KEY E Major METER 4/4 FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse' -> Bridge -> Verse' -> Bridge -> Verse' -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
- "You're Going To Lose That Girl" (YGTLTG) and "Help!" make for an 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 YGTLTG 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 forehshortening 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 neccessarily 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 dramaticfally 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.
- 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:
WCWIO has a verse that starts after the downbeat, but both its hook phrase and bridge start "on" the downbeat.
AILH is a song in which the verse and bridge are "after;" the hook phrase actually "precedes" (aka "is a pickup to") the downbeat.
DT has a verse and bridge that is on the downbeat and a hook phrase that precedes.
SLY conspicuously precedes the downbeat in every section, in many cases just with a single syllable.
H! 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 occuring 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 gramatically 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 H! and YGTLTG 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., AILH). 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 YGTLTG 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.
- 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 :-)
- 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 |c# |f#9 |B | E: I vi ii 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 :-).
- 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 |c# |f#9 |B | I vi ii 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.
- 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:
|f# |D | E: ii 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.
- 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 |C |G |- | G: I IV I |G |C |F E I IV flat VII E:V-of-flat II 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."
- 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# |D A |E |- | ii flat-VII IV I (IV-of-IV?)
- 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 like 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 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 smokey 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 occured to that person. So much for not particularly subliminal persuasion.
Regards, Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- "Well look after him. I don't want to find you've lost him." 051900#7.1 --- Revision History 071989 7.0 Original release 051900 7.1 Revise, expand and adapt to series template Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack All Rights Reserved
Click here to return to AWP's index.