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Notes on "Yer Blues"

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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 "Yer Blues"

KEY	Very bluesy E Major

METER	6/8

FORM	Verse-A -> Verse-A ->
		Verse-B -> Verse-B -> Verse-B ->
			Verse-C (guitar solo) -> Verse-C (guitar solo) -> Outro (Verse-A) (fadeout)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

This is another one of what I call the Beatles' big "gesture" songs; those in which production and performance values rather overshadow, even overwhelm the underlying raw material; where the gesture is to be exploited for its suggestive connotations of the cliche and the cultural ready-made. John was particularly fond of doing these; I leave it to you as a classroom exercise or discussion topic to identify other examples.

In this case, it is a kind of intense, over-wrought and stylized Blues that is conjured, the sort that was quite popular in Britain at the time; the sort for which you need a sidebar here on the likes of the "Animals" and their influence-ee's to fully appreciate.

The form stays completely within the same variation of the standard 12-bar blues frame, yet, manages to convey a sense of diversified form by altering details in the melodic and rhythmic foreground; compare this with "Rocky Raccoon," of all things!

In particular, this song exploits the subtle contrast inherent in alternately parsing the 12-bar frame as 8 + 4 versus 4 + 8. Look back to our comparison of "Roll Over Beethoven" with "Money" in 'covers2' for the background on this gambit.

There is also the uncanny way in which a "hiccup" of an extra beat added to most of the verses is balanced out near the end by that most rough and rude of splices.

Melody and Harmony

The form and the melody are true blue, through and through. Granted, in order to get the form to come out "right" I've parsed the meter as an unusual 6/8 that contradicts the ordinal numbers heard in the introductory count-in, but the melody, with its flat 3rd and 7ths couldn't be more genuine if it tried.

Although the harmony is dominated by the old I-IV-V, it includes the rather optional flat-III and flat-VII for extra spice and tang. Alright, so maybe I'm "imagining" the latter chord, but I promise that if you use it in your own very personal cover of the song that it will not sound out of place.

Arrangement

The backing track sounds thick but also built up from relatively spare resources. Keep your eye on that lead guitar lick that sort of mimics the lead vocal.

The lead vocal is strangely recorded to sound some vague combination of double tracked, fed-back, and reverbed. Do I even hear Paul joining in at one point?

The rough edit for the outro has a visceral effect similar to that of accidentally, unexpectedly smacking your forehead against a hard surface, a brief seconds-worth of fainting spell, or if you like, a small but critical few frames of celuloid cut out of a film.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

Verse

Ringo's count-in may be just as spliced as George's is in "Taxman" but here, at least, it's in tempo.

All the sections are built around the same slow pounded-out 12-bar frame. All the Verse-A and the first two of the Verse-B sections feature one intentionally spastic extra beat in measure 10. The final Verse-B section omits the extra beat in the interest of seizing an opportunity to modulate the backbeat so that the measure lengths remain the same, but the eighth-note triplets in the two instrumental Verse-C sections are twice the speed they were in the rest of the song; suddenly the beat feels more 4-square than ternary.


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


	|A		|-		|E		|-		|
	 IV				 I


	|G		|B		|E    G	 A    G |E    D	B	|
	 flat-III	 V		 I	 IV	 I      V

Verse-A sections feature an 8 + 4 structure (AA + B), with the "wanna die" phrase echoed in the second half of the first two phrases. The Verse-B sections feature a 4 + 8 structure (C + AB), with the first phrase being declaimed with dramatic pauses, and the next two restoring the original beat. The true formal irony in this situation is the common factor of the AB phrase filling out the second and third phrase of ALL the sections!

Outro

For balance, the outro restores both the original backbeat and the Verse-A formal structure.

The obvious splice, aside from its special effect, would seem to make an eye-winking mockery of all those other ocassions in which this very same group would exert a surgeon's level of control to imperceptably audio-retouch a track using essentially the same technique.

John's vocal, either mixed way down or recorded like from another room adds just the right surreal balancing touch to the up close ranting featured in the rest of the song.

Some Final Thoughts

Lewisohn labels this song as simply "a parody of the British blues scene." Maybe so. But, when you contemplate John's track record over the long run, (from "Twist and Shout" and "Money" in the early days to "Don't Let Me Down" and "I Want You/She's So Heavy" in the Late Period,) you've got to acknowledge that this screaming style is also in equal measure a genuine part of his essential musical persona.

Regards,

Alan (awp@world.std.com)

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


More >>

The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles


Book of the Month 2003-10
The Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles is an essential addition to Beatles literature - a new and perceptive analysis of both the music and the lyrics.

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'.

Level: , 816 pages
RefNr: 0711981671
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