Notes on "Martha My Dear" (MMD)

KEY	Eb Major

METER	4/4

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

GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST


Style and Form

- Don't be fooled: the gracious surface charm of this song is more substantively belied by novel touches in the departments of form, phrasing and harmony than you might ever notice without a closer look.

- The form is complicated, albeit in subtle terms:

    - A larger than average quotient of precious bandwidth is monopolized by purely instrumental music; i.e. the long intro, mid-section break, and outro.

    - That instrumental intro encompasses one complete verse section, thus "forcing" the unusual deployment of only a single sung verse before the first bridge. Similarly, the instrumental verse section in the middle "forces" the final verse to be the only other sung verse in the entire song.

    - Though the piece includes two bridges, the first one includes an extension that is cavalierly ommited the second time 'round.

- The verse includes a Charleston-like syncopated repeat of the first melodic fragment, thereby setting up an assymetrical interpolation of 2 excess beats within the first line of the song. Paul would much later employ a variation of this same technique in "Two Of Us;" listen (I command you!) to the early runthroughs of the latter (the first track on the venerable _Songs From The Past_, volume 4) in which Paul adjures his colleagues to listen to how well "it works" as he "rhythms it" for them, demo style.


Melody and Harmony

- The home key is a jazzy, blues-inflected dialect of Eb Major in which a lot of different chords are used, a larger quotient than average of which appear with freely dissonant embellishments.

- The bridge is set in the key of F Major, the modulation made out to sound more remote than it really is by the manner in which it is abruptly entered and exited.


Arrangement

- The piano that opens the piece, played drily with NO pedal and closely miked, runs beneath most if not all of the track, but the Beatles convention of instrumental layering is also very much in evidence:

    Verse 1 -- Add light strings to underscore piano solo.

    Bridge 1 -- Add brass chords on the first and third beats of each measure, with string chords on EVERY beat.

    Bridge extension -- Add drums (their first appearance on the track) and note how the bass, which just may have joined in earlier becomes more noticeable here.

    Instrumental Solo -- The tune is carried here by a trumpet. In the meanwhile the drums drop out but the bass continues on, and you can now hear hand claps in the backing part.

    Bridge 2 -- Similar to the Bridge 1, but note how the drums show up here this time around; previously, they were held in reserve for the so-called extension.

    Final verse -- No drums, no brass, but the bassline is ever more prominent.

    Outro -- For just strings and bass.

- This arrangement features three enduring signature details; i.e. you'd recognize what song they came from no matter how brief the sound bite in which you might hear them:

    - The A->Bb grace note in the piano part just before the downbeat to the 3rd phrase of the verse.

    - The horn fanfare at the end of the bridge and bridge extension.

- The bassline accented in "Bulgarian" rhythm (3 + 3 + 2) for the 2nd phrase of the bridge. Paul's own precedent for this device to-date is "Good Day Sunshine," but on _Abbey Road_ you'll find George using it in "Here Comes The Sun" and John using it in the intro to "Because."

SECTION-BY-SECTION WALKTHROUGH


Intro

- The intro/verse section is an extremely unusual 14.5 measures in length, the first of its four phrases being foreshortened by 6 beats; the musical equivalent of a receding chin :-) In this case, the effect is motivated by the dog-chasing-its-tail motif with which the tune opens:


	|Eb        |-        |-  D |
Eb:      I                       V-of-iii


	|g       |C            |F       |-       |
         iii      V-of-(V-of-V) V-of-V


	|Bb        |Ab9      |Bb7       |Ab7      |
	 V          IV        V          IV


	|Bb7       |Ab7      |Bb7       |-        |
         V          IV        V

- Well before the true Eb home key is established, the section veers off sharply in the direction of a possible modulation to the key of Bb Major. Though the Bb chord becomes clearly established by section's end as "V," not "I," you still might say that the tonal center of gravity is weighted deceptively more in favor of Bb rather than Eb.

- The 9ths and 7ths applied to all of the Ab Major chords above fall under the category of 'free' dissonance.


Verse

- It's the intro revisited.


Bridge

- The bridge, proper, is 16 four-square measures long and appropriately makes "atonement" for the metrical imbalance of the verse section. By the same token, it makes its own very balls-ily abrupt harmonic shift to the key of F Major:


	|d7      |-       |g7      |-        |
F:       vi                ii


	|F-added 6th|-       |-       |-        |
	 I


	|**bass pedal tone on C ...
	|g       |C       |g       |C   A    |
	 ii       V        ii       V   V-of-vi


	|d       |-       |g7      |-        |
         vi                ii

- Freely dissonant harmony continues in this section with the large number of gratuitous 7th chords, the added-6th embellishment of the new home key chord, and the pedal tone which is sustained through the first three measures of the third phrase.


Bridge Extension

- This unique passage constitutes a quite natural continuation of the bridge from which it is spawned. The harmony is of the same fabric with its rampant free 7ths. The rather offbeat 3-measure phrasing of the opening of this section somehow fits with that "receding chin" gesture of the verse:


	|d	|G9	|-	|
F:	 vi      V-of-V


	|d	|G9	|-	|
         vi      V-of-V


	|C7	|-	|Bb	|-7	|
         V               IV


	|d      |-      |g7     |-      |Eb	|
         vi              ii
                      Eb:iii             I

- The abrupt transition back to the home key of the verse features that root move of a Major Third that we discussed back in of all places, "Wild Honey Pie." Note how the second bridge embellishes this gesture with a novel 3->4->5 hook in the toppermost voice.


Outro

- The outro takes the rather simple way out, considering all formal and harmonic subtlties that have been dished out all the way through the rest of the song: the V chord that is left hanging at the end of the final verse is allowed to simply resolve to a prolongation of the I chord, sustained through the downbeat of the 3rd measure, but with the remainder of four measures to the phrase clearly implied.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

- I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm of that generation for whom the suggestion that this song was dedicated to the composer's sheep dog was a disambiguating revelation.

- Furthermore, I find myself the more mystified and more than a bit dismayed by Mr. Lewisohn's revisionist attempts to tell us all that it's NOT about a a dog, after all.

- Leave well enough alone and give us a break, I say. A dog may fine, Paulie, but you'll never connect with a real woman with that "hold your head up/silly girl" kind of foolish line.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---
"Mind you, I stood up for you, I mean I wouldn't have it."   120797#137
---


                Copyright (c) 1997 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.