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notes on ...

Notes on "All You Need Is Love"

 





Notes on ... Series #118 (AYNIL)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4 (alternate verse measures and others are 3/4)
      Form: Intro | Verse |
                  | Verse | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse (guitar solo) | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Magical Mystery Tour", Track 11 (Parlophone CDP7 48062-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine", Track 6 (Parlophone CDP7 46445-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", Track 12 (EMI 5 21481-2)
  Recorded: 14th June 1967, Olympic Sound Studios;
            19th June 1967, Abbey Road 3;
            23rd-25th June 1967, Abbey Road 1; the song was aired
            on the Eurovision program "Our World" on 25.06.1967
UK-release: 7th July 1967 (A Single / "Baby You're A Rich Man")
US-release: 17th July 1967 (A Single / "Baby You're A Rich Man")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note In terms of release dates, this song followed remarkably close on the heels of "Sgt. Pepper". Its genesis and original debut are matters of recording and broadcast history, the details of which I urge you to seek elsewhere to the extent that they are relatively tangential to our own perspective on the music, per se. I could easily argue, by the same token, that the song cannot be considered in isolation of the broadcast's production values and effect; but maybe I'm just being perverse, a wiseguy, or both :-)
  Next note I do strongly recommend that you exert yourself to hear a good quality, complete version of the actual broadcast of the 25th June 1967, and as much of the video clips of it that have shown up in various documentaries over the years. Media-wise, this track is designed with sort of the reverse experiential strategy used in "A Day In The Life". There, the blind mystery of the audio-only medium adds an important element of surprise. Here, without the video clues, I dare say that some of the complexity and point of the proceedings is lost. The string players with their clunky earphones, the group also wearing earphones while sitting on high stools, and the crowd of all our friends sitting on the floor in their colorful "costumes" are somehow part of the message that is lost on vinyl; Professor McLuhan should have been impressed.
  Next note The form contains the unusual twist of opening with three consecutive verses. I prefer to parse this at the high level with the first verse being more a part of the intro than of the body of the song; note how this first verse does not present the tune of the song, but rather establishes the "love, love, love" chorus part which serves as vocal wallpaper for the rest of the verses which follow. And, yes, I know; for the later verses the pattern is changed to a melisma on a single utterance of The Word.
  Next note The music is cast in a variation of the campy, anthem-ic march style used before on the likes of "Yellow Submarine", though in this case, the number of diverse montage elements used is more complex than before, and the limping meter used in the verses prevents the "march" from sounding too obvious.
  Next note The words, too, contain more interest than initially meets the eye. You not only have the clever retrograde of the title phrase ("love is all you need"), but also some rather off-handedly delivered philosophical observations on the ironic tension between the attempts you make to self-direct life's course and the way you learn from experience to accept the influence of so-called destiny. Yes, the lyrics are more to the point than my characterization of them.
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune is dominated by a handful of simple motifs: a downward scale fragment reminiscent of "Three Blind Mice" that juicy appoggiatura on the word "easy" in the verse, a fanfare-like hammering on a single note for the title phrase in the refrain, followed by an upward chromatic scale fragment that fancifully imitates the downward fragment offered by the brass band obbligato.
  Next note The most unifying motif is one in the bassline that rises at the end of each phrase (dotted quarter notes D -» E -» G), and by no accident, I'm positive, this very phrase matches identically the "intentionally misquoted" fragment of the "Marseillaise" used in the intro. From the 1812 Overture to Casablanca, the French nationalistic anthem is a ready-made cliché that is correctly quoted enough of the time that I say what the Beatles did here can be no accident. Even Robert Schumann gets it right in his lied about the "Two Grenadiers".
  Next note The harmony of the song shares with "A Day In The Life" that wistful wilting away from G Major to e minor.
 

Arrangement

  Next note The backing track is thickly made up of layers upon layers: the Beatles' own rhythm track and guitar solo; the "Yellow Submarine"-like brass marching band; an electric piano and harpsichord; and that string section scored in a style that is like a strange cross between Mantovani / "101-Strings"-like schmaltz and the pseudo-surreality of "Strawberry Fields Forever".
  Next note The vocal arrangement is comparatively straightforward, with the so-called wallpaper from the backing vocals in the verses, John's lead vocal, additional backing vocal assistance from the others in the refrain, and those inevitable booster call-outs from Paul.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note The intro is three measures long and opens up the proceedings with that non-sequitur of an instrumental misquote of the "Marseillaise", dressed up to sound vaguely Baroque in style because of the trills in the last measure:
 
       |G     D     |G           |C  a      D |
    G:  I     V      I            IV ii     V

   [Figure 118.1]
 

Verse

  Next note The overall harmonic motion of this verse vacillates back and forth between I and V. I've taken the trouble to "analyze" the intervening chords, but Heinrich Schenker and his disciples would shame me with their preference that we focus here on the melodic motion of the two outer voices in parallel tenths.
 
           4               3            4               3
   Chords: |G      D       |e           |G      D       |e           |
 Bassline: |G      F#      |E       D  E|G      F#      |E       D  E|
        G:  I      V6/3     vi     (V)   I      V6/3     vi     (V)

           4               4               4            3
           |a      e       |D       e      |D           |G       D   |
           |A      G       |F#      E      |D       C   |B   C D D  E|
            ii     vi6/3    V       vi      V      4/2   I6/3    V

   [Figure 118.2]
  Next note The phrasing of this verse is four-square even if the measure lengths are not. The pattern is AAA'B (4 * 2) or if you wish, I can call it AAB ((2 * 2) + 4). The interpolation of the 3/4 meter follows a pattern, though not a slavishly predictable one.
 

Refrain

  Next note In contrast to the verse, our refrain here is almost (but not quite) completely four-square; being eight measures in length (4 + 4) with only the final measure limping in 3/4 time-signature.
 
      4               4              4              4
      |G      a       |D             |G      a      |D             |
   G:  I      ii7/11   V              I      ii7/11  V

      4               4              4              3
      |G      B       |e             |C      D      |I             |
       I      V-of-vi  vi             IV     V

   [Figure 118.3]
  Next note The chord in the second half of measures 1 and 3 is contains one of the characterizing harmonies of the track. Regardless of how I've analyzed it, the fingerprint-like signs to note there is the Major second between A and G in the backing vocals combined with D in the tune.
 

Outro

  Next note The repeat of the final refrain combined with the extended outro lends quite a bit of formalistic weight to the ending of this track; the combination of sections filling out about 1:40 of a track whose total length is just about 3:52. The delay of any noticeable amount of fade-out until just the last thirty seconds or so only adds to this weight.
  Next note The outro finally shifts entirely to 4/4 to provide a subtly different wallpaper pattern for the fade-out, though that rhythmically dotted D -» E -» G bassline motif persists all the way to the sweet end.
  Next note "Montage" is, indeed, the correct term for the stream-of-consciousness pastiche of musical tidbits used in this outro, though somehow it doesn't seem to do the music justice; such is terminology.
  Next note The Bach trumpet duet is from the opening of the "Two Part Invention in F Major" (not from the "Second Brandenburg" as Lewisohn reports), transposed to key of our song and played in its tempo. Not so for "Greensleeves" which appears in that tonally cubistic style one associates with Charles Ives. "In The Mood" is played in the correct key but not quite in tempo or at least not in meter.
  Next note Paul's ostinato breaks down for a precious moment about thirty seconds from the end; just before John's blurts out his "Yesterday" non-sequitur.
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note To my ears, their quote from "She Loves You" goes beyond the merely clever literary association of the lyrics to become the more profound musical equivalent of the wax models on the cover of "Sgt. Pepper".
  Regards,
  Alan (081196#118)
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Copyright © 1996 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.