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notes on ...

Notes on "All Together Now"


Notes on ... Series #158 (ATN)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: G Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge | Refrain |
                  | Verse | Refrain | Refrain |
                  | Bridge | Refrain | Refrain |
                  | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine", Track 3 (Parlophone CDP7 46445-2)
        CD: "Yellow Submarine Songtrack", Track 5 (EMI 5 21481-2)
  Recorded: 12th May 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 17th January 1969 (LP "Yellow Submarine")
US-release: 13th January 1969 (LP "Yellow Submarine")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note As it is with many another among the finest examples of classic entertainment for tots, this song draws a casually artful balance between its childlike core values and a non-trivial amount of sophisticated detail thrown in to maintain the interest of the so-called grown ups in the peanut gallery.
  Next note The list of such twists includes sharp syncopation, uneven phrasing, surprising wordplay, and an unpredictable form. They do a wonderful job of projecting the illusion that the song is almost being made up from scratch, just for you, and in real time. The impromptu clowning around that you encounter on the surface, though, is surely belied by a smoothness of execution that is one of the great Beatles' hallmarks.
  Next note The form defies easy classification among the more typical pop or folk models we're used to finding. The first part is standard enough, with two verses for starters followed by a bridge and refrain. The follow up with a single verse followed by two refrains (and no intervening bridge), then a bridge (with no preceding verse) followed by close-to three refrains in a row is where it gets dicey.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune stays in a constricted range and is set syllabically like a patter song. The talky effect extends into the half-sung antiphonal parts for backing vocals in the bridge and refrain sections.
  Next note Harmony doesn't get much easier than I -» IV -» V.


  Next note The broad outlines of the arrangement are carefully choreographed with only the most superficial of the special effects left somewhat to chance:
  • Intro: acoustic guitar.
  • First verse: add single tracked McCartney.
  • Second verse: add either a ukelele or mandolin.
  • Bridge: add bass, drum set, and backing Beatles; drop Paul.
  • First refrain: add fuller "chorus", harmonica, and percussion/bells.
  • Third verse: full instrumental backing, restore Paul vocal solo.
  • Second and third refrain: this time add "honkers".
  • Bridge: same as before.
  • Fourth and fifth refrain: add handclaps in the fifth refrain.
  • Outro: note the honker on the trailing edge.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro provides eight full measures of the I chord preceded by a two beat syncopated pickup from below:
       3  4   1  2  3  4   ...
       F# G  |G           |...
   G:        I

   [Figure 158.1]
  Next note The F# chord is merely an appoggiatura and deserves no roman numeral of its own. The effect is reminiscent of the opening of "The Night Before".


  Next note The verse is a straightforward eight measures in length, closed in harmonic shape, and uses just two chords:
      |G       |-       |D       |-       |
   G:  I                 V

                      4  1 2 3 4  1
      |G       |-     D |-     G |-       |
       I              V        I

   [Figure 158.2]
  Next note The syncopation at the end of measure 6 breaks up impending monotony and is nicely synchronized with the apex of the tune. Even when dealing with a melodic range of four notes, Paul ends up creating something that still has an arch-like shape.


  Next note The bridge is an asymmetrical ten measures long. This time, the melodic shape of an upward vector, the final phrase of which is rhetorically extended two extra measures:
      |C       |-       |G       |-       |
   G:  IV                I

      |C       |-       |D       |-       |-       |-       |
       IV                V

   [Figure 158.3]
  Next note All three chords appear now, and the harmonic shape of the section is open at both ends; starting on IV and ending with the melodic climax on V. The final vocal phrase (in measure 8) is syncopated in another gesture toward avoiding tedium.


  Next note The refrain is, again, a four-square eight measures long, using two chords, and a closed harmonic shape. Again, as well, the tune describes an arch shape in spite of its narrow range.
      |G       |-       |-       |-       |
   G:  I

      |D       |-       |G       |-       |
       V                 I

   [Figure 158.4]


  Next note The ending features one of those three-strikes-you're-out gambits much favored by the Beatles. With the tempo suddenly picking up speed, what starts off as an unusual third consecutive repeat of the refrain is modified in the fifth measure to provide a complete ending with a big V -» I finish.
      |G       |-       |-       |-       |
   G:  I

      |D       |-       |-       |-       |

      |G       |-       |-       |-       |

   [Figure 158.5]
  Next note The message that we're getting very near the end is subliminally telegraphed by the way in which the harmonic rhythm sudden slows down right in the face of the otherwise hurtling back-beat.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note When I was a boy, grandma taught me a song that whose lyrics uncannily resonate with the subject of our current study. It started off something like this:
  "One, two, buckle my shoe.
Three, four, open the door.
Five, six, pick-up sticks.
... and blah, blah, blah."
  Next note At risk of appearing sex-obsessed, I can report that my song didn't contain any lines that were as ambiguously suggestive as the musical question: "Can I take my friend to bed?" Then again, maybe I'm just one of the older generation leading this country to galloping ruin; or perhaps, more accurately, I'm preferring that my grandma had been.
  Alan (112298#158)
Copyright © 1998 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.