Logo  
  | home | authors | calendar colophon | links | newsgroups | newsfeed | new | printer version |  
alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Think For Yourself"

 





Notes on ... Series #80 (TFY)
  by Alan W. Pollack
Previous
 
       Key: G Major / g minor
     Meter: 4/4
                   ----- 3X --------
      Form: Intro | Verse | Refrain | Refrain |
                  | Outro (Refrain + Petit Reprise with complete ending)
        CD: "Rubber Soul", Track 5 (Parlophone CDP7 46440-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", Track 7 (EMI 5 21481-2)
  Recorded: 8th November 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 3rd December 1965 (LP "Rubber Soul")
US-release: 6th December 1965 (LP "Rubber Soul")
 
1

General Points of Interest

 

Style and Form

  Next note This song is extremely ambitious in its chord choices and progressions, as well as the rhythmic antiphonal counterpoint between its main vocal thread and supporting bassline.
  Next note At the same time, its bluesy melodic motifs and flat, folksy formal outline make it a curious stylistic hybrid.
 

Melody and Harmony

  Next note Though one can make a decent argument for the song's being ultimately in the key of G Major on the basis of predominant evidence, there is an exceeding amount of exposure given in it to the parallel minor mode of g. The latter is manifest in the frequent use of the bluesy bi-modal I chord (G with a B-natural in an inner voice and B-flat in the melody) and a number of chords that properly belong only to g minor, not G Major; e.g. the minor v (d-minor), flat-III (B-flat), and flat-VI (E-flat).
  Next note Earlier we've seen both John and Paul play around with parallel Major/minor gambits for effect; most notably in "Things We Said Today" and "I'll Be Back". The game plan in both their cases, though, was to shift between the modes as a matter of contrast. George's usage here is to rather freely blend the Major and minor modes, creating a dissonant and unsettling (though not unpleasant) result that is neither quite really Major nor minor; an effect which, in retrospect, is uncannily resonant with the attitude and mood of the lyrics.
  Next note Beyond mere chord choices the progressions here, as well, demand our attention, especially in the verse. In context of a pop/rock music genre in which the average song verse begins on I (or else begins on something like V and then moves quickly towards I), the opening progression of this song's verse is unusually indirect, and restlessly wandering. Again, while we've seen plenty of Lennon and McCartney songs with openings away from the I chord, George here carries the idea to a novel extreme.
  Next note The melody has a "Day Tripper"-like rhetorical rhythm about it, and is shot through with flat thirds, flat sevenths, and appoggiaturas, all of which add a level of spice to the underlying harmonies. This full set of melodic characteristics is captured within the tag line of the refrain and refracted into a myriad of variations in the syncopated fills of the fuzztone:
 
   |think for    your-self   'cause|I won't be there with|you -----
   |G     B-flat G    B-flat  G    |F D     D  F     G   |B-flat  G

   [Figure 80.1]
 

Arrangement

  Next note The instrumental arrangement is most vividly characterized by the sound of a so-called "fuzz tone bass" on the right stereo track (R) which, truth be told, does not carry the true bass part of the song, but rather selectively doubles the more conventional electric bass part one octave above.
  Next note The subtle pattern of by-play between tambourine and maracas is modified back and forth between verse and refrain in a way that by this point of their career was a veritable Beatles' trademark if not cliché. If you take the effort focus in on this track in your listening you'll note an exquisite effect resulting from the way in which they go on their merry four-in-the-bar way in blissfully independent rhythmic dissonance against the slow triplets played out by the rest of the arrangement.
  Next note George sings the lead vocal (automatically?) double-tracked throughout with each of the tracks isolated to one of the two respective stereo channels — check this out! In the verses he's joined by Paul and John for three-part harmony in block chords on the even-numbered lines of the quatrain. In the refrain he gets to sing solo on only the first line, being joined by Paul (who is mixed very far back) singing rather free counterpoint for the remainder of the section.
2

Section-by-Section Walkthrough

 

Intro

  Next note At first blush the intro seems like an almost inconsequential two measures worth of vamping on the I chord, but it does manage to quickly introduce a number of overall characteristics of the song: the fuzztone texture, the indeterminate Major/minor gender of the home key (the fuzztone includes a B-flat in its riff but the underlying backing sounds Major), and the slow triplets:
 
 Beats: |1     2     3     4     |1     2     3     4     |1
                                              -triplet-
  Bass: |G     G     G     G     |G     G     G   G   G#  |A
     G:  I                        -

   [Figure 80.2]
  Next note The chromatic upshifting here from G to A turns out retrospectively to anticipate what is the end of the refrain which loops always like a Moebius strip into the next verse.
  Next note Those slow triplets which more typically connote repetitive emphasis (think about the penultimate refrain in Buddy Holly's "That'll Be The Day" — one of the "Ur" slow triplets in all pop music) here tend to suggest a bit of emotionally overwrought stumbling; if not quite right off the bat in the intro, then certainly so by the time they recur in both verse and refrain.
 

Verse

  Next note The verse is twelve measures long but unusually built out of two parallel phrases of six measures each:
 
      |a        |d         |B-flat    |C         |G         |-        |
   G:  ii        v          flat-III   IV         I

      |a        |d         |B-flat    |C         |G         |a        |
       ii        v          flat-III   IV         V          ii

   [Figure 80.3]
  Next note The establishment of the home key is delayed and roundabout. By the end of the first phrase that you finally do have a sense of arrival in G Major but until much before then it's a little like drifting (perhaps "thrashing" is more apropos) all over the map.
  Next note The only harmonic difference in the second phrase happens in the last measure but it seriously erodes whatever harmonic "gratification" you may have experienced with the arrival on I this second time around.
  Next note The juicy appoggiaturas in this verse are the "6-5" (B -» A) over the d-minor chord in measures 2 and 8, the "4-3" (C -» B) on the G-Major chord in measures 5 and 11, and the "9-8" (B -» A) on the a-minor chord in measure 12.
  Next note Key your ears on the inter-relationship among the bassline, the chords and the tune. A favorite detail: the bassline's slow triplet in the second half of measure 2 comprises a downward scale fragment (E -» D -» C -» B-flat) that uncannily resonates with the similar downward scale fragment in the tune from measure 1. And a detail within a detail: the bassline in that same measure launches its scale fragment with a "9-8" appoggiatura just at the precise moment that the tune resolves its own "6-5" leaning tone, forcing the measure to continue its dissonant ways just as the tune would seem to have finally resolved itself:
 
  Words: |word or two ...   |
   Tune: |B     A A         |
 Chords: |d-minor           |
   Bass: |D       E  D  C   |B-flat
                 -triplet-

   [Figure 80.4]
 

Refrain

  Next note The refrain is eight measures in length, and though it harmonically parses into two four-measure phrases, the tune parses it into three phrases all of which are roughly parallel (compare with the bridge of "Nowhere Man" where a similar melodic plan is more directly supported by the harmony):
 
   |"Do ... ... and|Go ...         |Think
   |Phrase #1 ---- |Phrase #2 ---- |Phrase #3 -------------------- |
   |C      |-      |G      |-      |E-flat |D      |G      |-      |
    IV              I               flat-VI V       I

   [Figure 80.5]
  Next note The formal "seam" at either end of this refrain is rather smoothed over by the way in which the music flows into and out of the section. More specifically, you'll note how the same game plan seen in the verses, of interjectory vocal phrases traded off against syncopated bass licks (many of which contain slow triplets), is continued right through here.
  Next note A not unreasonable amount of bridge-like contrast still does manage to assert itself, partly in the arrangement, but even more so in the harmony. The harmonic rhythm of this section is noticeably slower here than in the verse, the minor mode is also more strongly felt here than earlier on. While I believe the backing parts are playing G-Major chords underneath it all, the tune in this section gives unrelieved stress to B-flat. In fact I believe the G chords in this section should be labeled as Major/minor.
  Next note The E-flat chord in measure 6 of this section is in the so-called second inversion (also known as the 6/4 position); a rare occurrence in context of the Beatles' output. Here, it shows up as an artifact of Paul's dramatic bassline flourish in measure 4 which starts on G, jumps up a third to B-flat and then successively hops its way down a full octave below.
 

Outro

  Next note The structure of this outro is an extended variation on the Beatles' much favored gambit of using a three-time repeat to signal that It's Getting Very Near The End. In this case we have two iterations of the complete refrain followed by a petit-reprise of the last phrase in which the harmony is modified for the sake of making a better final cadence as well as to give to a fuzztone riff the very last word:
 
   |E-flat |D      |C      |G      ||
    flat-VI V       IV      I

   [Figure 80.6]
  Next note Methinks Paul makes a bassline mistake right at the start of the second full iteration of the refrain; but I'll bet he figured if he kept going that no one would ever notice it :-)
3

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Talk about your preachy attitude ..., this song is surely the one in which Georgie really hits his stride. And it's uncanny that on the British (and theoretically canonical) lineup of "Rubber Soul" it should follow on the heels of "Nowhere Man". I myself am somewhat divided in my feeling of whether such a sequencing actually helps or hurts our song. Your own mileage may vary, but think about how differently you react to this song when it follows "You Won't See Me".
  Next note On a much more serious note, I wonder about the extent to which our song here supports the notion that George's oft-stated inner conflict between his own identity and that of his Beatles' persona is nowhere more apparent than in his own music of this period. Indeed, for all of the unmistakable Harrisonian fingerprints one finds imprinted all over "Think For Yourself" (the restless and pungent harmonies in particular), the influence of Lennon and McCartney (as seen in certain clichés of the arrangement) is equally hard to miss.
  Next note Ironically one might argue that whatever personal conflict may have been engendered by this stylistic cross-blend it is ultimately a source of aesthetic strength and success. The metaphorical vision comes to mind of George, ever the quiet one, observing from the sidelines his more prolific mates at work; biding his time, drinking their wine, in fact, and in the meanwhile, quite subtly and unavoidably making it his own in some measure just the same.
  Regards,
  Alan (042593#80)
Previous
 
Copyright © 1993 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.