alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "And Your Bird Can Sing"


Notes on ... Series #98 (AYBCS)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                  | Verse (guitar solo) | Bridge | Verse |
                  | Verse (guitar solo) | Outro (with complete ending)
        CD: "Revolver", Track 9 (Parlophone CDP7 46441-2)
  Recorded: 20th, 26th April 1966, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 5th August 1966 (LP "Revolver")
US-release: 20th June 1966 (LP "Yesterday ... And Today")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note This song may be most notable for its setting of an elegantly Classical/Baroque leitmotif in context of a proto-grunge and noisy guitar mix but there's more to it than that.
  Next note That opening riff would feel intrinsically Baroque just by virtue of its perpetual-motion-in-even-eighth-notes and its embellished scale-wise melodic content. But the gesture is further intensified by Paul's occasionally walking bassline, and most of all, by the way that the riff is cyclically repeated in the manner of a concerto grosso's ritornello or a da capo aria's obbligato.
  Next note The form, though essentially a two-bridge model with only one verse separating the bridges, includes a repeat of the entire guitar solo verse section right before the outro.
  Next note The lyrics are wordier than usual. Even though the title phrase repeats in every verse, and the bridges have their own refrain, every section opens differently, and this accentuates the ("... and while I'm at it, let me tell you another thing ...") ranting feel of the overall production.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The home key is a sunny E Major jazzed up by those pentatonic touches so characteristic of John. In the tune, I'm thinking of the motif that goes with the phrase, "but you don't get me." In the guitar hook, look to the last measure of the intro. In context of the otherwise Baroque nature of this hook, that syncopated lick at the end is ironic sounding.
  Next note The other device much favored by John to be found here is the chromatically descending bassline in the bridge. Yes, Paul liked to use it too, but our current example reminds me most of "I'll Be Back".


  Next note Lewisohn is surprisingly silent on the question of how the backing instrumental for this song was put together, leaving us to puzzle over, in particular, how many over-dubbed guitars participate in the lead part, which in the bridge sounds like at least two, to me; the final scale sounds like parallel sixths or tenths, which I imagine would be difficult to execute so cleanly, and legato, on a single ax.
  Next note John's lead vocal sounds like it is artificially double-tracked; the two results cleanly mixed left and right as single track vocals. I don't think it's possible to get "real" double tracking this tightly synched, and besides, the type of mix we have here provides a unique effect of its own.
  Next note We find the usual extra amount of production values lavished on the details; this, in spite of the intentionally "dirty" sound quality — actually, the latter might be ironically described as very much one of those carefully sweated details :-) Others include:
  • the use of backing vocals for bold/italic emphasis, and the break in this pattern for the final verse where they accompany the entire first phrase;
  • the guitar lick between the first two verses, and its lick-like arpeggios during the bridges;
  • the careful patterns played by the auxiliary percussion such as tambourine in the verse and (yes, again) hand claps in the bridge;
  • ... and speaking of that final verse, there's John's vulnerable striving to add a little trill on the phrase "get me" way out on the edge of his range.
  You never really become conscious of this stuff unless you obsessively go after it, but someone did go out of their way to put it there, and, after all, an exceedingly tedious neighbor of mine once cornered me to let me know that it is just this lonesome, solitary discovery of such things at wee hours of the night in the bowels of the library's stacks that makes "Scholarship" the exciting profession that it is; and be forewarned, he told me :-)
  Next note The rhythmic pulse of the backing track is curiously clunky, with the syncopation coming primarily from the guitar lick and vocals in the foreground.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The intro is four measures long and utilizes a single chord, over which we hear the guitar riff for the first time.
  Next note Following the basic principle of not shooting your whole wad straight out of the box, they give us only what turns out to be the first half of the solo; saving the climactic second half for later.


  Next note The verse is eight measures long and has a 4 + 4 AB phrase structure that is articulated, in part, by a difference in harmonic rhythm between the phrases:
      |E     |-     |-     |-     |f#    |A     |E     |-     |
   E:  I                           ii     IV     I

   [Figure 98.1]
  Next note The harmonic shape of this section is "closed" (opens and closes on the I chord). The home key is established here by the plagal IV chord, with the dominant V saved for the bridge.
  Next note In order to fill out the full eight measures of the verse, the guitar solo sections extend the lick used in the outro with a dramatic down-and-back-up-again scale passage.
  Next note Note carefully how the harmony for the guitar solo verses replaces the IV chord of measure 6 with a V chord. It's not just that IV clashes with the melodic content of the solo; I think it's also a matter of wanting the solo to convey the stronger sense of climax provided by V.


  Next note Harmonically, the bridge fakes us out for a moment, as though it were going to modulate to the key of g# minor. Ironically, the downward chromatic scale leisurely played out over the first four measures of this section takes us straight back to the home key. This scenario, in which initial resolve to move elsewhere is belied by the inertia to stay at home, is uncannily in synch with the song's subtext; see "Final Comments" below.
 Chords: |g#    |      |-     |-     |E     |f#    |-     |B     |
   Bass: |G#    |G-nat |F#    |F-nat |E
      E:  iii                         I      ii            V

   [Figure 98.2]


  Next note The outro is crafted out of a ready-steady-go repetition of the obbligato's opening. The coup de grace here is the surprise ending on an A-Major IV chord, in the 6/4 (also known as "second") inversion, no less!
  Next note The very next song on the album, "For No One", also ends inconclusively, though it chooses to end on V instead of IV. In the case of "For No One", you can at least rationalize that the V chord ending fits smoothly within the overall flow of the song, where each refrain leads back to a verse by virtue of that V chord. The IV6/4 ending here, though, is generally a much less common ending than V, and in context of the rest of this song, it seems an unprecedented surprise. This, like the abandoned modulation of the bridge, is another one of these details of the song's "internal design" that resonates with the songs inner meanings.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Shall I stay within the comfort of where I am, or do I have the guts do go where I should be? (Do I dare eat a peach? :-)) And which choice is the "right" one? Going out on a very personal limb here, for a change, I'm not sure that "And Your Bird Can Sing" discloses its innermost secrets until you've both sat within the sanctum of your own living room making special plans with one individual, only later to be cornered in the last booth of the Chinese restaurant by someone else to talk about new drapes for that same living room.
  Next note Maureen Cleave's interview of John, published 4th March, 1966 in the London Evening Standard, achieved international notoriety because of his "we're more popular than Jesus" remark. But the overall portrait it paints of the artist as he stands between "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" is rather incredible for the hints of inner conflict and sad ambivalence about materialistically excessive success which peep their way through the haze in spite of, (or is that, because of), his stream of offhand, calculatedly outrageous sound bites. "You see there's something else I'm going to do; something I must do — only I don't know what it is," indeed.
  Next note Today we call it Mid Life Crisis, and we expect it to happen around the age of 41, or the environs. Goodness ... John was a tender 25, and was capable of articulating the excruciatingly impossible to verbalize nature of it; and in music.
  Alan (010595#98)
Copyright © 1995 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.