alan w. pollack's
notes on ...

Notes on "Eight Days A Week"


Notes on ... Series #2.2 (EDAW.2)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: D Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
                          | Verse | Bridge |
                          | Verse | Outro (with complete ending)
        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 1965 (A Single /
                               "I Don't Want To Spoil The Party")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note I'm going to ease my way into this series gradually. At some point I'll bite the bullet and start covering the songs more or less in chronological order from the beginning, but for now, I'm content to browse the catalog more randomly, picking out favorite songs that illustrate particularly well one or another of the technical or stylistic hallmarks and mannerisms which characterize the Beatles sound over the long run.
  Next note Last time, with "We Can Work It Out", we pulled apart an apparently unassuming mid-career single to discover uneven phrasing, and a shift of meter at its core. This time, we'll step back even a bit earlier in the catalog to look most closely at chord progressions and the details of an arrangement.
  Next note In particular, we'll discover how 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" provides an object lesson worth exploring.
  Next note In terms of form, we have another double bridge with single intervening verse. The lyrics are on the light side in terms of content in spite of the characteristic cleverness of the title phrase. The four verses all end with the hook phrase, and verse pairs 1/3 and 2/4 respectively contain the same opening couplet.
  Next note The one complete outtake and couple of fragments of "Eight Days A Week" on "Anthology 1" reveal the following:
  • Using the opening verse chord progression for the intro/outro was already in place, but the scoring lacks the driving triplets.
  • Similarly, the "pedal point" for the intro/outro was originally planned for the vocals rather than the bassline. The chords are played in root position in the outtakes but the top vocal line sustains F# through all four chords creating the interesting free dissonance of E9 and G#7 in the process.
  • When Paul is not harmonizing with John's lead vocal he's singing it with him in unison. The specific content of the backing vocals and their exact placement is different from the official version.
  • The title phrase at the end of each verse is given an outrageous falsetto flip, an idea abandoned, alas.
  • There's a small snippet of characteristic studio banter, with Paul dissing John in a "funny voice" that if something in the next take doesn't come out just right it'll be just "too bad."
  Next note ("Hey, I thought he'd talk about those infamous parallel fifths, but this false-relation stuff sounds really kinky!")

False Relation, 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":
1. 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 Beatle 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.
2. 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".
  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.

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The tune throughout stays within a relatively tight range of a sixth; from B up through G. The individual phrases manage some reasonably interesting melodic contour, but the restricted range is hard to avoid noticing; indeed, does it perhaps have the side effect of nudging you to pay more attention to the chord changes?
  Next note A medium-large group of six chords are used in the song: I, ii, IV, V, vi, and V-of-V.


  Next note "Eight Days A Week" provides a fine object lesson in the Beatles art and science of production values; demonstrating an amazing attention to detail in general, and the use of texture changes to help articulate form.
  Next note The backing track contains electric, acoustic, and bass guitars, plus drum kit and hand clapping.
  Next note John double tracks the lead vocal and gets strategically placed flashes of backing from Paul.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough



  Next note The four-measure intro turns out to be none other than what you'll quickly find out is the "A" phrase of the verse, performed here over a pedal point of D; a technique reminiscent of many a prelude-style movement of one JS Bach.
  Next note The intro is faded in, scored without snare drums and sizzling cymbals in the drum kit, and with the bassline pedal pounded out in seemingly impossible-to-sustain rapid triplets. Other than the outro which is essentially a verbatim repeat of this section, that triplet figure appears nowhere else on the entire track.
  Next note The combined effect is one of building momentum that is allowed to crest on the downbeat of the first verse, at which point (you should not think it a random event) the drum kit does enter together with the lead vocal.


  Next note The verse is a four-square (4 * 4) sixteen measures long, with a musical phrasing pattern of AABA':
       --------------------------- 2X ----------------------------
                     (uses G#)      (uses G-natural)
      |D             |E             |G             |D             |
   D:  I              V-of-V         IV             I

                     (uses G-natural)              (uses G#)
      |b             |e             |b             |E             |
       vi             ii6/3          vi             V-of-V

      |D             |E             |G             |D             |
   D:  I              V-of-V         IV             I

   [Figure 2.1]
  Next note The A phrases are harmonically closed; the B phrase is a classic harmonically transitional shape, both starting and ending away from the home key. The harmonic rhythm is brisk yet even-paced.
  Next note Every phrase of this section contains a cross-relation. The one in the A phrase 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.
  Next note In the B phrase the false-relation does not happen between immediately adjacent chords. But I still think you pick up on the G#/G-natural contrast created by the alternation of the e-minor and E-Major chords. I would argue that the false-relation is especially emphasized in this phrase by the fact that the e-minor chord appears in its first inversion with the G-natural in the bassline!
  Next note Watch the arrangement:
  • Hand claps appear on beats 2 and 4 of the measure in all three A phrases along with drum kit thrashing of a particularly sizzling nature, typical of the early Beatles sound.
  • For the B phrase the hand claps adopt a snapping dotted rhythm, and the drum kit completely drops out.
  • John sings the lead vocal throughout and is always joined in harmony on the title phrase when it appears at the end of the verse.
  • Paul also harmonizes on the B phrase of only the second and fourth verse. There's no way you'll convince me that kind of detail was ever left to chance by them.
  • On the other hand, I'm willing to imagine that John's election to melismatically moan in only the third verse may have originated more spontaneously.


  Next note In spite of its starting off with a clear declamation of the title phrase, I call the middle section here a "bridge" rather than a "refrain" because its harmonic shape is so open ended.
  Next note The bridge makes a double-edged contrast to the verses; with the phrase lengths shortened in half while the harmonic rhythm is lengthened.
  Next note The bridge is eight measures long, built out of four short phrases that make an ABA'C pattern:
   |A             |-             |b             |-             |
    V                             vi

   (uses G#)                     (uses G-natural)
   |E             |-             |G             |A7            |
    V-of-V                        IV             V

   [Figure 2.2]
  Next note The bridge again contains a cross-relation, but our interest in this section should be more on the V chord. "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 you might expect.
  Next note The V chord's first appearance is delayed all the way until the downbeat of the bridge. 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.
  Next note 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.
  Next note The return of the verse following the refrain, then, is the only place in the song that we have a garden variety V -» I ("full") cadence. In other words, the verses by themselves rely on the IV -» I (so-called Plagal cadence) to establish the key.
  Next note Again, watch the arrangement:
  • Drum kit (as well as most of the backing track) conspicuously drops out for measures 3 and 4 of the bridge but plays for the rest of it.
  • Hand claps are "supposed" to sit the entire bridge out, but you'll notice an uncharacteristically sloppy couple of claps mistakenly performed in the first couple of measures of the first bridge.
  Next note Paul's harmonizing all the way through the bridge is particularly stunning, and the latter's a word I try not to over-use. I hope I've got the following properly transcribed by ear:
          Eight days a  week  I  lo- o- o- o- ove you
   Paul:  E     E    F# E     D  E   D  E  D  E D B
   John:  A     A    B  A     A  B   A  B  A  B A F#

          Eight days a  week  are not enough to show I  care
   Paul:  E     E    F# E     D   E   D  E   D  E    E  G
   John:  G#    G#   A  G#    B   B   B  B   B  C#   C# E

   [Figure 2.3]
  Next note The vocal harmonization of the first half of the bridge is in parallel fifths for the title phrase followed by parallel fourths for the remainder, on the unusual melisma (the only one of its kind in the song).
  Next note Most clever of all is how the second half shifts to less shocking parallel sixths and thirds for the most part, but still exposes that same open fourth (E/B) we heard in the second half of the first line in a couple places in the second half of the second line. Note how the context differs in the second case: the top note of the fourth (E) resolves downward, appoggiatura-style over the B that is sustained beneath it. Thus, in the second case, instead of parallel fifths we get a momentary flash of the Beatles much beloved added-sixth chord (on G).


  Next note The outro evolves out of the final verse, with "three times you're out" reprise of the final phrase. The latter is a well-established, venerable pop music cliche of which we'll see no small amount of in the rest of the Beatles' songbook. I'm not sure yet whether this is a matter of laziness, true fondness for the gambit per se, or merely a side-effect of their manifest preference for complete endings over fade-outs.
  Next note The final part of the outro is musically identical to the intro but the decision to neither repeat the fade-in, or even worse to change it into a truly symmetrical fade-out, is a good example of avoiding foolish consistency.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note Lest any of you think I'm some dessicated pedant who derives no joy from actually listening to the music let me share with you: I was in 11th grade when this song first came out. In those days I was a regular little Schroder-from-the-Peanuts-cartoon who was heavy into classical music and eschewed virtually all popular music.
  Next note 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/fourths in the bridge for the first time.
  Next note 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 (022700#2.2)
Revision History
060689 2.0 Original release
022000 2.1 Expand and adapt to series template
022700 2.2 Fix a couple of mistakes and add coverage of A1 outtakes
Copyright © 2000 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.