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notes on ...

Notes on "You're Going To Lose That Girl"


Notes on ... Series #7.0 (YGTLTG.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "Help!", Track 6 (Parlophone CDP7 46439-2)
  Recorded: 19th February 1965, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 6th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
US-release: 13th August 1965 (LP "Help!")
  Next note We've got a real test of our skills for dealing with pivot modulations in "You're Going To Lose That Girl". On the way to unraveling it, we'll find that the clustering of phrases into verses and refrains is also a bit more complicated here than usual.

Traveling to a Foreign Key

  Next note Let's jump ahead for now and note that this song is in E Major and its bridge ("I'll make a point of taking her away from you ...") is clearly in the remote key of G Major. There's no flirtation or fake pass here; it's a full-blown interlude in that second key.
  I call this "remote" because there is no G chord (either Major or minor) that's native to the key of E; remember, there are four sharps in the key signature, the third of which is G#. The only "rationalizable" relationship between E Major and G Major would be to say that G is the relative Major of our parallel minor key. (Think it over; it's convoluted but it's not double talk.)

But How Did We Get There?

  Next note The great harmonic leap to G deftly happens during measures 28 through 30:
      |f#          |D           ||G
   E:  ii           flat-VII
                G:  V             I

   [Figure 7.1]
  What happens here is a pivot on the flat-VII chord (D), treating it, double entendre style as the V of the flat-III (G); this is grammatically legitimate though still a surprise — wouldn't you have expected an E chord sooner than G?
  Next note When we looked at "Help!" last time, we saw there a different, but equally creative and unusual application of the flat-VII chord. It's tempting to suggest that the fact that "Help!" and "You're Going To Lose That Girl" were composed in close proximity to each other implies more than mere coincidence.
  Next note The modulation to flat-III which we have here is the more audacious because there is an easier, textbook alternate way to make this key change — i.e. switch from Major to parallel minor (e.g. "I'll Be Back"), and then it's a short hop to the relative Major (e.g. "And I Love Her"). Off the top of my head I can't think of a song that combines both these techniques but it's not unheard of; trust me!

Getting Home

  Next note Going to a foreign key is one thing, but getting back to the original one can be even more challenging; like rescuing a cat from a treetop. In this case, the Beatles use a pivot chord we haven't seen yet, the flat-II; sometimes called the "Neapolitan" chord.
  It's not all that exotic a chord, by the way; a lot of Baroque music employs this chord in final cadences such as flat-II -» V -» I with the flat-II in its first inversion. Usage of the flat-II chord in "You're Going To Lose That Girl" is unusual in that appears in root position and without a V chord between it and the I. This is not the first time the Beatles used this device; it is used with similarly audacious effect in "Things We Said Today" to slide back to the home key from the break.
  Next note Our break section cruises along nicely in G, and then just as deftly as it shifted here from E, it shifts back as follows to E for the beginning of the guitar solo:
      |G           |C           |G           |-           |
   G:  I            IV           I

      |G           |C           |F           ||E
  G:   I            IV           flat-VII
                E:  V-of-flat-II flat-II       I

   [Figure 7.2]
  Next note The effect of this is enhanced by the fact the break is an imbalanced seven-measure length; repeat the F chord for an additional measure before dropping to E and you'll see that it's more satisfactorily four-square in one respect but less, for lack of a better word, "fun".

Putting It All Together

  Next note At a high level, the form of this song is a rather standard two-break model with a guitar solo for verse three:
   Verse | Verse | Break | Verse | Break | Verse
  Next note There are some unusual details nonetheless. In the songs we've looked at so far we've seen a convention of two verses, each of which is four-times-four (i.e. sixteen) measures. With "You're Going To Lose That Girl", we have something slightly more subtle. The first section of the song is thirty measures long and consists of seven and a half phrases; seven of which build a symmetrical "mosaic" out of the following two phrases, labeled A and B, and the last, half-phrase being the extension which connects the bridge (measures 28 - 30 described above):
   Phrase "A" ("You're going to lose that girl..."):

       E       c#      f#9     B
   E:  I       vi      ii      V

   Phrase "B" ("If you don't take her out tonight ..."):

       E       G#      f#      B
       I       V-of-vi ii      V

   [Figure 7.3]
  Next note The mosaic pattern is A-BB-A-BB-A. For all its symmetry, though, this passage keeps us a great deal more off balance then the more typical design of 16 + 16 for a couple of reasons beyond the obvious non-square nature of a grouping of seven:
  • There is an almost hypnotic effect created by the fact that both phrases A and B end with a ii -» V chord progression. If it wasn't for the delightful ninth chord in phrase A (with the falsetto G# in the voices) we'd have a potential problem with monotony.
  • In the instrumental arrangement, the drums make their first appearance on the first B phrase making the opening A phrase sound ambiguously like "maybe" an introduction.
  Next note From a casual listen, we're not sure how the seven phrases are meant to be parsed; is it two verses of ABB-ABB with a concluding repeat of A or is it two verses of BB surrounded on each side with a refrain of A? But my question is a bit of a strawman. The section following each break section is, indeed, a twelve-measure verse of BBA design. In retrospect, we must conclude that the opening seven phrases are intended to be understood as two BBA verses preceded by what we suspected was an introductory A phrase. Of course, this may be "correct" but probably is academically beside the point; the un-analyzed, elliptical ambiguity is an important part of our experience of this song.

Other Choice Details

  • Another "in medias res" opening: no intro, not even a single chord from which the singers can find their opening notes — a miracle of the recording studio :-)
  • A fast harmonic rhythm throughout — there's a chord change on almost every measure except, interestingly, in the break sections.
  • The final cadence: just when you think we might repeat the trick modulation to flat-III for the third time, the song simply concludes with a nice, "traditional" flat-VII -» IV -» I ending.
  • And of course, those bongos — unessential but delightful; a sort of squiggly pencil border drawn around a colorful drawing. For a really good time (just when you think you've had your fill of this song) give it a listen, preferably with earphones, and try and hear the bongo part in the foreground with the rest of the music as "accompaniment." Who said Ringo couldn't do anything intricate?
  Alan (071989#7.0)
Copyright © 1989 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.