

- The bridge again contains a cross-relation, but our interest in this section should be more on the V chord. EDAW 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.

- 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:

- 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 transcibed by ear:

	Eight days a week   I  lo- o- o- o- ove you
Paul	E     E    F# E     D  E   D  E  D  E D B
John	A     A    B  A     A  B   A  B  A  B A F#

	Eight days a week   is  not enough to show I  care
Paul	E     E    F# E     D   E   D  E   D  E    E  G
John	G#    G#   A  G#    B   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).


- 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.


- Lest any of you think I'm some dessicated pedant who derives no joy from adctually 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 Schroder-from-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 :-).

- BTW, I assume a certain basic knowledge of musical notation and theory in these articles. Please don't hesitate to send e-mail if you have any questions or suggestions on how to make them more intelligible.


Alan (


"They tried to fob you off on this musical charlatan,
 but *I* gave him the test."				     022700#2.2


Revision History
060689	2.0	Original release
022000	2.1	Expand and adapt to series template
022700  2.2     Fix a couple mistakes and add coverage of A1 outtakes

                Copyright (c) 2000 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.
Click here to return.

Click here to return to AWP's index.