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notes on ...

Notes on "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"


Notes on ... Series #51 (IHJTDWY)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: c# minor / E Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro + Refrain (second half) | Verse | Verse |
                  | Refrain | Verse | Refrain | Verse |
                  | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "A Hard Day's Night", Track 4 (Parlophone CDP7 46437-2)
  Recorded: 1st March 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 10th July 1964 (LP "A Hard Day's Night")
US-release: 26th June 1964 (LP "A Hard Day's Night")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note A brisk tempo combines here with relatively small section lengths to make this a short song with a paradoxically longish form; the refrain is not only repeated twice, but the latter half of it appears as part of the intro as well.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melody of the refrain is quite pentatonic and has a shape in which downward gestures predominate. In contrast, the verse melody is not at all restricted pitch content-wise, and its shape is more closely resembles an arch.
  Next note This is yet another Lennon and McCartney song in which a Major key (E) and its relative minor (c#) continually alternate as the apparent choice of home key. The verse here is always clearly in the Major mode, yet the intro and the refrains always start off in the minor mode. In the outro, this duality develops into a brief moment of tense conflict before it is ultimately resolved in favor of the Major mode.
  Next note Major/minor gambits must have fascinated John and Paul during this era judging from the number of roughly contemporaneous songs which use the device. The Major/relative-minor trick appears for example in "Not A Second Time" and "And I Love Her". And a similar trick of alternating a Major key with its parallel minor (e.g. A Major / a minor) appears in "Things We Said Today" and "I'll Be Back".
  Next note Harmonic gambits are not the only devices to resonate from one song to another on the "A Hard Day's Night" album. As I should have pointed out in our last note on "If I Fell", the unusual technique seen there of having three chords in a row moving downward in half-step root motion also appears (admittedly in a different context) in "Things We Said Today".
  Next note All this aside, the chord selection itself in this song is quite straightforward though the use of an augmented alteration of V in place of the more normal Major chord is noteworthy.


  Next note Although George's understatedly sardonic performance as a quipster shines throughout "A Hard Day's Night", his double-tracked lead vocal here was to be, fairly or not, his lone moment in the musical spotlight.
  Next note A seemingly trivial and reverberated "oh-ooh" backing part for John and Paul in the refrains actually turns out to critically underscore the rhythmic hook of the song. Note how from the very second measure, the move from the f# chord to the one on G# which recurs over and over again throughout, is always delivered along with a heavy syncopation on the half beat between "two" and "three"; i.e. on "two-and". During the intro and first refrain Ringo nicely punctuates this moment with one of his characteristic fills. Unfortunately, he falls asleep at the switch for this during the second refrain and most of the outro. And no, in my humble opinion, this is not an example of what I typically describe as an avoidance of foolish consistency.
  Next note Speaking of consistency, note how the deployment of the backing voices is carefully staged. In the first refrain they appear only after the second phrase ("is everything I need"), whereas in the second refrain it appears after the first phrase as well ("Just to dance with you ...").
  Next note The instrumental backing track is on the fuzzy side though John's bouncy rhythm guitar work does and Paul's bassline both stand out clearly.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


Intro and Refrain (second half)

  Next note This section is eight measures long and is built out of four two-measure phrases, the first of three of which are based on the same chord progression:
       ------------- 3X --------------
      |c#             |f#     G#      ||A     B       |E      B       |
   c#: i               iv     V         VI
                                    E:  IV    V        I      V

   [Figure 51.1]
  Next note The first four measures are entirely instrumental, while the latter four present what turns out later to be the second half of the refrain.
  Next note Following the initial establishment of c# minor as the apparent home key and repeated emphasis of this fact, the song pivots around toward the relative Major in the final couple measures.


  Next note The verse is also eight measures long and built out of four two-measure phrases. The first two phrases form a parallel couplet while the last two tend of be heard as one long phrase which balances out the first two:
        ------------- 2X --------------
      |E      g#      |f#     B       |
   E:  I      iii      ii     V

      |A              |E      c#      |A      B aug.  |E      (B)     |
       IV              I      vi       IV     V        I      (V)

   [Figure 51.2]
  Next note In spite of the formal similarity between this and the other sections, contrast with the intro and refrains is provided here by the key being clearly E Major throughout, and the fact that even though the tune itself contains some syncopation, that hook rhythm on the chord changes is pretty much avoided here entirely.
  Next note A vi chord (c#) would have been a more likely choice to put in between I and ii at the beginning of this section than the iii chord (g#-minor). As it stands, the chord-stream parallel motion inherent in the iii -» ii progression adds a jazzy touch that would have been missing had vi been used instead.


  Next note The schematic plan of the refrain is identical to what we saw in the intro. The only difference is that the first half of the section now contains an opening vocal phrase to balance out what had been heard earlier as just the second half.


  Next note The outro is a seven-measure section that is elided with the last measure of the final verse. Note the ingenuity with which this section begins as a deceptive cadence coming off the B-augmented chord in what is the seventh measure of the verse; you're expecting to hear E (I) at this point, not c# (vi):
      |c#             |f#     G#      |A      B       |
   E:  vi                              IV     V
   c#: i               iv     V        VI

      |c#             |f#     G#      |A      B       |E      ||
   E:  vi                              IV     V        I
   c#: i               iv     V        VI

   [Figure 51.3]
  Next note But most powerfully, they don't stop there. In many of their earlier songs, the triple rote repeat (or "petit reprise" as the French call it) of a final phrase during the outro had become a cliché, trademark, or both. Here, in a novel variation on this gambit, they pull the deceptive cadence trick twice in a row before playing it straight the third time around. Somehow it conveys the image of beating something down that refuses to give up.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note It's no surprise that the emphasis on c# minor during the outro is accompanied by a reprise of the back beat heard earlier in the intro. The complete ending on an added-sixth chord also seems especially appropriate. To the extent that this chord tends to sound as though it were a superimposition of the I and vi chords together, it's only fair that while the Major mode is allowed to ultimately prevail, a touch of the bitter-sweet vi is allowed to linger alongside it, or if you will, embedded within.
  Next note By the way, looking for "mistakes" or recording oddities? Then what the hell is that little squeak or scrape that managed to elude the quick pulling down of the faders right after the final chord?
  Alan (030992#51)
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.