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Notes on "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey"

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Previous page: Notes on "Mother Nature's Son" Next page: Notes on "Helter Skelter"

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 "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey"

KEY E Major
METER 4/4 (with 3/4 surprises)
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Refrain (abridged) ->
                Verse -> Refrain ->
                        Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

This is yet another one of John's broad-gesture songs. It's an early foreshadow of the primal scream style that he would increasingly be drawn to in some of his "solo" work with Yoko, but as a Beatles track, this one bears comparison with "Yer Blues" in terms of its heavy guitar texture and sometimes wrenching meter.

The painfully slow harmonic rhythm combined with the virtually unoticeable borderline between Verse and Refrain sections creates the impression of an improvisatory rave-up that could go on seeminly forever; as if, as actually happens in the case of the later "Dig It," the officially released track was just a conveniently-sized slice lifted out of a much longer, complete studio performance.

The "wrenching meter" effect here is caused by switching the meter from 4/4 to 3/4 for two measures of the last phrase of the refrain. John had used essentially the same gambit in "Strawberry Fields Forever;" but you won't read about *that* in the newspapers :-)

The lyrics are a rather extreme example of John's talent for milking poetic ambiguity from small bites of cliched small talk; "Come on/ take it easy". The amazing thing is how the roots of this go as far back as such early tracks as "Yes It Is".

Melody and Harmony

Most of the melodic material is from the realm of rapping chant. Only for the title phrase followed by the lead guitar solo does it rise to the level of memorable tunefulness.

Harmony is predominated by what I call the Hey Jude trio of I, IV, and flat-VII. This is rounded out by the inclusion of flat-III (the next hop around the cycle of fifths from flat-VII), and the garden variety V chord. The juxtaposition of V with flat-VII, and I with flat-III creates two classic cross-relations.

Arrangement

The backing track is thick and heavily pulsing with the sound of many guitar overdubs, the bass, and drum kit.

The shaken (cow?) bell only *seems* to be incessant. If you manage to track it (come on, you can do it yourself this time), you'll note how neatly it is dropped out and back in over the course of the song; typical Beatlesque attention to detail.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

Intro

The intro is eight measures long and features a syncopated vamp on the I -> IV chord progression repeated four times. We're parsing the tempo here as a fast 4/4:

        ------- 4X ------
        |E |A |

E:  I  IV

Verse

The verse in each case is 12 measures of jamming on the I chord. No small amount shuffling action underlies the otherwise moribund harmony.


        --------------- 3X --------------
        |E |- |- |- |
         I

Refrain

The complete refrain is 24 measures long and is built out of an unusual poetic pattern; the first two phrases seem like just a direct continuation of the talky verse, the next two phrases have singing only in their first halves, and the final two phrases are left entirely instrumentl. Paradoxically, though the harmonic rhythm steadily picks up pace in this section, the spoken word becomes increasingly more sparse.

        --------------- 2X --------------
        |E |- |- |- |
         I


        |A |- |- |- |
         IV


        |D |- |- |- |
         flat-VII


        |B |- |- |- |
         V

        ***3/4 *** 3/4 *** 4/4 ...
        |E |D |G |- |
         I  flat-VII flat-III


        ***3/4 *** 3/4 *** 4/4 ...
        |E |G |D |- |
         I  flat-III flat-VII

The first refrain is actually eight measures short, starting as it does where the chords change to A Major, below. If you imagine the song without this shortcut, you can sense the danger of boredom quickly setting it by too much unrelieved exposure to the E Major chord.

By no coincidence, the metrical shift directly coincides with, and its dramatic effect is intensified by, the most memorable guitar solo lick in entire track.

The reversable deployment of the chord progression [I-VIIb-IIIb / I-IIIb-VIIb] in the final two phrases nicely resonates with the inside/outside running joke in the lyrics.

Outro

The instruments drop out for the first four measures of the outro, leaving the noisemaking vocalists momentarily in the spotlight.

The remainder of the outro suggests a kind of never-ending repeat of the verse section.


        |E |- |- |- |
         I


        |- |- |D |- |
                         flat-VII

        |- |- |- |- |


        -------------- 3X ... -----------
        |E |- |- |- |
         I

Some Final Thoughts

Here we have an example where the Esher demo, compared to the official version, is unusually sketchy with respect to musical detail: e.g. no intro, the chord progressions are incomplete and in some places different; the guitar work lacks punch, the tune doesn't fit properly above the chords, and the most distinctive melodic riffs appear to have yet been composed.

By the same token, the broad strokes are already quite in evidence: the verses with their pattering lyrics rapped out over repetitive harmonies, and the refrains with their sparser lyrics declaimed over more chord changes more clearly directed.

IMHO, the extent to which the demo successfully captures the fundamental essence of the finished product in spite of all sketchiness only goes to underscore the notion that this song is, at heart, big gesture-oriented.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---
"We've broken out, oh, the blessed freedom of it all!" 051098#148

Copyright (c) 1998 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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More than thirty years after The Beatles split up, the music of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison lives on. What exactly were the magical ingredients of those legendary songs? why are they still so influential for today's bands? This groundbreaking book sets out to exlore The Beatles' songwriting techniques in a clear and readable style. It is aimed not only at musicians but anyone who has ever enjoyed the work of one of the most productive and successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century. Author Dominic Pedler explains the chord sequences, melodies and harmonies that made up The Beatles' self penned songs and how they uncannily complemented the lyrical themes. He also assesses the contributions that rhythm, form and arrangement made to the Beatles unique sound. Throughout the book the printed music of the Beatles' songs appears alongside the text, illustrating the authors explanations. The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles is an essential addition to Beatles literature - a new and perceptive analysis of the music itself itself as performed by what Paul McCartney still calls 'a really good, tight little band'.

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