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Notes on "All My Loving"
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This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song
Notes on "All My Loving"
KEY E Major METER 4/4 FORM Verse -> Verse -> Refrain -> Bridge -> Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)
General Points Of Interest
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.
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:
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".
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 baseline 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".
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 |c# |A |f# |D |B E: ii V I vi IV ii flat VII V 9 13 |f# |B |E |c# |A |B |E |- ii V I vi IV V 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!"
This section is eight measures long and built out of two parallel iterations of the following 4-measure phrase:
|c# |C augmented |E |- vi ?? root ?? 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 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?
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 |- |E |- f# |B |E |- IV I ii 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-yet-critical, the slowing of the harmonic rhythm, however slightly, provides some well-needed breathing space.
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.
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# |- |E |- vi 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
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
- 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:
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. IMHO, 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."
Regards, Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- "It's homework time for all you college puddings. I want this lot all answered tonight." 012701#27.1 ---
Copyright (c) 1991, 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 articles were originally posted in the News Group rec.music.beatles. The content from this newsgroup is archived at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/awp.html. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.
If you want to learn more about the musical side of song writing, chord progressions, harmony and theory through The Beatles songs (and/or The Beatles in particular), I recommend the following book:
Artist: Dominic Pedler
Arranged by The Beatles
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