Notes on "Run For Your Life" (RFYL)
KEY D Major
FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain -> Verse/Refrain -> Break (instrumental) -> Verse/Refrain -> Verse/Refrain -> Outro (fadeout) GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
- 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.
- 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 occuring" Major one.
- 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, 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".
- 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."
- 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:
- 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 concommitant 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 bassline lick taking the music straight back home to D.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 procede 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 calcuable statistic related to the above that's intruiging 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, (PPM through RS), 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 AHDN and our song, here.
- Plotting this idea much beyond _Rubber Soul_ gets into some tricky areas. For example, how to parse MMT; the EP ended w/ "Blue Jay Way" (complete), but the expanded album ends w/ "All You Need is Love" (fadeout). Similarly, does the YS album end with AYNIL, 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.
Regards, Alan (email@example.com) --- "Get out while you can, ladies." 112893#89 --- Copyright (c) 1993 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.
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