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Notes on "Savoy Truffle"

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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 "Savoy Truffle"

KEY G Major
METER 4/4
FORM Intro -> Verse -> Refrain ->
            Intro' -> Verse -> Refrain ->
                Bridge -> Verse (Instrumental) -> Refrain ->
                    Bridge -> Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

In the true White Album spirit of masquerading in diverse musical styles, we find George here turning in a heavily syncopated, bluesy, rock and roller that has a strong contemporary dance band undercurrent.

The preachy lyrics though are a Harrisonian dead giveaway if you ask me.

Melody and Harmony

The musical vocabulary here is split down the middle between stylized blues and a more progressive harmonic style that makes you feel constantly on the move, on the threshold of some new breakthrough.

The blues show up from the extent to which I-IV-V create an harmonic backbone for the song in spite of the use of several other chords. You also find heavy use of the almost-minor blue 3rd in the tune pitted against the Major I chord, as well as the flat 7th showing up repeatedly in the saxophones.

What I call the progressive style is found in the signature use here of root chord progressions of 3rd using chords that are not indigenous to the home key. This effect is further enhanced by the use of chromatic scale riffs to bridge the chords.

The tonal "rule book" says that the home key of this song "must be" G Major because that's the key in which we end, but it's somewhat beside the point. The song spends most of its life in the parallel key pair of E Major/e minor, with the shift to the relative Major key of G at the end of the refrain a bit of a non sequitar. There are other Beatles songs that exploit this triumverate of keys (i.e. a parallel Major/minor pair + the relative Major), but never quite with such audacity.

Arrangement

The backing track contains the predictable elements of guitar, drums and bass, but what you remember most vividly after the fact is the saxaphone section which alternates between jazzy obligato licks in unison, and syncopated mass chords.

It sounds like George handles the vocal chores entirely by himself. double tracked for the most of the verses and the two bridges, and harmonizing for the all of the refrains and a couple of verses.

Paul's bassline is a perpetual motion tour de force that sounds as though it attempts to double with the sax part here and there.

A couple of not so random details:

All the refrains feature chordal accents from the brass and keyboard on the offbeats of 2 & 4, but in only the second refrain, the guitar provides its own antiphonal accents on 1 & 3.

Someone (Paul?) is heard shouting "wooh" in the last measure of the second and the final verse.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

Intro

A couple beats of drum fill are followed by two measures of vamping on the E Major chord.

Verse

The verses are 12 measures long, built out of three phrases roughly parallel in shape. Each starts with some jump down and ends with an chromatic wiggle upward.

        |E |- |- |- |
E:  I

        |F# |- |A |- |
         V-of-V   IV


        |G |- |B |- |
         bIII   V

The first pair of verses cheat by dropping a beat from the first measure. This unusual effect ironically makes it sound like George is dramatically holding back at that point in spite of the fact that, strictly speaking, he's rushing ahead by a single heartbeat.

[I-II-IV-IIIb-V] Your x-ray hearing demonstrates how I-IV-V are deployed as the harmonic backbone of this section, with the F# and G Major chords working as helpers. Note how neither of the latter are part of the E Major home key, and how each of them is entered by root motion of a whole tone; upward in the first case, and downward in the second.

The overall harmonic shape of the verse is wide open, ending on V.

The second verse is preceeded by a repeat of the 2 measure intro vamp.

Refrain

The refrain is a simple, single four measure phrase:

        |e |- |C7 |G |
e:  i   VI
                     C:  IV

The home key changes to the parallel minor key making it all the easier to modulate to the relative Major key of G. The latter is established only by the relatively weak plagal cadence.

Bridge

The bridge is eight measures long and contains an AA repeat of a single phrase:

        ------------------------------ 2X -------------------------------
        |e  |A  |e    A |G    B |
         i    IV    i    IV       bIII   V

[i-IV-IIIb-V] Again the harmonic shape is wide open and determined by I-IV-V. The start off on e minor makes the Major IV chord sound somewhat modal. In context, you'd never believe that the G chord in this section is the same one that shows up at the end of the refrain.

The last two measures of the above phrase are perhaps the most strongly syncopated ones on the whole track.

Outro

The outro is just one last appearance of the refrain; it's fifth.

By this point of the song you are so accustomed to hearing the 4th beat of the last measure filled in as a pickup to the next section that when it is left entirely silent at the very end you almost fall out of your seat.

Some Final Thoughts

And then there's the ambiguously erotic line, "I feel your taste all the time we're apart." I suppose that's included to keep you ever so slightly off balance from complacently accepting the song as entirely about entirely concerned with a virtual addition to candy bars. Perhaps I am projecting.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---

"You've got an inferiority complex, you have."               062898#153

---

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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