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notes on ...

Notes on "From Me To You"

 





Notes on ... Series #28.1 (FMTY.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: C Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Verse (solo) | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 2 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 5th March 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 11th April 1963 (A Single / "Thank You Girl")
US-release: 27th May 1963 (A Single / "Thank You Girl")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style

  Next note Besides a catchy tune and deceptively complex arrangement, "From Me To You" has a difficult-to-pigeon-hole musical style; after all, is it rock or pop, blues or skiffle?
  Next note Maybe it's just unmistakably Early Beatles, and with that, I'm only being whimsical in part. "From Me To You" was their third single, recorded during the charmed period between the recording and the release of the "Please Please Me" album. Those tight vocal harmonies with their flashes of passionate falsetto, the drum fills, the harmonica hook phrase, the personal pronouns, and so many other details were becoming both Trend setting and a bit formulaic by that point, and who could really blame them, given the roll they were so obviously on?
  Next note We've already seen in our earlier studies of the likes of "Love Me Do", "Thank You Girl", "Please Please Me", and "I Saw Her Standing There" most, if not all, of the specific techniques that come into play in "From Me To You". If unique coverage of such techniques per se were our main interest in this series, we could just as well have skipped this one.
  Next note But, if anything, the fact that the songs in this first crop of their originals are still so different from each other in mood and manner, in spite of the relatively restricted compositional vocabulary with which they were written makes them all the more extraordinary. The image comes to mind of master chefs, capable of producing an astonishing variety of dishes from a small, fixed list of ingredients.
  Next note So come 'head; this one's "got (almost) everything that you want!"
 

Form

  Next note The short eight-measure verse creates an overall time scale of modest proportions even though the form is paradoxically quite sprawling, with two bridges, two verses intervening, and both intro and outro.
  Next note The irony of the short length versus long form will seem sharper if you recall that in form, "From Me To You" is identical to "I Saw Her Standing There".
  Next note The lyrics of the four fully sung verses create a pattern of ABAA. The second half of the verse lyrics are a mini-refrain repeated each time, even in the solo verse. Lyrics of both bridges are identical as usual.
  Next note Rhythmically all sections start off with a pickup before the downbeat.
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melodic content is more chromatic than usual, a combination of the bluesy E-flats in the verses, the modulation effecting B-flats at the start of the bridges, and the D# atop the augmented chord at the very end of the bridges. The verse tune is somewhat jumpy and covers the range of a full octave. The bridge tune covers a slightly smaller range and is primarily stepwise.
  Next note The prominence given to the I -» vi chord progression in "From Me To You" is something fairly widespread among the early Lennon and McCartney originals. Similarly, the gratuitous dominant seventh on F in measure 5 of the verse ("gratuitous" to the extent that it doesn't actually function as a dominant seventh but merely comes along for the spice it adds), and the augmented triad in the bridge are also fairly typical Lennon and McCartney chord tricks. There are, however, a few more novel details elsewhere in the harmony.
  Next note The song is among the very first of their officially released originals to feature a modulation to an alternate key during the bridge section. In spite of its brevity, the excursus to F Major we'll see below creates an expansive sense of harmonic space that belies the compressed time scale of the song.
  Next note Also unique is the clever surprise ending on the vi chord.
 

Arrangement

  Next note Several characteristic ingredients in the arrangement would eventually become almost cliche trademarks.
 
  • The vocal part features a duet virtually throughout. Granted, the many flashes of two-part harmony are separated by long stretches of the same line sung in unison by Paul and John, but there is no vocal solo part here.
  • Those flashes of vocal harmony, make frequent use of open fifths and falsetto singing.
  • Drum fills are carefully deployed at special, structural or dramatic points in the song, not at liberty.
  • An overdubbed harmonica is used to introduce the hook phrase.
  • And what sounds like it might be a simple oom-pah bass part actually features a snapped rhythm of dotted quarters and eighth notes in alternation.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note The short, four-measure intro presents, right at the outset, two repetitions of the hook phrase of this song. Just as we saw in "Please Please Me", the instrumental version of this hook turns out to be subtly different in rhythmic pattern from the one used in the verses even though the pitch content of both versions is identical.
  Next note Note the complete reliance in this intro on just the I and vi chords. Also note the scoring for harmonica and scat-singing voices, and the way the drum fill seems to both articulate the border between the intro and following verse section, as well as effecting a neat transition between the two.
 

Verse

  Next note As already mentioned, the verse is only eight measures long and its harmonic shape is closed off by virtue of remaining closely within the home key and ending more or less on the I chord. Although the melody itself is not particularly arch-like in outline, the harmony in this instance lends some dramatic arch shape to the verse. Use of that F7, with its E-flats that are foreign to the key, helps add an effective bluesy bit of tension right at the mid-point, while the slight increase in the harmonic rhythm toward the end of the phrase helps wind it down again:
 
      |C       |a       |C       |G       |
   C:  I        vi       I        V

      |F7      |a       |C   G   |C   a   |
       IV       vi       I   V    I   vi

   [Figure 28.1]
  Next note The diagram above is of the first verse. The use of the vi chord in the second half of the last measure keeps the harmony open just enough to allow the music to continue at this point with verse #2. See for yourself just how lame that transition would sound if you eliminate the vi chord. The fact that this detail is missing in "take 2" of the song — there, they stay with the C chord for the entire measure — indicates clearly just how careful they were in the studio to revise at the last minute even relatively small details for the better.
  Next note Speaking of outtakes, the incomplete "take 1" of this song comes to a sudden, ragged halt for no clear reason, and the resulting three way discussion between John, Paul, and the control room in which they accuse each other in turn of having called for the timeout is one of those particularly charming and candid snapshots we're lucky to have of their life in the studio at this time.
  Next note At the end of the second verse the change to the a-minor chord in measure 8 is eliminated and in its place, the C chord has a dominant seventh added to it in the second half of the measure. This sustaining of the C root provides an added sense of closure at that point and the addition of the seventh to it more effectively sets up the coming bridge.
  Next note The hook phrase as it appears in the first part of this verse is presented with quite a bit more bouncy syncopation in comparison to its rather more foursquare appearance in the intro. The melody of the song in general, is shot through with gentle syncopations which play off effectively against the even, skiffle-like shuffle of the instrumental accompaniment.
  Next note The little snippets of vocal harmony include an open fifth in the first case — "... that you want" — and a surprising and suddenly passionate burst of falsetto from John in the second — "... I can do". I believe it is John who sings the lead part here with Paul singing harmony. This results in Paul singing above John in the first phrase and then crossing over him to sing below in the second phrase; a variation on a similar trick seen earlier in both "Love Me Do" and "I Saw Her Standing There".
  Next note While we're on the topic of vocal parts, chalk up in verse 2 yet another of those infamous word collisions between John and Paul on the phrase "Just/so call on me ..." It only goes to show that nobody who was there at the time was thinking in terms of people going over this stuff as carefully as some now do, so many years after the fact. Either that, or perhaps this "mistake" was on purpose; i.e. a very early clue :-).
 

Bridge

  Next note The bridge is also eight measures long but it harmonically branches out nicely in contrast to the verse:
 
      |g       |C7      |F       |-       |
   F:  ii       V        I
   C:                    IV

      |D7      |-       |G       |#5(aug) |
   C:  V-of-V            V

   [Figure 28.2]
  Next note We have what is called a pivot modulation to the key of F. The common chord between the home key of C and this new key is the C-Major chord at the end of the previous verse. One hears that chord at the time it's first played as the I of the home key. But once the bridge begins, the ear retrospectively reinterprets it as though it were the V of the key of F. Such common chords are not strictly required in order to effect a change of key, but their utilization makes such shifts smoother, and less abrupt. It's somehow analogous to the variety of means by which you might change the topic of conversation.
  Next note This bridge provides quite a bit of contrast to the verse sections. Right off the bat the melody suddenly becomes much less syncopated. And in live versions, the drumming, especially the cymbal bashing, may be noted to suddenly become quite muted at this point.
  Next note But the greater source of contrast is the way this section builds toward an ultimate climax as opposed to the arch-like, closed shape of the verse. Particularly in the last two measures we have a pile-up of intensification based on several musical factors — the augmented inflection of the V chord by literally stretching the D in the melody to a D#, the cross rhythm of slow triplets in the rhythm guitar (must be John, right?), the patented Ringo drum frills, and of course, that crowd pleasing falsetto moan for two-part harmony on the word (ahem) "whooo."
  Next note For the sake of variation — and avoidance of foolish consistency — they add in the second bridge a novel touch of two-part harmony at the very beginning of the section. Note how, true to form, Paul's backing part yet again starts off beneath John's lead, only to jump over it a few notes into the phrase.
 

Instrumental Solo Verse

  Next note You might call this section a "semi-solo," a simple, standard trick of the trade the Boys would re-use in "A Hard Days Night".
  Next note The musical framework is identical to all the other verses, yet what starts out as an instrumental solo merely "based on" the same old chord progression, degenerates in the second half, to a refrain-like verbatim repeat of that part of the verse.
  Next note There are two other cute little twists in the front half. First is the way that the instrumental first half of the section presents the hook figure in its alternate incarnation from the intro. This momentary retreat into the realm of the more square makes the syncopated second half of the section sound all the more bouncy when it returns. Second, is the responsive, mockingbird-like interjection of the singers here which almost subliminally broadcasts the title of the song at you.
  Next note This section did not yet exist as of that early "take 2" mentioned above, and based on the impression made by that otherwise pleasing performance, I assume that they belatedly added this because the song felt a tad too short without it.
 

Outro

  Next note This outro section is developed as a springboard-like outgrowth of the end of the final verse. The last two words of that verse are repeated the canonical three times, making for a creative variation on the more routine procedure where the entire last line gets reiterated; as in, for example, "I Saw Her Standing There". Far from being an arbitrary change, the repetition here of only "to you" bears effective emphasis.
  Next note The rhetoric of the lyrics is ably abetted by the antiphonal accompaniment, which includes a descending bass line, which in turn, is nicely reinforced by heavy syncopation and vigorous drum fills. As that bass line moves from C -» A -» A-flat, it incidentally creates yet another augmented chord, one that is more suspenseful and harmonically ambiguous than the one seen earlier in the bridge.
  Next note This second augmented chord, spelled from bottom up, A-flat / C / E, could move in one of two directions. Either the A-flat can resolve downward, making for a move to C-Major, or else, the A-flat can behave as though it were a G#, resolving upward, making for a move to a-minor.
  Next note What we get is quite enigmatically ingenious: the very next chord following the augmented one turns out, indeed, to be C-Major, the I chord of our home key, yet the music immediately proceeds with one final statement of the hook phrase before terminating abruptly on the a-minor chord. The musical logic of bringing down the curtain on the hook phrase is so subtly persuasive, that you barely note the ironic fact that the song has ended off-center from the home key; actually on the chord of the home key's relative minor.
  Next note Note by the way how, for virtually for the only time in the song, the voices are silent in this little coda; in contrast, even the intro at least included scat singing as part of the instrumental texture.
3

Some Final Thoughts

 

Personal Pronouns

  Next note Nowhere is the uniqueness of this song in spite of its recycled ingredients more evident than in the meaning of its lyrics.
  Next note Paul with rather unwonted candor, in the interview which appears as a preface to Lewisohn's "Recording Sessions", allows that they had gotten themselves into a bit of a rut in the early songs with their repeated wordplay on personal pronouns, but he adds that this started out being motivated by a desire to "play to the market." He mentions our song by name in this context, but even so, I think it would be unfair to under-rate it as a mere exploitational pandering to what Brian Matthews on BBC radio might call "the little darlin's."
  Next note In "From Me To You", a particular immediacy is achieved by the use of direct address. How else could this group of four fabulous gentlemen manage, in the midst of a crowded concert hall or across the incorporeal airwaves, to establish such a direct connection to their audience? If you think not, try for comparison the very different feel that this song takes on when the lyrics are just slightly changed as they were in order to use it as the title jingle for their series of BBC radio holiday specials. "From Us To You", for my money, is much more impersonal because the change of "me" to the plural "us" subconsciously leads one to hear the "you" which follows in the plural as well.
  Next note I bring this whole thing up because in the context of a plethora of songs about "you & I," this one is still rare, if not entirely unique in the way that its message so simply and starkly describes what the lover longs to give to the beloved without condition or expectation of anything in return.
  Next note The other pronoun-bound songs that come to mind are otherwise embroidered with details which, though they add context and color, also skew the focus and complicate the message. We find such things as the drama of pursuit — "Please Please Me" — or blind faith in its successful outcome — "I'll Get You")-- or a polite request — "I Want To Hold Your Hand") — or a raw pleading — "Love Me Do" — that love be requited; an expression of gratitude for love received — "Thank You Girl" — or a prayer that it be not harmed by absence or separation ("P.S. I Love You", "All My Loving", et al.) The list goes on. As usual, I haven't done my homework as exhaustively as I should, but I hope the point is made.
  Next note "From Me To You" is all the more potent because its expression of love that is ready and willing to be given is so completely unencumbered and unobscured. We're not even told in this instance what it is within or about the other person that motivates such love, but the combination of words and music leaves no room for doubt that it most certainly must exist.
  Regards,
  Alan (020301#28.1)
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Revision History
072291 28.0 Original release
020301 28.1 Adapt to series template
 
 
Copyright © 2001 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.