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alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "There's A Place"

 





Notes on ... Series #31.1 (TAP.1)
  by Alan W. Pollack
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       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse (variant) | Bridge |
                  | Verse | Outro (fade-out)
        CD: "Please Please Me", Track 13 (Parlophone CDP7 46435-2)
  Recorded: 11th February 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd March 1963 (LP "Please Please Me")
US-release: 22nd July 1963 (LP "Introducing The Beatles")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note The music of this song is paradoxically quite tense in spite of the self-assured message of the words, and this likely motivates the choice of a relatively short form.
  Next note There are two different hook phrases here that uncannily reflect the two sides of the tense/self-assured paradox mentioned above. The first is the wailing instrumental motif (D# - - - - - E - D# - C#) presented by the harmonica right at the beginning. The other is the affirmative figure (B - D# - E) which resurfaces in a number of places as the melodic setting for the title phrase of the lyrics.
  Next note Also on the reassurance side of the equation is the dramatic dotted figure in the bass and rhythm guitar (boom-b'-boom, «rest») which reiterates in the background of most of the song and is largely responsible for giving the song its characteristic bounce. Notably, this leitmotif is not found consistently in the early outtakes and its later addition is a good example of how The Boys learned how to revise their work in real time for the better.
  Next note The form is unusually small with just a single bridge.
  Next note The lyrics of the three verses create a pattern of ABA. The verses begin rhythmically with a pickup to the downbeat. The bridge, by contrast, attacks after the downbeat.
  Next note The modification of the second verse to effect a smoother transition into the bridge is an unusual formal touch, though by no means unique; see "I Should Have Known Better" for another example.
  Next note We also have those familiar slow triplets in a number of places: the second half of the verse — "and there's no time" — and almost, but not quite, in the bridge. The outtakes prove that they originally planned to present the opening hook this way too, but proved to be some combination of difficult and undesirable.
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The verse tune is characterized by short, declarative phrases that are punctuated by rests of a couple beats each. The bridge tune features a distinctive call-and-answer pattern.
  Next note The hard-hitting, unique sonority of the E-Major seventh chord is one of the essential characteristics of the song and, on the surface, is the prime motivator of musical tension.
  Next note On a more subtle harmonic level, the song also projects a groping, insecure sense of tonal footing. It's clearly in E Major on the one hand, yet as we'll see below, both the verse and bridge sections have their share of frustrated V chords and fitful modulations.
 

Arrangement

  Next note In many respects, this is a "typical" Beatles arrangement of the period with several of the familiar ingredients: harmonica hook, pungent two-part vocal harmonies, drum fills, and melodic bass part.
  Next note The guitar parts are sparser than usual, leaving some chords implied by melody, bass line and context, instead of being made explicit by full-voiced strumming.
  Next note As usual, the vocal parts are more intricately worked out than first meets the eye. Paul takes the lead for most of the verse sections with John singing in harmony below him. At the end of the first and third verses, Paul suddenly drops out leaving John briefly exposed by himself on lead, and at the end of the middle variant verse, John sings lead with a vocalese backing by Paul and George. The bridge section alternates between solo John and John and Paul in unison.
  Next note Also, don't miss out on those trill-like ornaments John sensually tacks onto the end of his phrases in the verse.
  Next note By the way, that opening B-natural bass pickup "on 'four'" sure does remind me of "Please Please Me" :-)
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note The intro has an odd length of five measures by virtue of the unusually elongated vocal pickup phrase at the end of it:
 
                                     "There,-- there's a  place ..."
                                  1 2 3 4  1 2 3 ~~~~~ 4  1
      |E7      |A       |E7      |A       |    B         |
   E:  I        IV       I        IV           V

   [Figure 31.1]
  Next note The intense mood of the song is immediately established by that dissonant Major seventh chord right on the first downbeat, nicely enhanced by the bent note ('D.'#) in the second iteration of the harmonica phrase.
 

Verse

  Next note The verse has an unusual total length of fifteen measures. It's actually built out of regular sorts of four-measure phrases until near the end where the odd length is created, as in the intro, by the stretched out pickup to the next phrase:
 
    m.1
      |E       |A       |E       |A       |
   E:  I        IV       I        IV

    m.5
      |E       |c#      |B       |-       |
       I        vi       V

    m.9
      |g#      |A       |E7      |A   f#  |
       iii      IV       I        IV
                             c#:  vi  iv

                   "I ------ think   of  you..."
    m.13            3 4  1 2 3 ~~~~~ 4   1
      |c#      |-       |-   B         ||
   E:                        V
   c#: i

   [Figure 31.2]
  Next note Note how the first eight measures have a classical "open" shape, ending on the V chord. Yet, the remainder of the section, instead of routinely closing it back up, proceeds to tonally meander.
  Next note In greater detail: the home key is established in the first phrase via the relatively weak "plagal" cadence of I -» IV. The next phrase opens up widely with those two full measures on the V chord, yet this juicy dominant is left dangling unresolved as the music veers fitfully toward g# minor at the beginning of the final phrase. This excursion is itself short-lived and the verse ultimately settles down in what would appear to be a modulation to the key of the relative minor, c#. But after all this, the next verse reverts directly right back to the home key.
  Next note I hear the entirety of measure 8 as the V chord, though if you listen carefully, Paul plays the notes G# -» A -» B during the slow triplet in that measure as though he were trying to do something like the "iii -» IV -» V" chord cliche we saw in "Please Please Me", measure 4.
  Next note The single most compositionally clever detail in the entire song is the way that the wailing harmonica hook phrase is worked into John's backing vocal part in measures 9 - 12. Part of the magical effect in those measures is the way that Paul and John's vocal parts climax twice on a tasty fourth that is resolves with their respective parts moving in contrary motion:
 
   Paul:  G#       -»      A
   John:  D#  E-D# -»      C#

   [Figure 31.3]
  Next note And note, finally, how the harmonica hook reappears on cue in measure 13.
 

Verse Variant

  Next note The first eight measures of this section are identical to those of the first verse. The music then continues with the following straightforward four measure phrase that reiterates the earlier open ending on V:
 
      "Like I love            only  you ..."
   |A        |-         |B         |-          |
    IV                   V

   [Figure 31.4]
  Next note True to form and purpose, note how when we move onto the bridge, this V chord is frustrated, yet again, by another deceptive cadence to vi!
 

Bridge

  Next note The bridge is an unusual ten measures long, though basically built out of two identical repetitions of the same four-measure phrase. The asymmetrical length is created — just as in the intro and first verse — by the reappearance of the by now familiar elongated vocal pickup for the next verse section:
 
       --------------- 2X ----------------
      |c#      |F#      |E       |G#      ||c#      |-   B   |
   c#: i                          V         i        E:  V
   B:  ii       V        IV  -»   ?
                            (modulation abandoned)

   [Figure 31.5]
  Next note The sometimes-restless sense of tonal direction seen in the verse is further developed here to the extreme that each successive chord keeps us guessing as to where we're ultimately headed.
  Next note Though we start off in the relative minor key of c#, the section continues at first as though a pivot modulation to the key of V (B Major) were in the offing. Even the awkward appearance of the E chord in the third measure could "work" as part of this modulation, being "heard" as the IV of the new key, but only if the B chord itself would follow it; try it out yourself, see how nicely it works — c# -» F# -» E -» B.
  Next note It is the sudden appearance of the G#-Major chord which abruptly cuts off that modulation in-progress, and briskly pulls the music right back to the key of c#. Part of me is tempted to chalk this seeming inelegance up to inexperience on their parts, though I cannot escape the thought that the groping, casting-about feeling conjured by it is germane to the spirit of the song.
 

Outro

  Next note The final verse is identical to the first one though one measure shorter in duration.
  Next note Directly, in the second half of measure 14, we move into an outro in which both the vocal and instrumental hooks are presented antiphonally in strict alternation into a fade-out ending; a vivid, concrete presentation of what I've alluded to as the underlying paradox of the song.
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note We have here yet another of those songs in which John apparently soft and insecure emotional core would seem to musically belie his tough, or at least more self-assured lyrics. This listener, for one, would feel much better convinced by what's professed here as an unshakable belief in this special "place," if the story had been set in straightforward, simple chord progressions and even phrases; on this level, even a dire ditty like "Misery"'s got a more relaxed phatic subtext :-).
  Next note The song is also typically and prophetically John-like for its off-center point of view. The expressed facility to escape inside of himself in order to commune with object of his love is strange enough for starters. But even more provoking is the way in which the anxiety factor of the music combined with the escapism of the lyrics suggests that, in spite of the second person pronoun phrasing of those same lyrics, the protagonist is not so much talking to his love, as he is ruminating to himself at a distance from her, and in solitude.
  Regards,
  Alan (031101#31.1)
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Revision History
081291 31.0 Original release
032001 31.1 Add pass-two observations and copy edit
 
 
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.