Bing Hodneland logo



List Bestselling Books


List Bestselling DVDs


Sheet Music Plus Featured Sale
In Association with

All the information on this site is free. But if it is of value to you, I appreciate a tip.

Previous page:

Notes on "Run For Your Life"

Next page:
Previous page: Notes on "If I Needed Someone" Next page: Notes on "Paperback Writer" and "Rain"

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 "Run For Your Life"

KEY D Major


FORM Intro -> Verse/Refrain -> Verse/Refrain -> Break (instrumental) -> Verse/Refrain -> Verse/Refrain -> Outro (fadeout)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

Everybody, including John himself, has apologized or made excuses for this song somewhere along the line. You'd think that this one must be one of the more obvious last-minute fillers hastily thrown together before the Rubber Soul drop-deadline. When you go to check Lewisohn's recording diary, though, you're surprised to find out that it was one of the *first* tracks recorded for the new album!

Furthermore, we now live in a time where we've been sensitized and dismayed by a rising tide of ubiquitous domestic violence to the point where the words of this song seem in plain bad taste. Personally, I can vouch that even way back at the time of its initial release, people thought that the Jealous-Guy-Posturing heard here was at least a tad over-stated, especially for supposedly good clean fun.

It's a shame since musically at least, even if it's not top-draw Beatles music circa late '65, it's not really such a bad song, per se. The style is that hard-to-categorize mix of blues (dig that lead guitar riff), pop-rock (the old cliche I-vi chord progression), and even a touch of the folksy (if you'll note the use of the acoustic rhythm guitar) so characteristic of the middle-period Boys.

The form is distinguished by a primary section that combines elements of both Verse and Refrain (compare this with "Wait" ), a 12-bar blues frame for the instrumental "break", and an overall repeat pattern that doesn't quite match any of our more typical one or two bridge models.

Melody and Harmony

The I-vi cliche (and here, I'm talking about just I-vi, and *not* the case where it continues to IV-V) was a veritable staple of the early Beatles vocabulary, especially John's, whether in "From Me To You", "All I've Got To Do", "It Won't Be Long", and "Not A Second Time." With the exception of this song and the somewhat older "It's Only Love" the device would seem to more or less disappear during the middle period.

In this specific instance, the I-vi gesture adds more than local color to the chord progressions; in fact, the song has a rather skewed harmonic center of gravity, to the extent that in spite of a clear home key of D Major, all the verse sections veer straight off toward a cadence in the relative minor key of b. Even the tune, taken without any of the chords to provide you with any external hints, suggests the key of b much more so than 'D'.

The lead guitar sets a bluesy tone right off the bat that is picked up only partially by the vocalists. The opening guitar riff makes prominent use of both flat 3rd and 7th degrees, whereas the tune makes passing use of the flat 3rd, and otherwise eschews the flat 7th in favor the of the "naturally occuring" Major one.


The final mix has an almost Wilburys-like richness that is ironic considering the relatively spare forces at play; three guitars (one each: acoustic, electric, and bass), lightly exercised drum kit, and tambourine.

The vocal parts are fussily both arranged and recorded. John sings the verse sections single tracked and close to trembling, exposed as he is at the high end of his comfort zone, all the way up to F# and G; compare this with "Baby's In Black." In the refrains, John sounds double tracked with each of his vocals split to a different channel, and he his joined by George and Paul for a spot of harmonizing. Note how they sort of trail off at the end of each section (right after the hard 'D' in "end-AHH") leaving John exposed (well almost) yet again.

Paired repetitions of the opening guitar riff recur throughout the song (with the exception of immediately before and after the break) as a kind of connective tissue between sections. Most recently, we had seen this same device in a song of a rather different color, "In My Life".

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


The song provides, still, yet another layered opening. The vamping acoustic guitar leads off, joined next by the lead guitar, bass guitar, and tambourine, followed by the lead vocal and drum kit at the start of the first verse, with the backing vocals added for the refrain.

The intro itself is six measures long and based on just one chord. The acoustic guitar starts off just before the first downbeat, though the way the part is accented, it's not entirely clear where the beat is until the other's join in; compare this with the very opening of "Drive My Car."


This compound section is sixteen measures in length. The verse is in a 4+4 AA pattern, and the refrain is in a 2+2+4 BBB' pattern:

 -------------- 2X ---------------
 |D |- |b |- |
D:  I   vi

 |b |E |b |E |b |e   F# |b |- |
  vi  V-of-V  vi  V-of-V  vi  ii     b:  iv  V   i

The inner form of the refrain is nicely supported by the harmony. The vi chord moves twice in a row to V-of-V (E Major), only to fool you the third time around by going to ii (e *minor*, in the the 6/3 inversion, no less!) instead, and then it veers off sharply to the key of b minor. It's a ready/set/surprise kind of setup.

The repetition of V-of-V (which raises your expectation of the V, itself, arriving) in a context where V is actually deferred for quite a while, as well as the contrasting alternation between V-of-V and ii (with its concommitant G#/G-natural cross-relation) is a favorite Beatles device going way back; the similarity between our example of it here with is particularly striking.

The modulation to b minor is, of course, quite short-lived, with a rising chromatic bassline lick taking the music straight back home to D.


This instrumental break is in true-blue 12-bar form. It's a trick to which The Boys would resort from time to time, seemingly on those occasions when they couldn't think of anything else. The only deviation here from the absolutely classic mold is the repeat of the V chord in measures 9 and 10 instead of having V move to IV. This, by the way, is the *only* place that V appears in the entire song!

The guitar solo grows so smoothly out of the recurring rifflet you've heard throughout that you barely notice that the song has gone off on a bit of a formalistic tangent at this point.

The rising chromatic bass lick is conspicuously *not* heard as we come out of the break because we're already in the home key of D at this point and there's no need to transition back from b minor in this instance.


The outro begins as though they were cycling back still one more time for another verse, but after the rising chromatic riff and the vamping lead hook we procede to get a repeat, seemingly ad-infinitum, of the guitar hook alternating with John's scat singing of fragments of what sound like variations on the chromatic riff.

Some Final Thoughts

One of my private pet compositional hunches about the Beatles is that they preferred the complete ending over the fadeout more strongly than the average band of their period. Unfortunately I don't have at my fingertips the actuarially global statistics needed to prove such a point; it remains a gut feeling for me. Indeed, if the Rubber Soul album itself were any indication one way or the other, its 50/50 showing in this department would seem equivocal.

There's a much more easily calcuable statistic related to the above that's intruiging to consider -- the complete-versus-fadeout status of songs which *close* Beatles albums. If you look at the canonical British lineup of the first 6 albums, (PPM through RS), you'll discover the score as 4 to 2 in favor of complete endings for the final tracks. Most interesting of all is that all four of the albums with the complete endings close with a cover song! The two fadeouts are "I'll Be Back" on AHDN and our song, here.

Plotting this idea much beyond Rubber Soul gets into some tricky areas. For example, how to parse MMT; the EP ended w/ "Blue Jay Way" (complete), but the expanded album ends w/ "All You Need is Love" (fadeout). Similarly, does the YS album end with AYNIL, or the second side's worth of George Martin instrumental fantasies ? Even better, with respect to Revolver, does "Tomorrow Never Knows" feature a complete ending or a fadeout; even better than better, what about "A Day In The Life" ? :-) Let's stay with my simplifying assumption about the first six albums for now.

Granted, this might be a complete coincidence devoid of any forethought. Even if it were intentional, I'm not sure if one could easily prove which factor (the choice of covers, of the choice of a complete ending) was the cause versus the effect in this circumstance. Even so, it's a detail hard to not ponder once you've noticed it.

Alan (

"Get out while you can, ladies."    112893#89

Copyright (c) 1993 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 The content from this newsgroup is archived at, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at

. 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
Order From:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Previous page: Previous page: Notes on "If I Needed Someone"Next page: Notes on "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" Next page:

Previous page: Next page:
Previous page: Notes on "If I Needed Someone" Next page: Notes on "Paperback Writer" and "Rain"