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notes on ...

Notes on "I Feel Fine"

 





Notes on ... Series #55 (IFF)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Verse (guitar solo) |
                  | Verse | Bridge | Verse | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Past Masters", Volume 1, Track 14 (Parlophone CDP 90043-2)
  Recorded: 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 27th November 1964 (A Single / "She's A Woman")
US-release: 23rd November 1964 (A Single / "She's A Woman")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note The form of this song is unusually bulky as a result of the individual sections themselves being rather short. Note especially the unusual series of three verse sections in the middle, one of which is for solo guitar.
  Next note The alternation found here in the penultimate phrase of the verses between "I'm" and "She's" might be described, at this stage of their career, as almost equally nostalgic as it is characteristic.
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The entire song stays firmly rooted in the home key of G Major, and the harmonic diet is limited to only four chords; with the bluesy triumvirate of I, IV, and V sufficing for the verses, and the iii chord being thrown in for the bridges. The only harmonic feature here that is even slightly unusual is the use of iii to bridge the gap between I and IV; i.e. iii more often than not is generally followed by vi.
  Next note The verse sports a number of other kinds of trademarks — the melodic noodling on just a couple or three notes in a narrow range; the bluesy flat-sevenths found in the early part of the section followed by the flat-third only near the end of it; and the static harmonic rhythm in the opening phrase.
 

Arrangement

  Next note The guitar feedback at the very opening is much celebrated for its serendipitous, experimental origin. It's worth emphasizing though that this effect is not random "noise", but rather a clever isolation of the naturally occurring harmonic resonance one octave above the original note that was plucked. Furthermore, the specific choice of note plucked was far from random; see below.
  Next note The lead guitar is prominently featured on the backing track to an extent that its recurring presence provides a secondary hook of sorts. Beyond the solo section itself, the licks which appear during the intro and in between the two phrases of each verse create the impression of the guitar always lurking there in the background.
  Next note The vocal arrangement has John double tracked on lead with continually intermittent support from Paul and George. Note how in the verse, the chorus joins John for the second half of the section, whereas the gambit is reversed in the bridge — there, the chorus loudly reinforces the first half of each phrase, only to retreat for the remainder of it to a sotto-voce "ooh-ing" support role. The consistent placement of John's singing of the tune on the below the other two lines adds a characteristic tang.
  Next note On top of all else, the particular style of the drumming lends an off-beat, slightly 'Latin' flavor to the overall production.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note The intro starts off with the feedback sequence mentioned above. They may have had some specific duration for this in mind, but the listener's impression of it is as though it were performed ad libitum, out of tempo.
  Next note This effect is immediately followed by a strange small noise, and then comes the intro proper, a section of eight measures in length that is later quoted again almost verbatim in the second half of the guitar solo section:
 
                                           -- 4X --
      |D       |-       |C       |-       |G       |
   G:  V                 IV                I

   [Figure 55.1]
  Next note Once the music gets rolling, one hears the opening note retrospectively as having implied an A-Major chord (V-of-V) in relationship to the D-Major (V) which follows it. The V -» IV -» I progression itself helps set the quasi-bluesy tone of the song from the start.
  Next note This intro is also a good example of the Beatles' trademark layered opening, an effect created primarily by the manner in which entry of the other instruments, especially the drums, is delayed until the end of measure 6.
 

Verse

  Next note The verse is ten measures long, and breaks down into two phrases of six and four measures respectively as a matter of the rhetorical inner sub-phrasing of the lyrics and melody. In spite of the asymmetry, the overall dramatic shape of the section remains arch-like and closed:
 
   |G       |-       |-       |-       |D       |-       |
    I                                   V

   |D       |C       |G       |-       |
    V        IV       I

   [Figure 55.2]
  Next note The ensemble singing is ever so slightly ragged. With the exception of the third verse, they seem rather incapable of making a clean, coordinated cut-off at the phrase endings.
 

Bridge

  Next note The bridge is eight measures long and built out of two repeats of what is essentially the same four-measure phrase. In contrast to the verse, the shape of this section is open ended and leads nicely back around to the verse which follows it:
 
    --------------- 2X ----------------
   |G       |b       |C       |D       |
    I        iii      IV       V

   [Figure 55.3]
 

Verse (Guitar Solo)

  Next note Though clearly based upon the verse, the length of this section is adjusted slightly, to add a tad more dramatic emphasis to the second half (note the re-entry of those drums!), as well as to make an associative allusion back to the intro.
  Next note The solo part itself mimics the pitch content and rhetoric of the tune. The original backing track already had some solo guitar work on it, to which a final solo part was later overdubbed (you can check this on your bootlegs), and the intersection of the two parts in a few instances makes for a surreal effect.
  Next note John vocally introduces this section with a moan. This is an infinitesimal gesture perhaps, but it sets up a subtle point of reference that resonates nicely when the same effect returns in the outro.
 

Outro

  Next note The outro starts off as another one of those petit reprises of the last phrase of the final verse; in this case, a winding back to the V -» IV -» I phrase yet again.
  Next note This is followed by a vamping into the fade-out over the sustained I chord, accompanied by guitar riffing reminiscent of the intro, as well as moans, whoops, and handclaps. The latter are barely audible on the finished release, but reference to the bootleg of unretouched and unedited take 9 (misleadingly identified on all boots as take 7 — you heard this here first!!), betrays the extent to which this horsing around went on during real time in the studio.
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Viewed in perspective of the Beatles' stylistic development over the long run, this song very much builds directly on the innovations and new trademarks of the "A Hard Day's Night" album.
  Next note Perhaps the single most exceptional gesture in this particular number is to be found in its unaccustomed display (for John) of such effusive romantic euphoria, completely uncomplicated for a change by even the slightest second thoughts, anxiety, or self-doubt.
  Regards,
  Alan (050792#55)
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Copyright © 1992 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.