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Notes on "Eight Days A Week"


Notes on ... Series #2.0 (EDAW.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: D Major
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "Beatles For Sale", Track 8 (Parlophone CDP7 46438-2)
  Recorded: 6th, 18th October 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 4th December 1964 (LP "Beatles For Sale")
US-release: 15th February (A Single /
                               "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party")
  Next note The harmony of "Eight Days A Week" is built out of a wonderfully teasing exploitation of the special effect called a "false" (or "cross") relation. This harmonic idiom is used quite a bit throughout the Beatles' output and I think that "Eight Days A Week" is an object lesson worth exploring. ("Hey, I thought he'd talk about those infamous parallel fifths, but this false relations stuff sounds really kinky!")

False Relations, Defined

  Next note A false relation is nothing more than a chromatic contradiction between two notes in a single chord or in different parts of adjacent chords. Within the confines of academic tonal theory this is considered a "syntax error" but it has been used throughout the ages by composers for expressive effect; a sort of a musical poetic license.
  Next note As my one sentence definition above implies, false relations come in two flavors; both are well loved by the Beatles and I'll cite examples of each though only the second flavor is of concern in "Eight Days A Week":
  • Contradiction between two notes in one chord — the manifestation of this seen most frequently is the simultaneous use of the major and minor third in a chord; this is one of the factors which makes the blues sound, well, bluesy. A Beatles' example off the top of the head is "The Night Before"; the accompaniment is clearly in D Major (which uses F#) while the melody repeatedly incorporates the F-natural of the minor mode.
  • Contradiction between adjacent chords — this is the more subtle of the two flavors because the ear picks it up only by following the succession of two chords over time, whereas the first flavor above involves an outright, instantaneous clash. As we'll see, the pervasive application of this effect provides a unifying influence on "Eight Days A Week".

False Relations Located In "Eight Days A Week"

  Next note False relations appear in both the verse and refrain of "Eight Days A Week". The song is in D Major and the false relation in each case involves G-natural and G#; note that the G-natural has a melodic tendency to fall to F# and the G# has the tendency toward A-natural.
  Next note The verse — each phrase of the verse has its own false relation. Here's the first phrase ("Love you every day, girl ..."):
   D-Major       -» E-Major      -» G-Major      -» D-Major
                   (uses G#)       (uses G-natural)
   I                II (V-of-V)     IV              I

   [Figure 2.1]
  The effect is particularly subtle because the G# in the second chord appears in a middle voice while the G-natural in the following chord is in the outer voices. In the second phrase ("Hold me...") the false relation does not happen between immediately adjacent chords but the alternating appearance of G# and G-natural is definitely heard:
   b-minor       -» e-minor      -» b-minor      -» E-Major
                   (uses G-natural)                (uses G#)
   vi               ii6             vi              II (V-of-V)

   [Figure 2.2]
  I would argue that the false relation is accentuated in the above phrase by the fact that the e-minor chord appears in its first inversion with the G-natural in the bassline!
  Next note The refrain ("Eight days a week ...") — the progression is as follows with the false relation hopefully clearly spelled out:
   A-Major       -» b-minor      -» E-Major      -» G-Major      -» A7
                                   (uses G#)       (uses G-natural)
   V                vi              II (V-of-V)     IV              V

   [Figure 2.3]

Other Harmonic Teases

  Next note "Eight Days A Week" makes very spare use of the dominant chord (V), and even when it does appear it doesn't always behave as we might expect. A couple of details (referring the chord progressions outlined above):
  • The V chord's first appearance is delayed all the way until the refrain; it doesn't make any appearance in the verse which is a particular tease in that the E-Major chord (V-of-V) would seem to prompt for it.
  • The first appearance of the V chord at the beginning of the refrain resolves "deceptively" to the vi chord instead of the tonic (I). The V-of-V in the second part of the refrain finally moves to the V itself but by way of the false-relation-inducing IV chord.
  • The return of the verse following the refrain, then, is the only place in the song that we have a garden variety V -» I cadence. In other words, the verses by themselves rely on the IV -» I (so-called "plagal cadence") to establish the key.
  • Anybody out there notice that the unique triplet-rhythm phrase which is used both in the (fade-in!!) intro and coda happens to use the same chord progression as the beginning of the verse but over a D pedal tone? (It's kind of like a Bach prelude.)

... And One Last Thing

  Next note Lest any of you think I'm some desiccated pedant who derives no joy from the music let me share with you: I was in 11th grade when this song first came out. I was a regular Schröder-from-the-Peanuts-cartoon who was into classical music and eschewed virtually all popular music. To make a long story short, I can still remember (and experience) the hair on the back of my neck standing up when I hear(d) those parallel fifths and fourths in the break. So there :-)
  Next note By the way, I assume a certain basic knowledge of musical notation and theory in these articles. Please don't hesitate to send e-mail if you have any questions or suggestions on how to make them more intelligible.
  Alan (060689#2.0)
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.