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notes on ...

Notes on "Hello Goodbye"

 





Notes on ... Series #120 (HG)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: C Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Verse | Refrain | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Verse (half instrumental) | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain |
                  | First Outro (with complete ending) |
                  | Second Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Magical Mystery Tour", Track 7 (Parlophone CDP7 48062-2)
  Recorded: 2nd October 1967, Abbey Road 2;
            19th October 1967, Abbey Road 1;
            25th October, 2nd November 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 24th November 1967 (A Single / "I Am The Walrus")
US-release: 27th November 1967 (A Single / "I Am The Walrus")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note The style here is campy though it's not as easily pigeon-holed as, say, "When I'm Sixty-Four" or "Your Mother Should Know". Yes, it's infectious and clever beyond what initially meets the ear, but it's also just a tad over-produced, in my humble opinion.
  Next note The form is unusual, with no intro, strictly alternating verse and refrain sections, and an additional outro section.
  Next note They were obviously very fond of the fake/second ending gambit; you get to a point where the gesture of it ("The End ... or is it?") starts to feel like a cinematic cliché. All the same, you must acknowledge how clever those Beatles were at finding multifarious ways of playing this same treat. Think about how different are "Strawberry Fields Forever", the "Sgt. Pepper inner groove", "Helter Skelter", and "Her Majesty" from each other; not to mention the mysterious un-numbered final track on "Anthology", Volume 3 :-)
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The verse sections are in a pan-diatonically luxuriating kind of C Major. The refrain, by contrast broadens both the melodic and harmonic ingredient lists to include blue notes and chords. I believe the only two of the twelve possible pitches to not appear in this song are D-flat and F#; actually, the latter makes a cameo appearance in the chromatically descending bassline of the first outro.
  Next note The tune makes heavy use of arpeggio fragments; in fact, I challenge you to find anywhere in the lead vocal where there are two steps in a row, uninterrupted by a jump and/or change of direction.
  Next note In keeping with the mixed-message annex approach-avoidance theme of the lyrics, the harmony flirts heavily with intimations of V -» I consummation, while its actual cadences turn out to be predominantly plagal or deceptive, the main exception to this being the transition between verse and refrain.
 

Arrangement

  Next note The tape is saturated by the unusual scoring of piano, organ, violas, drums, and miscellaneous percussion instruments captured unnaturally close up. Yes, there's a mocking-bird kind of lead guitar lick in there too, right before the "oh no!" of each verse. This feeling of immediacy is intensified by the palpitating emphasis on every single beat of the measure in the rhythm track. The latter is especially noticeable on the take 1 instrumental outtake that's been around on boots for years.
  Next note A running scale motif unifies the piece: the downward bassline in both verse and refrain, balanced by the upward line in the background of the refrain.
  Next note The backing voices are sparingly used within the body of the song. In the second refrain they start off doubling the upward scale and finish off with a downward bluesy lick. In the third verse, they provide an antiphonal obbligato to the lead vocal. This is a wise tactic, given their more complete participation in the second outro. If they did not appear at all before that outro, their appearance there would seem a bit arbitrary. If they received more exposure in the body of the song, their effect would wear out its welcome by the time the outro arrived.
  Next note Dig how those violas double the downward scale (sans backing voices) in second verse.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Verse

  Next note The verse is an unusual seventeen measures long, though you might say that the final measure overlaps with the start of the refrain.
  Next note The internal phrasing is far from four-square in spite of the even harmonic rhythm and the approximately sixteen-measure form. There's also a hocket effect at the end of the third phrase where the voice drops out and the lead guitar provides that sighing C -» A motif.
 
   Bass:  F                 C
 Chords: |d       |-       |C       |-       |
      C:  ii6/5             I

          G                 A G F E  D C B A
         |G       |-       |a       |-       |
          V                 vi

          G
         |G       |-       |a       |-       |
          V

         |G       |-       |-       |-       |-       |C
          V                 13/11    5/3      11/9/7   I

   [Figure 120.1]
  Next note Harmonically we have a non-I opening. The theorists are divided on whether to parse the first chord as d-minor seventh in first (ii6/5) inversion, or as an F-Major chord (IV) with added sixth. Either way, it makes for a plagal cadence with the code that follows it.
  Next note The first two appearances of V resolve deceptively to vi. The third appearance of V is, indeed, allowed to resolve to I but only after a big-band/late nineteenth century symphonic pedal point build up. Yes, you can label what I call the G 13/11 chord three measures from the end a C-Major chord in second (6/4) inversion, but when you take those three measures in as a sequence, I hear it with G as the root note throughout.
 

Refrain

  Next note The refrain is a true sixteen measures long with a predictable ABAB' phrasing pattern:
 
   Bass:  C        B        A        G
 Chords: |C       |-       |a       |-       |
      C:  I                 vi

          F
         |F       |A-flat  |C       |-       |
          IV       flat-IV  I

         |C       |-       |a       |-       |
          I                 vi

         |F       |B-flat  |C       |-       |
          IV       flat-VII I

   [Figure 120.2]
  Next note The bassline of the two A phrases still descends, though four time as slowly as it did before. This contrasts nicely with the upward scale in the accompaniment that mimics the quarter note motion in the scale heard earlier.
  Next note The heavy exposure to V in the verse is sufficient to warrant it's being excluded entirely from the refrain. Not only that, the two B phrases use a different V surrogate to cadence with I. Flat-IV is a plagal substitute, and flat-VII, while arguably a "dominant" substitute for V, has a much more laid back feel to it than the V -» I "full" cadence. Imagine how anti-climactic and lame the song would be if V were used here in place of flat-VI and flat-VII.
  Next note The downward bluesy lick sung by the backing vocals contains the unusual melodic interval of an augmented fourth:
 
   Ab -» E -» D -» C
   Hel-  lo   Good-bye

   [Figure 120.3]
  This provides, by the way, a good object lesson about musical orthography. Although A-flat -» E is enharmonically identical to the Major third of G# -» E, it feels entirely different in the throat. Try it out: play an E-natural on your instrument of choice and single the internal of E -» G# -» E. Then play an F-natural, and sing the "hello goodbye" phrase noted above.
 

Outros

  Next note The first outro starts off as a repeat of the refrain, but after six measures it veers off onto a rhetorical tangent as the bassline descends, this time, chromatically (no, those intervening harmonies don't deserve individual roman numerals):
 
   Bass:  C        B        A        G
 Chords: |C       |-       |a       |-       |
      C:  I                 vi

          F        Ab       -        G
         |F       |A-flat  |-       |-       |
          IV       flat-IV

          Gb       F
         |-       |F       |C       |-       |
                   IV7      I

   [Figure 120.4]
  Next note The instrumental outtake treats the last two measures above in tempo, proceeding, rather matter of factly, right into the second outro. On the official recording, the amount of time given to that last chord is much more indeterminate, largely because of the way in which Paul slows down his vocal at the last minute. Of course, this very effectively sets up the surprise effect of what follows.
  Next note The second outro is built on a vamping four measure phrase that is harmonically on top of a C Major pedal point. The underlying counterpoint in this section contains very typically Beatlesque parallel fifths:
 
   Vocals: |C       |-     A |G   G   |       |
    Piano: |E       |-     D |C   C   |       |
 Bassline: |C       |-       |-       |-      |

   [Figure 120.5]
  Next note The phrase is repeated six full times before the fade-out sets in, the latter becoming total in the midst of what is the ninth repeat. This little coda occupies 46 seconds of a 3:31 track!
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note There is an ironic tension between the lyrics and the musical mood of this song that operates on a deeper level than the irony of the lyrics themselves.
  Next note The words sound like a whimsical update of that sentimental favorite of the thirties, "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off"; i.e. "You say tomayto, and I say tomahto ..."
  Next note The music, though, has a nervous, pounding, passion that seems to curiously belie the words. After all, I'm left wondering, is this guy in a hurry, a panic, or in some kind of ecstasy of arrival? And is it even possible to imagine that the musical state conveyed here is a combination of all three?
  Regards,
  Alan (110496#120)
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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.