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Notes on "It's All Too Much"

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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 "It's All Too Much"

KEY G Major
METER 4/4
                 ------- 2X -------
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Refrain ->
            Refrain (guitar instrumental) ->
                Refrain (trumpet instrumental) ->
                    Verse -> Refrain -> Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)


General Points of Interest

Style and Form

George's combination in this song of an harmonic drone with a modal-like tune, pop-rock backbeat, and extended improvisatory intro/outro yields an Indian/Western fusion that is at least serendipitous if not ingenious.

The overall feeling of a come-as-you-are jam session is amplified by the extent to which the verse and refrain sections are are hard to tell apart judging from the music along. Both sections are eight measures long with a 4+4, AA' phrasing structure, and are performed over a bassline drone over which virtually no harmonic motion takes place. Whatever formal analysis we draw from the text is in ironic contrast to the otherwise continuous texture of the track.

This is yet another interesting Beatles example of how Gesture can triumph over the specific gravity of Content by virtue of sheer length and repetition. My own short list of nominees for this category includes the likes of "I Wanna Be Your Man," "I'm Down," "Rocky Raccoon," along with the more explicitly jam session sections of "Hey Jude," "You Never Give Me Your Money," (dig the infamous outtake!) and "12-bar Blues."

Melody and Harmony

The tune places off-kilter emphasis on scale steps 2 (A) and 7 (F#), while avoiding 4 (C); compare/contrast this with "Within You, Without You."

The only harmonic deviation from the G Major chord appears in the refrain phrase, and even there, it's more a matter of voice leading than full fledged root chord movement.

Arrangement

The basic backing track of organ, drums, and lead guitar is supplemented by trumpets and a bass clarinet. Artsy restraint is exercised by delaying the trumpet entrance until the second instrumental break, and then bringing it back for the final refrains, and for selected frames of the outro.

George of course gets the double tracked lead vocal, backed by John and Paul in the refrains and outro.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

Intro

The broad scope of the song is intimated right from the start with a long two-phase intro that lasts a bit longer than a full minute.

The first phase, alone, is 16 seonds long, and kicks off with "To your mother" (in 9th grade I got punched VERY hard in the stomach by one Leo Sullivan for saying this to him during home room), and a high-pitched G Major chord followed by noisy feedback.

The second phase is built out like this:

One phrase worth of refrain (plus a single lingering "spacer" measure) scored for organ without other backing instruments or percussion.

One full instrumental refrain with lead guitar, bass and percussion in the form of drum kit and handclaps; the latter recorded with a surrealistically wide stereo image.

One more full refrain, this time with George singing the title phrase, starting off in the unlikely context of the pickup to the second measure of each phrase; surprise :-) And there's one more spacer measure just before the first verse kicks in.

Verse

As mentioned above, we have a straightforward eight measure section with AA' parallel phrasing and just a plain I chord.

Refrain

And again, we have another eight measure section with AA' parallel phrasing:

                -------------- 2X ---------------
        tune |E   D |D   B |E   DBAG|B |
        middle  |C   B |A   B |C   B   |- |
        bass |G |- |-  |- |
                 I

One measure spacers are added at the end of refrains that are immediately followed by a verse section; i.e. the first refrain and the trumpet break.

Chord charts for this song will show a C Major chord on the downbeat of measures 1 and 3, and an a minor chord on the downbeat of measure 2 above. I'll stand firm in my claim that there is NO root chord change anywhere in this section; that it all boils down to neighbor tone motion in the inner voices superimposed on to the pedal tone of G in the bass.

Outro

The outro here weighs in at around 2:45 in commensurate balance with the intro. Think about it: the duration of this outro is longer longer than a non-trivial number of complete Beatles songs!

On the one hand, you can try your best to "capture" this long passage in terms of documenting its sequence of subsections; e.g. title phrase vamping, trumpet fanfares, the quote from "Sorrow," the "dead" decalaration, a short instrumental break, followed by increasingly giddy vamping on the title phrase into the sunset.

But on the other hand, I dare you to try and analytically "reduce" it in terms of insight very far beyond what it manifestly offers you on the surface.

Some Final Thoughts

I have no doubt of George's mystical sincerity, but I cannot escape the feeling in this song that he is self-effacingly winking at us with the desideratum, "show me that I'm everywhere and get me home in time for tea."

It's an obliquiely phrased mixed message reflecting of an inner conflict between spiritual striving and the backsliding lust for bourgeois comfort and respectibility. Hesse's here, Harry Haller, also know as "Der Steppenwolf," would have been proud. As he put it, "one day I would learn to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too."

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---

"Oh, my God, he's a natural."                                121398#160

---

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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