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alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "It's All Too Much"

 





Notes on ... Series #160 (IATM)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
                   ----- 2X --------
      Form: Intro | Verse | Refrain |
                  | Refrain (guitar instrumental) |
                  | Refrain (trumpet instrumental) |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Refrain | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine", Track 5 (Parlophone CDP7 46445-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", Track 15 (EMI 5 21481-2)
  Recorded: 25th, 26th May, 2nd June 1967, De Lane Studios, Kingsway
UK-release: 17th January 1969 (LP "Yellow Submarine")
US-release: 13th January 1969 (LP "Yellow Submarine")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note George's combination in this song of an harmonic drone with a modal-like tune, pop-rock back-beat, and extended improvisatory intro and outro yields an Indian/Western fusion that is at least serendipitous if not ingenious.
  Next note The overall feeling of a come-as-you-are jam session is amplified by the extent to which the verse and refrain sections are are hard to tell apart judging from the music along. Both sections are eight measures long with a 4 + 4, AA' phrasing structure, and are performed over a bassline drone over which virtually no harmonic motion takes place. Whatever formal analysis we draw from the text is in ironic contrast to the otherwise continuous texture of the track.
  Next note This is yet another interesting Beatles' example of how gesture can triumph over the specific gravity of content by virtue of sheer length and repetition. My own short list of nominees for this category includes the likes of "I Wanna Be Your Man", "I'm Down", "Rocky Raccoon", along with the more explicitly jam session sections of "Hey Jude", "You Never Give Me Your Money" (dig the infamous outtake!), and "12-Bar Original".
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune places off-kilter emphasis on the second (A) and sevent (F#) scale steps, while avoiding the fourth (C); compare and contrast this with "Within You Without You".
  Next note The only harmonic deviation from the G-Major chord appears in the refrain phrase, and even there, it's more a matter of voice leading than full fledged root chord movement.
 

Arrangement

  Next note The basic backing track of organ, drums, and lead guitar is supplemented by trumpets and a bass clarinet. Artsy restraint is exercised by delaying the trumpet entrance until the second instrumental break, and then bringing it back for the final refrains, and for selected frames of the outro.
  Next note George of course gets the double tracked lead vocal, backed by John and Paul in the refrains and outro.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note The broad scope of the song is intimated right from the start with a long two-phase intro that lasts a bit longer than a full minute.
  Next note The first phase, alone, is sixteen seconds long, and kicks off with "To your mother" (in 9th grade I got punched very hard in the stomach by one Leo Sullivan for saying this to him during home room), and a high-pitched G-Major chord followed by noisy feedback.
  Next note The second phase is built out like this:
 
  • One phrase worth of refrain (plus a single lingering "spacer" measure) scored for organ without other backing instruments or percussion.
  • One full instrumental refrain with lead guitar, bass and percussion in the form of drum kit and handclaps; the latter recorded with a surrealistically wide stereo image.
  • One more full refrain, this time with George singing the title phrase, starting off in the unlikely context of the pickup to the second measure of each phrase; surprise :-) And there's one more spacer measure just before the first verse kicks in.
 

Verse

  Next note As mentioned above, we have a straightforward eight measure section with AA' parallel phrasing and just a plain I chord.
 

Refrain

  Next note And again, we have another eight measure section with AA' parallel phrasing:
 
          --------------- 2X ----------------
   Tune: |E   D   |D   B   |E   DBAG|B       |
 Middle: |C   B   |A   B   |C   B   |-       |
   Bass: |G       |-       |-       |-       |
          I

   [Figure 160.1]
  Next note One measure spacers are added at the end of refrains that are immediately followed by a verse section; i.e. the first refrain and the trumpet break.
  Next note Chord charts for this song will show a C-Major chord on the downbeat of measures 1 and 3, and an a-minor chord on the downbeat of measure 2 above. I'll stand firm in my claim that there is no root chord change anywhere in this section; that it all boils down to neighbor tone motion in the inner voices superimposed on to the pedal tone of G in the bass.
 

Outro

  Next note The outro here weighs in at around 2:45 in commensurate balance with the intro. Think about it: the duration of this outro is longer than a non-trivial number of complete Beatles' songs!
  Next note On the one hand, you can try your best to "capture" this long passage in terms of documenting its sequence of subsections; e.g. title phrase vamping, trumpet fanfares, the quote from "Sorrow", the "dead" declaration, a short instrumental break, followed by increasingly giddy vamping on the title phrase into the sunset.
  Next note But on the other hand, I dare you to try and analytically "reduce" it in terms of insight very far beyond what it manifestly offers you on the surface.
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note I have no doubt of George's mystical sincerity, but I cannot escape the feeling in this song that he is self-effacingly winking at us with the desideratum: "Show me that I'm everywhere and get me home in time for tea."
  Next note It's an obliquely phrased mixed message reflecting of an inner conflict between spiritual striving and the backsliding lust for bourgeois comfort and respectability. Hesse's here, Harry Haller, also know as "Der Steppenwolf", would have been proud. As he put it: "One day I would learn to laugh. Pablo was waiting for me, and Mozart too."
  Regards,
  Alan (121398#160)
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Copyright © 1998 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.