alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "All My Loving"


Notes on ... Series #27.0 (AML.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "With The Beatles", Track 3 (Parlophone CDP7 46436-2)
  Recorded: 30th July 1963, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 22nd November 1963 (LP "With The Beatles")
US-release: 20th January 1964 (LP "Meet The Beatles")
  Next note Many people, Lewisohn among them, have described "All My Loving" as Paul's "best, most complex piece of songwriting yet" as of the time of its official recording in July 1963. In spite of all praise however, the song seems to have forever been eclipsed in popularity by the other really big hits of the first American wave of Beatlemania, such as "She Loves You" and "I Want To Hold Your Hand"; not even appearance of "All My Loving" as lead-off number on the first Sullivan show could prevent it from happening.
  Next note Perhaps this loss of status is attributable to "All My Loving"'s relative lack of drama or startling originality when compared to those other songs. Perhaps it's only the matter of never having been issued as a single. Either way, it's a shame to have happened, because there's quite a lot to be admired in the song. A close look at its compositional details reveals it to be very much a typical song of the second album, "With The Beatles". Especially as concerns form and harmonic vocabulary, "All My Loving" represents a notable advance in sophistication and technique over the first couple of singles and the original cuts on the "Please Please Me" album.


  Next note The form is relatively compact, and the number of verse repetitions plus the complete ending make it seem deceptively familiar:
   Verse | Verse | Refrain | Bridge | Verse | Refrain | Outro
  In actuality, the appearance of a refrain section here is quite noteworthy, especially in conjunction with the short bridge section for solo guitar.
  Next note Also special is the way in which the song opens in the midst of the action without an intro, or even a downbeat from which the singer can grab his opening cue note; somewhere on the studio tape I'll bet someone plays the note A for Paul just before they start. Clearly, the Boys liked this trick sufficiently to reuse it from time to time; just browsing among the two dozen-odd songs we've looked at in this series, there's "She Loves You", "It Won't Be Long", "Any Time At All", "No Reply", and "You're Going To Lose That Girl". In "All My Loving" (as in "No Reply"), the abruptness of the effect is enhanced by the first chord not being the tonic (i.e. I) chord of the home key.

Hooks, Bridges, and Refrains

  Next note At risk of oversimplification, I'll postulate the following correlation between the location of the hook in any given pop/rock song and the likelihood of whether a "bridge" versus a "refrain" section to be found within it:
  • If the hook is found in the verse section (typically in the first or last phrase of the verse), then the middle section of the song is a "bridge", by which I mean to describe a section whose primary purpose is to provide contrast or respite from the music of the verse section, typically implemented in part by harmonic movement away from or back towards the home key.
  • Otherwise, the hook will be found in a "refrain" section, and even though such refrains are typically to be found in the same formal location as the bridges referred to above, they differ in feel from bridges in that they are much the focal point of the song, the fulfillment of the verses, rather than a momentary interlude away from them. As such, refrains tend to showcase a catchy tune and are built from harmony which helps establish a sense of key.
  Next note Without exception, the entire first crop of originals by Lennon and McCartney up through the "Please Please Me" album fits into the first "bridge" category; in general, I believe a statistical study of the Beatles' output would reveal a long term trend in this direction. But what's most curious to note for the purpose of our current study is the sudden burst of interest in the second "refrain" style as evidenced from the songs of mid-late 1963; in addition to our "All My Loving", you also have "She Loves You", "It Won't Be Long", "Little Child", and "I Wanna Be Your Man".
  (Parenthetically, it's amusing to note how the songs of Dylan, given his folk roots, manifest the reverse trend. It has been pointed out that he had never written a song with a true bridge section until his "Blonde On Blonde" album, in songs like "I Want You" and "Just Like A Woman".)
  Next note But you'll remind me, won't you, that our current song doesn't quite fit into either of my categories because it has both the refrain and bridge. Indeed, I could (and probably should) have proposed the above categorization scheme in the context of analyzing a more strictly second-category type song, such as almost any one of the others listed at the end of the previous paragraph.
  Next note For the momentary sake of a placing "All My Loving" in one of two pigeon-holes, let me suggest that in spirit, it belongs in the second category, and I'll accept the burden of explaining below the motivation for its hybrid inclusion of the bridge section.

Harmony and Rhythm

  Next note Though "All My Loving" has virtually none of that Beatles-trademark sort of syncopation or uneven phrase lengths, it does still convey an infectuously unperturbed and self-confident vitality through the incessant fast motor triplets in the rhythm guitar part, as well as through its rapid harmonic rhythm.
  Next note In contrast with the earlier songs we've studied thus far, this one utilizes an unusually large number of different chords; we have the appearance of five out of the possible total seven chords diatonically available in the home key, plus a couple of other more adventurous ones as well. The two unusual chords are D-Major (the flat-VII) and an exotic augmented chord that is used in the bridge to smoothly mediate between c# minor and E Major.
  Next note Beyond the large harmonic vocabulary per se, the rate at which the chords change borders on the hyperactive. There is a different chord in virtually every measure of the piece, and in no case is any chord sustained for more than two measures in a row; contrast this back with what we saw last time in "I Saw Her Standing There".


  Next note The verse is sixteen measures long and is divided into two musically parallel eight-measure phrases, the former of which is left harmonically open with its ending on the V chord, while the latter one is closed with its ending on the tonic:
    m.1                           5
      |f#    |B     |E     |c#    |A     |f#    |D       |B     ||
   E:  ii     V      I      vi     IV     ii     flat-VII V

    m.9                           13
      |f#    |B     |E     |c#    |A     |B     |E       |-     ||
       ii     V      I      vi     IV     V      I

   [Figure 27.1]
  Next note There are a number of noteworthy details in both the music and the arrangement. Musically, we have the following:
  • Each of the couplets boasts a lovely melodic arch in which the peak is asymmetrically placed (measures 3 and 11), making for an early climax and a leisurely winding down.
  • The general pause in measure 16 is the only place in the song where total silence reigns for at least a single heartbeat. It provides both some welcome respite from the otherwise non-stop motion of the song, as well as a tactical resetting of the stage the start of the next verse.
  • In place of what you might expect as the more traditional harmonic circle of fifths, the first phrase presents a chain of downward third-wise chord changes running from measures 3 - 8.
  • The D-Major chord in measure 7 demonstrates an unusual application of the so-called flat-VII chord. Typically, we've seen such chords behave either as pseudo dominants — as in the I -» flat-VII -» I progression at the beginning of "We Can Work It Out", or as a sort of IV-of-IV, as seen in the second-half jam section of "Hey Jude". Here in "All My Loving", this flat-VII behaves like a connecting chord between the ii and V chords, the motivation for which appears to the ear as a result of the arpeggio outline of the root movement in the bass and the upward chromatic movement of an inner line from C# -» D -» D# over the course of measures 6 - 8. Though this use of the flat-VII is definitely less widely found than the other two I listed, it is far from unprecedented, especially in the songs of the Beatles; you'd almost never make the free association without a hint because the two contexts are so different, but (now, dig this) the same flat-VII gambit used here in "All My Loving" appears all over again as one of the signature devices of no less familiar a song than "Help!".
  Next note In terms of the arrangement:
  • Though its not a particularly fussy vocal arrangement, they did take the trouble to double track Paul in the first two verses while saving a vocal duet in parallel thirds (for Paul, singing with himself again) in the final verse. As a further variation, we're given the nice contrast of Paul appearing single tracked in the refrain with George and John sustaining a backing harmony behind him on the phoneme "oooh".
  • The bassline suggests a perpetual motion of its own, albeit a much slower one than found in the triplets of the guitar parts. You can't always make out the specific notes in the bass, but the use of a downward walking scale covering the nine notes all the way from F# down to low E more than an octave below is quite stunning, and to our delight, it recurs every verse, in measures 1 - 3 and 9 - 11.


  Next note This section is eight measures long and built out of two parallel iterations of the following four-measure phrase:
      |c#          |C augmented  |E           |-           ||
   E:  vi           ??root??      I

   [Figure 27.2]
  Note how the melodic material of this section is craftily taken in bits and pieces from that of the verse.
  Next note The most novel detail of the song is to be found in that augmented chord of the second measure. In the context of a song whose mood and vocabulary are otherwise so imperturbable, this slightly dissonant chord of obscure harmonic origin provides an effective, yet endlessly subtle touch of anxiety that belies the hero's apparent self assuredness.
  Next note In "theoretical" terms, such an augmented chord is said to not have a root at all, but is rather the incidental byproduct of melodic motion by an inner voice of the harmonic texture; in this case, from C# -» C-natural -» B; what my jazz-trained friend calls a "line cliché". The fact that it is sustained for a full measure, essentially just as long as any other chord in the song, is what particularly draws your attention to it.
  Not all augmented chords are necessarily as rootless as this one. For contrast, see the one at the end of the bridge of "From Me To You", which is arguably an inflection of the V chord; a G#5.
  Next note In spite of my proposed rules above regarding the paradigmatic tendency for refrain sections to clearly establish the home key, this one does it in only elliptical terms by relying on the weak vi -» I progression; i.e. "weak" in comparison to the more traditional textbook cadences of V -» I or IV -» I perhaps, but a strong favorite of the Boys starting with "Misery" and going through "From Me To You", not to mention (again) "It Won't Be Long", "All I've Got To Do", and "Not A Second Time". I told you "All My Loving" is rather archetypically second-album in style, didn't I?


  Next note In contrast to both verse and refrain sections, this little bridge is ironically the most diatonically stable and harmonically slow moving spot in the entire song, though it's worth noting that it too begins with a chord that is not-I!
      |A    |-     |E    |-   ||f#   |B    |E    |-    ||
   E:  IV           I           ii    V     I

   [Figure 27.3]
  Although there are no new chords used in this section, the specific choice of chord progression is new material strictly speaking. What Tony Barrow described as George's "intriguing" solo is in a style that is clearly not improvised. The latter is no slam on George, but rather a designation of the content of his solo as a "permanently composed" part of the arrangement. In other words, you expect to hear it the same way every time, and would likely be thrown or otherwise disappointed a tad to listen to some alternate version where it's different; and I dare you to find such a one, too!
  Next note Allright now, so why did they need a bridge as well as a refrain here? Just to sharpen the question, consider that if it was to showcase the guitar solo, they just as easily could have done that, as is so common in other songs, by placing the solo over a musical repeat of either the refrain or the verse; so why the need for original material?
  Next note My own pet theory is that there is something about the specific content of the refrain and its relationship to the verse section that creates a small compositional problem which this bridge comes along to fix. I can imagine it having been composed very late in the game only after they had been playing the song without it for a while, feeling inarticulately uncomfortable about something just not being right. I also base this theory on an intuitive feeling that it's hard to imagine the song with only the bridge and no refrain. Play this option through your head and see what I mean — without the refrain, there's an insufficient presence of hook in the song, and though the bridge by itself provides some contrast to the verses, it's too short as is, and if you double its length, then I think its contrast with the verse is no longer sufficient.
  Next note But now run the opposite experiment — play the song out as is but omit the bridge. My reaction is that the refrain does not sufficiently fulfill the functional requirements of true refrain-hood as outlined in my earlier proposal; while it certainly throws a big hook at us, it does not provide a strong sense of harmonic confirmation, nor does it provide much contrast of melody or texture, or harmonic pace from that of the verses.
  Next note The bridge for all its modest proportions provides everything that the refrain is lacking. The harmony neatly converges on the home key with simple chord choices, the vocal part is given a rest, and perhaps most subtle-yet-critical, the slowing of the harmonic rhythm, however slightly, provides some well needed breathing space.
  Next note I think the final point helps explain why new material is needed here; i.e. the guitar solo section would not be as effective if it had been placed over a repetition of either the refrain or verse because both those other sections are harmonically more active.


  Next note This coda is actually an extension of the second refrain and it squeezes a standard triple repeat of the final phrase of the lyrics into its eight measures which are built from a repeat of the following four-measure phrase:
      |c#     |-      |E      |-      ||
   E:  vi              I

   [Figure 27.4]
  Note the use again of the vi -» I progression, and how, in the interest of what I often describe as an avoidance of foolish, rote consistency, the augmented gambit between vi and I is not used. Also note how the single use of vocal falsetto is saved here for the very end, as a small treat.

Kissing Cousins

  Next note Though I've kept saying throughout this article that "All My Loving" is very much a typical song of the "With The Beatles" album in general, you probably noticed by now that "It Won't Be Long" in particular keeps showing up again and again. In fact, "All My Loving" and "It Won't Be Long" share an uncanny number of features and details:
  • the home key of E Major (granted, there are many others from this period)
  • lyrics that deal with the theme of "absence and return"
  • a vocal opening "in medias res"
  • prominent use of the vi -» I progression
  • an augmented chord that is motivated by chromatic linear motion
  • the use of a refrain and a bridge
  • even a little solo for bass or low strings of the lead guitar
  Next note In an earlier pair of notes on "She Said She Said" and "Good Day Sunshine" I noted a similar laundry list of uncanny parallels between those two songs, suggesting perhaps that the friendly competition between John and Paul may have manifested itself at times in their electing to write separate songs starting from a set of common, abstract constraints. Okay, so maybe it wasn't literally a contest, but I imagine them often trading ideas and comparing notes to the extent that this sort of compositional cross-pollination would have been inevitable. Did you ever share private idiosyncratic phrases with a friend to the extreme where eventually, neither of you could remember which one of you coined the phrase in the first place?
  Next note But moving beyond speculation, may I suggest in the case of "It Won't Be Long" and "All My Loving", that it is specifically when the common denominators between two songs are so numerous that, ironically, the temperamental differences between them (and perhaps their individual composers) become most apparent. Take for example here, the way the lyrics of these two songs deal with the theme of lovers separated yet anticipating the immediate future:
  • In "It Won't Be Long", John speaks of a painful separation he has endured when she left him, and he now in the present looks forward to a joyful reunion with her, while filled with what sounds like repentance for having caused her to leave in the first place.
  • In contrast, "All My Loving" is written entirely in the present and future tense; if you can pardon my blasphemy, you might say it's a love that has no past. Here, it is he who will be doing the leaving and we have no reason to suspect there is anything more than a personal responsibility to be somewhere else which motivates the separation; no hurt, no blame. He earnestly promises to be faithful and muses aloud about having to adjust his lovelife to the realm of fantasy for the duration, but beyond this, any hint of what he's really feeling inside is left to the imagination and the musical subtext, tinged as it is with that small hint of anxiety.
  Next note It's difficult to navigate such a contrast without taking sides or appearing to be making a judgment. In my humble opinion, both songs are musically, artistically valid. Maintaining a personal preference for one over the other doesn't necessarily mean the other isn't worthwhile or that it isn't an appropriate favorite choice for someone else. The very least you can say is that both artists, over the long run, as long as they were being sincere and doing their best work, were amazingly consistent and true to their respective visions. In fact, if you want to find a real soulmate for "All My Loving", perhaps look to "Things We Said Today".
  Alan (053191#27.0)

A Personal Postscript

  I really do try to not overly waste bandwidth on dragging everything down to me own level ("it's immature, son"), but it's not without some pride that I present this "Note" as a sort of Second Anniversary Edition of the series.
  I posted my first r.m.b. "Note" here precisely two years ago today, only after much equivocating and even then, with great trepidation; only my regular e-mail correspondents know just how much. It's those same people too who know the depth of the impact on my life in general that doing this series has had. But I'll spare you the maudlin-yet-exciting autobiographical details and all that other David Copperfield sort of crap :-)
  For now, I hope for the strength and insight (not to mention the "net" access) needed to continue the series indefinitely. And I also want to thank publicly both the inner circle of r.m.b. regulars, some of whom have become my electronically serious, permanent friends over time, as well as all the other folks who have from time to time dropped me just a line or two of kind words about the series. At this point, I wouldn't be doing all this without the help of you all, so thanks!
Copyright © 1991 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.