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notes on ...

Notes on "Carry That Weight"


Notes on ... Series #190 (CTW)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: C Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Refrain | Bridge |
                  | Refrain | Outro (segue al subito)
        CD: "Abbey Road", Track 15 (Parlophone CDP7 46446-2)
  Recorded: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 30th, 31st July 1969,
            15th August 1969, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 26th September 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")
US-release: 1st October 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note "Carry That Weight" picks up on and extends the majestically fervent gesture of "Golden Slumbers"' mid-section to provide one of the single most "symphonic" moments in the Beatles cannon. Aesthetically, it is at least as far removed from the likes of their earliest hits as is something like "I Am The Walrus"; maybe even more so. At the same time, you find a foreshadowing here of Macca's later oratorio style if you listen carefully.
  Next note In spite of its substantive A-B-A form "Carry That Weight"'s sense of musical independence and self-sufficience is successively quite undermined by the combination of:
  • the building rhythmic momentum that sweeps through it at both ends;
  • the built-in manner in which its refrain cycles back for "more";
  • and the borrowing of its bridge and outro sections from "... Money".
  Next note In contrast to the continual uneven phrasing and changeable harmonic rhythm of "Golden Slumbers", we find "Carry That Weight" closely following a more predictable, four-square course of action.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The refrain tune is purely diatonic C Major, covers a full octave and is dominated by fanfare-like triadic outlines. The bridge tune, by contrast, is in the melodic minor mode, covers a range slightly smaller than an octave, and is primarily stepwise, though it does, indeed, continue the fanfare idea with its own single triadic outline (on the last three syllables of the "invitations"); which uncannily turns out to be a literal inversion of the same figure heard in the refrain (on the phrase "a long time").
  Next note Harmonically, the refrains establish C Major as home key by elementary means. The bridge provides a contrasting interlude in the relative minor key of A by making a complete traversal of the diatonic circle of fifths.


  Next note The basic backing track used in "Golden Slumbers" of piano, drums, and bass clearly continues through this song, though the overdubbed massed strings and brass effects are even more prominently in evidence. Lewisohn reports the overdub of a timpani part on this pair of songs, but I hear no difference in the percussion parts between the outtake of the original basic track and the finished product.
  Next note The bass work is particularly impressive, alternating between evenly accented perpetual motion for the refrains and syncopated scale work for the bridge.
  Next note The vocal arrangement is choral throughout. The ensemble sounds relatively homogenized in the refrains, though you can clearly pick Ringo's unique voice out of the crowd. In the bridge Paul's voice clearly dominates.
  Next note The chord changes generally fall exactly on the downbeats, but the tune throughout makes a repeated motivic point of heavy syncopations that fall out just ahead of the downbeat.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The transition from "Golden Slumbers" to "Carry That Weight" is made without skipping a beat by filling out the final measure of the former with a drum figure that rhythmically motivates the start of the latter. Compare this with the very similar transition from "Sun King" to "Mean Mr Mustard".


  Next note The refrain is a four-square sixteen measures in length, featuring what is close to a literal repeat of the following eight measure phrase:
      |C           |-           |G7          |-           |
   C:  I                         V

      |G7          |-           |C           |-           |
       V                         I
                             a:  III

   [Figure 190.1]
  Next note The first half of the second phrase is a repeat of the second half of the first phrase, making for a syncopated looking (and sounding!) poetic pattern of ABBC.
  Next note The pounding of evenly accented eighth notes on the backing track in the eighth measure of this phrase in its first iteration of each refrain is a particularly stunning dramatic effect.
  Next note The second time the eight-measure phrase is repeated we find the bassline walking downward to B in the last measure. In the opening refrain, this functions simply as a passing tone against the sustained C-Major chord. The outro, however, is handled differently as we'll see below.


  Next note The bridge section turns out to be none other than an old friend, the opening section of "... Money". The section is repeated twice here, just as it is in the song from which it is taken, with the first iteration fully instrumental and the second one sung to words. Given the faster quarter note pulse at which I've been parsing the second half of the medley, this section comes out to be sixteen measures per iteration rather than the eight we came up with in on earlier article on "... Money."
      |a     |-     |d9 - 8|-     |G7    |-     |C4-3  |-     |
   a:  i             iv            VII           III

      |F     |-     |b dim.|E     |a     |-     |G13/11|-  5/3|
       VI            ii     V      i
                                C: vi            V

   [Figure 190.2]
  Next note The harmonic pivot from C Major to a minor and back again is straightforward.
  Next note Your Harmony 101 instructor would adjure you to parse the final pair of measures as entirely G Major with double appoggiaturs in the first of the two measures, rather than as a C Major triad in the second (a.k.a. 6/4) inversion.
  Next note This passage appears here not merely as a reprise, rather, it is doubly "transformed" by its formal/functional shift from opening verse to mid-flight bridge section, and the extent to which the grand orchestration here brings out an heroic potential that was latent but not yet actualized in the passage's initial exposition.
  Next note The guitar solo is executed with some very cooly executed bent notes that remind you, after all, this is a rock album.


  Next note The outro grows out of the second refrain. It actually overlaps with the last two measures of the latter. And it, too, turns out to be yet another transformed reprise of a part of "... Money"; to wit, the latter's own coda theme:
             ---last two measures of second refrain---
            |1    2    3    4    |1    2    3    4    |
            |C              G6/3 |-                   |
 Bass line: |C              B    |                    |
             I              V

            |1    2    3    4    |1    2    3    4    |
            |A                   |-                   |

   [Figure 190.3]
  Next note The difference in harmonic context is what transforms this reprise. At the end of "... Money" the ostensible home key is A Major, and this passage distinctively, but also clearly slides into that home key by way of the bluesy sounding, cross-relation-creating III chord of C Major.
  Next note In the context of "Carry That Weight", the immediate home key is C Major. And this makes you hear the same chord progression now drifting away, and uncertainly so, from its home key. Challenge yourself: just how does your ear interpret the function of that A-Major chord? Maybe, V-of-ii, strange as it sounds?
  Next note Okay, to the extent that the next song demonstrably opens in the key of A Major, this chord is the I chord of the new home key, and in hindsight, you'll see the preceding G-Major chord pivoting as a flat-VII in the new key. But you don't know what's coming just around the corner at this very instant. Therefore, it's a brief instant of exquisite harmonic ambiguity.
  Next note The four-measure outro phrase goes into a second iteration that is cut short. The fourth beat of the third measure is leveraged as an upbeat to the start of "The End". The trickest thing about the transition is the slight increase in tempo for the new track. Unlike some of the arithmetically strict metrical modulations we've seen elsewhere on this album, this one is an inexact; a rather abrupt acceleration, shades of "step on the gas and wipe that tear away."

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note And if you haven't yet noticed, it's getting very near "The End".
  Alan (011700#190)
  See also: The "Abbey Road" Medley
Copyright © 2000 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.